Archives for posts with tag: Paul Bowles

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It was a temptation for me to get off the plane at Tangiers and join Robert Fraser who was to spend a weekend with a group that would include Mick Jagger. I thought at last an opportunity to photograph one of the most elusive people, whom I admire and am fascinated by, not determined whether he is beautiful or hideous.

But my exodus from the photographic excitements at home was dictated by my run-down state of health, so on I went to Marrakesh, where I knew nobody (except Ira Belline) and for four days was quite by myself. I overslept and became introspective, extremely displeased with myself and hating all that I saw of myself in the nude. On the Tuesday evening I came down to dinner very late, and to my surprise, sitting in the hall, discovered Mick Jagger and a sleepy-looking band of gypsies. “Where is my friend the art dealer?” I asked. Robert F., wearing a huge black felt hat and a bright emerald brocade coat, was coughing by the swimming pool. He had swallowed something the wrong way. He recovered and invited me to join the others for a drink and then, by degrees, for an evening out.

It was a strange group, three “Stones,” Brian Jones and his girlfriend, beatnik-dressed Anita Pallenberg,‘ dirty white face, dirty blackened eyes, dirty canary-yellow wisps of hair, barbaric jewellery. The drummer, Keith of the Stones, an eighteenth-century suit, black long velvet coat and the tightest pants, and a group of hangers-on. chauffeurs, an American man with Renaissance-type hair a “Moroccan” expert (also American) from Tangiers etc. l was intent not to give the impression that I was only interested in Mick. but it happened that we sat next to one another. as he drank a Vodka Collins, and smoked with pointed fingers held high. His skin is chicken breast white, and of a fine quality. He has enormous inborn elegance. He talked of the native music, how the American had played him records of a Turk from near here, which music included the use of pipes that were the same as those that were heard in Hungary and were also the same that were used in Scotland. He liked Indian music. He would like to go to Kashmir, Afghanistan, would like to get away. England had become a police state, with police and journalists prying into your lives. Recently so policemen had invaded the house of the drummer in the country to search it for dope (no charges have been made). The papers had written completely false accounts. He was going to sue the News of the World. He’d done nothing to deprave the youth of the country. He liked to get away from the autograph hunters. Here people weren’t curious or badly mannered. l noticed he used quite old words, he liked people who were permissive. By degrees the shy aloofness of the hopped-up gang broke down. We got into two cars (the Bentley I was in had driven from Brian Jones’s house in Swiss Cottage to here, and the driver was a bit tired and soon got very drunk. The car was filled with Pop Art cushions. scarlet fur rugs. sex magazines).

Immediately the most tremendous volume of pop music was relayed at the back of my neck. Mick and Brian responded rhythmically. and the girlfriend screamed in whispers that she had just played a murderess in a film that was to be shown at the Cannes Festival.

We went to a Moroccan restaurant, tiles, glasses, banquettes, women dancers. Mick preferred to be away from the other tourists. He is very gentle, with perfect manners. He commented the usual style of decoration give little opportunity for understanding to the artist. He indicated that I should follow his example and eat the chicken in my fingers. It was so tender and good. He has much appreciation and his small albino-fringed eyes notice everything. “How different and more real this place is to Tangiers, the women more rustic, heavy, lumpy, but their music very Spanish and their dancing too.“ He has an analytical slant and compares what he is now seeing with earlier impressions and with other countries.

We talked of mutual acquaintances. David Bailey had been too busy being married to take any good photographs during the past year. His film was not erotic. he wished it had been, it was merely black and while, and obviously avant-garde. He liked the new ballet, Paradise Lost. but [was] bored by Stravinsky’s Les Noces. (Tchaikovsky he called the composer. but he showed he hates US chorales as much as I do, and is limited in his field of music to that which he had studied since he was 11 years old, and which he is never tired of absorbing.)

“What marvellous authority she has,” listening to a coloured singer. “She follows through.” He sent his arms flying about him. I was fascinated with the thin concave lines of his body, legs, arms. Mouth almost too large, but he is beautiful and ugly, feminine and masculine, a “sport,” a rare phenomenon. I was not disappointed. and as the evening wore on, found him easier to talk with. He was sorry he’d not been able to converse when we met at that fancy dress party (Christie’s). How could he remember? He asked. ‘Have you ever taken LSD?” – “Oh, I should.” lt would mean so much to me. I’d never forget the colours. For a painter it was a great experience. Instead of one’s brain working on four cylinders. it would be 4,000. You saw everything glow. The colours of his red velvet trousers, the black shiny satin, the maroon scarf. You saw yourself beautiful and ugly, and saw other people as if for the first time. “Oh. you should take it in the country, surrounded by all the green, all those flowers. You’d have no bad effects. It’s only people who hate themselves who suffer.”

He had great assurance about himself, and I have too. ‘No, believe me if you enjoyed the bhang in India, this is a thousand times better, so much stronger.” He’d let me have a pill: ‘Oh, good stuff. Oh no, they can’t stamp it out. It’s like the atom bomb. Once it’s been discovered. it can never be forgotten, and it’s too easy to make LSD.‘

He didn’t take it often, but when he was in a congenial setting, and with people he liked. Otherwise it didn’t work so pleasantly. Maybe he took it about once a month. We walked through the decorated midnight souks. He admired the Giacometti-like drawings, loved the old town, was sad at the sleeping bundles of humanity. Brian Jones said he had not seen such poverty since Singapore. Mick was full of appreciation for the good things we saw, the archways. the mysterious alleyways.

THE SKY SPANGLED WITH STARS

Again we bundled in the cars. Again the gramophone records, turned on at volume. By now the Moroccan chauffeur in front was quite drunk and driving on the wrong side of the road. When we shouted in warning. Brian said, “There’s no traffic!” I was quite alarmed as to whether we would get home safely. We all trooped up to our bedrooms on this floor. Gramophone records turned on, but by now it was 3 o‘clock and my bedtime. They seem to have no magnetic call from their beds. They are happy to hang about. “Where do we go now? To a nightclub?”-“lt’s closed“-“Well, let’s go somewhere and have a drink.” Never a yawn and the group had been up since five o’clock this morning, for they motored throughout the day through the desert from Tangiers with the record players blaring, It is a very different way of living front mine. particularly from that of the last four days. It did me good to be jerked out of myself. Mick listened to pop records for a couple of hours and was then so tired that he went to sleep without taking off his clothes. Only at 8, when he woke, did he undress and get into bed and sleep for another couple of hours.

At 11 o’clock he appeared at the swimming pool, I could not believe this was the same person walking towards us, and yet I knew it was an aspect of him. The sun, very strong, was reflected from the white ground and made his face a white, podgy, shapeless mess, eyes very small, nose very pink and spreading, hair sandy dark. He wore Chanel Bois de Rose. His figure. his hands and arms were incredibly feminine. He looked like a self-conscious suburban young lady.

All morning he looked awful. The reflected light is very bad for him and he isn’t good at the beginning of a day. The others were willing only to talk in spasms. No one could make up their minds what to do or when.

A lot of good humour. I took Mick through the trees to an open space to photograph him in the midday sun, thus giving his face the shadows it needs. He was a Tarzan of Piero di Cosimo. Lips of a fantastic roundness. body white and almost hairless. He is sexy, yet completely sexless. He could nearly be a eunuch. As a model he is a natural.

Ira Belline came to lunch. Mick left the others to join us. In a sweet, natural, subtle way, he showed we were friends. Ira was charmed. gave him compliments. said how imaginatively he and his friends were dressed. He reminded her of Nijinsky upon whose lap she sat as a child. Mick talked of the struggles to success. It had seemed slow, those four years, and now it had come, he didn’t want anything more than a good car. He didn’t want possessions. He would like a house somewhere with 30 acres. He wanted to work less. They’d worked so hard. He’d arranged for his money to be paid over the next 30 years. He didn’t want vast sums. but he had recently had fantastic offers to make films. One was intriguing. He’d be a Mexican with dark skin and curly hair, but he wouldn’t appear as a pop singer.

The group lying around the swimming pool, eating a lot. Then we went sightseeing in the town, to the market square, and the souks. and to see the new young Getty‘ house (very sensible beautiful 1830 Moroccan house with just the right garden). While watching the native dancers, Mick was convulsed by the rhythm. every fibre of his body responding to the intricacies. Likewise Brian who, with microphone, was recording the music. Then in a quiet moment he blared it forth. Each of these “Stones” is utterly dedicated to the music they love; they are never tired of learning, of listening. of enjoying (they are furious at the phrase “background music”).

Unfortunately they seemed to have got into bad hash habits. Brian, at one point. dozed off. “Are you asleep?”  -“l just tripped off.” Before dinner, a long spell in Robert Fraser’s room when cookies were eaten and pipes were smoked. This meant that they did not arrive in the restaurant by 10 o’clock. The chef had left. Awful row. Embarrassing scenes. Mick came down at 10:15 p.m., to be told there was nothing but cold food. (The sideboard looked very appetising to me.) Oh, he was furious. He couldn’t stomach that stuff. It turned him off. He told the maitre d’hotel he was “very silly”! He was quite angry, and chef d’hotel too. I must say a scruffier-looking gang could never be imagined. The photographer, Michael Cooper,’ Keith, with green velvet blouse open to his navel. in a red coat with tarnished silver fringes round the sleeve, absolutely gone. Robert, wild and unshaven. I tried to calm the scene. Mick told of an occasion when they had such a row that the food was thrown about, and of course it got into the papers.

I was determined, having waited so long, to eat my dinner. I chewed my way through rouget, and cold turkey. The others, meanwhile, having found a sort of restaurant that would be open until 2 o’clock, were content to sit without any idea of hunger or impatience. Brian went into a drugged sleep.

Mick intended to leave alone tomorrow (he finds travelling unpleasant, fills up on pills and becomes incredibly offhand). He said he’d like to see me in London and was pleased we’d been able to meet each other here.

There are moments when little is said but a few grunts. tough banalities, but much is sensed. I feel he is his real self. I watched him walk through the series of glass front doors of the hotel and look back for the driver, his hand on one side, the picture of grace, and something very touching, tender and appealing about him.

I wonder what the future can bring to someone so incredibly successful at such an early stage? Will the hash wreck his life, or will it go up in the smoke of the atom bomb with all the rest of us?

PS They never seem important, never in a hurry. Their beds can wait. their meals too. They do not mind if the drink ordered arrives or not. The hash settles everything. Their wardrobe is extensive. Mick showed me the rows of brightly shining brocade coats. Everything is shoddy, poorly made. The seams burst. Keith himself had sewn his trousers, lavender, dull rose with a band of badly stitched leather dividing the two colours. Brian at the pool appears in white pants with a huge black square applied on to the back. It is very smart in spite of the fact that the seams are giving way, but with such marvellously flat, tight. compact figures as they have, with no buttocks or stomach, almost everything looks well with them.

Not one book in their rooms. A lot of crumbs from the hash cookies or the kif pipes. The most obvious defect of drug taking is to make the addict oblivious to the diet and general slothfulness that he conveys. The photographer. Michael Cooper, is really dirty, with his shirt open and trousers to below the navel. Unshaven, he spends a lot of time scratching his long hair. No group make more of a mess at the table. The aftermath of their breakfast with eggs, jam, honey everywhere, is quite exceptional. They give a new meaning to the word untidiness.

We must reconsider our ideas on drugs. It seems these boys live off them, yet they seem extremely healthy and strong. We will see.

The party, minus Mick, loses all its glamour. Brian Jones seemed in a more communicative condition and smiled a lot. His voice is quite affected, unlike the rawness of the others, and he makes attempts at politeness. He even apologised for falling asleep at table last night, “It was very bad-mannered,” he drawled with a bit of a lisp. I asked him about their work. They’d started off playing blues, by degrees developed their present style. altering their instruments, and now they spend much more time than before experimenting, playing back tapes, and now, for example, the sitar holds a more prominent role. They continue the tapes, more alterations, play back another tape. Elvis Presley, now a back liner, was very important in the history of modern music, and Ray Charles. Ray, who still went on doing what he believed in and it was good, unlike the tuxedo Las Vegas gang, in their tweeds (Sinatra and Crosby). Keith and Mick generally write their own words and music. They thought the best of “pop” came from the US.

At about 3 o’clock they were joined by the others, who had been house hunting. “I’d like to buy a house” – “l’d like to have a good car” – “Put a call through to London, will you?” and again there was another row with the waiters. The chauffeur, Tom, returned from Casablanca and was furious to be told there was no more hot food. The kitchen empty. Likewise the photographer-where had he been to be so late? Just waiting. He of all people to complain. Little wonder that the elderly waiter became furious. “You’re a lot of pigs. You should go to the market square, the Medina, and eat your food there. That’s where you belong! I am not going to serve any of you again.”

Robert F. rushed out to complain to the manager. Gosh, they are a messy group. No good getting annoyed. One can only wonder as to their future. If their talent isn’t undermined by drugs etc. They are successful rebels, all power, but no sympathy and none asked.

The sound element uses the short story Allal by Paul Bowles, read by Paul Bowles. The image is from the image archive of Marco Grassi, painting restorer. All other parts were created from samples made for the post by the Frank Minoprio project Green Relm, edited and produced with field recordings by A Moment of Eternal Noise. The text is from Beaton In The Sixties, The Cecil Beaton Diaries as he wrote them, 1965-1969.

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“I sense a confusion of means. Not that I’m criticizing. It was a daring thing you did, a daring thrust. To use him. I can admire the attempt even as I see how totally dumb it was, although no dumber than wearing a charm or knocking wood. Six hundred million Hindus stay home from work if the signs are not favorable that morning. So I’m not singling you out.”

“The vast and terrible depth.”

“Of course,” he said.

“The inexhaustibility.”

“I understand.”

“The whole huge nameless thing.”

“Yes, absolutely. “

“The massive darkness.”

“Certainly, certainly.”

“The whole terrible endless hugeness.”

“I know exactly what you mean.”

He tapped the fender of a diagonally parked car, half smiling.

“Why have you failed, Jack?”

“A confusion of means.”

“Correct. There are numerous ways to get around death. You tried to employ two of them at once. You stood out on the one hand and tried to hide on the other. What is the name we give to this attempt?”

“Dumb.”

I followed him into the supermarket. Blasts of color, layers of oceanic sound. We walked under a bright banner announcing a raffle to raise money for some incurable disease. The wording seemed to indicate that the winner would get the disease. Murray likened the banner to a Tibetan prayer flag.

“Why have I had this fear so long, so consistently?”

“It’s obvious. You don’t know how to repress. We’re all aware there’s no escape from death. How do we deal with this crushing knowledge? We repress, we disguise, we bury, we exclude. Some people do it better than others, that’s all.”

“How can I improve?”

“You can’t. Some people just don’t have the unconscious tools to perform the necessary disguising operations.”

“How do we know repression exists if the tools are unconscious and the thing we’re repressing is so cleverly disguised?”

“Freud said so. Speaking of looming figures.”

He picked up a box of Handi-Wrap II, reading the display type, studying the colors. He smelled a packet of dehydrated soup. The data was strong today.

“Do you think I’m some how healthier because I don’t know how to repress? Is it possible that constant fear is the natural state of man and that by living close to my fear I am actually doing something heroic, Murray?”

“Do you feel heroic?”

“No.”

“Then you probably aren’t.”

“But isn’t repression unnatural?”

“Fear is unnatural. Lightning and thunder are unnatural. Pain, death, reality, these are all unatural We can’t bear these things as they are. We know too much. So we resort to repression, compromise and disguise. This is how we survive in the universe. This is the natural language of the species.”

I looked at him carefully.

“I exercise. I take care of my body.”

“No, you don’t,” he said.

He helped an old man read the date on a loaf of raisin bread. Children sailed by in silver carts.

“Tegrin, Denorex, Selsun Blue.”

Murray wrote something in his little book. I watched him step deftly around a dozen fallen eggs oozing yolky matter from a busted carton.

“Why do I feel so good when I’m with Wilder? It’s not like being with the other kids,” I said.

“You sense his total ego, his freedom from limits.”

“In what way is he free from limits?”

“He doesn’t know he’s going to die. He doesn’t know death at all. You cherish this simpleton blessing of his, this exemption from harm. You want to get close to him, touch him, look at him, breathe him in. How lucky he is. A cloud of unknowing, an omnipotent little person. The child is everything, the adult nothing. Think about it. A person’s entire life is the unraveling of this conflict. No wonder we’re bewildered, staggered, shattered.”

“Aren’t you going too far?”

“I’m from New York.”

“We create beautiful and lasting things, build vast civilizations.”

“Gorgeous evasions,” he said. “Great escapes.”

The doors parted photoelectronically. We went outside, walking past the dry cleaner, the hair stylist, the optician. Murray relighted his pipe, sucking impressively at the mouthpiece.

“We have talked about ways to get around death.” he said. “We have discussed how you’ve already tried two such ways, each cancelling the other. We have mentioned technology, train wrecks, belief in an afterlife. There are other methods as well and I would like to talk about one such approach.”

We crossed the street.

“I believe, Jack, there are two kinds of people in the world. Killers and diers. Most of us are diers. We don’t have the disposition, the rage or whatever it takes to be a killer. We let death happen. We lie down and die. But think what it’s like to be a killer. Think how exciting it is, in theory, to kill a person in direct confrontation. If he dies, you cannot. To kill him is to gain life-credit. The more people you kill, the more credit you store up. It explains any number of massacres, wars, executions.”

“Are you saying that men have tried throughout history to cure themselves of death by killing others?”

“It’s obvious.”

“And you call this exciting?”

“I’m talking theory. In theory, violence is a form of rebirth. The dier passively succumbs. The killer lives on. What a marvelous equation. As a marauding band amasses dead bodies, it gathers strength. Strength accumulates like a favor from the gods.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“This is theory. We’re a couple of academics taking a walk. But imagine the visceral jolt, seeing your opponent bleeding in the dust.”

“You think it adds to a person’s store of credit, like a bank transaction.”

“Nothingness is staring you in the face. Utter and permanent oblivion. You will cease to be. To be, Jack. The dier accepts this and dies. The killer, in theory, attempts to defeat his own death by killing others. He buys time, he buys life. Watch others squirm. See the blood trickle in the dust.”

I looked at him, amazed. He drew contentedly on his pipe, making hollow sounds.

“It’s a way of controlling death. A way of gaining the ultimate upper hand. Be the killer for a change. Let someone else be the dier. Let him replace you, theoretically, in that role. You can’t die if he does. He dies, you live. See how marvelously simple.”

“You say this is what people have been doing for centuries.”

“They’re still doing it. They do it on a small intimate scale, they do it-in groups and crowds and masses. Kill to live.”

“Sounds pretty awful.”

He seemed to shrug. “Slaughter is never random. The more people you kill, the more power you gain over your own death. There is a secret precision at work in the most savage and indiscriminate killings. To speak about this is not to do public relations for murder. We’re two academics in an intellectual environment. It’s our duty to examine currents of thought, investigate the meaning of human behavior. But think how exciting, to come out a winner in a deathly struggle, to watch the bastard bleed.”

“Plot a murder, you’re saying. But every plot is a murder in effect. To plot is to die, whether we know it or not.”

“To plot is to live,” he said.

I looked at him. I studied his face, his hands.

“We start our lives in chaos, in babble. As we surge up into the world, we try to devise a shape, a plan. There is dignity in this. Your whole life is a plot, a scheme, a diagram. It is a failed scheme but that’s not the point. To plot is to affirm life, to shape and control. Even after death, most particularly after death, the search continues. Burial rites are an attempt to complete the scheme, in ritual. Picture a state funeral, Jack. It is all precision, detail, order, design. The nation holds its breath. The efforts a huge and powerful government are brought to bear on a ceremony that will shed the last trace of chaos. If all goes well, if they bring it off, some natural law of perfection is obeyed. The nation itself is delivered from anxiety, the deceased’s life is redeemed, itself is strengthened, reaffirmed.”

“Are you sure?” I said.

“To plot, to take aim at something, to shape time and space. This is how we advance the art of human consciousness.”

We moved in a wide circle back toward campus. Streets in deep and soundless shade, garbage bags set out for collection. crossed the sunset overpass, pausing briefly to watch the cars shoot by. Sunlight bouncing off the glass and chrome.

“Are you a killer or a dier Jack?”

“You know the answer to that. I’ve been a dier all my life.”

“What can you do about it?”

“What can any dier do? Isn’t it implicit in his makeup that he can’t cross over?”

“Let’s think about that. Let’s examine the nature of the beast, so to speak. The male animal. Isn’t there a fund, a pool, a reservoir of potential violence in the male psyche?”

“In theory I suppose there is.”

“We’re talking theory. That’s exactly what we’re talking. Two friends on a tree-shaded street. What else but theory? Isn’t there a deep field, a sort of crude oil deposit that one might tap if and when the occasion warrants? A great dark lake of male rage.”

“That’s what Babette says. Homicidal rage. You sound like her.”

“Amazing lady. Is she right or wrong?”

“In theory? She’s probably right.”

“Isn’t there a sludgy region you’d rather not know about? A remnant of some prehistoric period when dinosaurs roamed the earth and men fought with flint tools? When to kill was to live?”

“Babette talks about male biology. Is it biology or geology?”

“Does it matter, Jack? We only want to know whether it is there, buried in the most prudent and unassuming soul.”

“I suppose so. It can be. It depends.”

“Is it or isn’t it there?”

“It’s there, Murray. So what?”

“I only want to hear you say it. That’s all. I only want to elicit truths you already possess, truths you’ve always known at some basic level.”

“Are you saying a dier can become a killer?”

“I’m only a visiting lecturer. I theorize, I take walks, I admire the trees and houses. I have my students, my rented room, my TV set. I pick out a word here, an image there. I admire the lawns, the porches. What a wonderful thing a porch is. How did I live a life without a porch to sit on, up till now? I speculate, I reflect, I take constant notes. I am here to think, to see. Let me warn you, Jack. I won’t let up.”

We passed my street and walked up the hill to the campus.

“Who’s your doctor?”

“Chakravarty,” I said.

“Is he good?”

“How would I know?”

“My shoulder separates. An old sexual injury.”

“I’m afraid to see him. I put the printout of my death in the bottom drawer of a dresser.”

“I know how you feel. But the tough part is yet to come. You’ve said good-bye to everyone but yourself. How does a person say good-bye to himself? It’s a juicy existential dilemma.”

“It certainly is.”

We walked past the administration building.

“I hate to be the one who says it, Jack, but there’s something that has to be said.”

“What?”

“Better you than me.”

I nodded gravely. “Why does this have to be said?”

“Because friends have to be brutally honest with each other. I’d feel terrible if I didn’t tell you what I was thinking, especially at a time like this.”

“I appreciate it, Murray. I really do.”

Don DeLilloWhite Noise,” 1985

Image – ‘Yuri Pavlovick Gidzenko,’ Test Cosmonaut of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Russian Federal Space Agency

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