Maltese Delight

I think I deserve a holiday so…I am having one! Tomorrow, we head off for a week in the sunny Mediterranean. The last few months have delivered a seed of potential for a new life, my novella The General Paralysis of Sanity was finally published and I have learned how to centralise self. Not at the expense of others, but purely for the sake of my own mental health. I have always found it difficult to say, “No,” but I am learning.
My experience of writing has heightened my empathy for other writers. In the past I have been too dismissive of genre fiction, perceiving it as inferior to more literary type writing. Writing can be bloody hard and earning one’s living as a writer almost impossible. Thus, I send loving vibes to all you struggling writers, out there! For, although writing should not be about money, book sales keep writers alive.
To readers who are reluctant to venture into the age of the e-book, why not put aside your prejudices and download a book by an indie or self-published writer. Available for your critical indulgence are many great books bypassed by publishers not because they are badly written, but for all sorts of reasons, including the difficulties of marketability and commercialism.
In case I am unable to blog for the next week, I beseech you all to contact me via twitter etc. I am beginning to build a very interesting “following” and my twitter door is open to all, especially other writers/wannabe writers. Until next time, keep reading…and writing.

“I hate myself and I want to die”- Kurt Cobain

When Kurt Cobain died in 1994, musical history became re-defined; another distorted angel had been claimed, another voice estranged. When Kurt passed, the world wondered who was to blame. The propaganda train blew smokescreens over his remains and we crowded beneath, picking-up bones of (mis)information and reassembling it into forms which suited our own particular world views. That he took his own life is all that we knew; the rest was speculation.
I was touched by Cobain’s death. However, unlike the Take That fans, who wept and wailed when their boys disbanded, I did not mourn his passing. Rather, I celebrated by buying a tee shirt on which were duplicated the words of his suicide note. I delighted in observing the bewildered expressions of older people, as they read the text on my tee shirt. I had joined an alien race, a sub-culture defined by a dead person’s face.
Kurt Cobain was the guy who put rock ‘n’ roll back into my indie sensibility. The grunge scene rendering music more accessible to the common folk than any other since the punk explosion in the 1970’s. I remember watching Matt Dillon in the film, “Singles,” and wanting not to have him, but to become him, my oversized checked shirt blowing behind me in the wind of my flatulent youthfulness. I had discovered a scene I was wanted to embrace. However, knowing no other who wanted to join me, I played, “In Utero,” and hugged myself.
In 1994, I did not realise that I shared more with Kurt than a love of music; we were both affected by a mental health issue which was to affect the way in which society perceived both of us. He had become an icon of a lost generation, I was a lost statistic of an illness, whose name I dared not speak, for fear of retribution.
Although many have questioned whether Kurt Cobain really was affected by a bipolar disorder, in my opinion the evidence is overwhelming affirmative. His much hyped struggles with alcohol and drug addiction indicate a psychopathology driven by a need for self-medication. Many studies reveal comorbidity between bipolar disorder and addictions. It is believed that Cobain’s disorder was untreated, rendering him particularly susceptible to using heroin, an opiate with anti-dysphoric qualities and, I believe, his displays of hyperthymic behaviour, provide the substance behind his attraction to alcohol.
Many addicts are affected by undiagnosed bipolar. Amy Whinehouse, another member of club 27, possibly someone whose underlying issues where, also, undermined, due to the more overt nature of her issues with addiction.
Although bipolar can kill-if untreated, it is one of the more treatable mental health issues. Once, one when surrenders to the imposition of taking tablets, for many people, life can be lived with relative ease. If you are affected by mental health issues, despair not. Salvation comes to those who truly want it and are prepared to let themselves heal.

Knots: The Poetry of R. D. Laing

In the pre-psychotic realm of my youth, I discovered the works of Scottish (anti) psychiatrist R. D. Laing. His seminal offering, The Divided Self (1960), became for a time, my Bible, offering me reassurance that my deeply held fear of madness was proof of my sanity. A few years later, I remember, during my chaotic career as an undergraduate, sitting at a table of my university refectory, smoking and drinking an innumerable coffee. Poised on a wave of my own sense of urgency, I knew not whether to retreat from or entreat with words the grizzled middle-aged, presence who reclined in the seat opposite me. Soon, my dilemma was resolved; the presence spoke. Complete with perfectly crumbled Scottish vowels and the scrag-end of a roll-up, he introduced himself and told me that he lectured in psychology. Immediately interested, I began to converse and confessed to him my fascination with all things Laingian. To my great delight, he claimed that he had worked with Laing and eyes twinkling, rasped, “The trouble with Ronny was…like many of us, he couldn’t resist a pretty girl.” I never spoke to the man again, confining him to the annals of lecherous old devilment. However, whenever I ruminate about my first and only hero of psychiatry, I smile at the memory of meeting someone who had known him, smug in the knowledge that we all are only one handshake away from greatness.
Whilst, R. D. Laing’s (1927-1989) most widely read writings are books detailing psychological analyses of psychosis. He, also, intruded upon the sacred soil of poetry. His 1970 volume, Knots, operates most successfully as an encoding of his ideas in the loosely defined form of poetry. The text is divided into five sections which can be read as individual dialogues or mini play-lets. Ultimately, a deconstruction of relationships, the “knots” of the title connote impasses; the conflicting passage of the Western interpersonal being. For in our relationships with others, subjectivity is both defined and denied.
Stylistically dense to the point of being terse, on first reading Knots may appear irritatingly abrupt and lacking in the artifice of rhythmic mellifluousness and beauteous language. However, the circuitous dialogue merely reinforces Laing’s notion that relationships are constricted by the production of thoughts, which lead to neurotic beliefs, which, eventually become interpreted in our behaviour and ensuing relationships. Although, the book is not entirely successful as a work of poetry, it offers many insights into the psychology of relationships. As someone who has been profoundly affected by Laing’s theories about the, “family nexus,” whereby family life was deemed accountable for the presence and sustenance of psychosis,
I particularly enjoyed the first part of the book. For, here, his views about the injunctions of the family are most fully transcribed.

Dirk Bogarde: Gone but I shall Never Forget Him

In my previous post I reviewed the novella, Death in Venice and feel that no discussion of the book is complete, without reference to the extraordinary film version. Upon first viewing, Visconti’s (1971) masterpiece, ensnared me in a mist of visual eloquence. Transported by the narrative, I entered a realm which suggested, behind a veneer of bourgeois respectability, the presence of decay. Fundamental to the portrayal of this, was the performance of Dirk Bogarde as the central character, a man in search of an ideal.
In a career defining performance, Bogarde chilled the screen with his icy presence and projected meaning in subtle facial expressions. A face, which had once graced the bedroom walls of the hearts of 1950’s British teens, had become distorted by the ravages of age and interpretations of desires, which did not speak their names. Dirk Bogarde had matured from matinee idol into middle-aged master of menace and finally, metamorphosed into an old man of European art house cinema and an interpreter of directorial dreams. He had become a hallucination which was 100 per cent real. A hallucination of his own feelings; the reality of the man hidden behind the propaganda of his acting career.
Until his death in 1999, Bogarde publicly denied his homosexuality. In private, his shared his life with his long-term male partner and manager. The world was naïvely fooled; gay people, however, had always known; the clues were not obscured but, were as apparent as the quiff he wore in, The Blue Lamp (1950), the first film, in which he appeared, which hinted at darkness behind his pretty façade. A façade which constituted more than indulgence; it was a necessary method to uphold a career in a society which, even in 2013, does not accept or want to watch films starring gay movie stars.
Society is an ass! Why has not the world accepted that not everyone is straight. Move away from your position peeping through closed curtains, go outside and embrace the nearest queen!

Please Experience, “Death in Venice” (and taste me!)

The modern literary trend is to produce gargantuan, door stops of novels. However, I do not believe that big is always best. Writing a novella is possibly even more challenging; the form requiring literary brevity which is often at odds with encapsulating heterogeneity of vision. One of the finest examples of a novella, whose vision reaches far beyond the density of its text is Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.
Written in 1912, Death in Venice depicts a middle-aged man’s gradual descent into madness and unreason. Aschenbach journeys to Venice in an attempt to relieve his writer’s block. During his stay he observes a beautiful young boy with whom he gradually becomes obsessed. Whilst many readers have questioned the nature of Aschenbach’s obsession, for me, it is largely symbolic. The boy (Tadzio) exists as a emblem of the unattainable, he is everything that Aschenbach is not; young impossibly handsome and unrestrained in his grasp of life and relationships. In contrast, Aschenbach represents the intellect and the constraints of reason.
The relationship between the two characters alludes to the opposition of the Apollonian and Dionysian principles, first proposed by Nietzche in The Birth of Tragedy. When forces collide, devastation ensues. In this instance, tragedy surfaces in Aschenbach’s decline. Initially, the decline is spiritual; his mind is disturbed by feelings, which one imagines, to be alien to this most ascetic of characters. Ultimately, however, his decline becomes physically transcribed. Mann describes how Aschenbach surrenders to cholera, which he courts, almost as though it were the youth, himself. Aschenbach’s desire for Tadzio alludes to the Platonic ideal of love, that of an older man for a boy, whose exploitation of purity demands penetrating despoilment. An image which continues to resonate in homoerotic literature and ideas.
Thomas Mann critiques modern bourgeois life. For in Aschenbach, he creates a character who represents the artist as someone who is detached from the life process, a chronicler of aestheticism, rather than a participant, which he emphasises in connecting artistic detachment with the eventual stagnation of the imagination. Thus, it is only Aschenbach’s preoccupation with something which is concrete and therefore, “real” in its (his) relationship to the social whole, which rids him of his writer’s block. “Solitude gives birth to the original in us, beauty unfamiliar and perilous-to poetry,” Writes Mann and subsequently reveals that solitude can, also, lead to death; a Death in Venice which, in contradiction to the book’s title, offers more insights into life, every time one read it.

Goodbye Sweet Soul

Goodbye sweet soul
I loved you well
But, now, your presence honours hell
When morning breaks
Amidst the glow
Of sacred Mothers suckling foe
There lies an essence of a smile
Washed ashore on a golden mile
Of sand encrusted frowns and shells
Whose destination-
No one knows
Some say that it decays slowly
Like a blood red rose
Then, pricks the heart of pain’s repose

Would you get into Bed with a Tory?

It was announced today that, Margaret Thatcher, Lady of the iron heart, had vacated her mortal coil and moved to pastures new. Whether these pastures caress her soul in eternal fire or cleanse her spirit as the purification of redemption, will remain unknown to those left behind; left behind to gather the remains of a country undermined by the politics of selfishness and free market ideology. A country, whose downfall I would trace back to the 1980’s, when she resided as Prime Minister and the devil incarnate. I would like to believe, however, in the existence of divine justice; what goes around, comes around. She who shits on beauty will drown in her own detritus. Thatcher shat on the values I hold dear, her legacy remains in the fragmented Britain of 2013.
Her death could not have been more useful to The State than if the Conservative Party, themselves, had planned it. For, it diverted the country from the much more pressing political issue of today, the introduction of a new welfare benefit to replace Disability Living Allowance. I mentioned benefit cuts in a previous post and their effect upon sick and disabled people; significantly, this was my least viewed post. Disability is not cool or sexy…and neither are politics. Politics, however, determine the nature of social reality, which we all re-produce-even those, like myself, who have denied its existence. Thus, I believe, that we should activate our ability to choose and opt to build a better, more egalitarian State, led by the will of the people and not a political party, which represents bad faith.

Silver Linings Playbook, A Case History

Last night I watched the perfect date movie for manic depressives, the world over. “Silver Linings Playbook,” an Oscar winning film framed in the conventions of a Hollywood rom-com, is a story of the transcendent power of love. Pat (Bradley Cooper) returns from the horrors of mania to a world, which offers him the gifts of beauty and pain. We watch him re-adjust to life beyond the order and routine of a psychiatric hospital; a life minus his wife, his job and his own house, spent in his parents home, the bosom of familial love and contradictory realm of escape and frustration. “They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad…” (Philip Larkin). He is the bloom of their seed, the psychology of blame.
Watching the first half of the film, I was both surprised and somewhat piqued by the emotions it evoked in my irritable psyche. For the verbal “rantings” of the characters, especially those of the protagonist, annoyed me almost to the point of
contemplating turning off the noise and tuning into a more calming vibe; the space cadet of my thoughts eager to land. However, my commitment to accessing products of popular culture which centralise mental health awareness, kept me going. I am glad that it did. For, my reaction to listening to highly expressed emotion and Bradley Cooper’s pacey and urgent delivery of lines offered me insight into the difficulties encountered by the loved ones and supporters of people undergoing episodes of mania. When unwell, have I been as annoying as “Pat?” Probably. For the first time I saw myself through my Mother’s eyes. No wonder she often cries. No wonder she challenges.
The verbal battering I experienced in the first part of the film was, subsequently, replaced by a warm glow. Rom-com credentials raised their frothy heads and manipulated me into empathising with the characters. The introduction of a love interest for Pat, played with depth by Jennifer Lawrence, provided a counter-point and stressed the view that “madness” is not about chemicals and, rather, affects everyone in relative degrees.
Although the film did not say anything new and its format and structure were overwhelmingly traditional, “Silver Linings Playbook,” peeled away the mask of mental ill health and revealed that regardless of the issues we experience, people are more alike than different and possess similar needs and desires. Bipolar is a barrier to love, only if we make it. Silver linings exist for us all. In order to experience them, however, we must believe.

BOOKWORMS BEWARE-My novel, containing themes of mental health, recovery and LOVE is available on AMAZON and from other retailers. Buy THE GENERAL PARALYSIS OF SANITY by LOUISE M. HART and engage with your silver lining!


Although I live, perhaps, too much, the life of the mind, I am not immune to the impact of external events. My recent flights into the writerly realm, where I claimed authorship of my own identity, have been invaded and colonised by thoughts of self doubt. I did not purport to be Woolf or Joyce, I merely admired their work and wanted to employ my art to get through; sometimes the cut and thrust of existence becomes too acutely felt, disproportionate in effect and affect. Affectively, bad for one’s health. I thought I was truth. Now, I do not know.
Is this the come down of a swing of mood or a new stage of my life? Only time will tell. Tomorrow, I may experience once again the wonders of sweet despair, rise from my bed of pain and greet the world with a smile. Tears, however, are forever near. This is the life of a Thursday’s child who has far to go. Do you sense my anonymity? Are you, also, afraid to reveal the fear, which speaks like a barking hound in your inner ear? Let me know, for I shall cleanse your spirit and watch your soma disappear, like laughter embedded in a frown of woe.