Call Me A Cab

THE TAXI by Violette Leduc. Published by Hart-Davis/MacGibbon, £1.40

The Taxi is the last book by Violette Leduc, the author of La Batarde and Ravages. It was written shortly before she died from an illness which spoilt the last few years of her life. It was sad that her constant bad health began so soon after she had finally been internationally-acclaimed as an important writer.

Violette was one of the most eccentric and fascinating ladies Paris has ever known. All her life she was an adventuress – a sort of outlaw – long before it became fashionable to be so. She always described herself as a “bastard”. Her lesbianism, which I would rather call her homosexual-orientated lifestyle, was always less than a secret, and her mini-skirts and wigs were forever shocking the ‘good taste’ of Parisian society. She was born in 1908, but always adopted the fashion and looks of teenage girls.

To me it seems that she put all of this into her last work, which is also one of the most wonderful fantasies one could have dreamed of. Unfortunately, no mere review can do justice to her extraordinary imagination. The story is simply told by means of the dialogue between an adolescent sister and brother who decide to spend a day making love to each other in the back of a luxuriously fitted out taxi. They have been able to realise this forbidden dream by stealing a jewel from the aunt they both hate and despise, and then by paying people to initiate them into the arts of love-making.

First they meet a gorgeous whore, Mademoiselle Cytiese, a lady from Pigalle, who teaches the brother. She then introduces the adolescents to a pederast, Dane, who gives lessons to the sister.

The tale begins when they are at last in the taxi, racing across and around Paris, protected from the driver’s eyes by an orange curtain. They make love, eat pâté, drink champagne and talk.

They talk about what they are doing to each other, what they learnt from their strange teachers, and how they were led to this peculiar situation by some kind of irresistible fate. The most enjoyable aspect about The Taxi is that as well as being a long erotic and fantasising poem, it also succeeeds in involving the reader in depths of feeling and passion that are at times almost frightening. It is important to add that the translation from the French by Helen Weaver is excellent, as it accurately matches Leduc’s unique style.

The Taxi will be performed as a play on the Paris stage soon and I look forward to seeing it staged in London in the near future. Through this kind of interpretation, it will not be so much literature, but a more sensual experience that all can indulge their fantasies in. Art is life, and life, when mirrored in Violette Leduc’s The Taxi, is one long, liberating orgasm.

Liberal Bunkum

A YOUNG PERSON’S GUIDE TO LIFE AND LOVE by Dr Benjamin Spock. Published by Mayflower Books, 40p.

Dr Spock is one of those “slightly disgraceful” but respected “liberals” who use the established forms of communication to condemn established forms of thought, in favour of new established forms of thought. He’s the father of the worst form of mind control — the advice manual, the horrific idea of which is that we need some pillar of soporific liberality to instruct and shape our attitudes, that we are too conditioned into apathy to reason out our own behaviour patterns, or act instinctively.

His book for teenagers contains little that I would imagine they don’t know already, or would want to know, or would do anything to allay fears of that burning sensation which is adolescence. Despite the extended sections on sexual matters, there is scarcely even a passing reference to bisexuality, so often a significant part of our lives. Homosexuality is dispensed with in three brief pages, and classified as either of two conditions, that of a person who takes on the character of a person of the opposite sex, or “appears normal” but desires persons of the same sex. “Men and boys who are effeminate feel like women.” How elucidating for a worried fifteen year old, who not only has to contend with television comedians and parents, but with this repressive bible too.

According to Granada Publishing the original Spock book “Child and Baby Care” sold 23 million copies in the USA alone, and they suppose “that all the parents who read it and all of their children, will want to read this one.” One therefore supposes that Dr Spock’s ideas on homosexuality or anything else, will be for the next few years, one of the major influences on the attitudes of the American public.

Myths about homosexuality are really just the starting point for one long faiiy tale of life. The entire book is full of startling misconceptions and a blatant avoidance of fundamental adolescent feelings, such as the complete disbelief and disagreement of a system which prescribes school, university, job, formalised marriage, and sees marijuana as something which changes “aspects of the personality”, possibly for the worse.

Best Of The Paperbacks

THE MAHOUND by Lance Horner. Pan, 40p.

Those of you who have followed the apparently endless priapic saga of the ‘Flaconhurst’ series of novels, written by Horner and his collaborator Kyle Onstott, licked parched lips over that splendid epic of fellatio ‘Child Of The Sun’, wriggled to ‘Santiago Blood’ and ‘The Tattooed Rood’, will not be disappointed by ‘The Mahound’.

If anything the pricks get bigger, the fucking more frequent and more frantic, and the hero and his friend finally capitulate to the erotic pressures of Africa and get their ends (both ends) away with gentlemen! Needless to say Rory Mahound, the staggeringly well-hung Scottish stud of the title is under the influence of a powerful aphrodisiac at the time. But it’s the first time this reader can remember one of Horner/Onstott’s heroes actually enjoying a little bi-sexuality. Who knows where this permissiveness will lead to next!

This is the eleventh in the series of novels written by this phallically obsessed pair, and one of the best. If you’ve got to read trashy erotica, and don’t we all, then you won’t find better than this at W H Smiths. On second thoughts, buy it somewhere else.

PRICKSONGS AND DESCANTS by Robert Coover. Picador, 50p.

Robert Coover’s stories make rather gloomy reading on the whole. A man makes love to his wife, discovers that she’s been dead for three weeks, and has his genitals smashed to a pulp by a disgusted cop etc, etc. In fact savage attacks and mutilations of one limb or another crop up with almost monotonous regularity.

However there are two stories of true brilliant black humour which will probably appear many times in future horror anthologies.

‘The Hat Act’ takes a magician’s stage show to its horrid, illogical conclusion, while ‘The Baby Sitter’ twines the erotic daydreams of six different people and weaves them into a farcical nightmare that ingeniously arrives at a conclusion that has to be read to be believed. I won’t spoil it for you.

DOWN AND OUT IN BRITAIN by Jeremy Sandford. New English Library, 40p.

‘Edna The Inebriate Woman’ was shown on television some months ago. It was received with enthusiasm, but nothing like the critical acclaim of his earlier work ‘Cathy Come Home’. The reasons are clear – a homeless family has a more immediate appeal than a meths drinking dosser. And yet this book, the background research Sandford used for ‘Edna’, is an even more horrifying indictment of a Welfare State who can spend billions of pounds on destructive weapons and research, and yet has still failed to come to grips with the problems of thousands of sad, wasted people who have somehow lost control of their lives.

Sandford demonstrates with chilling effect how our legal system, law, police, and welfare authorities can turn the inadequate eccentric into a criminal or madman, and that ‘our society is becoming harder and harder for people to live in, and that those who are unable to cope are often not so much helped as given a kick in the crutch.’ Remember that by conservative estimate, 2,000 people will be sleeping rough tonight, in London alone.

For those who care or want to help, there is a list of organisations included who need all kinds of assistance in their endless therapeutic help to the homeless, the addicted, the unfortunates of this world.

Mitchum, Bitch ’em

THE ROBERT MITCHUM STORY, ‘IT SURE BEATS WORKING.’ by Mike Tomkies. Published by W H Allen at £2.50.

The last few years in the publishing world has seen a massive rash of biographies of famous film stars, most of which have been written solely as commercial efforts, and not because the author has any specific feeling or interest for the subject, rather like many of their films have been created, in fact. Sad in this case, because Mitchum is for me one of the genuinely fascinating Hollywood figures, and “It sure beats working” is yet another savage let-down. It’s written in the journalistic style of a local paper, and with its massive quotes from earlier Mitchum interviews and articles, gives the impression that it was written entirely without his personal collaboration.

None of this would matter very much if the author showed any signs of affection or sympathy for his character; but he doesn’t. Everything of interest in Mitchum’s life and everything else is skated over superficially and unfeelingly, from his teens when he lived for a long period as a hobo, we are given no ideas of his motives for living like this, through the early Hollywood bit-part days, through to the big star years.

As the book progresses, instead of becoming a deep character study of a fascinating man, it becomes more and more like a potted history of say a nineteenth century politician, a date and time diary of cardboard figures. The chaper on his arrest for smoking marijuana in 1948 for example, is solely an account of Mitchum’s arrest by one of the policemen responsible, and a rather clipped, non-committal passage on the controversy the event caused in Hollywood, and the difficulties in urging the public not to make pre-judgements on the matter. One has the feeling that Mitchum’s genuine feelings and ideas here have been restrained, for fear of offending his image, or the book’s vast sales potential.

I don’t think I’m being unfair, because even within the very narrow verbal confines of a commercially sponsored American TV chat show, I’ve seen the emergence of a very much more deeply thoughtful man.

Nightmares In The Air

OVER TO YOU by Roald Dahl. Published by Penguin, 25p.

This collection of ten short stories were written by Roald Dahl after he had been transferred from active service in the RAF to the post of Assistant Air Attache in Washington in 1942. They originally appeared in a number of American magazines and later as a book, under the collective title of Over To You. This is the first time that they have been available in one edition in this country.

Dahl is probably best known for his two volumes of short stories that were published in the fifties, Someone Like You and Kiss Kiss. The central theme of these was a macabre one, with a controlled hysteria growing throughout them, till they eventually shocked the reader into the reality of the horrific conclusions. The spine-chilling effects they generally had, brought him much international acclaim. Since then he has written a number of children’s books.

I expected Over To You to consist of the type of tales I usually associate with Dahl, and was initially disappointed when I discovered that the book was subtitled ‘Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying’. But once I started reading them, I soon found that each was a form of nightmare, containing the twists and dark irony that make his other stories so surprising and readable.

Dahl’s successful style stems from his ability to draw the reader into the situations he is relating, making everything seem very real and plausible. This leaves one unprepared for the shocking revelations to come. His attention to detail and a fine use of dialogue also contributes to never allowing the stories to appear at all fantastic, despite the fact that they very often are. And as I said earlier it is only when one reaches the end that the reader realises how incredible the sequence of events has been.

The stories are all short and even a brief description of them may possibly spoil the enjoyment and iced thrills readers may derive from them. Suffice to say they are ideal for those who like their prose to be a little different.