I’m a novelist, journalist and film maker interested in Neuroscience, Conjuring, Hustles, Deception, Illusion, Delusion and the nature of Love.

This is how the TLS summed me up:

Puns, gags, witty observations, surreal flights, there is a laugh of some sort in every line… A quip for Brill is the Cleopatra for which he will give up the world and consider it well lost.

And that’s a fair cop… which is more than you’ll find in The Wire.

Now, with the publication of my second novel How To Forget this is a pretty exciting time. What’s below may not be my life, but it’s a blog of events and tangential thoughts that grind the optics behind my own peculiar views.

Marius Brill

Halloween: The Rules

I stand with my dead son in the hall.  He’s giving me a strange look.  But, with one eye gouged out and glistening nerves dangling from the dark prosthetic hole, strange looks is about all he can give me.

‘No,’ I say firmly, ‘you’re just too big now.’

His hunchback visibly slumps. ‘But Pete and Max and all the others are…’

‘You’re fifteen now, bigger than most adults and if a hoard of kids your size came knocking on my door, I’d be terrified.’

‘You’re supposed to be,’ George retorts sulkily, ‘that’s the point.’Illustration by Don Grant

Is it?  I’m really not sure.  Trouble is, like fast-food, Mother’s Day or chronic obesity, we seem to adopt American traditions without a thorough understanding of the rules.

Wimpy, the great British precursor to MacDonalds, believed they were providing fast-food by making sure their waitresses served tables quickly.  The idea of buying straight from a counter was just too uncivilised to contemplate.

And Mother’s Day, devoid of any established ceremony, perpetually feels like an awkward obligation to bestow potted plants.  We can’t even do US-style corpulence without feeling guilty and trying to negate it with self-effacing jokes whereas Americans seem to happily get through life never mentioning the elephant, or elephants, in the room.

If we had any flair for homemade festivities, October could have been the month dominated, not by its last day but by, say, national Conker Day, or a Festival of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness or a celebration of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar. We could dress up with eye patches and demand kisses from hardy sailors rather than sweets from strangers.

Indeed, this year’s baying for the blood of Rebekah Brookes led me to think that we might return to more traditional British style Halloween Witch hunting.  But then along came those meddling kids looting London during their recessionary Costa curtailed summer holidays and it brought home all the fears that householders may experience when opening the door to masked teenagers intent on booty.

My own first ‘Trick or Treat’ was forty years ago. Six years old and invited to observe this foreign ritual by my friend Eugene who lived in a Kensington mansion block popular with American families. Using some old pillow cases to unwittingly dress up like a couple of lynch-happy white supremacists we glided around a carefully organised route of flats inside the block.  At each door there was a ‘treat’ but, not understanding the rules of this game, I was too terrified to enjoy it. I understood the basics of the verbal contract we were making and worried about what would happen if we actually had to ‘trick’ someone. Before we had left, Eugene’s ‘mom’ had told me that ‘back home’ a trick would be to rub soap on their windows.

We were seven stories up.

So nowadays, as soon as the supermarkets pack the barbecues away, their shelves begin to buckle with halloweenia.  By the night of October 31st  the streets buzz with ghouls and waddling pumpkins not completely sure what they’re doing, or why.

You might ask why do we need rules? Why not just enjoy it? But maybe that’s why these events seem so alien.  Far too much freedom, no room for faux pas.  If you want to make something British – give it rules. Not laws, to be policed by a third party, far too totalitarian, but rules that mean we can all police each other’s compliance and be outraged by, and justify exclusion of, anybody who doesn’t follow them.  Watch Downton Abbey and you’re experiencing that distant comfort afforded by everyone knowing their place and keeping to it -not enforced by the state but by social contract.

So to help Halloween become a less foreign event these are six basic rules I’ve worked out from years trudging around with my own children:

1)      No flats – you can’t get sweets from an entryphone.

2)      They’re ‘sweets’ not ‘candy’.

3)      Only houses that place a pumpkin in the window.

4)      Avoid all celebrities’ houses And obviously whatever day it is, never let your daughter knock on Michael Winner’s door… he’s a married man now.

5)     Never ever actually do a ‘trick’; whatever you’ve threatened.

6)     Always be cuter than you are scary.  Remember it’s an American tradition.  Think Disney and Barbie not Manson and waterboarding; it’s like the movies, all popcorn and happy endings and any horror more kitsch than kitchen knife. It’s little kids inappropriately dressed as vampirella or pumpkin outfits, being a bit sweet when they come to your door.  Not the terror of being mugged on your own doorstep. If your kid is big enough to scare someone without the make-up they’re too big for trick or treat.

‘George,’ I say, ‘If you’re big enough to cause actual bodily harm you’re too big to be in a gang beating at people’s doors.  Them’s the rules.’

He looks at the flat door longingly, despairing that I may well have a lecture attached to my homily.

‘But, happily,’ I say, ‘it also means you’re big enough to be looking after the littler ones as they haunt the streets.  And I assure you, cutie booty is far bigger.’

He glances back at his little vampire sisters, blood streaming from the corners of their mouths, patiently waiting for me to take them out.  With a grunt he beckons them and nods towards the door.

As the monsters leave I settle down.  For once I’m going to enjoy Halloween.

 

A version of this article appears here in


A magical book

 

How to Forget

Marius Brill (Author)

A magical book; or rather a book about magic, confidence trickery, illusions, prestidigitation, conjuring, mind reading and more, all interwoven with the long quest for catharsis of an unmanned magician and his emergent relationship with a lifelong female hustler. As if that weren’t enough, the book is written in the style of a literary humoresque, seasoned with amusing asides and adroit wordplay. (It was often punny, sometimes funny. One example, describing over-long sunbathing: “Is ‘lobsterized a word? Take it as red…”).

This is a polished second-book performance from an accomplished author. He manages a clever and convoluted plot extremely well, and his characters are vividly portrayed. He employs a neat technique of interspersing narrative with clinical notes from the consultant psychiatrist purporting to be the author, and background material into brain function and research. All of which, in the context of this book, may or not be illusory. Either way, a very worthwhile diversion.

Reviewed by: John Oakley – Stourbridge

Personal read: *****

Group read: *****

Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: 9780385605243

Published Date: Thu 18th Aug 2011

Format: Hardback

via How to Forgethttp://www.newbooksmag.com/

 

 

 

The perfect partner to a day on a sunlounger.

This may sound a bit over enthusiastic – but I’m going to say it anyway. Marius Brill needs to add an extra ‘iant’ to the end of his surname. Once you’ve read How To Forget you’ll understand why.

Brill’s second novel is a ‘fictual book’, meaning it mixes up fiction with facts. The fictional side of the story revolves around the grand illusionist, Magicov the Magnificent, AKA Peter, who earns a living performing tricks in a nursing home. Peter is jealous of the geriatrics he entertains, particularly the old people who have lost their memories. This is because there are painful events in his life that he wishes to forget.

During the novel, Peter is approached by brain scientist, Dr Chris Tavasligh, who offers to help Peter forget for good. The facts, which are woven throughout the book, are all about the processes involved in human memory. And they’re there to make us think twice about what we believe we know.

If you’re worried that the book sounds a bit too heavy, don’t be. The novel is written so that you can sail through the pages. Chapters are split into bite-size portions and the prose is broken up by pages of fictional magazine articles, handwritten letters and emails.

Brill’s writing is top-dollar, too. Here is a writer who has taken up arms against clichés, and the result is page after page of refreshingly unique prose.

Overall, this book is an ideal holiday read. Once you pick it up you won’t want to put it down, which makes it the perfect partner to a day on a sunlounger.

If you like this, try this… The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

via How To Forget Marius Brill | FirstChoice blog.

Flip-flop rating for this book:

5 / 5

About Reviewer

  • Name: Sarah Holt
  • Favourite Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  • Guilty Pleasure: The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
  • Favourite Holiday: Rio Carnival, Brazil
  • Sarah Holt

 

Clever, funny and highly entertaining – a must for fans of “Hustle”

With a great cast of eccentric characters, this is a very funny and very clever story of grifts, cons and magicians. Brill asks how much of our character is governed by our memories and what if we could forget the most painful ones?

If you are a fan of the BBC’s ‘Hustle’ series, you will absolutely love Marius Brill’s ‘How to Forget’. It’s a funny, clever and twisted tale of grifters and con tricks with a bit of magic thrown in for good measure. Brill gives us a cast of strange characters: there’s an ethically dubious brain scientist, a dodgy Derren Brown-type TV celebrity whose interests are guarded by two violent but somewhat hapless Hasidic Jewish thugs, an equally violent FBI agent and a female British copper. At the heart of the story though is an apparently naïve British magician, Peter, and a supreme grifter, Kate, in whose life Peter finds himself entangled.

At first, it can take a while to get into the book as the breadth of the characters and their stories take a while to unfold. This is compounded by the meta-concept that Brill adopts that the book itself is a compilation of the basic manuscript and the scientist’s own papers, so just when the story appears to get going, there are pseudo-academic papers on the science of the mind. Thankfully this abates somewhat later in the book and the annoyance factor is minimized by the fact that Dr Tavasligh is unlike any academic you’ve ever read in that his papers are often very funny in themselves. At first though, partly because the two main characters, Peter and Kate, are so interesting it can be a little frustrating not to get on with their story.

While on the subject of the main characters, I’m still a little bemused by the choice of names. Kate’s full name is Catherine Minola while Peter’s is Peter Ruchio. Obviously this is a reference to Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ (Pete Ruchio – Petruchio) which could be seen to be an indicator or what appears to be Kate’s situation – a strong, independent woman who may or may not conform to society – but it’s a bit of a stretch and that was a feeling that I had about much of the, very funny, humour throughout the book. The similes in particular are a bit off the wall but often hilarious, but it seems at times as if the story gets stretched to make the joke rather than the jokes flowing naturally out of the story. It’s a minor point but I did find it a little irritating and a bit ‘show-off-ish’. And to return to the names issue, Peter is as far removed from Shakespeare’s Petruchio as it is possible to be. It seems to me a strange choice of names when a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

What Brill does, well Brilliantly is to keep the reader guessing about what is real and what is illusion. There’s plenty of good old magician-style misdirection but you don’t feel that you are being deliberately led astray. Much like a good magician really. Once you get into the meat of the second part of the book in particular the story rattles along without interruption and takes you from the US, to the English south coast, via Paris and New Zealand.

The bottom line is that it’s a joy to read and each time I picked it up I found myself smiling at the prospect and when I put it down, smiling at the story, which is not a bad recommendation. It’s clearly well researched, both in terms of the magician aspects and the workings of the brain, but this seldom gets in the way of the story. If you are looking for a funny, but intelligent and highly original story, this is a great choice.

Our thanks to the kind folk at Doubleday who didn’t forget to send a copy to The Bookbag.

For more clever playing with the reader’s mind, then look no further than The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus while for a more serious look at the workings of forgetfulness then remember to also read the remarkable Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson.

You can read more book reviews and buy How to Forget by Marius Brill at Amazon and Waterstones

via How to Forget by Marius Brill – TheBookbag.co.uk book review.