Just released: the trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street, the new Martin Scorsese movie about the wild and brilliant Jordan Belfort. Jordan is not only featured in my new book Mouth, but wrote the foreword (if you have trouble seeing the video, just click on this post’s title).
Awoke to pelting rain and a message from the lovely Lea Peuronpuro, who translated The Eclipse into Finnish. She writes: “The Finnish Reading Centre, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and a major Finnish publisher joined forces in a collection of texts titled ‘The Book That Changed My Life’. It consists of 59 declarations of love, awe and gratitude, to 59 books, from the Bible to Stephen King, by 59 readers, some famous, some anonymous. One of those texts is written by a young anonymous woman (born in 1990) and it goes like this:
“‘It was my first year in upper secondary school in 2006 when I first encountered The Eclipse at the school library. The bright yellow cover seemed to be screaming to me from the shelf and forcing me to pick it up and read the flap copy. Back then I was severely depressed and kept fantasizing about suicide. Just the title of the book provided reason enough for lending it, and I almost ran back to my dorm room to read it.
“‘I devoured the book, crying. The Eclipse made me think of suicide from a completely different angle; for the first time I considered the impact of my suicide on my loved ones, and I started to hesitate. Thanks to this book, I survived that period of depression without any professional help until the next school year.
“‘During the second year of upper secondary school, I went back to fantasizing about suicide and, as first aid, read The Eclipse again. Again, it enabled me to take a less selfish approach to suicide. This time the book alone didn’t carry me over depression, but it encouraged me to acquire outpatient treatment.
“‘At the end of that year, depression became disabling and I moved back to my parents’ house. As an outpatient, I began to plan suicide in a more determined manner than before, and before long, I was hospitalized against my will directly from an appointment with a psychologist. When I was allowed to visit home, I grabbed The Eclipse with some other books to take back to the hospital with me – to read, but more than that to bring me a sense of safety. Later, when I moved to another town and ended up in a different psychiatric hospital, The Eclipse followed with me.
“‘The Eclipse has been my companion through the depths of depression and it has helped me to re-emerge – time after time. It has shown me the other side of suicide – the pain and agony it imposes on loved ones, how deeply it hurts. I could imagine the guilt of my parents, had I killed myself. I could imagine the grief of my closest friends, my siblings crying themselves to sleep. Each time I’ve read The Eclipse it has become clearer and clearer to me how my suicide would affect my loved ones. It is because of this book that I’m still here – this book spared my loved ones from the crushing grasp of bereavement.
“‘I would like to express my gratitude to Gambotto-Burke herself: The Eclipse has saved me from suicide four times. Still an outpatient, but still alive. It is my conviction that this book should be available at mental health clinics, psychiatric hospitals and emergency rooms everywhere. It should be recommended to everybody harbouring self-destructive thoughts. Had I not found The Eclipse at the school library, I’d probably have been dead and buried for years by now.’”
To the girl who wrote this essay: I embrace you from across the world.
Another cool and moody day. My dear little coughing Monkey has been parked with a book in bed, and I am transcribing an unintentionally hilarious interview. Otherwise? I’m planning to make lemon macaroons this afternoon. There are new visuals here. And this is the incandescent Vladimir Nabokov, curling in upon himself like a snail (“negligible generalities”):
My piece on a woman who was once a heroine here, and my interview with a completely adorable man here. Otherwise? A cool and moody day. My poor little Monkey is still hacking away – the usual fragmented sleep – and is now tucked up on the sofa, flushed and reading The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my favourite childhood novels. And I am attempting to wrangle a slightly out-of-control workload and a cat who almost never washes herself, which is relatively disgusting. Yes, she was raised in an aviary – a retired queen – but that is no longer an excuse; I was told that by washing her I would be teaching her to wash herself, but it has had the opposite effect: she now expects me to run after her with a damp flannel. Next thing, she’ll be perched by the bookshelf in a tattered negligee, smoking as she reads the Beats.
A brave, brave man who has walked the long road of bereavement by suicide with me forwarded this shot of his new tattoo. He writes: “Got it done as kind of a present to myself & reminder on my 5yr sober anniversary. Breaking the chains.” A devoted husband and father, he has chosen to reframe loss as an opportunity to heal his life. I bow to you, old friend.
Dialogue between the Resolved Soul and Created Pleasure
Courage my Soul! now learn to wield
The weight of thine immortal Shield;
Close on thy Head thy Helmet bright;
Balance thy Sword against the Fight.
- Andrew Marvell
My review of Michel Odent’s rapturous analysis of the orgasm here, my piece on French women and food here, and my tragic confession of OCD in relation to bed linen here. (I have since discovered Rachel Ashwell couture bed linen, a disastrously expensive – but FANTASTICALLY rewarding – new lust.) Otherwise? Feeling like an old boiled turnip after being awoken at three, four, five, and seven this morning by my poor little feverish Monkey.
Monkey at 3am, in bed beside me: “I don’t want you to die, mama!”
Mama: “I won’t die, ever. Now please go to sleep.”
One of the most accomplished artists working today is the big, growly South African photographer Brent Stirton. I refer to his image of a Ukrainian HIV-positive heroin addict bathing his sick mother. The image breaks me on so many levels: – the devotion of the child to its mother; the way in which a child prefers to hurt itself rather than acknowledge longstanding rage toward a mother perceived as vulnerable; the bondage of dysfunctional relationships; the human need to love and to be loved; the human need to be known, and the simultaneous terror of being known.
For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
To be known in all our weakness and our darkness and still be loved: no greater gift.
Still recuperating – ‘flu – after the madness of a three-day trip to Sydney (back-to-back meetings, emails, calls) in frigid, torrential rains. Much was achieved: book contract signed (trumpets, drumroll), pitches refined, and beloved friends and relatives embraced. That said, it was very excellent to return home – to Monkey, who flew at me in her pyjamas shrieking MAMAMAMAMAMA!; to my husband, who was so openly happy to see me; and to our luxuriously clean, deep bed. And here is my grave paternal grandfather as a merry baby and my great aunts, the stern, beautiful Caterina and Emilia, who looks as if she is about to cry.