Penguins On The March

Penguin Education Specials:
A LAST RESORT? CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS. Editor: Peter Newell. 60p.
THE PAINT HOUSE: Words from an East End Gang. The Collinwood Gang and Susie Daniel and Pete McGuire. 30p.

A Penguin Special:
THALIDOMIDE AND THE POWER OF THE DRUG COMPANIES. Henning Sjostrom and Robert Nilsson 40p.

Three books, each important, each original, each an attack on common assumptions, and all written well without propagandising.

The first two, A Last Resort and The Paint House, are about two different aspects of violence. And instead of laying the blame where it is usually put (on the children in schools or the toughs’ in the skinhead gangs), they place it squarely where it belongs; on the shoulders of the people who made them that way, and on the society which sanctions and uses violence as the quick and easy way of getting what it wants.

A Last Resort was compiled from material collected by the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP), and is the first shot in their campaign to abolish corporal punishment in schools. They are doing this along with the National Council for Civil Liberties. The book demonstrates how educationally and socially destructive the threat and actual use of physical punishment in schools is, and how a school can work better, both for the teachers and the pupils, when it is removed. Unfortunately, abolishing it also means that the traditional teaching methods and attitudes have to be questioned and modified or scrapped, and the book includes examples of schools where this has been done

One example will show how destructive caning and the threat of it is. Caning is often used as a punishment for truancy. This makes the school an even more unpleasant place to be, so the child is more likely to play truant again, and less likely to want to go back – after all, the first thing he will face is a caning. Eventually he will lose interest in being at school and want to be away from it as soon as possible. It may take longer to talk to and understand a child, but isn’t that better for him and everyone else (since it avoids building violence into him as a means of getting his own way), than the easy way out with a cane?

The Paint House is about East End boys whose background (including their schools) leaves them no means of self-expression except violence, and no importance except in the eyes of one another — hence the gang, and the violence they can get away with as a gang, become the most important things for them.

Who can blame them for using violence for getting their own way? After all, police, parents, government, teachers, even doctors use violence in one form or another to get their way. Some of us have a recourse against this in our social status – they have no such comfortable bolster.

The words are the words of the gang members themselves, with a thread supplied by the two ‘outsiders’, and occasional comments (highlighting the misunderstanding and ignorance) from people in authority, whether in school, work, pub or whatever.

It is a committed book, about change and about class differences, but it restrains its preaching and puts a cogent case. That we are all people, but you wouldn’t think so from the way we treat one another. Most of us are subtle about it. Skinheads are not.

The third book I want to talk about is about one of the worst cases of disregarding people in order to profit — the thalidomide story. Thalidomide and the Power of the Drug Companies. Time after time, so calmly you almost don’t notice, the book details how Chemie Grunenthal ignored mounting evidence about the various permanent side effects of thalidomide, until the sudden incidence of ‘thalidomide babies’ gave them no option. Even years later, when on trial, the contended that there was no proof that thalidomide caused the damage. Profit, in other words, was a higher consideration than people. The amazing thing is that, with the exception of the USA, most countries have done little to tighten their regulations regarding the introduction of new drugs. And that the majority of the population in some countries where thalidomide was sold still do not know about what happened!

Three books then, that attack basic assumptions and structures in our world. If you don’t believe things need changing, read them and see.

Underground Classics

Candy by Terry Southern & Mason Hoffenberg — NEL, 40p
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Farina — NEL 40p
Junkie by William S. Buroughs — NEL, 30p
Opium by Jean Cocteau – NEL, 30p
Big Sur by Jack Kerouac – NEL, 40p
Jail Notes by Timothy Leary – NEL, 50p

The Underground Classics series produced recently by New English Library is a re-publication of some famous and difficult to obtain books, including some works by members of the ‘beat’ and ‘underground’ generations. It is good that many of these are available again, for they allow people who did not read them in the past, or were too young, to read some of the most important ‘new’ writers to emerge in the last twenty or so years.

Candy by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, often described as one of the greatest sexual satires of our time, is one of the titles. When it was originally published here a few years ago, only an edited version was available. But times have changed and the text of this new edition is complete. The book is a combination of black, black humour and sexual athletics, resulting in a very funny novel, sending up the role-playing and hypocrisy of the heterosexual world.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me is a novel written by the late Richard Farina, who died in a tragic motorcycle accident in California in 1966 — two days after the book’s publication. It is a sadly neglected work, being an important document describing the contemporary ‘hip’ scene in the States (which was later to cross over here) during the early sixties. The film that has been made of the book is hopefully to be released here soon.

Junkie was William S. Burrough’s first novel, and possibly, to many, his most accessible. Originally published under the pen name William Lee, the narrative tells of the author’s own history of escalating drug addiction, ending in his cure, apparently partly due to Burrough’s discovery of hallucinogens. A frightening but important book.

Opium by Jean Cocteau is another book concerned with drug addiction. This time it is the author’s account of his experiences whilst ‘hooked’ on opium, with details of his extraordinary life and thoughts, along with descriptions of the acute suffering he went through during the ‘weaning off’ treatment. It is a fascinating book, that still has much relevance today. The drawings that illustrate this edition are the same that appeared in the original version.

Jack Kerouac, the author of Big Sur, was the first and most important writer to emerge from the ‘beat generation’ of the fifties. The effect of his novel on a generation still cannot be measured. And the freedom he gave other writers because of his success, is something modern literature will always be in his debt for. After his death a short while ago, many of his works were re-issued, this being the latest. It is a lyrically told story of a searching for meaning in the complexes of America and a tale of spiritual yearning and final awareness. Big Sur was sadly underrated when it first appeared, despite the inclusion of one of Kerouac’s best poems at the end of the book, which also is included in this edition.

Jail Notes by (Dr) Timothy Leary is an account of the author’s prison experiences, after being sentenced to a possible ten-year term for possession of marihuana, and before his escape from jail in September, 1970. Leary is someone you either take seriously or you dismiss completely, there is no middle way. His views on homosexuality (in other works) leave a lot to be desired, but his explorations of the uncharted depths of the human mind have meant Leary has had to make many brave sacrifices.

Soon to be published is Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller, which has recently been made into a feature film, although at present it is without a certificate to be shown in this country.

Mind Games

A PERSONAL ANTHOLOGY. Written and edited by Jorge Luis Borges. Published by Picador at 45p.

There is no writer who amazes, baffles and intrigues me more than Borges – Argentina’s leading man of letters.

This is the selection of work on which he’d like his reputation to rest. I don’t think it’s his best work. But at least most of it hasn’t been printed in this country before – Penguin’s ‘Labyrinths’ selection draws heavily from the ‘Ficciones’ anthology.

Borges is a writer whose pure logic takes him and your thoughts along straight lines over the edge of the world and back to where you started. If you have grown out of Cosmo’s novelettes and like to think now and again, Borges is your man. This is a good selection of his lunatic-mathematical stories. It’s a pity I can’t like his poetry.

Peter Holmes

Law Triumphs, Justice Doesn’t

The Magician by Sol Stein. Published by New English Library. Paperback, 40p.

One of the most upsetting and at the same time most outstanding novels I have read recently is ‘The Magician’ by Sol Stein. The point of the book is to show that the law doesn’t necessarily equal justice, in fact the two can quite often be used for different ends.

Briefly, the plot is about a vicious assault on a sixteen year old schoolboy and the legal consequences. Much of the story is concerned with the ensuing court case or else in studying the characters of those principally involved — the culprit responsible for the seemingly pointless attack, the parents of the victim and the aggressor, and Ed Japhet, the schoolboy. The novel also comments on the state of American society – not the seamy, junk-neon, spectacular country that is usually over-glamourised, but middle America with its institutions and on-the-surface respectability and tranquility, hiding its inner turmoil.

Sol Stein’s style is both convincing and literate, without ever becoming boring. And the final twist is startling, although not altogether unexpected. A feature film is soon to be made of ‘The Magician’ and if the script is sensibly handled, and without the essence of the story being lost, it should prove to be a major event in cinema.

‘The Magician’ is an important book that has something significant to say. At the same time it is a very captivating book.

Denis Lemon

A Bold Study of Abnormal Sex: World Famous Best Seller

They Live In The Shadows

‘Syphilis’ is no longer a shocking, or even an impolite word. Everywhere, people talk about venereal disease as unfortunate, but natural… and curable.

We’re more broad minded today but not about every thing. Two things – HOMOSEXUALITY AND PROSTITUTION – are still considered by the majority of the population as the lowermost depths of depravity, or subjects for bawdy humour.

As it happens, homosexuals and prostitutes are real people – with very real problems.

Here, for the first time, is a book about what they are like, and what their problems are.

From the blurb, you’d expect the book to be at least controversial. Find out for yourselves. It’s presently being remaindered at only lOp, at several book shops in London, anyway. And you’d hardly guess it was the dear old Wolfenden Report. Dressed in sheep’s clothing?

Bona Bargain Basement