Thomas Mann on Lubeck, harems and marzipan

Now if anyone wishes to vent a little spite against me, or take a casual swipe at me, I can count on his bringing up my Lubeck origin and Lubeck marzipan. If some ill-wisher can think of nothing else, he invariably thinks of connecting me with comic marzipan and representing me as a marzipan baker. Such stuff goes by the name of literary satire. But it does not bother me . . . And I certainly do not feel in the least insulted about the marzipan. In the first place it is a very tasty confection, and in the second place it is anything but trivial; rather it is remarkable and, as I have said, mysterious. And if we examine this sweet more closely, this mixture of almonds, rosewater and sugar, the suspicion arises that it is originally oriental, a [Haremskonfekt] confection for the harem, and that in all probability the recipe for this barely digestible delicacy came to Lubeck from the Orient by way of Venice. And it turns out that those wits are not so wrong as they themselves think, that Death in Venice is really ‘marzipan’ although in a deeper sense than they ever meant it.


Some Chris de Burgh housekeeping

Inevitably, choosing a new WordPress theme (in my case, the wonderful Lovecraft theme by Anders Norén) involves going through old posts and cleaning up dead code and formatting. Given that there are over 1200 posts on this site, it’s quite a job.

But, I’ve been working away in the background and have now re-jigged the first four of my reviews of Chris de Burgh’s lyrical output in the 1970s: Far Beyond These Castle Walls . . . (1974), Spanish Train and Other Stories (1975), At the End of a Perfect Day (1977) and Crusader (1979).

Specifically, I’ve added record covers, quotes and links to the lyrics, in order to make the reviews (even) easier to digest.

Right now I’m also working on a review of de Burgh’s first 1980s collection, Eastern Wind.

More on that shortly!

포악: Atrocity

Imagine a city with no streets 
     but networks of amputated limbs. 

An officious city of criminal investigations 
     and inquests whose soul is a square of cheap, 
     grey carpet 
          and a water dispenser. 

The tinkle of pachinko, 
     the sudden sirens of attack. 

Those women with the hand bills, 
     so stubborn and intent upon their mission, 
     invading the bodyspace of the factory workers like an influenza. 

Sheets of steel carried by a dozen men at a time 
     towards the railhead. 

Rain in bursts of noise upon their heads. 

Somewhere there is a map of the city's improvements 
     but no one I speak with has seen it. 

Wheelchair-bound ladies protest at 
     the new constructions rising up around them 
          in terrifying spirals. 
     No-one is allowed to see them. 

Behind their riot shields, 
     the policemen are only boys. 

Some of them wear white sneakers, 
     as if they have been called in from basketball practice. 

Sleeping street people 
     curled up like scraps of paper 
          on the subway stairs, 
               trusting that the spirits will protect 
                    their small change, 
                         their street salaries. 

Mandarin peels in the gutters. 

Sewer smells that hit the face like a nervous pigeon, 
     the frightful proximity of disease. 

A hollow city, 
     stained with sad skirmishes 
     and pickled fistfights. 

Gouged-out eyes that speak. 

Tables hoarded under orange shelters. 

Old men dancing in parks for citizens, 
     while other citizens peer out at the sky 
     like lost kittens in bamboo. 



          Discarded cloths, 

News of another separatist attack filters through 
     stale cups of coffee, 
     cigarette butts neatly stacked like bullets. 

A simulated odyssey through virtual historical battles 
     gains popularity in the parlours. 

No one speaks of it; 
     these things require no advertisements. 

Beware the reconstituted cutlets of crumbed meat:
     that way annihilation lies. 

Pull back the tarpaulin to reveal today's wares— 
     a rack of twisted and burnt squid, 
     dried suckers and flattened jerky. 

Remove hospital identification barcode. 

Shoulder arms.

(On the tomb of) Cathy the Dolphin

i sing the dead body of a dolphin drift-netted, 
snatched from the envelope of the glinting sea

& i sing her name replaced (& i sing her gender 
inverted but that jingle? you'll never hear me

crooning no one you see is smarter than he  
coz he was a she & her real name was Cathy

i sing the remorse of her tanned TV trainer's 
tears—they struck a false note, as i recall, on 

the day he returned to visit long after the 
cameras had packed up & left her, forgotten 

her body, her brain captive on film stills in a
deep tank, discarded just like yesterday's meat

she swivelled & turned to sadly fix her one eye
on the old man's boat shoes, their salt-water 

stainings, sand engravings & mackerel scents,  
memories of bud & little sandy (wunderkind 

brothers, grown-up, with fame in their blood 
faster than lightning (or was it boned-up on speed 

could they give a rat's about Cathy the dolphin? 
did they ever come to visit? can you spare a light? 

sorry, no smoking in Sea World, but if i had a dollar 
for every youngster who knew her I'd pass my hat 

to her sobbing old trainer who'd punch it & shout: 
you killed her! all of you idiots killed her! gaaaaaaah!

(although apparently dolphins can commit suicide,
the tears in his glass eye never did seem to dry 

when he described her last moment in the tank
& the bubbles as she sank to its fake sandy floor

& just . . . stayed there, forever, or at least until
her breathing stopped (it, too, neglected, abandoned,  

no longer just living in that world full of wonder,
let alone flying there under (  . . .  ah, under the sea

a slave to its glinting theme-song death march: 

no-one you 

                    (no-one you see 

                                         (is smarter than 

                                                                  (smarter than she, 

                                                                                               she, she, she  

                                                                                                                   . . .