‘Limits’ Jorge Luis Borges

Borges ‘Limits’ is an immensely moving poem encapsulating mortality and memory. The idea that any beautiful moment or place or person, any wonderful experience is fleeting and you may never see it again, and it will be that way for the rest of your life – only a memory and, even that, will fade to nothingness.

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

Jorge Luis Borges

And then, knowing Borges was blind, is this poem so filled with moving visual texture even more poignant?

Ladies who Launch

Thank you to everyone who attended the launch of How To Forget at Daunt’s Bookshop on the Fulham Road last Wednesday.  It was a night of old friendships reacquainted, ink and magic – a huge number of you turned up and depleted a very large stack of books.  Those who forgot to come missed my slightly odd book-reading which, in deference to the magic in the book, I performed through the medium of someone else’s mind, read verbatim from a page which was never in the book she read.

The magicians Laura London and Russell Levinson performed incredible feats of prestidigitation and since some of Laura’s magic involved balls of fire, Daunts showed admirable restraint in not pointing out the obvious dangers to their combustible stock.

I had a marvelous time, I hope everybody who came did, and as a little taste for those who didn’t – witness the mandatory awkward proxemics of this trade paper/Publisher’s Weekly style photo from the do featuring my brilliant editor Jane Lawson, Laura London and me… I’ll leave it up to you to decide who’s who.

Meanwhile… a report from the local newspaper sounds rather familiar:

Magic at Daunts

Thursday, 6th October 2011

Magic was the theme at Daunts Bookshop on the Fulham Road as partygoers gathered to celebrate the launch of Chelsea author Marius Brill’s new novel How To Forget – A book of Laughter and Regretting.

To honour the book’s themes of conjurers and con artists, burlesque magician Laura London, from ITV1’s ‘Penn and Teller’s Fool Us’, and local card expert Russell Levinson performed miracles of magic for the guests.  Even though Laura had packs of cards bursting into flames just inches from the bookshop’s highly flammable stock, manager Max Porter appeared amazed but, ironically, un-daunted.

Marius Brill welcomed guests including ‘Chancer’ actress Lynsey Baxter and a melange of notable writers and artists (of all varieties).

To promote this literary thriller about illusions and the mind, Brill turned his hand to magic to by performing a reading from How to Forget.  He chose not to read from its pages but from a spectator’s mind who had been asked to memorise any passage they liked.  He then revealed that the page his volunteer had read had been torn out of the book before she had even opened it. We’re still trying to work out how he did that.

“You hang about with magicians long enough and some of the pixie dust rubs off,” Brill said.  “Along with the rip-roaring adventure, readers will discover the secrets behind many of the world’s greatest magical ideas.”How To Forget by Marius Brill, published by Doubleday, is for sale at Daunts and all major bookshops now. £12.99.

via Magic at Daunts – KensingtonChelseaToday.

“Page-turning Tension”

Marius Brill, How to Forget (2011) from David Hebblethwaite’s blog about books (et al)

Magician Peter Ruchio was humiliated, and his career derailed, by a prank played by Titus Black at the latter’s eighth birthday party; fifteen years later, Black has grown up to be a famous illusionist (though he is not above committing murder to preserve his secrets), whilst Peter is performing tricks in restaurants and old people’s homes. A chance encounter with Kate Minola, a grifter on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, gives Peter the opportunity to take his revenge on Black; but his experiences ultimately lead  Peter to seek the help of Dr Chris Tavasligh, a neuroscientist working on a way to ‘reboot’ the human brain, thereby erasing all memories. That was three years ago, and Tavasligh subsequently disappeared; the book in our hands purports to be the scientist’s collected papers.

As befits a novel about a magician, How to Forget is full of misdirection; one is never quite sure which way the characters will turn, who can be trusted – and there’s a sense at the end that the real story is not the one we thought it was (the allusions to The Taming of the Shrew in the protagonists’ names serve, as far as I can tell, to highlight the idea of a story within a story). Not everything in the book works so well: the larger-than-life tone and occasional comic interludes tend to rub against the more serious episodes, rather than working with them; and it seems to me that Brill’s material on memory doesn’t quite integrate successfully with the plot. Better is the author’s comparison of Peter’s and Kate’s professions, which leads them to face up to some difficult questions; and the caper narrative has all the page-turning tension and momentum one could wish.

via Book notes: Moran, Harstad, Brill « Follow the Thread.

Rise of the Fab Dad

Borough Life “Fab Dad”

Monday, 5th September 2011  

Whoever coined the phrase ‘Yummy Mummies’ could only have been at the school-gates for the afternoon pick-up. In the cold light of the eight a.m. drop they look just about credible – but far from edible. It’s the new term, your streets are jammed with new school-run experimenters, 4x4s seeking out the paths of least jam resistance.

J.J. grips my hand tightly as we enter the playground. “It’s like the graveyard,” she whispers, eyes wide.“‘Like a graveyard’” I correct her.“No, no, the graveyard, Daddy, in ‘The Dead Will Wake’”. Whatever the rights, or wrongs, of allowing a 6-year-old to watch a zombie DVD just to buy some quality time with the Sundays, it’s certainly enriched her understanding of some difficult concepts of mortality. “Easter,” she told her big sister, “is the time when Jesus died and became a zombie”.

Her new, slightly morbid, awareness of ‘Stranger Danger’ issues has also improved her observational skills. The playground mothers do indeed resemble that graveyard scene; having dug themselves out of their tombstones, the dead lurch en masse empty-eyed with corrugated cardboard complexions, their rear-view mirror make-up applied by Jackson Pollock, stumbling forward as the children run away screaming into the safety of their classrooms.

I know that by three-thirty the mums will be svelte long-legged gazelles, in tight jeans and sunglasses prancing gracefully across the playground savannah but, in the morning drop zone of the asphalt jungle, the real competition is all about who is – oh good grief, if I really have to give it a media moniker, American style, rhyming tag – who is the ‘Fab Dad’?

Is it Zoe’s dad, smirking in the hopscotch area? Works in a garage in a blue boilersuit but drives a Mercedes. He pulls in his gut tighter than a Stradivarius because, no matter what they say, you really can get fitter than a Kwikfit fitter.

Matilda arrives on her dad’s Harley. He’s clad in full leathers and struts through the zombie mums like the Fonz, flashing his cheeky twenty grand ultra-brite dental array at any takers.

Where the morning mums sag, as if everything gets dropped with the kids, the ‘Fab Dads’ strut and preen in powerhouse displays of solvency and genial fatherhood. Saturdays in the park are for the hard core, but the morning drop-off is a window of opportunity for competitive dads to show off their air-parenting skills, parade their trophy kids and demonstrate their devotion to family life – for twenty whole minutes.

I’m not sure any of us know why we’re doing it. The Fab Dad contest resembles our pre-family mating displays but holds none of the frisson of further action. These things rarely turn into torrid affairs. Perhaps you can take the boy out of the game but you can’t take the game out of the boy. It may be less about schwing and more about kerching, but each morning, there we are again, gladiators competing to be Pater Maximus.

Marius Brill

via Borough Life “Fab Dad” – KensingtonChelseaToday.

“Intelligent and witty, a terrific page-turner”

5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and witty, a terrific page-turner

21 July 2011

By Mark Webb “marcos_cu” (TOP 500 REVIEWER)

You’ve got to stay alert while reading How to Forget; ironically, you also need a good memory, because there’s a multitude of twists and turns, sudden changes of direction, shifting identities and aliases as you follow the clever, crude and utterly compelling tale of poor Peter, aka Mr Magicov, entertainer to the elderly, whose life was ruined in a disastrous and hilarious child molestation case, orchestrated by the monstrous Titus, now a celebrity illusionist in the Derren Brown mould.

The story follows Peter’s struggles to forget his agonising past and make a new life, a struggle pushed to dizzy new heights (and very much against Peter’s will), by self-obsessed con-artist Kate, on the run from her own nemesis, the obsessive and sociopathically vicious FBI Agent Brown. I don’t think it gives too much away to say the tale ends with a delicious double twist in which practically everyone gets their just deserts.

The ‘academic’ inserts seemed a tad intrusive, interrupting, as they did, an otherwise fast-moving, page-turning narrative. I feel they would have worked better if they could have been somehow woven into the story, rather than as ever-more distracting `case-notes’. I did find myself skimming them a little, as the plot became ever more compelling.

How to Forget is a terrific story with brilliantly worked characters and an intelligent, fast-moving plot. One of the best novels I’ve read this year and very highly recommended indeed.

via How to Forget: Amazon.co.uk: Marius Brill: Books.

“Narrative Pyrotechnics”

‘Narrative Pyrotechnics’ is about the only nice thing this slightly grumpy review from the Eastern Daily Press (27.10.11) could come up with for How To Forget… apparently I failed to write the book required because I bothered to make it humorous.  As Kurt Vonnegut so often said (with deference to the seven dwarves) – heigh ho.  Still lots of story description so at least I kept his attention.

(click on review to enlarge)