Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

8 Feb 2018

book reviews and a bit of a rant.

Apologies, I'm not able to post so regularly at the moment, life getting in the way, so posts aren't as frequent, and a bit erratic. 

So although the photos don't reflect the words in this post, I will just whack a couple in here for decorative purposes while I talk about a few books I've read recently, or should I say, heard recently as I listen to books on Audible (not sponsored just thoroughly recommended) and if you haven't tried it then do, because it's thoroughly enjoyable, you can listen while doing other things like driving, knitting, washing up or falling asleep, and I find it takes the tedium out of those things to be swept away into another world, another time and to learn.  Learning to me is like an addiction and I'm going to talk about addiction further on, I constantly research facts, and soak up information about history, medicine and life. 

I've been listening to Russell Brand quite a lot as he reads his own book on Audible about addiction, so I've got him in my head ranting at the moment which may come out in my post here, it certainly did come out in my phone call to an old mortgage provider earlier, insert laughing emoji.

The first book I want to recommend is The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. What I particularly love is that it is based on the real life story of French Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro. Like I said, I love to learn new stuff, so when a book or film has non-fiction elements, I find it all the better. This is an interesting concept, the historical novel, a work of fiction based around true events and real people. 

The book concentrates on the mother of Camille Pissaro and his early life growing up on St. Thomas, which came as a surprise to me as well as to the author, that he wasn't born and raised in France. The painterly way the author writes fits perfectly with the subject matter, the colours of the exotic island made me hop on to google and look at pictures of it. I like this idea that from the historical facts and the paintings of this incredible artist, Hoffman has woven together such an interesting book. Life is actually stranger than fiction. 

My second recommendation is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I found this a light hearted look at what, underneath, was a very dark subject.  Without giving the plot away, we find it quite whimsical and entertaining to see life through the eyes of Eleanor, a character that I hugely empathised with. I kept thinking, "God, I'm just like that", and I loved her naive observations on social situations, which I also find grating and difficult at times. 

The story of Eleanor, who leads a double life of what the outside world sees, and what is happening behind closed doors is a stab to remind us not to judge a book by it's cover. I particularly like her obsession with a wannabe rock star, who is quite a familiar type of character to me. A narcissistic failure of a musician who constantly tweets about how life is against him, but sadly Eleanor cannot see through his excuses and the juxtaposition of the socially inadequate Eleanor and the attention seeking musician is very amusing. 

These two books are the ones that stand out to me in my list of recently read, I have a long list of those I've listened to but whose stories are so familiar that they haven't been much more than a passing distraction, which was fine at the time, but didn't leave a lasting impression.

And so onto Russell Brand's book 'Recovery, Freedom from Our Addictions'.  

If you don't think you are an addict, then you are totally wrong. We are all addicted to something, it is the age of preconditioning, where consumerism plays on our two biggest instincts as humans - fear and passion. You probably don't even realise you are addicted, or that you have sub-consciously programmed yourself to behave and react in certain ways. This book is a revelation.  It is truthful and honest, it's neither preachy God bothering or bible bashing, nor new age airy fairy nonsense.  

Brand takes the twelve step programme that works for drug addicts, and makes us see that this can work for everyone no matter what your level of addiction. Admittedly my addictions to social media, shopping, caffeine, shopping, oh did I say that already, yes it's that bad, don't seem on the surface life threatening, or not as life threatening as heroin maybe, but if your bad self programming and failure to confront your addictions leads to suicide then perhaps it is just as harmful. 

I have fallen victim to the consumerism that targets my deepest insecurities. I stopped buying 'womens magazines' some 30 years ago, I think around the time that really skinny models were the fashion. I could neither look like them nor could I afford the stuff that was supposed to make me look like them. I hated myself for that, so I tried to remove myself from the temptation to be duped. But it's still there, only now I can afford to buy the cosmetic surgery, the expensive accessories, the make-up and hair products, and I still hate myself, because I am ageing.  

If you've made it down this post to here then you are still with me, good, Russell puts it much better than me. See what he says about happiness, not sure I've totally found it yet, my little brain keeps putting the spanner in, no no you're not supposed to be happy you did this, she said that and on and on.

So I don't mind admitting that I'm fucked. I acknowledge that, and I often think 'could I not be fucked'.  Well I thought I could sort it on my own, but really I can't and if you watch below you may find out why. So even if Russell is my only friend in this 'un-fucking' I will attempt to open up the topic with people I know. He talks about the inventory and I'm not sure I can actually write the list, but trust me, the list is in my head, it's there every day. The boy that didn't fancy me, the woman that hit me in the face in my work place, the backstabbers in another job, I've allowed them to contribute to my programming. 

The fucked up patterns need to be recognised, we all have the patterns whether you want to admit it or not. You are the person you were told to be. Russell's acknowledgement that present day culture plays on our lowest instincts, the fears, desires and lusts, in order that we will be good consumers, and ignores the facts that we can be kind, loving and generous, is such an important point to recognise. Try your hardest to sweep away the constant futuristic bombardment of advertising, maybe detox from social media. Personally I like social media as it's how I communicate with friends but perhaps we need to start being honest there more often, start our own topics of conversation rather than click bait sharing of what an advertising algorithm wants us to think.  

I posted something to this avail on my facebook page, and honestly, I don't think that it's being shown to my friends. The algorithms that control now what we do and don't see are frustrating me to the point of depression, because I'm addicted to getting likes, and comments and love hearts to my photos. 

Can I just say, give it consideration, in trying to un-fuck ourselves we can only benefit others, with kindness, with apologies, and just generally not dragging them down by contributing to their pattern of self-hate. Just think, if know-one had ever been nasty to you, how different would you be. I know I would be, my relationships would have been a hell of a lot better with partners and friends. Although I'm not sure that the 'enlightened' me would have succeeded in the world I worked in where I fuelled consumerism, played the media games, adhered to the structures of the corporation.  In Russell's book he talked about working at MTV, a place I was very familiar with in my line of work, and amazingly I never ran into him during my time in the 'music business' or time working in Camden. 

I expect that part of what fucked up Russell was that environment and the game they are all playing in these companies,  where music, an art form, is being treated and worked as if it were a tin of beans or a packet of fags. Where chart positions are deemed as important as a doctor working in a hospital. I several times voiced my opinion in meetings 'come on guys we aren't saving lives here, get a grip, it's not a life or death situation' when a band had failed to get on a tv show or reach a place in the billboard chart. And this resulted in me twice being sacked. 

Like a lot of people with mental health problems, I over analyse and this is a double edged sword. While it protects us from the bullshit it also drags us into some dark depths. 

Perhaps by having a listen and consideration to what Russell is talking about here can help us hone our bullshit monitor and dismiss our self destructive one. It's got to be worth a try.

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