‘ There’s blood on my Burberry !’- American Psycho causes a splash on Broadway

Audience members for the Broadway musical version of Bret Easton Elliss Wall Street fable are regretting not packing Patrick Bateman-style plastic ponchos

Name : American Psycho. Age : 25. Appearance : American. Psychotic.

Good heavens, are the escapades of murderous-or-possibly-just-delusional investment banker Patrick Bateman by then enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis a quarter of a century old already ? They are indeed.

I feel old. Although I dont seem it, thanks to my assiduous application of honey almond body scrubbing, water-activated gel soap and herb mint facial masks. Thats from the film, but kudos.

Is the book being republished on this unlikely anniversary? No. It is being marked by something wholly more splendid, albeit accidentally.

Explain. I shall. A musical version, first staged in the UK at the Almeida, is previewing on Broadway.

Replete with sexuality, murders and executions, cannibalism, necrophilia, narcissism, exfoliation, business cards and torture, I hope and trust? Of course. And blood. Lots and lots of fake blood. Some of which has aroused complaints.

Ah, people objecting to the violence? Can they still not should be noted that the whole thing is a millefeuille of meta-jokery and viciously brilliant satirical commentary on the worst elements of late western consumer capitalism? That the violence is self-consciously cartoonish , not naturalistic? Its not that.

Oh. What is it then? The fake blood has been splashing members of the front rows. One girl approached the manager of the Gerald Schoenfeld theatre in tears, to show him her stained sweater, Burberry cashmere scarf and Louis Vuitton bag.

Thats too good. Thats too good. Are you sure she wasnt a plant by Bret EE? Apparently not. Thats just where we are now. Through the looking glass, round the bend and up shit creek without a pastiche paddle or hope in hell of redemption, soon to be beached for ever on Post-Post-Post Modern Island, population: a handful of fragments of whatever customarily masquerades as You.

Did the manager set them all in to soak for her? No, but he told her they would paying off cleaning bill.

They should have worn plastic ponchos like Bateman does for hacking up prostitutes and that. Stella MacCartney should get in quick and start pumping out designer pac-a-macs. I am sure that someone, somewhere, is already on that.

Do say : What an unknowingly acute criticism of the mess were in. Dont say : I prefer Singin in the Rain.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther review- a promising, subversive start

With the long-awaited new edition of the Marvel star, Coates and his illustrator, Brian Stelfreeze, have delivered on their promise of a dramatic upheaval

Marvel Comic has often turned to writers, famous beyond the world of capes and comics, to reinvent their lesser-known and lesser-loved titles. The novelist Jonathan Lethem, who set Marvels 1970 s output front and center in both Fortress of Solitude and his autobiographical book of essays The Disappointment Artist, wrote a self-contained 10 -issue series for the virtually forgotten Omega The Unknown in 2007. While G Willow Wilson, a comic book and fantasy writer most well known for her novel Alif the Unseen, transformed Ms Marvel into the first major Muslim superhero.

Now, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who went from his influential blogs and features at the Atlantic to the MacArthur fellowship, and the National Book Award, is helming a new running of Black Panther. If youve never heard of Black Panther, thats about to change. Not merely will he soon be incorporated into the Marvel cinematic world in the new Captain America film, but Coatess first issue of the comic has already hit sales of more than 300,000 copies, more than twice the demand for the previous months bestselling comic, Dark Knight III.

Black Panther has been through this process once before, when mystery novelist David Liss had the character take over for Daredevil and move to Hells Kitchen. The results were a kind of poor mans Batman right down to the goofy gadgets and a conflicted relationship with a mustachioed police officer he met on rooftops. Somehow, it still worked. Never a prominent enough character to have the fixed myth and reader expectations of a Spider-Man or a Batman, Black Panthers exact backstory, powers, code of conduct and position have all shifted many times over the 40 years that hes been punching evildoers in the face.

There are certain constants, however. The Black Panther isnt a secret identity, its a ceremonial title that belongs to TChalla, the monarch of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. The Black Panther is Wakandas king, the high priest of its Panther cult, and its warrior champ all at once. In some versions of his narrative, the title is hereditary, in others it is won by combat every year, but either way, the Black Panther eats a heart-shaped herb as part of his initiation which brings him into touch with the Panther god and awards him some superpowers.

Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation in the world. It is just one of the wealthiest, thanks to the Great Mound, a meteor made out of vibranium that crashed in its own territory eons ago. Before TChallas reign, Wakanda was an isolationist country that many had never heard of, a secret African utopia that marriage tribal customs or white writers ideas of tribal customs to space-age science fiction.

TChalla has often left Wakanda for one reason or the other, and brought difficulty back with him. Over the years, TChalla has jump-kicked the Ku Klux Klan, hunted treasure, joined up with the Avengers, wedded an X-Man, survived multiple invasions from the neighboring state of Niganda, renounced his throne, filled in for Daredevil in Hells Kitchen, taught in a public school in Harlem, been divorced and staked the hearts of dozens of Confederate vampires in post-Katrina New Orleans. Throughout all this his essential decency has remained intact. In some writers hands, TChalla is arrogant wouldnt you be if you ruled a techno-futurist Utopia? but he is always, at heart, a good man. TChalla is , no matter what, a beloved, merciful, and just ruler, possessed of a personal sense of restraint and obligation.

The Black Panthers rule of Wakanda hasnt been seriously interrogated by the various writers who have told his narrative. It is this aspect that feels most fresh about Coatess take on the character. The comic begins with TChalla on his knees, unmasked, continues on to a civilian riot where he nearly kills his own citizens, through to a botched try at justice, and a mysterious psychic advising us that the people of Wakanda are ashamed of their king. This mysterious psychic is in some way responsible for the riot, but she did not make the emotions that caused it; the peoples own rage lay there, waiting to be exploited.

Coates may be a first-time comics writer whose entire published catalogue thus far is nonfiction, but he attacks the material with equanimity. The debut issue is the first in a yearlong, 12 -chapter arc. It is a bit overburdened with exposition. But it moves fluidly, lighting the fuses of several plots that will clearly intersect before explosion in the finale.

Emphasizing the broad scope of the series, Coatess script sets TChalla aside for long stretches of action, focusing instead on characters like Ayo and Aneka, two ex-Dora Milaje who are tired of living and succumbing on the blood-right of one human. While the dialogue is occasionally overcooked, with lines such as, Spare her, mom, spare her the motherfucker sanction of men whose honor is ostentation, whose justice is deceit, failing to grasp the epic grandeur for which they reach, this first issue appears to be the beginning of a very promising run.

The characters are clear, the ethical issues they face feel real and the world of Wakanda seems lived in. Credit for some of this must surely going to see artist Brian Stelfreeze, whose sense of style and visual storytelling are impressive, even in the heat of combat, and who builds great utilize of silhouette and emotive faces. These faces are neatly contrasted with TChallas own, which is often hidden by a mask or turned away from the reader. We read TChallas anguished narration, but he is separate from us in a manner that is reminiscent of how he feels divorced from his people and his nation.

Its a subversive way of looking at Black Panther and long overdue. Marvel Comic has often opened the doors for subversive takes on their titles. One of the best long-running comics series ever published, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleevs take on Daredevil, was the result of a similarly realistic consideration of the world of the character that their predecessors had constructed. The Black Panther has faced down threats to his rule on multiple fronts before. In Coates and Stelfreezes hands, the comic suggests that this time, perhaps he deserves it.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

My life with Oliver Sacks:’ He was the most unusual person I had ever known’

In this extract from his memoir, Bill Hayes, partner of Oliver Sacks, recalls the neurologists unworldly charm, their remarkable stay with Bjrk in Iceland, and the dignity of Sackss final weeks

He wrote me a letter. Thats how we satisfied. He had read my volume, The Anatomist , in proof, and enjoyed it.( I meant to provide a blurb, but got confused and forgot .) This was when I was still in San Francisco early 2008. This was when people still wrote letters regularly and when one got a letter, sat down and wrote a letter back.

Dear Mr Hayes
Dear Dr Sacks

Thus, a correspondence between O and me began.

A month later, I happened to be in New York and, at Olivers invitation, paid a visit. We had lunch at a cafe across the street from its term of office: mussels, fries, and several rounds of dark Belgian beer. We lingered at the table, talking, well into the afternoon. We found we had something other than writing in common: he, too, was a lifelong insomniac indeed, from a family of insomniacs.( It was understood at an early age that one could not sleep without sedation, he told me wryly .)

I had not been aware had never considered whether he was hetero- or homosexual, single or in a relationship. By the end of our lunch, I hadnt come to any firm conclusions on either matter, as he was both so shy and quite formal qualities I do not possess. But I did know that I was intrigued and attracted. How could one not be? He was brilliant, sweet, modest, handsome, and prone to sudden, ebullient outbursts of boyish exuberance. I recollect how O get quite carried away talking about 19 th-century medical literature, its novelistic qualities an enthusiasm I shared.

We stayed in touch. I sent him photo I had taken in Central Park of bare tree legs. I thought they looked like vascular capillaries. With his neurologists eye, he felt they looked like neurons.

I am reminded of how Nabokov compared wintertime trees to the nervous systems of giants, he wrote back.

I was sort of smitten, I had to admit.

Even so, that was that for then. There was an entire country between us , not to mention 30 years age change. My decision to move to New York more than a year later truly had nothing to do with Oliver, and I certainly did not have a relationship in mind. I had simply reached a point in my life where I had to get away from San Francisco and all the memories it held and start fresh.

But once I moved, O and I started spending time together and quickly get better and better acquainted.

Not long after I moved to New York, Michael Jackson succumbed. O had no notion who Michael Jackson was. What is Michael Jackson? he asked me the day after the news not who but what which seemed both a very odd and a very apt route of putting it, given how much the brilliant vocalist had transmuted from a human into an foreigner being. O often said he had no knowledge of popular culture after 1955, and this was not an exaggeration. He did not know popular music, rarely watched anything on Tv but the news, did not enjoy contemporary fiction, and had zero interest in celebrities or reputation( including his own ). He didnt possess a computer, had never use email or texted; he wrote with a fountain pen. This wasnt pretentiousness; he wasnt proud of it; indeed, this feeling of not being with it contributed to his extreme shyness. But there was no denying that his savours, his habits, his ways everyone is irreversibly, fixedly , not of our time.

Do I seem like I am from another century? he would sometimes ask me, virtually poignantly. Do I seem like I am from another age?

You do, yes, you do.

For me, this was part of the fascination with him. I was assuring a few other humen during my first summertime in New York, but dates with O were completely different. We didnt go to movies or to MoMA or to new eateries or Broadway proves. We took long walks in the botanical garden in the Bronx, where he could expatiate on every species of fern. We visited the Museum of Natural History not for the dinosaurs or special exhibitions but to spend time in the often empty, chapel-like room of gems, minerals, and, especially, these components O knew the tales behind the discoveries of every single one. At night, we might walk from the West Village to the East, O talking excitedly nonstop, to have a beer and burger at McSorleys Old Ale House.

I became aware that not only had he never been in a relationship, he had also never come out publicly as a homosexual human. But in a way, hed had no reason to do so he hadnt had sexuality in three-and-a-half decades, he told me. At first, I did not believe him; such a monk-like existence devoted exclusively to run, read, writing, believing seemed at once awe-inspiring and inconceivable. He was without a doubt the most unusual person I had ever known, and before long I discovered myself not only falling in love with O; it was something more, something I had never experienced before. I adored him.

Spring Shadows. Photograph: Bill Hayes
26 August 2012
I, listening to Bjrk on my iPod; O, reading and writing in his travel periodical; We: drinking champagne on a flight to Reykjavk. I look over and consider O making a listing in his journal. He tells me he is writing out all the elements that are NOT present in the human body 😛 TAGEND


When I ask, he names each of them, following my thumb as I go down the listing. He interrupts himself at one point: They like to be remembered and recited like this. They? O nods. He could not appear more delighted, and its not because of the alcohol. Listed separately, under the heading No or infinitesimal, are the exceptions. He goes on to explain the difference between organic and nonorganic chemistry. I do not and expect I never will understand half of what he is saying.

28 August 2012
Bjrk invited us to her home in Reykjavk for lunch a remarkable afternoon; O said it best: Everything was unexpected. The two met a couple of years ago when Bjrk asked Oliver to appear in a BBC documentary about music, but they had never expended time together socially. And in fact, O knew very little about her work up until shortly before we made this trip. I got a DVD compilation of her music videos and conducted a crash course in Bjrk for him. O sat on the edge of his bed, inches from the TV screen, as he needs to in order to hear properly, and watched without stirring, mesmerised especially by the visuals, for 90 minutes. Because of his face blindness, which constructs it difficult for O to recognise people not only on the street but also in movies and on TV, hed sometimes ask, Is that Bjrk? or, Which one is Bjrk? A swan dress one minute, robotic gear the next, her constant changing of costumes and hairstyles utterly confounded him, but he was deeply impressed by her artistry.

We pulled into the driveway at the back of Bjrks home and I assured her through the kitchen window. She appeared to be in the middle of a chore, concentrating. A simple hedge fenced the house. There was a child-sized table and chairs in the front yard, the put for a tea party. We didnt watch a track, so we parted a hedge awkwardly and made our way to the front doorway. She answered. In my memory, she curtsied. Of course she didnt, but her air of modesty and respect in greeting O had that impression. She ushered us into the dining room, where a table was set.

Bjrks hair was up, held by a barrette with blue featherings. She wore a simple tunic made from several different kinds of coloured and patterned textile; she may have constructed it herself. She wore white pants under the tunic and wedge sandals. Her face: unlined , no makeup, pretty; eyes the color of jade; lush, jet-black eyebrows, shaped like two feathers.

Bjrk advised us to sit and feed. The chairs were carven from tree stumps. The tablecloth was embellished with seashells. On the table: warm, salted mixed nuts in tiny dishes. Almost immediately, she brought out a steaming pan of baked trout, a salad and a bowl of boiled potatoes I like it with the skins left on, she said, almost apologetically, dont you? O and I nodded.

Conversation was lively. We talked about Iceland, about Olivers new volume, Hallucinations ; about her Cd, Biophilia , and her new projects. She told us that shed recorded Biophilia ( its name inspired by Olivers Musicophilia ) in the lighthouse Id spotted the night before when I was chasing down the sundown. Bjrk said she had a calendar in the kitchen with the time for the tide going in and out, so they would know when they could get to the lighthouse and how long they would be stuck there while the tide was in. She chuckled. It was genuinely, really good, because it forced me to run; I couldnt leave if I wanted to.

After eating, Bjrk resulted us from the table, through a little doorway, and to the stairs. These were not stairs in any conventional route. Oliver ever the naturalist knew exactly: Why, such is basalt stones! This looks like a stairway carved out of a wall of basalt! Bjrk nodded. Adding to this remarkable sight: the railing in the winding stairway was made of whale rib bones. Bjrk smiled and helped Oliver up. And this, she pointed to the shimmering lamp hanging overhead, dropping into the stairwell actually my daughter and I constructed it out of mussel shells. It wasnt is expected to be permanent, but we like it.

She wandered into an upper room, and we followed. There, she showed us two custom-made instruments, a celeste and what looked like a harpsichord. Both had been modified somehow through instructions from a programme on her Mac. I could tell that O was completely lost as she explained how this worked. Yet it was then, right then, that I realised how much she and O were alike fellow geniuses, incredibly, intuitively brilliant while being at the same time such an unlikely pair of friends.

Back downstairs, Bjrk brought out a gooseberry tart, with berries picked from her own trees. Shed stimulated it with her daughter the night before. As she was the cook, of course she had to have the first piece, she said, pointing out the missing wedge. She served it topped with fresh, plain skyr, which has a sour bite to it along with coffee and tea. The tea situate was out of Alice in Wonderland each beaker literally half a cup, sliced in half. Ive learned that these are for right-handed people, these teacups, she says, or I learn who is left-handed by watching them try to beverage from them. She giggled.

We finished the tart. I looked at Olivers watch and insured that it was almost 3.30; marriage been here three hours. Oliver signed cash advances copy of Hallucinations You will be the only person in all of Iceland with this volume and I gave her a copy of one of mine. For Bjrk, with gratitude, I signed it.

30 December 2012
On a red-eye to Reykjavk for New Years Eve: Leaving New York, the city seemed embellished in gold thread. Now, clouds and starrings, and what sounds like a hymn: Craving miracles Bjrk sings.

1 January 2013
Supper of skyr, cookies and tea in our tiny hotel room. Regaining. Snow falling. Last night, a New Years Eve dinner at Bjrks, was like being safely in the middle of a very happy war; a huge bonfire on the beach across the street from her home encircled by people singing; fireworks running off in every direction, from every home, all night long, and culminating in a chaotically beautiful, or beautifully chaotic, fireworks display at midnight in the town square. As if the sky were full of shooting stars. As the church bells pealed 12 periods. As the ground was snow-covered, white, the floor of a cloud. As everyone kissed and hugged one another. Bottles of champagne and brennivn , an Icelandic schnapps clear and strong.

17 February 2013
Oliver and I went to a small chamber orchestra concert at the American Irish Historical Society, a pearl box of a building immediately across the street from the Metropolitan Museum. He knows the Irish gentleman who organises these concerts, Kevin. They feature students from Juilliard. Very intimate. Unpretentious. Free of charge. A handful of people in folding chairs maybe 40. Kevin had saved seats for O and me in the front row. Just as he was constructing his introductions, a woman rushed in by herself and plopped on to the cushy rose-coloured sofa right next to our seats: Lauren Hutton, the model from the 70 s: I recognised her instantly by her gap-toothed smile and slightly crossed eyes. Now in her late 60 s, still beautiful, her face naturally lined. And, one couldnt help but notice, she had a big bruiser of a black eye.

The concert began with no further ado, and we all sat back and enjoyed the programme Brahms, Haydn, Ravel by these enchanting musicians.

With the final note, Lauren Hutton was the first to pop up and give the trio a standing ovation. Do you have a fan club? she screamed above the clapping; it was a little startling, like someone yelling in a church. Im starting your fan club. Youre fantastic, youre going places! The musicians bowed shyly and departed.

There was a small reception afterwards. Nothing fancy two bottles of San Pellegrino and a couple bottles of wine but no bottle-opener. O and I were talking with Kevin when Lauren Hutton strolled up to us: Do one of you kind gentlemen have an opener? Even a knife would do I could pry it open with a penknife.

Why dont you use your teeth? I said to her.

She giggled and smiled that famous gap-toothed smile. I could. I could have once, but she wandered off. The bottle get opened somehow. Eventually she circled back and poured water for everyone. She overheard Oliver talking to Kevin about his new book, Hallucinations , which was coming out in a couple weeks. Lauren leaned across the table and listened intently.

Hey doc, you ever done belladonna? she asked. Now theres a drug!

Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I have, and he proceeded to tell her about his hallucinations on belladonna. They traded tales. Eventually she began to figure out that this wasnt his first book.

Are you are you Oliver Sacks? The Oliver Sacks? Oliver appeared both pleased and stricken.

Well, it is very good to meet you, sir. She voiced like a southern barmaid in a 50 s western. But it wasnt an act. Ive been reading you since route back. Oliver Sacks imagine that!

Oliver, I should note, had absolutely no idea who she was , nor would he understand if I had pulled him aside and told him.

Fashion? Vogue publication? No idea

The two of them hit it off. She was fast-talking, bawdy, opinionated, a broad the opposite of Oliver except for having in common that mysterious quality: charm.

Somewhere along the way, she explained the black eye: a few days earlier, she had strolled out of a business meeting at which shed learned that she had been rob of a third of everything shed ever earned, and in a daze walked smack into a scaffolding tube at eye level on the sidewalk. She didnt seem too bothered by it: shit happens.

I appeared up and find that the room was empty by now but for Kevin and us.
Well, gentlemen, Im going downtown. Share a cab?
Uh, we have a car, I said.
Even better. Much more civilised. Im downtown.
How could one reject? Lets go, shall we? I said. Lauren Hutton offered Oliver an limb and we strolled slowly to the parking garage. I pushed things out of the route in the back seat; she tossed in her handbag, and dove in. She immediately popped her head between our seats the three of us were practically ear-to-ear.

Her unbelievable face blocked my rearview mirror. When O took out his billfold to give me a credit card for the parking, she spotted the transcript of the periodic table he carries in lieu of a drivers licence. This inspired a series of questions about the periodic table, the elements, the composition of the very air we were breathing. A dozen topics led to a dozen more, like a student soaking up knowledge. We talked about travelings Iceland, Africa and Plato, Socrates, the pygmies, William Burroughs, poets She was clearly intensely curious, life-loving, adventurous. In passing, she said something about having been a model The only reason I did it was so I could stimulate enough dough to traveling but otherwise didnt say anything about that part of their own lives. Traffic was thick, so it took quite a while to get downtown.

Eventually, we reached her address, or close enough.

Well, gentlemen, it has been a true pleasure. I cannot thank you enough. This is where I exit. Goodbye for now. And she was gone, as abruptly as shed arrived. Oliver took a breath as we headed west and home. I dont know who that was, but she seems like a very remarkable person.

12 January 2015
Got back last night from St Croix in the US Virgin Islands a birthday trip. I turned 54( equivalent to the atomic number for xenon, so O gave me four xenon flashlights ). O did not feel well much of the time nauseated, tired, slept a lot. We nearly cancelled the trip-up, last minute. Two nights before we left, he told me he had dark urine. I was sceptical hes hypochondriacal even on good day, as he is the first to admit. But I could see he was worried, talked him into peeing into a clear glass so I could check, and was startled where reference is brought it into the kitchen; his urine was the colour of Coca-Cola. It seemed to clear up some while we were in St Croix. Even so, he had made a doctors appointment before leaving for the trip.

O only returned from his GP, who thinks he has some kind of gallbladder inflammation, maybe gallstones. Did an ultrasound, but theyre operating more tests.

15 January 2015
Os doctor phoned: peculiar findings re: Cat scan yesterday. So: am taking him to ensure a radiologist at Sloan Kettering. They want to see him this afternoon.

Olivers Periodic Table.

Sloan Kettering is a cancer hospital, but cancer had not entered my mind. I was still banking on the possibility of gallstones; I thought, at worst, Oliver might have to have his gallbladder removed. I remember the doctor entering the consulting room with a young medical fellow( he was from Italy, I think ), and how nervous the young man looked. The doctor got right to it and told us that he had carefully reviewed the Cat scan and, although a confirmatory biopsy would have to be performed, he was 90% sure of the diagnosis and said he had some tough news. I remember that term, tough. He asked Oliver if hed like to see the Cat scan. Oliver said yes, of course, and he flipped on the computer monitor.

Later he told me that he knew instantaneously what the scan said. I did not, and I was stunned when the radiologist has pointed out that what we were looking at was a recurrence of the uveal melanoma Oliver had had nine years earlier a cancer arising from the pigment cells in his right eye; over day, it had metastasised to his liver, which was now riddled like Swiss cheese with tumors. He enlarged the image on the monitor, so the white spots the cancer appeared as large as those made by a pit punch. In instances like this, with a potential of the cancer spreading, and at Olivers age, the doctor said, neither a liver resection nor a liver graft would be possible. What has stuck with me so clearly is how calmly Oliver took this news. It was as if he was expecting it, as perhaps he was. He sort of tilted his head and stroked his beard and requested information about the prognosis, and the doctor said: Six to 18 months.

And theres no effective treatment?

The doctor didnt say no, but he didnt say yes. He explained what could be done, that all efforts would be done, an oncology squad was already in place, hed just gotten off the phone with a specialist, and so on, but Oliver cut him off. He said he was not interested in prolonging life just for the sake of prolonging life. Two of his brothers had died of different forms of cancer, and both had regretted undergoing horrid chemotherapy therapies that had done nothing but ruin their last months.

I want to be able to write, believe, read, swim, be with Billy, insure friends, and maybe travel a little bit, if possible. Oliver added that he hoped not to be in ghastly ache or for his condition to become humiliating, and then he fell silent.

The next day, we went swimming at noon, as we always did on Fridays, and then spent a quiet weekend together, taking walks, read, listening to music, going to the open-air market at Abingdon Square, cooking, both of us trying to assimilate the overwhelming news. Oliver consulted with a few colleagues, including the ophthalmologist who had treated his cancer years before; he had had a chance to look at the Cat scan, too. Recurrences such as this were considered extremely rare, yet the consensus seemed to be that the preliminary diagnosis was most likely correct and that treatment alternatives were few.

Over the weekend, Oliver mentioned a few times that he was considering writing a little piece about receiving his diagnosis. And on Sunday night, after we had constructed dinner and cleared the dishes, he took up a small notepad and his fountain pen. Well, lets watch He paused. I suppose I want to begin by saying that a month ago, I felt that I was in good health. But now my luck has run out

Hold it, I interrupted, let me get a pen. I did so, and a notepad, and I scribbled what he had just said. OK, keep going. From there, Oliver dictated the entire essay, virtually verbatim to the version that would eventually is displayed in the New York Times .

He spent several days tinkering with it but then he set it aside. Oliver worried that his feelings were perhaps too raw, and felt it was too soon to publish it, given that most of his friends and family members did not yet know his news.

In lieu of any experimental therapies, Oliver constructed the decision to go ahead with a surgical procedure called an embolisation, which would cut off blood supply to the tumor in his liver and therefore kill them off temporarily( they would unavoidably return, he was told ). Dramatically lowering the tumour onu held the promise of offering him several more months of active life. As we waited in the hospital for him to be admitted for surgery, Oliver suddenly turned to Kate[ Edgar, Sackss long-time friend and collaborator] and me and said he felt the time was right to send the piece over to the New York Times . Neither of us questioned him; we just said, OK. Kate emailed the essay to our mutual editor at the Times , and we heard back almost immediately: They wanted to run the piece the next day. We asked for one extra day to get Oliver safely through the procedure first and they agreed. Olivers essay My Own Life was scheduled for publishing on 19 February 2015.

17 February 2015
In post-surgery recovery: cutting off blood furnish to the cancer in the liver may sound somewhat benign, but the body revolts with full force against such an intrusion. O repeatedly tears off his hospital gown because he is in so much pain that even the thin cotton material causes inconvenience. The young female nurses act scandalised by this and keep trying to cover him up. At one point, O hollers out in exasperation: If one cant be naked in a hospital, where can one be naked ?! I hear a nurse in the hallway join me in laughter. I cover his genitals with a washcloth when the morphine finally kicks in and he falls asleep.

27 February 2015
I brought O a few of the letters and emails written in response to his New York Times essay. I: Howd it feel to read those? O: Good! I: You have about 800 more to go. O: Id like to see all of them.

22 April 2015
O: The most we can do is to write intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively about what it is like living in the world at this time.

7 July 2015
O, proudly, playing a new Schubert piece, and with great panache demonstrating how it requires crossed hands. I am quite amazed and impressed, and I clap.

8 July 15
The day before Os 82 nd birthday, and we got bad news with his latest Cat scan bad much worse than expected. Not merely have the tumors regrown, the cancer has spread: kidneys, lungs, skin. O wants to go ahead with his birthday party, and doesnt want people to know. Auden always said one must celebrate ones birthday, he says.

9 July 2015
Os birthday: at his party O asks me to go get the bottle of 1948 Calvados a rare brandy given to him as a gift years ago and sealed in a wooden box. I open it for him. I: Do you want a glass? O: No, he says, and takes a swig, eyes closed. Lovely, he pronounces and seems around the room. Who would like some? Later, he tells me hed forgotten that he had left the Calvados to a friend in his will.

13 July 2015
Very, very tired, I did the dinner dishes speedily, collected my things, and earlier than usual, told Oliver I was heading to bed and said good night. But as I headed for the bedroom, O called to me from his desk, Do you know why I love to read Nature and Science each week? I turned. No, I shook my head. I was almost confused; this seemed such a non sequitur. Amaze I always read something that surprises me, he said.

25 July 2015
In the country: O is finishing one essay, working on two others at least two others. Hows the writing going? I ask, waking from a nap. He smiles mischievously. I meant to stop, but I couldnt. And he goes back to it. I watch. He doesnt have a fancy desk here; its simply a folding table. All he needs is a pad and his fountain pen and a comfy chair.

Later, we go for a swim. The water in the pool is a bright emerald green, caused by an excess of copper and iron in the well.

You are swimming in these components, I tell O, swimming in a pool of copper.
Lovely, he murmurs, doing his backstroke.

1 August 2015
He plays Beethoven he never used to long, haunting pieces, complex pieces whereas he used to only play Bach preludes, and in stops and starts.

10 August 2015
O is working on a new piece: Sabbath. Every now and then, a little request comes, always phrased politely: If you would be so kind: look up something for me on your little box? Little box is his name for an iPhone, a name he find too ugly to pronounce, to speak. Its not even a word, as he points out, its a brand. Sometimes he calls the phone my communicator, as if out of Star Trek . Today, he wants me to look up the meaning of the Latin nunc dimittis. As is almost always the case with O, it wasnt necessary: hed had the definition exactly right in the first place: nunc dimittis is the final sung in a religious service.

16 August 2015
I say I love writing, but actually it is thinking I love that rushing of thoughts new connects in the brain being stimulated. And it comes out of the blue. O smiled. In such moments: I feel such love of the world, love of thinking

23 August 2015
What are your wishes, Dr Sacks? said the hospice nurse. How would you like to pass? At home, answered O in a clear, steady voice, with no pain or inconvenience, and with my friends here.

28 August 2015
O, who has had no craving, abruptly asked to have smoked salmon and Ryvita for lunch. He insisted we get him out of bed, into his dressing gown, take him to his table, and to consider my piano. We brought a plate to him: with incredible dignity, and slowness, he carefully cut a single piece at a time. He could only ate three bites. And when I suggested something sweet some ice cream? He said: No, a pear. He had one slice then asked that we take him back to bed.

29 August 2015
I am at his side, in his bedroom, where Kate and I have been maintaining a special watch since 5.30 am. Thats when Maurine( our hospice nurse) woke me in the other room: Billy, come now his breathing has changed. It has slackened to simply three or four breaths per minute long stillness in between. He is no longer conscious. He is stretched out on his bed diagonally and looks comfy. Maurine, who has been at the side of many patients as they die, tells us this is the last phase, but that it could go on for many hours, days maybe. A little while ago, I appeared around the room, mobbed with bedsheets, towels, pads, medications, an oxygen tank and other medical equipment, and I began clearing it out, all of it. First, I brought in stacks of all of Os volumes, cleared a bedside table, and put them there. I brought in a cycad plant and a fern. Kate joined me, and we cleared more space, making room on another table for some of Os beloved minerals and components, his fountain pens, a ginkgo fossil, his pocket watch. Elsewhere, a few books by his heroes Darwin, Freud, Luria, Edelman, Thom Gunn and photos his father, Auden, his mother as a girl with her 17 siblings, his aunts and uncles, two brothers. We brought in blooms, candles. I am heartbroken but at peace. Last night, before get some sleep, I came in to see if he needed anything.

Do you know how much I love you? I said.

No. His eyes were closed. He was smiling, as if find beautiful things.

A lot.

Good, O said, very good.

Sweet dreams.

Bill Hayes Q& A: Conversations and scenes jumped off the page

Oliver Sacks, left, and Bill Hayes in 2015. Photograph: Corbis
What stimulated you publish your diaries? Some of the entries are very intimate and personal why did you want to induce them public ?
I didnt expect to. I had signed a contract to write a volume about New York a long time before Oliver got his diagnosis and initially I had no expectation that I was even going to write about us. But things changed after his death and I began to think about how I would write about my life in New York, my relationship with New York City and my relationship with Oliver. It was then that I went back to my publication, which I had started at Olivers urging a few weeks after I moved here in 2009. Dialogues and scenes just jumped off the page and I realised they could be much more effective at chronicling our lives than if I were to write a traditionally bred narrative. The entries that follow the diagnosis of Olivers cancer are awfully affecting. How difficult were those days for you ?
Extremely difficult, heartbreaking at times. But it wasnt a first experience for me[ Hayes cared for his previous partner through several Aids-related illnesses before losing him to a heart attack ]. As a lesbian man living in San Francisco in the early 1990 s, I had very deep and intimate experience of the Aids epidemic, caring for and losing friends and co-workers at the
San Francisco Aids Foundation. Thats not to say it attained it easier, precisely, caring for Oliver but dying was something I knew about. How would Oliver have felt about Insomniac City ?
I think he would have been delighted and proud. Oliver published his autobiography, On the Move , in May 2015, three months before his death. Its very candid and open about his sex identity and about our relationship. Prior to that, Oliver had never spoke or written at all about his private life and his decision to do so gently opened a doorway, allowing me to write about my life with him in a way I am not sure I would have or could have had he not done that. How would you describe Olivers legacy to the world ?
I think there are several legacies. I think he opened up for the world and for all of us conversations about neurodiversity and neurological conditions and how people adapt to them, everything from autism to Tourette syndrome to blindness. I think he also left an amazing legacy in his writing about mortal illness and facing death in his column in the New York Times . That was, I think, a very generous and gracious act in his final year. And his final legacy is that, while on one level my volume is about me reinventing myself in middle age, theres another story there about Oliver Sacks reinventing himself, in his 70 s. And I love that. At age 75, he opened his heart up and fell in love, started a new romantic and domestic life with another person with me and continued to work so productively all of which built being old seem adventurous and fun. What do you miss most about Oliver ?
His companionship. I hope the reader gets a sense of what our relationship and conversations were like. We talked and chuckled a lot. He was very funny and liked wordplay and puns. He could be very self-deprecating and eccentric. So most of all I miss the consolation of his company and the laughter.
Interview by Lisa OKelly

Extract from Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes( Bloomsbury 16.99 ). To order a copy for 14.44 going to see bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p& p of 1.99

Bill Hayes will be signing copies of Insomniac City on Monday 3 April at the London Review Bookshop, London WC1, and on Tuesday 4 April at Gays the Word, also London WC1. He will be giving a talk on 4April to the How to Academy, at the Cond Nast College of Fashion& Design, London W1

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Karen Carpenter: starved of love, by Randy Schmidt | Extract

Karen Carpenter &# x27; s velvet voice charmed millions in the 70 s but behind the wholesome image she was desperately unhappy. In a disclosing new biography Randy Schmidt tells the full narrative of her losing battle with anorexia

The Carpenters were one of the biggest-selling American musical acts of all time. Between 1970 and 1984 brother and sister Richard and Karen Carpenter had 17 top 20 makes, including ” Goodbye to Love “, ” Yesterday Once More “, ” Close to You ” and ” Rainy Day and Mondays “. They notched up 10 gold singles, nine gold albums, one multi-platinum album and three Grammy awardings. Karen’s velvety voice and Richard’s airy melodies and meticulously crafted arrangings stood in direct contrast to the louder, wilder stone dominating the rest of the charts at the time, yet they became vastly popular, selling more than 100 mA records . Richard was the musical driving force but it was Karen’s effortless voice that lay behind the Carpenters’ hits. Promoted from behind the drums to star vocalist, she became one of the decade’s most instantaneously recognisable female singers .

But there was a tragic discrepancy between her public and private selves. Offstage, away from the spotlight, she felt urgently unloved by her mother, Agnes, who preferred Richard, and fought with low self-esteem, eventually developing anorexia nervosa from which she never recovered. She died at the age of 32.

In 1996 journalist Rob Hoerburger powerfully summed up Karen Carpenter’s afflictions in a New York Times Magazine feature: “If anorexia has classically been defined as a young woman’s struggle for control, then Karen was a prime nominee, for the two things she valued most in the world her voice and her mother’s love were exclusively the property of her friend Richard. At least she would control the size of her own body.” And control it she did. By September 1975 her weight fell to 6st 7lb( 41 kg ).

Karen’s quest to be thin seems to have begun innocently enough just after high school graduation when she started the Stillman water diet. Although she was never obese, she was what most would consider a chubby 17 -year-old at 10 stA 5lb.( She was 5ft 4in tall .) She levelled off at around 8st 8lb and maintained her weight by feeing sensibly but not starving herself. Even so, eating while on tour was problematic for Karen, as she described in 1973: “When you’re on the road it’s hard to eat. Period. On top of that, it’s rough to eat well. We don’t like to eat before a indicate because I can’t stand singing with a full stomach You never get to dinner until, like, midnight, and if you eat heavy you’re not going to sleep, and you’re going to be a balloon.”

Karen was shocked when she saw photos from an August 1973 Lake Tahoe concert where an unflattering outfit accentuated her paunch. She hired a personal trainer, who stimulated visits to her home and recommended a diet low in calories but high in carbohydrates. Instead of slimming down as she had hoped, Karen started to put on muscle and bulk up. Watching the Carpenters on a Bob Hope television special that autumn, she remarked that she had put one across some extra weight. Richard concurred she looked a bit heavier. She was discouraged and vowed she was going to “do something about it”. She fired her trainer, and immediately set out on a mission to shed the unwanted pounds on her own. She bought a hip cycle, which she used each morning on her bed, and because it was portable the equipment was packed and taken with her on tour.

“She lost around 20 lb and she looked fabulous, ” recollects Carole Curb, the sister of Karen’s then boyfriend, record executive Mike Curb. “She weighed 110 lb[ 7st 12 lb] or so, and looked amazing If she’d been able to stop there then life would have been beautiful. A plenty of us girls in that era went through moments of that. Everybody wanted to be Twiggy. Karen get carried away. She simply couldn’t stop.”

Having witnessed Karen’s meticulous routine of counting calories and scheming food intake for every dinner, Richard complimented her initial weight loss during a break from recording as the two dined at the Au Petit CafA( c ), a favourite French bistro on Vine Street near the A& M studios. “You look great, ” he told her.

“Well, I’m just going to get down to around 105. “

“A hundred and five? You look great now.”

Karen’s response worried Richard. In fact, this was the first time he paused to consider she might be taking the diet too far. Friends and family began to notice extreme changes in Karen’s eating habits, despite her tries at subtlety. She rearranged and pushed her food around the plate with a fork as she talked, which gave the appearance of eating. Another of her strategies involved offering samples of her food to others around the table. She would rave on about her delicious meal and then insist that everyone try it for themselves. “Here, you have some, ” she would say as she enthusiastically scooped heaps on to others’ plates. “Would you like to savour this? ” By the time dinner was over, Karen’s plate was clean but she had dispersed her entire snack to everyone else. Her mother, Agnes, caught on to this ploy and began to do the same in return. “Well, this is good, too, ” she would say as she set more food on to her daughter’s plate. This infuriated Karen, who realised she would have to find other ways to avoid eating.

By the time Karen’s weight fallen to 6st 6lb, she looked for ways to disguise the weight loss, especially around those she knew would stimulate commentaries or pester her to feed more. She began to layer her garment, a strategy her agent Sherwin Bash noticed in the early part of 1975. “She would start with a long-sleeved shirt and then set a blouse over that, ” he explains, “and a sweater over that and a jacket over that With all of it you had no notion of what she had become.”

But family friend Evelyn Wallace was shocked when she caught a glimpse of Karen’s gaunt figure as she sunbathed topless in the back garden of the Carpenters’ home in Downey, California, one afternoon. “They put this screen around her so nobody else could see her, ” Wallace explains. “She loved to runs lay out in the sunshine. I don’t know whether it was to get a tan or get away from her mother. Anyhow, I happened to go out to the kitchen for something and I considered her out there. She merely had on her little bathing suit shorts. You couldn’t tell whether it was a girl or a boy. She had absolutely no breasts.”

Karen’s new slim figure required that she purchase a new stage wardrobe, and she opted for a number of low-cut silky garments, some strapless or even backless. Bash was frightened to see her bony shoulders and ribs. Even her hip bones were visible through the thin layers of cloth. He asked Karen to rethink the wardrobe options before going on stage. “I talked her into putting a jacket on over the bare back and bare arms, ” he said, “but the audience watched it.”

There was often a collective gasp from the audience when Karen would take the stage. In fact, after a few depicts, Bash was approached by concerned fans who knew something was awfully wrong but assumed she had cancer or some other cancer. Even critics took note of her gaunt appearance. A review for Variety praised Karen’s emergence from behind the drums to centre stage but commented on her degenerating appearance. “She is terribly thin, almost a wraith, and should be gowned more becomingly.”

No one really understand why it is Karen wasn’t eating. To those around her the solution seemed simple: eat. “Anorexia nervosa was so new that I didn’t even has been able to pronounce it until 1980, ” band member John Bettis said. “From the outside the solution appears so simple. All a person has to do is eat. So we were constantly trying to jostle food at Karen My opinion about anorexia is it’s an attempt to have control something in their own lives you can do something about, that you can regiment. That just got out of control with her.”

Band members witnessed her exhaustion. She was lying down between shows, something she had rarely, if ever, done before. They were shocked to see how she could be flat on her back one minute and on stage singing the next. Even when doing back-to-back proves, Karen displayed “a tremendous amount of nervous energy”, said Bash. Unlike her parents, Bash had no qualms about tackling Karen on the issue of anorexia. “The fact that she was anorexic was discussed innumerable times There was every attempt to get her to seek professional help, but I believe her family was the kind of household where the mother would say, ‘We can take care of ourselves. We don’t need to have someone assistance. This is a family matter.'”

When Karen dieted, or “overdieted”, Bash explains, there was a rush of attention from the family, especially Agnes. “Karen had never had attention from Agnes before her mother doted exclusively on Richard so she liked it. The experts say that one of the things that seem to be drive young girls to overdiet is that they were oftentimes the kids that never got attention. It’s a style of get the love from their family that they never get before.”

By the autumn of 1975 Karen’s failing health could no longer be ignored. In addition to her skeletal appearance, she was mentally and physically exhausted. Although she made it through a series of indicates in LasVegas without a major incident, upon returning to Los Angeles she checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, where she spent five days while doctors ran exams. “She is suffering a severe example of physical and nervous exhaustion, ” said Dr Robert Koblin in a statement to the press. “She had a hectic four-week schedule lined up in Europe but I could not allow her to go through with it. In my opinion it would have been highly dangerous to her long-term health.” Melody Maker reported that the Carpenters’ tour would have been the highest-grossing tour in Britain and that approximately 150,000 people were set to see them during the planned 28 -day European trek. Ticket marketings for the 50 displays, which sold out in a matter of hours, were refunded. It was reported that the Carpenters may have easily lost upward of $250,000 due to the cancelled concerts.

Under Agnes Carpenter’s close watch, Karen slept 14 -1 6 hours a day. “My mother supposed I was dead, ” she told biographer Ray Coleman. “I normally manage on four to six hours. It was obvious that for the past two years I’d been running on nervous energy.” Her weight eventually climbed to 7st 6lb.

Over the next five years Karen continued to struggle with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Meanwhile Richard Carpenter fought and won a battle with Quaalude addiction. Then in June 1980, after an unsuccessful attempt to launch a solo career, Karen announced her engagement to a property developer called Tom Burris .

Thirty-nine-year-old Tom Burris met a number of Karen’s requirements in a potential husband. “He was very attractive, is a great pleasure, and he seemed very generous, ” said Carole Curb. Two months into their relationship, Burris told Karen he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. The couple’s plan for a year-long participation was ditched when they announced in July their plans for an August ceremony. The move to be married alarmed Karen’s friends. According to Karen ‘Itchie’ Ramone, Karen’s friend and the wife of producer Phil Ramone, “That’s when everybody’s antennas ran up.” Days before the bridal rehearsal Burris fell a bombshell: he had undergone a vasectomy prior to their session. Karen was dumbfounded. He offered to reverse the procedure but their chances at a family would be significantly lessened.

Karen felt betrayed. Burris had lied to her; he had withheld the information collected for the duration of their courtship and engagement, knowing full well that starting a family was at the top of Karen’s list of priorities. This was a bargain breaker. The bridal was off. Karen picked up the phone and called her mom. She wept to Agnes as she explained the deceit that left her with no choice but to cancel the ceremony. But Agnes told her she would do no such thing. Family and friends were travelling from all over the country to attend the event. Moreover, the wedding expenditures had already cost what Agnes considered to be a small fortune. “The invitations have gone out. There are reporters and photographers coming. People magazine is going to be there. The bridal is on, and you will stroll down that aisle. You stimulated your bed, Karen, ” she told her. “Now you’ll have to lay in it.”

Most of Karen’s family and friends had assumed Burris’s lifestyle and net worth are similar to her own. The expensive vehicles and other possessions gave him the appearance of a multimillionaire, but what others did not realise was that he was living well beyond his means.

“It wasn’t long after they got married that he started asking her for fund, ” recalls Evelyn Wallace. “He’d dedicate her some excuse, and she’d give him the money. He’d ask for $35,000 and $50,000 at a time. Finally it get down to the point where all she had left was stocks and bonds.”

As Itchie Ramone recalls, “Tom couldn’t afford the houses, the cars, her wedding ring; he couldn’t pay for anything.” Karen began to share with friends her growing distrusts about Tom , not only concerning his finances but also his lack of feelings for her. He was often impatient, and she admitted being fearful where reference is would occasionally lose his mood. “He could be very cruel to her, ” says Itchie. But Karen’s longing to be a mother provide proof stronger than her desire to leave her husband. At their house in Newport Beach Karen expressed to Burris her desire to get pregnant and start a family. His reply was brutal. She was still exclaiming hysterically when she called Itchie Ramone for supporting. Burris had told her he wouldn’t even consider having children with her and called her “a bag of bones”. According to Itchie, this matrimony was “the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was perfectly the worst thing that could have ever happened to her.”

Friends indicated she and Burris attempt marital counselling. Instead, the Carpenters prepared to leave for Europe and South America. Itchie went along to keep Karen company. In reality, however, according to Itchie, “Laxatives were her major companion. When we were in Paris we made quite a scene in a pharmacy across the street from our hotel about her needing to buy more laxatives. I indicated natural food groups that might alleviate her ‘constipation’ but she always won those arguments.”

Following a brief stop in Amsterdam, the Carpenters arrived at London’s Heathrow airport on Wednesday, 21 October 1981. They made numerous promotional appearances while in London, both in person and on television. On Thursday they videotapeed an interview for Nationwide , a popular news magazine on BBC television. Barely one minute into their visit, host Sue Lawley astonished Karen by casting light on her darkest secret. “There were rumours that you were suffering from the slimmer’s illnes anorexia nervosa, ” Lawley said. “Is that right? ” “No, I was just pooped, ” Karen said with an intense frown. “I was tired out.”

“You went down to about six stone in weight, I believe, didn’t you? ” Lawley asked. “I have no idea what ‘six stone in weight’ is, ” Karen responded, becoming perceptibly uncomfortable and increasingly agitated. She struggled to fake a giggle, rolling her eyes at the interviewer, who speedily converted the amount to approximately 84 lbs. “No, ” she said, shaking her head adamantly. “No.”

In actuality her weight was hovering around 5st 10 lbs even then. The interviewer’s continued efforts to pinpoint a reason for Karen’s skeletal appearance inspired Richard to come to his sister’s defense. “I don’t really feel that we should be talking about the weight loss, ” he told Lawley. “Maybe it’s better to take a pass on the whole thing. It’s truly not what we’re here for.”

“I am just asking you the issues to people want to know the answers to, ” Lawley replied.

Returning to Los Angeles in November 1981, Karen filed for divorce. Leaving behind the pieces of her broken matrimony, she set out on a year-long recovery mission, relocating to New York City’s Regency Hotel in January 1982. Manager Jerry Weintraub arranged for Karen and Itchie Ramone to share a two-bedroom suite. Cherry O’Neill, the eldest daughter of vocalist Pat Boone who had herself recovered from anorexia, had recommended Karen deem coming to the northwest and watching the doctor who helped her. But in Karen’s world, one name was synonymous with anorexia treatment, and that name was Steven Levenkron. He was a psychotherapist specialising in eating disorder and his successful book The Best Little Girl in the World had become a highly acclaimed television movie, which aired in May 1981. Levenkron agreed to treat her. He received APS1 00 for each hour-long conference five days a week, totalling $2,000 a month. “I liked Levenkron, at the least in the beginning, ” Itchie Ramone says. “No one truly knew why someone would get the ailment or how to treat it, so we were really looking to him to ‘save’ her.”

Arriving at Levenkron’s office at 16 East Seventy-Ninth in Manhattan, Karen weighed in at an alarming 5st 8lb. A week into their daily sessions, Karen admitted to Levenkron she was taking a large number of laxative tablets 80 -9 0 Dulcolax a night. This did not astonish Levenkron. In fact, it was a common practice for many anorexics. “For quite some time, I was taking 60 laxatives at once, ” acknowledges Cherry O’Neill. “Mainly because that was how many came in the box I would ingest the entire contents so as not to leave any evidence.”

What did stun Levenkron was Karen’s next casual disclosure. She was also taking thyroid drug 10 pills a day. He was shocked, especially when she has pointed out that she had a normal thyroid. Realising she was using the medication to speed up her metabolism, Levenkron confiscated the pills. This was the first case of thyroid medication abuse he had seen in his dozen years in the field.

According to Levenkron’s 1982 book, Treating and Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa , the patient must become totally dependent upon the therapist. Once the patient has transferred their dependence on to him, he tries to teach them how to create their own sense of identity, and he helps them disengage from their dependence on him with new behaviours, habits, and guessed patterns.

Karen took advantage of the beautiful spring climate and began a new exercise routine to and from her sessions with Levenkron a brisk two-mile round-trip stroll. This was yet another method to burn extra calories. Outwardly Karen seemed committed to the idea of therapy, but as evidenced by her daily strolling regimen, she was not as committed to making actual changes that would result in real progress. “She was still walking a lot, and she was exercising, ” Carole Curb says. “And then she was into throwing up and taking pills that construct you lose water-weight. Debilitating things like that.”

Several months into his conferences with Karen, Levenkron began to suspect that she had fallen off the wagon. He invited the Carpenter parents and Richard to a 90 -minute family therapy session at its term of office. “They did come to New York eventually, ” Itchie Ramone recalls, “and merely after a lot of nudging. By then, Karen seemed to be starting to turn the corner a little bit emotionally.”

The stigma surrounding mental illness and a need for therapy was frightening for the family, especially Agnes, who felt Karen was simply going overboard as far as dieting was concerned. If only she would stop being so stubborn and merely feed. Over the years the family tried every possible approach to get through to her and stimulate her feed. “Everyone around her “ve done everything” they could have humanly done, ” Richard said in 1993. “I tried everything the heart-to-heart, the cajole, the holler It can only induce you fucking. Plainly it wasn’t about to work, and I was upset.”

Levenkron explained that the family’s attempts to threaten or bribe Karen out of her behaviours would never attain them go forth. According to his volume, “Failure of the family to understand this renders division within the family that in turn outcomes in impressions of rage and guilt. The household atmosphere is chaotic, reinforcing the anorexic’s notion that she and no one else knows what is best for her.” Levenkron suggested to the family that Karen was in need of a more tactile, demonstrative kind of love. Karen wept uncontrollably during the course of its meeting. She told them how sorry she was for having put them in a situation where they felt a need to defend her upbringing, and she went in so far as to apologise for ruining “peoples lives”. “I think Karen genuinely needs to hear that you love her, ” Levenkron told the family.

“Well, of course I love you, ” Richard told her unreservedly.

“Agnes? ” The therapist tapped the mother’s shoe with his own.

Rather than address her daughter, Agnes explained how she preferred to be called Mrs Carpenter. “Well, I’m from the north, ” she continued. “And we just don’t do things that way.”

“Agnes couldn’t do it, ” says Itchie Ramone, who discussed the meeting with Karen and Levenkron after the family left. “She couldn’t do it In therapy you’re basically stark naked. Then your own mother can’t reach out to you? And the style she doted on Richard. Most children would try to dance as fast as they could to make their parents love them, but it was at that point that I guess Karen decided it was time to take a step back.”

After the meeting with Levenkron, Richard became angry with the treatment plan, which he thought to be worthless. He was upset that Karen had not checked herself into an inpatient facility as one would do to conquer substance abuse. He and his mothers returned to California and chose to keep their distance after this painful encounter. They built no farther attempts to contact Karen’s therapist. “What I find interesting, ” Levenkron stated in 1993, “is that in the entire time Karen was in New York, I got zero bellows from the family. I have never treated anyone with anorexia nervosa whose household didn’t call regularly because they were concerned.” Likewise, Richard claimed to have never received a call from Levenkron.

Karen and Itchie were surprised to learn that Levenkron was not an actual physician. “We used to call him ‘Dr Levenkron’ all the time, ” Itchie explains. “Then we found out that he wasn’t even a real physician. Any medical issues she had, we had to go see this other doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital.”

According to Evelyn Wallace, “Karen picked the incorrect guy to go to. He wasn’t even a doctor. It seemed like Levenkron was simply trying to talk Karen out of having anorexia, but she’d talk to him and she’d go back to the same routine.”

By the autumn of 1982 Karen depicted no real signs of progress. In fact, her walkings to and from sessions with Levenkron kept her body weight beneath the six stone mark. Itchie Ramone called Levenkron and voiced her concerns. “Look, Karen’s get thinner and thinner, ” she exclaimed. “Plus, it’s obvious she doesn’t have her usual energy anymore. When do you expect this turnaround? She’s just skin and bone.”

The therapist agreed that Karen seemed extra tired and was not reacting as quickly as he had hoped, and vowed to try another approach. After her next session with Levenkron, Karen asked Itchie if she could borrow a swimsuit. “What? ” Itchie asked. “There’s no pond in the hotel. Besides, it’s cold out! “

“No, I have to wear it tomorrow for Levenkron, ” Karen answered. The two stopped by the Ramones’s apartment to pick up a size 2 light green bikini are subordinate to Itchie. Karen changed into the bikini and emerged smiling. Itchie was mortified and unable to hide her reaction. “What’s the matter? ” Karen asked. “It fits.”

“Uh, yeah, it fits, ” she said hesitantly. “You can use it tomorrow, I guess.”

Returning to Levenkron the following day, Karen was asked to change into the bikini and stand in front of the office mirror. He urged her to survey and evaluate her body. “She didn’t genuinely find any problem with how she seemed, ” Itchie recalls. “In fact, she thought she was gaining a little weight. But she was 79 lb.”

In mid-September Karen phoned Levenkron and told him her heart was “beating funny”. She was quite upset, anxious, and confused. She complained of dizziness to an extent that she was unable to walk. Despite not being medically qualified, he recognised her symptoms as those of someone suffering extreme dehydration. Karen was admitted to New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital on 20 September 1982 to begin hyperalimentation, or intravenous feeding.

The next morning she went into surgery to have a small-bore catheter implanted within the superior vena cava( right atrium of the heart ). An unexpected complication was detected afterward that day when she complained to the nurse of excruciating chest pain, and X-rays uncovered the doctors had accidentally punctured one of her lungs in their attempts to insert the tube.

As her lung began to mend, Karen’s body quickly responded to the artificial means of feeding. The hyperalimentation process completely replaced all of her nutritional needs, and a precise daily calorie intake was dispensed through the catheter. This loss of control was known to often spark fear in patients, and doctors who resist hyperalimentation argue that it does not teach the patient to eat properly. However, Karen went along with it and gained 12 lb in only a few days. Solid foods were slowly reintroduced as the level of assistance from Karen’s IV minimized, and she continued to gain weight steadily. Unlike many other patients she seemed pleased and excited to display visitors her advance. Richard flew in to visit on 25 October and, like most who assured her there, was shocked and saddened. She was still horribly emaciated and barely identifiable by this stage. “You see how much better I look? ” she asked.

Richard nodded in agreement but only to appease his sister. In an attempt to divert the attention away from herself, Karen told him of other patients who were much worse off. But he was not sidetracked. “Karen, this is crap, ” he said abruptly. “Don’t you understand? This is crap! You’re going about this all the wrong way. This guy isn’t getting anything accomplished because you’re in a hospital now! “

By November Karen was eating three meals a day at Lenox Hill, and trying to stay positive about the weight gain, by then approaching the 30 lb mark. The return of her menstrual cycle, which had ceased during the previous year, seemed to signify an improvement in emotional and physical wellbeing.

On 16 November Karen visited Steven Levenkron for the last day and presented him with a farewell gift, a framed personal message in needlepoint. The large green-threaded words “you win I gain” served as tangible proof of the long hours Karen had spent alone in the hospital. Learning of her plan to leave, Levenkron reminded Karen she was abandoning the program much too soon, and that treatment takes at least three years. He indicated a therapist in Los Angeles so that she might continue a routine of some sort upon her return home, but she declined. She promised to call him and swore she would not take any more laxatives or diuretics. Agnes and Harold( Karen’s father) gratified up with her at Levenkron’s office that day. The couple had flown to New York City to bring their daughter and her 22 pieces of luggage home. It was obvious to most that Karen’s treatment was inadequate and objective too soon.

“She tried to get help, ” says her longtime friend Frenda Franklin. “She went to New York to try. It merely wasn’t the right way to do it. If this had happened in today’s world I believe Karen would have lived. I think we would have had a good shoot. They know much better. We were dancing in the dark.”

Karen ate heartily on Thanksgiving Day, much to the pleasure of their own families, and she even called Itchie Ramone that night to tell her of all she had feed. “She said to me, ‘I ate this and that and all my favourite things, ‘” she remembers. “She was very proud of herself then. We were all very proud of her. It seemed like progress.”

In the weeks following her return to Los Angeles Karen went back to shopping and socialising without delay. Although others felt she was still quite fragile and thin, Herb Alpert, who had first signed the Carpenters to A& M, assured Karen shortly after the New Year and remembered her looking terrific. She bounced into his office saying, “Hey, look at me, Herbie! What do you think? How do I seem? ” Alpert agreed that she looked happier and healthier than he had ensure her in some time, and felt she appeared to have won the combat. “I am so happy, ” she told him.

“I’m ready to record again, and Richard and I have been talking about getting the group together and performing.”

Despite her high spirits, she was taking more naps than usual and sometimes lying down by seven in the evening. Richard did not believe she was well, and he told her so. On Thursday 27 January Florine Elie drove to Century City for her weekly clean of Karen’s apartment at Century Towers. There the housekeeper made an unnerving discovery. “When I was running up there I found Karen, ” Elie says. “She was lying on the floor of her closet.” She gently shook Karen who awoke but was groggy. “Karen, is there something wrong? ” she asked.

“No, I am just so tired, ” she replied.

“Maybe you better go lie on your bed, ” she said, helping Karen up and tucking her into bed.

Florine checked on Karen again before leaving. By then she was awake and adamant she was OK.

Tuesday 1 February determined Karen dining with her friend, this time at Scandia on Sunset Boulevard. They were joined by stage producer Joe Layton, and the trio discussed plans for the Carpenters’ return to touring. Karen ate with enthusiasm and after dinner returned to Century Towers. This was the last day Richard would assure his sister alive.

The next day Karen spoke with Itchie Ramone, who was pregnant with her and Phil’s first child. Karen shared her plans for the week. She would sign the final divorce newspapers on Friday and then prepare to leave for New York. “That weekend, 6 February, she was going to hop on a plane and be there for the birth, ” Itchie recalls.

Shortly after midnight, biding overnight with her parents, Karen gone over her to-do listing with Frenda Franklin by phone, and finalised plans for the next day. “OK, I am going to drive in. There shouldn’t be a lot of traffic, ” she said. According to Frenda, Karen enjoyed keeping up with traffic reports. “Then we’re going to go get the red fingernail polish.” The two had a noon appointment for a manicure in festivity of her divorce.

On Friday morning, 4 February, Karen awoke and went downstairs to the kitchen, where she turned on the coffeepot her mom had prepared the night before. She went back upstairs to get dressed. When the coffee was ready, Agnes dialled the upstairs bedroom phone, but its ring, heard faintly in the distance, went unanswered. Agnes went to the foot of the stairs and called to her daughter but there was no response. Entering the room, Agnes procured Karen’s motionless, nude body lying face down on the floor of the walk-in wardrobe. Her eyes were open but rolled back. She was lying in a straight line and did not appear to have fallen. “She had just laid down on the floor and that was it, ” Agnes recalled.

The autopsy report listed the cause of death as “emetine cardiotoxicity due to or as a consequence of anorexia nervosa.” The finding of emetine cardiotoxicity( ipecac poisoning) revealed that Karen had poisoned herself with ipecac syrup, a well-known emetic commonly recommended to induce vomiting in cases of overdose or poisoning.

Levenkron claimed to know nothing of Karen’s use or abuse of ipecac. In their telephone call she assured him she was maintaining her new 7st 10 lb figure and had totally suspended utilize of all laxatives. He never suspected she was resorting to something much more lethal.

In a radio interview videotapeed soon after Karen’s death, Levenkron discussed the autopsy findings: “According to the LA coroner, she discovered ipecac and started taking it every day. There are a lot of women out there who are using ipecac for self-induced vomiting. It creates painful cramps, tastes terrible, and it does another thing that the public isn’t well informed. It slowly dissolves the heart muscle. If you take it day after day, every dose is taking another little piece of that heart muscle apart. Karen, after fighting bravely for a year in therapy, went home and apparently decided that she wouldn’t lose any weight with ipecac, but that she’d make sure she didn’t gain any. I’m sure she believed this was a harmless thing she was doing, but in 60 days she had accidentally killed herself. It was a shocker for all of us who treated her.”

In one of Levenkron’s most recent books, Anatomy of Anorexia , the author boasts of his above-average recovery rate in working with those suffered by eating disorder. “In the last 20 years I have treated nearly 300 anorexics, ” he wrote. “I am pleased to state that I have had a 90 per cent recovery rate, though tragically, one fatality.” That was Karen Carpenter.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Still ticking: The improbable survival of the luxury watch business | Simon Garfield

The Long Read: In an increasingly digital world, people are still willing to spend huge amounts on analogue timepieces. The topic is, why?

On 17 March 2016, the watch manufacturer Breitling opened a lavish new stalling at Baselworld, the worlds biggest watch carnival, to show off its latest wonders. There was the Avenger Hurricane, a beefy black and yellow extravaganza in a special polymer casemade specifically to survive all extremes of superhuman adventure( 6,500 ). There was the Superocean Chronograph M2 000 Blacksteel, with full functionality at a depth of 2,000 metres( 3,850 ). And there were at least 60 other items, each out-glistening the other in an attempt to demonstrate a new and costly route to tell the time.

And then there were the fisheries sector. Above the entrance to the temporary store which, at 10 metres high, was really more of a pavilion was a huge tank holding 650 jellyfish. The tank actually more of an aquarium was the size of a new London Routemaster bus sliced down the middle.Empty, it weighed 12 tonnes; its 16,113 litres of water added another 16.5 tonnes. Because it contained so many fish and so much water, the tanks sides were made from a 13 cm-thick layer of methacrylate, a transparent material similar to plexiglass.

Precisely what the jellyfish had to do with selling watches was a mystery, and it would remain a mystery until they were removed from the tank when the pavillion shut. Perhaps they represented liberty; perhaps they were a reminder of the sort of thing you could see if you purchased a Breitling diving chronometer. But the strangest thing about the tank was that most people who ensure it merely glanced up and swiftly moved on. Considering where it was, it didnt seem unusual at all.

For eight days each year, Basel becomes the centre of the watch universe. The fairs organisers claimed 150,000 paying visitors and 1,800 brands spread over 141,000 square metres of exhibition space. Admission expensed 60 Swiss francs a day( nearly 50 ), for which one could have bought a nice Timex. Near the Breitling pavilion was an obelisk for Omega, and a palace for Rolex. TAG Heuer adorned its booth with a TAG Heuer-sponsored Formula 1 racing car. One could spend many hours strolling the plush carpets here, and encounter many very handsome men and womenpromoting Breguet, Hublot, and Longines, and very many handsome men and women buying their wares, too. Some booths were also selling jewellery including Chanel, Gucci and Chopard and some brands were selling watches contained within pearls: symphonies of the unnecessary, such as the Harry Winston Premier Moon Phase 36 mm, with mom of pearl and 104 brilliant-cut diamonds.

The show was a festivity of our mastery of timekeeping, and of the refinement and years of training that go into constructing objects of beauty and accuracy. But it was also a gala of excess and superfluousness, of watches that exist merely because they can, like animal acts at a circus. Many worked on the most intricate levels to perform functions almost beyond usefulness: there were watches with a calendar that lasts 1,000 years; there were watches depicting the phase of the moon in a different day zone. And then there were items such as the Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller, assembled from 1,483 components. This would announce the hours and quarter-hours with the same chime sequence as Big Ben. At its launching, it was heralded by its makers as the most complex wristwatch ever made, and a grandiose work of art.In addition to its 36 complications a complication is basically a nice gimmick was the ability to tell the time. Another complication was that it expense 2.2 m.

And therein lies the mystery of the modern timepiece. These days , no one requires a Swiss watch to tell the time or a watch from different countries. The hour displayed on our mobile phones and other digital devices will always be more accurate than the time displayed on even the most skilfully engineered mechanical watch, yet the industry has a visual presence in our lives like few others. The storefronts of the worlds big-money boulevards glow with the lustre of Rolex and Omega; newspapers and magazines appear to be kept in business largely by watch adverts; airports would be empty shells without them. The exportation value of the Swiss watch trade fell by 3.3% last year, due primarily to a downfall in demand from the east Asia. But it is up 62.9% compared with six years ago. In 2015 the world bought 28.1 m Swiss watches valued at 21.5 billion Swiss francs.

We live in uncertain economic hours, but watch costs at Baselworld present no signs of making a cut-price concession to the unstable yen or rouble, or even the recent competition from the Apple Watch. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true: the highest the asking price, the greater the appeal, for cheapness may suggest a reduction in quality.

So the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40 in platinum( The watch par excellence of influential people) is on sale for 41,700, while the platinum Patek Philippe Split-Seconds Chronograph with the alligator strap( For men who take accuracy seriously) is 162,970. For some collectors, this would be considered entry-level: the most complicated limited-edition watches sell for 1m or more. These watches have a waiting list, as the world merely contains so many squinting master craftsmen who can make them, and even they havent found a route to extend the day beyond 24 hours.

But why do we continue to buy these over-engineered and redundant machines? Why do so many people pay so much for an item whose principal function is a possibility bought for so little? And how does the watch industry not only survive in the digital age, but survive well enough to erect a 16,000 -litre saltwater shrine to its continued mastery of an outmoded art? Far beyond the tell of time, watches tell us something about ourselves. And so the answers to these questions lie within our inclination for extreme fantasy, our consumption of astonishing marketing, our unbridled and shameless capability for fanfare, and our renewed reverence for workmanship in a digital world.

And perhaps there is something else ticking away at us a feeling that the acceleration of our daily lives may soon prove overwhelming. When watchmaking began, we had no theory of packed calendars and unbreakable deadlines, much less of quality period or me hour. Our days were not ruled by the clock. These days, having brought this ungovernable storm of rush upon ourselves, we may be grateful for anything not least a beautiful windable timepiece that reinstates at least an illusion of control.

The Patek Philippe showroom at 18 New Bond Street has been done up in a sophisticated palette of sycamore, brass and alabaster. Here we may find the revered Swiss companys entire current Patek collection, stretching from the relatively modest Calatrava and Aquanaut models( beginning at around 5,000) to the ludicrous Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300 in white gold, fat as a fist, which expenses in the region of 1.7 m.

One enters the salon through a double-door airlock, ensuring that no one gets in who may not appreciate exquisite artistry, and no one foliages who has not settled their account. The showroom at 400 square metres, the largest single-brand watch emporium in the UK was not sufficiently large to host its own opening party in December 2014. The event was held in a glass pavilion in the courtyard of Somerset House, decorated for the night in a style that would not have seemed out of place in the heyday of Versailles, albeit a Versailles lit by LED illuminations on fake cherry trees.

The London salon is the most modern of Pateks three flagship stores, but they all share a similar retail psychology. The others, in Paris and at the companys home in Geneva, envelop the clientele in an identical citrus scent, and in all three, the piped music is as suave and alluring as 1950 s Monaco. There are a few subtle changes, the companys PR chief tells me. In London you get cookies with your coffee, whereas in Geneva you get chocolates.

In all three stores an imminent purchase is made more pleasurable, and more likely, following the arrival of champagne. The London outlet has a lower-ground region resembling a library, and a twinkle, softly illuminated celestial room where prospective purchasers may analyse watches with ultimate discretion. The entire showroom has purposely banished all facets of the digital world: there are no iPads or electronic tills, and the staff have undergone a course in calligraphy to enable the careful inking of customer receipts and guarantees.

My expertise is constructing people happy and to create an environment my customers enjoy, said Ed Butland, the stores director. We will show you any item suited to your needs and circumstance. Money is the latest thing we want to talk about. On the day I visited, Butland was not wearing his usual watch, a manually wound platinum Calatrava with a two-tone dial, but conducting a wear-test on a stainless-steel ultra-thin motion porthole Nautilus that had just been serviced.

An iPhone has no soul, he said. With most electronic devices theres simply a screen and a back, and nothing that connects you with whats actually going on to make it run, and nothings moving. Theres no human element and no human emotional connection. This partly explains the longstanding appeal of a mechanical timepiece of any make.A few weeks before my tour of the showroom, I had visited Patek Philippes headquarters in the Geneva suburb of Plan-les-Ouates, where I talked to Thierry Stern, the companys chairman. He had his own believes on why the watch endures.

We should never forget that its nearly the only jewellery we can have as a man, he said. And its something nice! We should never forget that. Its not only a watch, its a piece of art. If they[ our customers] want to keep it as something of value, fine. I would prefer to see them wearing it. Its also a reward I believe. Yes, you could give a quartz or digital watch to your son for his bridal, but I do not suppose those types of items today will last. They will change every year, like telephones, so should I engrave a[ digital] watch like this and say Happy Birthday from your daddy, and then what are you going to do the next year?

Patek Philippe prides itself on being the last independently owned watchmaker in Geneva. The company has been in the hands of the Stern family since 1932. Thierry Stern, who is 46, took over from his father Philippe six years ago. He is gently unassuming and comfortably portly, and quite lacking in the hauteur one may expect from the head of such a distinctive brand.He speaks softly and chuckles easily one has no trouble picturing him selling ties, or with a pot of fondue in front of him. He recalled a gratifying he had recently in New York with industry leaders from Silicon Valley, and he was surprised to see how many of them wore Patek. When he asked them why, he told me, They all said the same: It brings us down to ground, and its nice to have something mechanical when youve been working in the digital world for so long.

In the last six years Stern has increased annual production from about 40,000 watches to 60,000, which is still a minuscule output compared to a Swiss giant like Rolex, which produces more than 700,000 watches a year. Exclusivity is a key to desirability. Stern maintained that he was not worried by a difficult start to the year and the impact of Brexit on sales; he had just approved the designs for the collection for 2028. When youre dealing with day, he suggested, it helps to take the long view.

Patek Philippe, which sold its first watch in the 1850 s, has never been at the vulgar aim of the market, and doesnt look for endorsements from starring footballers and rappers the way other brands do. Jay Z, for example, who has rapped about owning a Hublot and the big-face Rolex( I got two of those! he boasts in a duo with Kanye West on their album Watch the Throne) might not seem the most likely customer of the more subtle Patek brand. But he is: he has been spotted at basketball games wearing a 120,000 Grand Complications model in white gold. Perhaps he likes the elegance and( relative) restraint of it, a 21 st-century billionaire hankering for an updated 19 th-century masterpiece. Either style, he is certainly an avid customer of the brands brilliant marketing.

Patek has operated virtually the same advert for the last 20 years, and it contains a tagline that is both enduringly effective and highly annoying: You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You simply look after it for the next generation. The line is accompanied by images of models in various stages of self-satisfaction: a father seated at a piano with his son, a mother giggling with her daughter over lifes little luxuries. The photographs, taken by Herb Ritts, Ellen von Unwerth, Mary Ellen Mark and other artists whose run hangs in museums, are designed to stir a sense of responsibility and family obligation, of dynasty and heritage. They may appeal primarily to someone with new money aspiring to be someone with old money. Buy an expensive watch, they seem to be saying, and you will belong.

The Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller. Photo: www.thewatchquote.com/ mesIMG/ imgStd/ 28276

Tim Delaney, the chairman of Leagas Delaney, the English ad company responsible for the Generations campaign, told him that the adverts arose out of a desire to reflect Patek Philippes own sense of longevity and belonging the fact that, unlike most watch brands, which are owned by big conglomerates, the company is independent.

I asked him why his campaign had lasted so long. I think its a universal insight, he says. Its not pushy the suppose doesnt run down, it doesnt become less intelligent the more you see it. The photographs are an attempt to show human beings and warmth. Truth Its idealised. Everyone knows its ad. You have a strong sense that its a natural bond between the two people, the parent and the son, mother and daughter, so its palatable, but its not a photograph of a guy with his real son. I asked Delaney whether there were any other watch campaigns he admired, and he guessed for less than a second before he said No.

In the last century we have experienced the breaking of the sound barrier, the invention of the atomic clock, radio-controlled timekeeping, the internet, and pixelated clocks pulsing inexorably on our information technology and phones. And yet none of these developments has threatened the dominance of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Exports rose even during the second world war with the rest of Europe in turmoil, the temporal reliability of neutral Switzerland assumed even greater significance. For instance, the International Watch Company a leading manufacturer based on the banks of the Rhine, in the northern Swiss city of Schaffhausen sold its Big Pilots Watch to both the RAF and the Luftwaffe. Both sides were grateful for its massive dial, its huge glove-operable crown and its protection against sudden drops-off in air pressure as they tried to shoot one another out of the sky.

In 2014, the Swiss exported 29 m watches. This was only 1.7% of all watches bought globally, but 58% of their value. This raises a string of questions. Why Switzerland in the first place? How did this unassuming, landlocked country come to predominate the industry? And how did it master the art of charging tens of thousands for an object that often kept time less accurately than an object expensing 10?

The first mechanical watches were not Swiss. The earliest first round and then oval-shaped, and worn as large necklaces seemed around 1510 in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. A small trade developed in Geneva a few decades later, thanks largely to artisans utilized as goldsmiths; filigree and enamel work, and experience with intricate engraving tools, enabled craftsmen to turn their attention to miniature mechanics. There were 176 goldsmiths working in Geneva in the 16 th century, and their emergent watchmaking skills were almost certainly aided by the arrival of Huguenot refugees from France.

None of this quite explains why it was Switzerland, rather than Germany or France, that gained the pre-eminent reputation for accuracy and beauty. But this is because that reputation emerged primarily in the 20 th century. Prior to this, companies such as Breguet, Cartier and Lip in Paris, and many small firmsbased in Glasshtte, in the German state of Saxony, all produced prized specimen.( These regions still make fine watches, they just struggle to compete with the cachet of being constructed in Switzerland .)

In England, which could justifiably claim to be the innovative centre of clock and watchmaking in the 17 th and 18 th centuries, the roster of premier craftsmen included names still celebrated at the Greenwich Royal Observatory and the British Museum: Thomas Mudge, John Harrison and Thomas Tompion. With the exception of Harrison, whose clocks enabled the calculation of longitude at sea, the names are now all but forgotten, owing to the habitual British practice of forgetting the concerns in which it once led the world.

But the Swiss merely maintained on going, occasionally buying up the most prominent firms elsewhere in Europe, and forming trade bodies and certification targets that increased the industrys reputation for quality and honesty. In the 19 th century, the Swiss became masters of the increasingly flat mechanisms that enabled traditional pocket watches to evolve into wristwatches; a watch worn as a bracelet was particularly useful when riding on horseback.

The Swiss also made full employ of new innovations, enthusiastically replacing the old method of gale a watch by key in favour of the modern stem-and-crown mechanism. In the early 20 th century, they combined the new American-originated system of conveyor-belt mechanisation with the finest the methods used in local hand-crafting.

Today, the particular qualities that make a watch Swiss are the subject of strict legal definition, and are as closely governed as champagne or parmesan cheese( the description on watches is always Swiss made or simply Swiss rather than Induced in Switzerland, a tradition dating back to 1890 ). To qualify, a watch must meet certain strict criteria( or, according to the Fdration de lIndustrie Horlogre Suisse FH, where this classification originates, a watch must adhere to The new requirements stipulated by Swissness ). To categorize as Swiss Made, a watch must a) have a Swiss motion( that is, the basic mechanism consisting of cogs and springtimes that attain the watch ticking) b) have this movement incorporated in a case that is built within Switzerland and c) be checked and certified in Switzerland.

All was going well until the 1970 s, when something made the hand-made mechanical watch trade like a mallet. As the decade progressed it seemed that the Swiss would not, after all, be telling the worlds day for ever. In September 1975, The Horological Journal a well regarded trade publishing founded in 1858 announced a milestone in the history of horology. On its cover was a picture of a Timex, a watch that operated on quartz. It contained a tiny piece of crystal that resonated at a high and fixed frequency when powered by a battery. This steady signal was then transmitted to an oscillator, an electronic circuit that regulated the gears that turned the watch hands. The old mechanism of gale and power storage in a coiled spring was rejected at a stroke.

The quartz movement had been around since the 1920 s, but its miniaturisation had only been achieved in prototype by Seiko and Casio in Japan in the late 1960 s. Its price has hitherto taken it beyond members of the general customer, but now, through mass production at Timex and its main American rival Bulova, the electronic watch represented a change of philosophy a piece of disruptive technology long before the phrase existed. It was solid state, with no ticking, and the new watch heralded the dawn of mass tech-based consumerism. Split-second timing, once the exclusive domain of physicists and technicians, was now available to all, and there was no better emblem of the seismic switching from the mechanical to the electronic world. Time itself was now flashing at us everywhere. No theatre visit was complete without half-hourly beeping from watches in the audience, alarms were now rushing us to every appointment.

The Swiss reacted to the digital disruption with a combination of denial and mild anxiety. Between 1970 and 1983, the Swiss share of the watch market fell from 50% to 15%, and the industry shed more than half its workforce. As one of Tom Stoppards characters set it in his 1982 play The Real Thing, It looked all over for the 15 -jewel movement. Men ran through the marketplace screaming the cog is dead! But the days of the Japanese digital watch were numbered. In the early 1980 s, with doom on the horizon, the Swiss oppose back with a new philosophy of their own, and something plastic, cheaper and powered by quartz and battery: the Swatch.

The Swatch from its name onwards injected colour, youth and fun into Swiss watches( God knows, the fusty industry needed it ). The watches were sold in the companys own shops and advertised on MTV, while artists and film directors, including Keith Haring and Akira Kurosawa, designed limited editions and built watches hip and desirable again for a new generation. With the panic over, the Swiss could once more concentrate on numbering their bank account. In 2014, gross sales of the Swatch watch amounted to more than 9bn Swiss francs. Today, the Swatch Group is the worlds largest watchmaking company, consisting of brands including Longines, Blancpain and Rado that once would have shuddered at the believed to be being owned by an empire with such garish foundations. Swatch even owns Breguet, the company that claims to have made the first wristwatch in 1810.

Earlier this year, in an interview with the New York Times, Brad Pitt recalled his time on the decide of the second world war movie Fury. Pitt, who is a brand ambassador for TAG Heuer, remembered that Logan Lerman, the youngest actor in the casting, was given a watch to keep track of various activities during the course of its cinemas rehearsals. One day he came to me and said the watch has stopped, and I said, Youve just got to wind it. He came back literally 15 minutes later and said, Wait, how do you gale it?

For those born into the digital age, the prospect of making a watch start may seem as remote and implausible as crank-starting a automobile or changing the ribbon on a typewriter. But it is precisely this process the end of a accomplishment of infinitely intricate human engineering that appeals to the watch connoisseur. It also explains why a fine watch expenses so much.

Making anything really small by hand tends to be extremely expensive. In the watch industry, the precision of the tiny parts is one reason for the great expense( even the tiniest fucking costs eight Swiss francs, precisely because it is such a tiny screwing ). But the major contributory factors are human and old-fashioned the wisdom, handed down through centuries, required to induce something beautiful and functional from an otherwise inanimate assemblage of metal and stones. In each of the magnificent Grande Complication watches made by the International Watch Company( IWC) there are 659 portions 453 more than there are bones in the human body.

But this is nothing compared with the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, which holds 1,366 proportions within a 16.1 mm-thick case. This is the one with the 1.7 m price tag, and I handled one for a brief minute when I visited the Geneva headquarters( how time flies when youre enjoying something you know will shortly be taken away from you ). The watch did actually feel expensive. It had a dual-face, a power mechanism operating at 25,200 semi-oscillations per hour, a perpetual calendar, a strikework isolator display, a moon stage, and a Grande and Petite Sonnerie( internal chimes and alarms with tiny hammers striking polished gongs when activated by a side lever to let the wearer know the time in the dark ).

It was as heavy as any wrist would bear, and was without question a masterpiece of horological art. But the thing I liked most about it was that after nine years on the drawing board, and as many at the manufacturers workbench, you still had to wind the damn beautiful thing by hand.

The greatest wonder of all is that this watch has a mechanical movement, much of it adapted from pocket watches created in the 17 th century. The precision tooling and some of the fitting may be to be undertaken by machine now, but the design and final assembly the tiny fucks, springs, plates, wheels and pearls, the weights on the edge of the balance wheel, the ratchets that mediate the power supply, the interconnected barrels that create an energy reserve, and the pallet fork is connected to the escapement wheel that causes the ticking sound are done by brain and hand.

A master watchmaker at IWC Schaffhausen named Christian Bresser once told me that making a watch attained him feel omnipotent. Its the worst thing to say, but its the God complex, or the Frankenstein complex. You have the white overcoat, and youre generating life.

The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime. Photo: Jean-Daniel Meyer/ Patek Philippe/ JD Meyer

Creating life from pinions and fulcrums and tiny bolts may be the easy proportion. One then has to sell the thing. With so many watch companies making merely slight fluctuations of the same product, how should the well-heeled buyer make a choice in thiscrowded marketplace? Should we rely, as we increasingly do in our modern world, on guidance from celebrities?

At Baselworld in 2015 I squeezed my style into a launching of a new watch at a pavilion designed for Hublot. A flashy newcomer on the scene, Hublot was set up by an Italian in 1980, based itself in Nyon, a town in south-western Switzerland, and was owned by the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. Hublot prides itself on its timekeeping for leading sporting events, and its recent brand ambassador was Jos Mourinho, manager of Manchester United and a keen watch collector.

Brand ambassadors are a key element of watch salesmanship, and the fact that they do not usually wear a watch at all while achieving their greatest feats is not a important consideration. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have signed for Audemars Piguet and Jacob& Co. Alongside Mourinho, Hublot also has Usain Bolt. Breitling has John Travolta and David Beckham, Montblanc Hugh Jackman, Rolex Roger Federer, IWC Ewan McGregor, and Longines Kate Winslet. Patek Philippe has shied away from celebrity endorsements, but it did once boast that its clients included Queen Victoria.

When Mourinho appeared at Baselworld in 2015 he was still manager of Chelsea. He was wearing a grey raincoat over grey cashmere, and he accepted his watch with light applause and a short speech about how he has been part of the Hublot family for a long time as a fan, but now it had all been made official( ie he had received his bank transfer ). His watch was called the King Power Special One, nearly the size of a hockey puck, 18 -carat king gold with blue carbon, a self-winding Unico manufacture Flyback Chronograph with 300 components, an immense 48 mm suit, all the mechanics uncovered on the dial side, blue alligator strap, a skeleton dial, a power reserve of 72 hours, an edition of 100 and a price in the region of 32,000. The promotional blurb claimed that the item was just like Mourinho himself: The watch is provocative the robust exterior hides the genius below. It was both stunning and hideous at the same time.

But the most remarkable thing about the Hublot King Power was not that it looked like an armored tank, but that it did not maintain very accurate period. When the popular American magazine WatchTime conducted tests on an earlier model, it observed it gained between 1.6 to 4.3 seconds a day. Extra period: yet another thing for Mourinho to dispute with the referee.

But accurate timekeeping has long ago ceased to be the phase. And this, with deep irony, is another reason why the global watch industry survives. Once you can afford to spend even entry-level costs for a Patek Philippe or a Hublot, your watch has begun to represent status and one-upmanship. A watch is a statement of accomplishment, and also of intent.( It is just one of the easiest ways to export fund from one country to the next .) Something glittery on your wrist says something about your earning power and your savor, much as an expensive vehicle can do; it is not always an attractive trait. Its a delusion, of course, but the fatter and more complicated and costly the watch, the more the wearer may assume control of the universe, the still centre of a spinning wheel.

Baselworld 2017 has already announced itself as a fairground for the senses. Next March, the present will feature an expanding array of smart watches, items that indicate the leading brands are not prepared to suffer another debacle comparable to the quartz crisis. Many companies initially rejected the potential impact of the Apple Watch and similar devices that act as a synced companion to the mobile phone, but they have been forced to reconsider; when Apple began offering a watch in a gold occurrence for several thousand pounds more than the standard model, and Herms began attaining 1,550 straps for it, the luxury market began to feel a little uneasy.

So Breitling will be offering its Exospace B5 5, enabling its chronograph to engage with any smartphone. And TAG Heuer will have its Connected Smart Watch, promising audio streaming over WiFi and all manner of fitness tracking. It claims it marks a completely new era the worlds first wrist-worn computer.

But the watch has always been a computer; certain differences now is what it calculates. A dial that once etched out our lives in hours and minutes, its accuracy dependent on our capacity to set it in motion and gust it, may now keep us was linked to the rest of the earth, via GPS and overnight wireless charging. Yet the remarkable thing is not the emergence of text and emails on the wrists that was always going to come at some point but how robust the traditional and mechanical wristwatch has proven itself alongside the new technologies. Alongside the absurd complications of the fattest new timepiece comes something we are evidently keen to hang on to a belief that beauty and refinement are ends in themselves, and that the workbench of the skilled engineer is still worshipped more than the production line. A beautiful ticking timepiece gives us something back transporting us, perhaps, to an imagined hour when time was still our friend.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time, by Simon Garfield, is published by Canongate at 16.99. To order a transcript for 13.93, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.

Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Reni Eddo-Lodge:’ Racism is structural: its purpose is to consolidate power’

The London-based author on her racial awake and the books that induced her an activist and writer

Why are you no longer talking to white people about race?
I was depleted its difficult to have a dialogue about the nuances of a number of problems with people who dont believe there is a problem any more. Racism is a huge part of our history and continues to shape our lives in so many ways, subtle and unsubtle. But in talking to white people about race, I found them believing everything was fine and interpreting me as if I were saying they were racist. I wrote a blog about this communication gap. The reaction was massive many were saying I feel like this too, which speaks of a messed-up situation in society. This book grew out of that blog.

The volume is about the conversations people have, but also the silences …
Absolutely. Theres an assumption that we all enter the conversation about race and racism in Britain as equals; but the point is that racism is structural and its purpose is to consolidate power. Theres a power balance at the heart of every dialogue, especially when people find themselves the only one of their race in a room full of white people. Sometimes its safer to stay quiet if you have a social position to protect.

Was writing the book empowering?
Ive always written since I was a child, in order to process my guess, undoubtedly. I desperately needed to put forward a new perspective on race and racism in this country, because I was coming up against a lot of roadblocks. I used to be involved in activism I was a feminist activist at university but now I assure my writing as activism.

What volumes did you read in childhood?
I read a lot of Roald Dahl, and all of the classics, including the Enid Blyton editions with golliwogs. Its no wonder that aged four, I turned to my mum and asked: When am I going to turn white? When she told me I wasnt, I was disillusioned. That was the first phase in my life I noticed that something was up, in the world around me. Reading novels and watching movies, you see that black people have from birth had to empathise with white people, whereas white people have never had to empathise with black people.

What volumes have been influential in adulthood?
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoircreated a real change in view. Im also a huge fiction devotee the last novel I read that really touched me was Half of a Yellow Sun .

You say in the book that youre often asked: What about class ?
What I try to do in the book is show that class and race arent separate. When people say What about class? theyre genuinely saying What about the white working class ?, and I think thats a pernicious division. I was not raised with a sense of entitlement; instead, it was You will have to work twice as hard as your white peers. There was nobody in my immediate proximity who was doing anything to do with write. My mum runs as a mental health nurse theres nobody in their own families who has moved into a creative industry at all.

You write that the black British narrative has been starved of oxygen …
Narratives of black Britain and white working class Britain have been marginalised, which is why we find ourselves in 2017 with people asking Wheres this white patriotism come from? What I learned in my research was that this history isnt easily accessible: it is out there, but its not in a textbook you have to excavate deeper.

Why Im No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge is published by Bloomsbury( 16.99 ). To order a copy for 14.44 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over 10, online orders only. Telephone orders min p& p of 1.99

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Harper Lee’s article for FBI magazine on infamous killings found

Biographer of To Kill a Mockingbird author determines unsigned piece on quadruple slaying at centre of Truman Capotes In Cold Blood

The discovery of an earlier manuscript from the US novelist Harper Lee was the publishing sensation of last year but now her biographer, Charles J Shields, believes he has found another previously unknown Lee text a feature article about a notorious real-life quadruple murder.

The piece was written for the March 1960 issue of the Grapevine, a magazine for FBI professionals, only months before she was to publish her classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was unsigned, but Shieldss detective work uncovered evidence which appears to confirm its true authorship.

The article was about the gruesome murder of Herb and Bonnie Clutter, and their teenage children Nancy and Kenyon at their farmhouse in Kansas. Lee accompanied her childhood friend Truman Capote on his assignment for the New Yorker, reporting on how the community was reacting to the brutal murders.

Harper Lees feature article about a notorious real-life quadruple assassination of the Clutter family in Kansas, published in the March 1960 issue of the Grapevine Photograph: The Grapevine

Their interviews included detective Alvin Dewey of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and they afterwards returned for the trial of the murderer. Capote would afterwards use the material in his non-fiction account, In Cold Blood, downplaying Lees contribution in describing her as his research assistant. The events, in turn, were depicted in two films, Capote and Infamous.

In her article, Lee wrote of the most extraordinary murder case in the history of the state. She reported that the assassination victims prominent Methodists and leaders in community activities had been bound hand and foot and shot at close range Clutters throat had been cut.

She continued: Deweys role was doubly hard; the late Herbert Clutter was a close personal friend The clues Dewey and his colleagues worked on in the beginning were meagre[ sic ]. The murderers took with them the firearm and shells are applied to assassination the family; adhesive tape are applied to gag three of the victims could have been bought anywhere However, in the cellar furnace room where Clutters body was found, researchers detected a clear footprint etched in blood.

Harper Lee succumbed last February aged 89. Photograph: Lee Celano/ WireImage

She reported that two men afterwards confessed to the murders and that specific activities netted them between $40 and $50 in cash.

Shields determined the article while rewriting his 2006 bestselling biography, Mockingbird: a Portrait of Harper Lee. He told the Guardian that he was looking for any clues he might have previously overlooked. He began poring over Kansas newspapers and, in the Garden City Telegram, began reading a column by Dolores Hope, who I already knew was a friend of Harper Lee, he said.

Hopes folksy columns were never very newsy, but he was astonished by an extraordinary couple of paragraphs alerting readers to a forthcoming article.

Hope wrote: The story of the work of the FBI in general and KBI Agent Al Dewey in particular on the Clutter slayings will appear in Grapevine, the FBIs publication.

Nelle Harper Lee, young novelist who came to Garden City with Truman Capote to gather material for a New Yorker publication article on the Clutter case, wrote the piece. Miss Harpers first novel is due for publishing the following spring and advance reports say it is bound to be a success.

How right she was. Lee became one of Americas most revered novelists. To Kill a Mockingbird a tale of race relations and legal injustice established in the American south in the 1930 s has been described as one of the great bestselling novels of the 20 th century. In 1962, it inspired the Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch. When Lee was asked why she did not write another fiction, she replied: I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again. Go Set a Watchman, which features characters from Mockingbird about 20 year later was published last year to mixed reviews. Lee died in February aged 89.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

A moment that changed me: the chance to use new life-saving cancer medications

A stroke of luck at a bleak period mean I got to take the ground-breaking Herceptin. It allowed me to live, and follow my dream of becoming an author

Though I loved being an English teacher, my dream from childhood was to be a writer. Aged 34, I was head of English in a secondary school, freshly marriage, and about to start a family. Just three weeks after the bridal I found something strange in my right breast. It was more of a mass than a lump.

On the 11 November 2004 at 1.35 pm, I was told I had cancer. The words I remember were no cure, mastectomy, and breast and pregnancy dont mix all said in the same sentence.

No one in their own families had had breast cancer. I was young, slim, hadnt eaten meat since I was 12, didnt smoking, didnt over-drink, and wasnt on the pill. The bad news got worse: I had the most aggressive sort of breast cancer – HER2. The tumor was 7cm. It had spread to my lymph glands and a blood vessel in my chest. Id need revolutionary surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

I had a mastectomy. Nothing can prepare you for how this seems. When I find mine the day after the op, I passed out cold. Even now I have a very bony chest wall on my right side. My treatment was life-saving but also life changing, a constant reminder of what Ive been through. Then chemo. Ugh, chemo.

It makes you gain weight. It builds you tired beyond reason. It constructs you forget things. Gives you ulcers. Makes you catch every glitch going for years afterwards. And the hair loss: I wasnt worried about it until it happened. I had short hair anyway, and in my student days had once or twice shaved my head. But again , nothing can prepare you for it. Hair loss is so public. So obvious.

And not only head hair, but eyebrows and eyelashes too. No hat, wig or headscarf can hide the fact that you are A CANCER PATIENT.

Barbara Clarks own fundraising had amassed thousands of pounds, which she donated to other HER2 patients. Photograph: Johnny Green/ PA

Much more positive was my experience with newer medication. When my breast nurse asked the expert consultants about Herceptin, the respond was: Not yet. The chances of HER2 recurring was high 50/50. Herceptin was already being used to treat secondary breast cancers. It was a new type of medication that triggered the bodys own immunity to fight the cancer. It wasnt yet available on the NHS in the UK, but some private patients were being offered it.

Six months after my diagnosis, my cousin was also told she had HER2 breast cancer. Her spouses private medical insurance paid for her to have Herceptin. The therapy still wasnt available to me, or people like me. After much soul-searching, I decided to try to fund it myself at the cost of more than 30,000.

Then Barbara Clark, an HER2 cancer patient from Somerset, challenged her primary care trusts decision not to fund Herceptin when it clearly had clinical benefits. After threatening them with court, they agreed to pay. Her own fundraising had amassed thousands of pounds, which she donated to other HER2 patients, myself included. By November of 2005, Patricia Hewitt, the then health secretary, finally ruled that Herceptin could be given to all HER2 patients, regardless of their trust.

It was both incredible and nasty to be at the cutting edge of this disagreement. Had I been diagnosed even six months earlier, I might well have missed out on Herceptin. In a period of terrible luck, I experienced some very good fortune. Im persuaded Herceptin saved my life.

Fast-forward four years, and my cancer treatment was over. Yet the life Id had before cancer wasnt there any more; I wasnt the same person either. I required something to fill what cancer had taken. Luck played a part in this too.

In the summer of 2009 I took a group of students on an Arvon residential course. I started writing. And writing. When I came home six days later, I couldnt stop crying. Or writing. So I signed up for a masters in writing for children.

What started out as a childhood dream rapidly grew into a passion. By doing the MA, I felt Id validated my write, dedicated myself granted permission to take it seriously. I tapped into something long hidden inside of me and brought it out again, fresh and new.

Cancer has taken away my chance to be a mother, changed my career path, and stimulated my future questionable. Yet its stimulated me rethink life dramatically. And now Im doing the one thing I always wanted to do write books. My fifth novel is about to be published. The nightmare has happened, but then so has the dream.

Emmas new fiction Strange Star, inspired by Mary Shelleys Frankenstein, will be released on 7 July from Faber& Faber.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Broken Vows: Tony Blair, The Tragedy of Power by Tom Bower- digested read

The Oval Office. George Bush is in his cowboy attire. Can I wear your chaps? asks Blair. Only if you invade Iraq

October 2007. A swimming pool inside the Rwandan presidential palace. Tony Blair is lying on a sun lounger soaked with the blood of hundreds of thousands of murdered Hutus. Blair pulls up his Speedos to expose his butt-cheeks to the burning African sun. I love it when you do that, murmurs Cherie, sipping a dry martini while a slave fans her. President Kagame leans towards Blair. I want to meet the most important person in the world, he says. Blair pulls off his Ray-Bans and looks the president straight-out in the eye. Youre talking to him, he replies. Now gives people several hundred million dollars in money that I can channel back into my foundation so that no one ever detects out how rich and venal I actually am.

Thats exactly how it passed. I know that, because I was there recording the entire session from behind a palm tree. There have been 36 other biographies about the despicable Blair but none have ever had such access either to the trims library or to people with rancours against him. This then is the first true story of the Antichrist.

How the country cheered when Tony Blair came to power in 1997. I was one of them. Little did we know how quickly our trust in him would be abused by the most deceitful human to have ever walked the corridors of cliches.

It was immediately obvious he was useless and deceitful, says a man with a long-time grudge against Blair, because he didnt appoint me to his cabinet.

It was instantly obvious he was useless and deceitful, says another person with a grudge against him, because he moved me down the civil service pecking order.

Take education and health, often hailed as two of the great successes of Blairs government. Look behind the smokescreens of brand new schools and hospitals and you soon find a depressing world of failing, neglect and corruption. Seem behind the smokescreens of brand new schools, a woman with a rancour against him tells me in strictest confidence, and what you see is a depressing world of failure, neglect and corruption.

It was almost, tells a person with a rancour against him, as if he actively wanted children from poor backgrounds to fail.

I blame Cherie, says another person with a grudge against him. It was her avarice to acquire a multi-million pound property empire that drove the NHS to breaking point.

Can I simply put in one good word for Tony, tells a person without a rancour against Blair. He did well to broker the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. No you cant, says Tom. Im afraid space is very limited in my 650 -page book so I am going to have to restrict my sources to people who have an axe to grind. Besides, the Good Friday agreement want all it was cracked up to be.


2003. The turning point. If Blair had merely been a bit useless and only marginally corrupt before the Iraq war, he became a dictator after it. The Oval Office. George Bush is in his cowboy attire. Can I wear your chaps? asks Blair. Only if you ensure to invade Iraq and feign Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Thats a deal, says Tony. Ill get Alastair on to it right now.

It was the most monstrous act a British prime minister has ever committed against his own people, says a former cabinet minister with a grudge against him. I bitterly regret ever having believed a word he said. Im so tortured with remorse and repentance, I havent slept a wink in the last 13 years.

2007. Blair is pacing Downing Street in the Nike tracksuit presented to him by President Gaddafi. The phone rings. Its Cherie calling from Saudi Arabia where she has just bought a $50,000 ring after signing a billion-pound limbs bargain. Weve got enough in the bank. You can retire now.

Blair was hoping to go in a flame of glory, says Gordon Brown. But the truth is we were all sick to death of him.

Gordon was just as bad as Tony, tells a former cabinet minister with rancours against Blair and Brown.

2012. The Labour party is in meltdown and its all Blairs fault. Millions of illegal immigrants are wandering round Britain and its all Blairs fault. And wheres Blair? Hanging around in a hot tub with Wendi Deng, while raking in millions of dollars through dodgy are dealing here with third world autocrats. Everything that is wrong with the entire world is down to Blair, tells Rupert Murdoch, a human who doesnt hold a rancour against Tony now he is happily married to Jerry.

Digested read, digested : The Tragedy of Bower.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Why do so few novelists dare to write about being fat?

Mona Awads absorbing novel 13 Styles of Appearing at a Fat Girl goes where few novelists still dare into the mind of a heavyweight woman

At first, I was taken aback by the lack of incident in Mona Awads otherwise assimilating new fiction, 13 Ways of Appearing At a Fat Girl. The protagonist, a woman named Elizabeth living in southern Ontario, simply grows up, gains weight, loses it, gets married, get divorced. Thats it.

Few novelists are comfortable with this quiet of a plot. In order to sustain it you either have to have to construct a narrator of unusual reflective capabilities, or one with an undeniably interesting characteristic, something any reader wants to know more about. And Awad opts for the latter. It seems blunt Elizabeth is mostly interesting because she is as the title tells fat.

In this novel, to be clear, fat is a state of mind. Elizabeth herself discontinues to be physically overweight at some phase, but remains preoccupied by the condition throughout. The preoccupation is conveyed subtly Elizabeth doesnt ruminate about her weight much, but shes unable to get through a page without a catalogue of food or a comment on the fit of her apparel. Awads prose style is spare, which keeps the novel from descending into voyeurism, though it also means that Elizabeth spends much of the book hiding from the reader. Shes not comfy enough to linger for more than a paragraph or two of interiority.

Flashes of personality do come. When Elizabeth actually get her back up about her situation in life, she can be scathing, funny, cruel. A co-worker insists, constantly, on ordering a rich lunch and aloud celebrating while Elizabeth sips black tea and contemplates the co-workers faults 😛 TAGEND

Theres her groaning and theres her stick legs and theres her aggressively jutting clavicles. Theres the Cookie Monster impression she does after she describes food she loves( Om-Nom-Nom !). Theres how the largeness of the scone seems only to underline her impossible smallness. Principally, theres the fact that she exists at all.

This sort of intrafeminine aggression will be familiar to most women, whatever side of the body war theyve been on. But it is is a side of experience that hasnt been much investigated by literary novelists. It feels difficult to fictionalise, and poeticise, apparently, in ways that dont simply descend into clich. People can merrily write literary novels inspired by Justin Bieber, by tabloid crime victims, by half-baked ideas about WikiLeaks. But to address fat, with few exceptions, seems to tread too close to the vulgar. There is something uncomfortably literal about it.

There are, of course, fat characters in volumes out there, some of them quite enduring and famous. But they tend to be beings of young adult, or commercial fiction. The first fat daughter I recollect coming across was Linda Fischer, who was the Blubber in a Judy Blumes book of the same name. But the reader was not really let, in that volume, to know Linda. Blume does not tell the story from her perspective. In an entirely admirable effort to discourage bully, Blume stayed in the head of one of Lindas tormentors. But this compounded, for me and Im sure for the books legions of readers, the idea that to be fat is to be fundamentally alone and somehow unknowable.

Then, in my adolescence, encouraged by Oprah, a new archetypal fat girl arrived on the scene: Dolores Price in Wally Lambs Shes Come Undone, a popular Oprah Book Club pick that I guess just about everyone read or heard about in 1996. There was something wholly too literal about Dolores her lifes route was already there in the name. “Shes been” sexually abused; the fiction presented her enormous girth as a direct consequence of her agony. There was little experience of her fat to account for other than disliking it.

It is no secret, of course, that people have strong feelings about fat feelings that seem merely to have been inflamed by the sense, in western countries, that there is an obesity crisis afoot. Fears about health have mutated into a kind of panic attending any mention of fat people at all. To touch the subject is to break a very thin seal of civility. Recently, Sarai Walker, the author of another book about a fat girl called Dietland, wrote in the New York Times that shed been surprised by the strong reactions people had to her volume. I felt like a witch surrounded by torch-wielding villagers, she wrote of one of her promotional appearances.

The judgment does not simply come from outside, either. Fat is not immoral, Hilary Mantel wrote in her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. There is no link between your waistline and your ethics. But though you insist on this, in your own intellect, everything tells you youre incorrect; or, lets say, youre going in for the form of intellectual discrimination that cuts against the perception of most of the population, who know that overweight people are lazy, undisciplined slobs. She goes on to point out that the perception is not true, of course, but even for a person of her intelligence, sometimes impossible to ignore. Mantels Beyond Black, my favourite of her fictions, dedicates us a fictional version of this argument in Alison, a clairvoyant whose weight is an ever-present thing without overwhelming the plot.

Awads Elizabeth is a being closer to Mantels Alison than to Blubber, or Dolores Price. In the early chapters of the novel, she is neither wholly ashamed nor wholly espousing of herself. Put into a revealing outfit by her mother, mid-weight-loss, she is not quite upset. Tonight, shes trussed me up in a one-strap midriff-baring bit of turquoise gauze she bought me this afternoon at the rack, she reports. Afterward, she adds: My broad slash of bare stomach feels like situations of emergency no one is attending to, my feet like theyre doing bad porn under the table. Another sort of novelist would make this kind of thing into an opu of disgrace, recounting the zippers that wont close, the cheap nylon mortification of it all. Instead, Elizabeth is amused.

But this folding of fat into experience eventually hollows Elizabeth out. A tragedy reaches and that bemused Elizabeth simply fades away. It will not spoil your experience of the book to say the fiction objective , not totally satisfying, in view of a fitness centre. In the last few lines both Awad and Elizabeth seem to be trying to persuade her, over all the cliches that attach to pedalling nowhere, that her obsession with weight has not doomed her to any particular fate. The consequence is subtle, but poignant , not least because youre not quite sure where the author lands on the subject.

Read more: www.theguardian.com