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Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Marianne Faithfull

Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Marianne Faithfull

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Published by Pieter Uys
Review of Marianne Faithfull's Memories, Dreams and Reflections, by Pieter Uys.
Review of Marianne Faithfull's Memories, Dreams and Reflections, by Pieter Uys.

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Published by: Pieter Uys on Nov 16, 2011
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03/26/2013

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BOOK REVIEW by Pieter Uys

This riveting sequel to 1994's Faithfull is less formal and detailed, a series of vignettes of people, places, movies, plays & music rather than a structured narrative. The first chapter deals with some unexpected, funny and frightening reactions to the first book. Along the way, her observations serve as a captivating history of popular culture since the 1960s. Yes, there are flashbacks; Marianne revisits her family background, childhood impressions and many interesting personalities and scenarios from the 60s and beyond.

1

She writes with candor about her long relationship with drugs but the most arresting parts are those in which she affectionately remembers friends and acquaintances, living and departed, like the author Caroline Blackwood (who was briefly married to the confessional poet Robert Lowell), Henrietta Moraes, Roman Polanski and the legendary Beat writers William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Fans of her music will love the three chapters devoted to the recording of specific albums: Vagabond Ways of 1999, Kissin' Time of 2002 and Before the Poison, released in 2004. The most absorbing flashbacks to the 1960s include reminiscences of the young Beatles, Stones, Brian Epstein, Andrew Oldham, Joe Orton and albums like Revolver, Sgt Pepper, Pet Sounds, Ram & Tea for the Tillerman. She shares with Bob Dylan an ambivalence towards the sixties, claiming that 1950s bohemia was more authentic with e.g. the Beats and the decade's jazz masterpieces, so unlike the mass bohemia of the next decade which resulted in much tragedy and wretched excess. And rock `n roll was born although she doesn't mention the phenomenon.

2

The chapter My Life as a Magpie is a brief filmography; Marianne performed in films & TV series like Absolutely Fabulous, The Black Rider, Marie Antoinette, Irina Palm, Moondance, Shopping, Intimacy, Paris je t'aime, Lucifer Rising and Girl on a Motorcycle amongst others. One of the most enjoyable features of the book is her knowledge of and appreciation of art & literature. The text is enhanced by references to Blake, Francis Bacon, Boccaccio, Brecht, Cocteau, Dante, Flaubert, Lucian Freud, Horace, Keats, Kerouac, Lowell, Maimonides, Marlowe, Murdoch, Petrarch, Pope, Rimbaud, Sartre, Shelley, Verlaine and Welles, to mention a few.

3

Less famous authors, actors and directors that she appreciates plus books & movies that she finds noteworthy are introduced with interesting anecdotes or brief descriptions. These include Juliette Greco, Mick Brown, Frank Wedekind, Roberto Calasso, Philip Pullman, John Cooper Powys, Pretty Baby, Les Enfants du Paradis, Innocence, The Third Man and Manon des Sources. The chapter on Decadence with reference to Huysmans' "A Rebours" made me laugh out loud due to its subversive view of nature as measured against the Zeitgeist. The protagonist finds the artificial more appealing than the organic, praising two steam locomotives whilst dismissing nature's `disgusting sameness.' Another heresy is Marianne's rejection of the artist's self-destructive Romantic urge as infantile.

4

Two sets of plates, one at the beginning and another in the middle, contain 29 full-color and black & white photographs; the book concludes with an index. Although the aforementioned autobiography titled Faithfull is informative and entertaining, the spontaneity of this sequel makes it the more appealing of the two. In Marianne, the wisdom of age emerges hand-in-hand with the most delightful humor. I enjoyed this sparkling read; it is as amusing as the James Young biography of Nico, Nico, Songs They Never Play on the Radio, but much more thought-provoking.

5

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