The Book of the Damned

Tanith Lee, Author, Derek Jarman, Author Overlook Press $13.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-87951-697-0
This fourth and final installment of filmmaker Jarman's journals is as forthright as the earlier ones (At Your Own Risk, Dancing Ledge and Modern Nature). Although at times the nitty-gritty details of filmmaking overwhelm (Jarman began work on The Last of England as he wrote this, and he worries over funding and wonders whether he is underfunded because he is openly gay), Jarman is always on sure footing when writing about his past. He describes his parents with painful candor: his mother was slightly wacky but sweet, the kind of housewife who served strawberries to her family only to realize she'd dipped them in mayonnaise rather than whipped cream. ""Her life was as open as my father's was closed,"" Jarman writes. His father was an ill-tempered man, as well as a kleptomaniac, but Jarman delicately manages to describe his stern behavior without condemning him completely. Jarman's style of jumping from place to place and year to year can be confusing (particularly when people are mentioned without any background), but it is effective in providing snapshots of different times and places, such as a service in the 1960s in New York at a church nicknamed ""Mary on the Verge"" because it was such a cruising scene. In a voice free of self-pity, he recounts a childhood overshadowed by his fearsome father; the days spent grappling with his emerging sexuality and then with the diagnosis that he was HIV-positive. ""It was almost with relief that I listened to the doctor's catalogue of do's and don'ts-shaving, hairdressing, all the little details (soap and water it seemed eliminated the virus outside the body)-but for all of medicine you might as well just wash your mouth out with carbolic."" (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/1997
Release date: 02/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-87951-408-2
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