WATCH THAT PILL

I have always tried to avoid painkillers except on the rare occasions when I felt I had to take them. When I did however, my whole body system, particularly my stomach, would go haywire. So I’m not surprised to read that Ibuprofen and other painkillers may trigger a heart condition which affects almost a million Britons, a major study has shown. Patients who regularly take the pills are up to 20 per cent more likely to develop heart failure.

Long-term use of the medication causes chemical reactions in the body which place extra strain on the heart, research suggests. This can lead to heart failure in patients who have a history of previous heart attacks or high blood pressure. An estimated 900,000 adults in Britain have heart failure that occurs when the muscle becomes too weak to pump blood around the body. It causes extreme tiredness, breathlessness and swelling of the legs and is a long-term condition that can’t be cured.

The study, published in the journal BMJOPEN, involved 10 million patients from the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. Those prescribed painkillers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – which includes Ibuprofen – were 20 per cent more likely on average to be admitted to hospitals with heart failure. The findings showed Ibuprofen increased the risk of heart failure by 18 per cent, if taken regularly. Diclofenac, used for arthritis, raised the likelihood by 19 per cent and Ketorolac, a less common drug, increased it by 83 per cent. For those who took NSAIDs daily for a year or more, the risk almost doubled compared to if they were not taking them at all.

Lead author Dr Giovanni Corrao, from the University of Milan, said these types of painkillers were being ‘inappropriately over used’. The pills are commonly taken by the elderly for long-term conditions such as arthritis and other muscular pains, but these are the patients also at the highest risk of heart failure and may have previously suffered heart attacks.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Since heart and joint problems often co-exist particularly in the elderly, this study serves as a reminder to doctors how they prescribe NSAIDs. And to patients, that they should only take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. They should discuss their treatment with their GP if they have any concerns. It has been known for some years now that such drugs need to be used with caution on patients with, or at high risk, of heart disease. This applies mostly to those who take them on a daily basis rather than occasionally.’

Dr Tim Chico, an expert in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield also said the risk was also low for patients who only took NSAIDs occasionally and had no previous risk of heart attack. In July, the American Heart Association urged doctors to check patients were not taking Ibuprofen or similar painkillers for long periods of time over concerns of their links to heart failure. The organization is one of the largest and most influential in the world and their recommendations have been closely heeded by doctors in the UK.

Helen Williams, consultant pharmacist for cardiovascular diseases at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said the most commonly used drugs posed the lowest risks. She said: ‘the NHS has moved away from more potent NSAIDs because of the established increased risk of heart attacks and strokes with these medicines.’

On my part, I avoid painkillers like the plague. Their side effects are often worse than the pain they are trying to relieve. If you can bear the discomfort of pain for a short time then I believe you are better off in the long-term.

GERALD JACOBS’ DEBUT NOVEL

Love transcends every other consideration. Gerald Jacobs’ new book, Nine Love Letters, proves that despite the vagaries of time and the inhumanity of some, true love never dies. As his publisher, I am bound to praise the book but I prefer to let others do my work. It’s more effective and amply satisfying.

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In today’s Lady the reviewer has given the book four stars out of five, not bad at all!

Here is the essence of what he says:

‘This debut novel is a genre-twisting tour du force, a grand dynastic epic in the style of Garcia Marquez, yet at the same time an exquisitely nuanced study of love and loss and a primer on Jewish tradition and the devastating twentieth century history of two diaspora communities, Baghdad and Budapest…

‘Six generations and more than a century are encompassed in a mere 260 pages, so not a word is wasted; a sentence can scan moments or years, and every exchange carries philosophical weight, whether on the importance of family, the existence of God, the nature of love or the improbable chains of events that bring people together.

‘Although shot through with sadness, its central message is one of redemption; the furnace of persecution and tragedy can forge the strongest emotional bonds.’

As I said at the outset, I prefer independent criticism especially when it’s done with fairness and sensitivity devoid of any ulterior motives. This book is truly a gem to read and conserve for the next generation.

If you haven’t bought a copy of the book yet, do so by all means and tell your friends about it for, believe me, ‘word of mouth’ is the best possible medium for promoting books.

DOWN MEMORY LANE NINE

Mentioning our recent photographic odyssey Venus on my Facebook page, I was reminded of another visual masterpiece which Quartet published in 1982. Here’s an account of it from my memoir, Fulfilment & Betrayal:

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Another Quartet offering unafraid of precipitating a whirlwind of controversy was Jungle Fever, the first published collection of photographs by Jean-Paul Goude. On its cover it featured a naked Grace Jones as a caged creature, her sharp glistening teeth eager for the kill. Across the top of the cage was a notice that read: DO NOT FEED THE ANIMAL. The feminist lobby condemned it as the most humiliating and demeaning portrayal of a woman ever published. It could perhaps also have been said to be the most extraordinary portrait ever of a woman by her lover; the artist asserted that it was he who had caged the beast. Some years later Jean-Paul was quoted as saying of their relationship, ‘I was Svengali to Grace’s talent. As long as I seduced her, and she was in love or infatuated with me, I could do anything I wanted with her creatively, because I was constantly admiring and paying tribute to her. It all ended dramatically when she felt I had started to love the character we had created more than I loved her.’ They remained friends, but he regretted the way the relationship had, in his view, ended prematurely, the crunch having come when Grace read the chapter he wrote about her in Jungle Fever. She was ‘so angry and felt so betrayed that we couldn’t go on. Creatively, it was just impossible.’

Jungle Fever was a dazzling trawl through the international underworld of beauty, humour and eroticism. Jean-Paul Goude, the uninhibited graphic genius behind the manipulated images, was once aptly described by Esquire magazine as ‘The French Correction’. Through his surrealist-influenced techniques, placed at the service of high-profile advertising campaigns, the public probably became more aware of his work than of his name. In many ways, he was always ahead of his time, going beyond kitsch to produce new configurations of images to stretch the imagination afresh. His aim was to make nature conform to his fantasies, as the collection in the book illustrated. Besides Grace Jones, it included Kellie the Evangelist Stripper, Sabu, Gene Kelly, Zouzou, Little Beaver, Judith Jamison, Russ Tamblyn, Toukie, Radiah, the Sex Circus of Eighth Avenue and the nocturnal flore et faune of 42nd Street. The only thing these disparate fantasies had in common was Jean-Paul Goude, but even so, as the blurb explained, they formed ‘a very special community: they have been made perfect to fit the world as Goude wants it to be – there are stilts for Radiah, a new ass for Toukie, a crew cut for Grace Jones’.

To give an adequate account of Goude’s artistic range, his ‘work must be considered that of a painter, photographer, sculptor, musician, dancer, couturier, stage director and set designer – all of these and none of them. “To say the truth,” Goude says, “I see myself as an artist who uses the best means available to get a point across. What comes first is the necessity to communicate ‘my world’. Through the use of different media, I am able to show what to me is important.”’ He scornfully dismissed a plastic surgeon who refused to follow his design for a girlfriend’s new nose. ‘“After all, I am an artist,” Goude says. “What does he know?”’ It was the ultimate effect that concerned him: ‘the extension of a limb, the padding of a flank, a nip here and a tuck there – and suddenly the fantastic people and places of Jean-Paul Goude have become his for ever and hopefully the reader’s too’.

Jungle Fever was another book that sold extremely well, and was destined to become a collector’s item. A notice in the Evening Standard, under the heading ‘Savage Messiah’, called it ‘an explosive photographic mixture of sex, violence and fun’. As was often the case, Quartet was causing a stir in a variety of quarters. My determination to maintain our reputation for publishing the good, the profane and the thought-provoking was firmer than ever.

Darling Baby Mine

Darling Baby Mine, the book we published recently has been well received by the critics as well as the people who bought a copy.

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I am now taking the liberty of informing our readers of an event which is taking place in Paris on 24th January.

Here is the relevant press release:

From Mary Duncan at the Paris Writers Group

‘Dear Paris Writers Group and Friends,

It’s with great pleasure that I’m helping spread the word that John de St. Jorre will be speaking at the American Library in Paris on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at 7:30 pm. His new book, Darling Baby Mine: A Son’s Extraordinary Search for his Mother, describes his emotional and decades long journey to find his mother, who disappeared during WWII, when he was four years old. No one in his family, including his father, would discuss her. A vivid memory of being held by her, kept luring John to seek her out. After his father died, sensing that she was still alive, he vigorously set out to find her.

John de St. Jorre is prominently known for his 1994 New Yorker interview, where he revealed that Dominique Aury was the real author of Story of O, which is considered to be one of France’s most notable erotic novels. Since she used the pseudonym Pauline Réage, many people took credit for writing her book.

He also wrote The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press and Its Writers, which is a vivid biography and history of Maurice Girodias, who published in English, 120 Days of Sodom, Story of O, Lolita, Candy and many others.

What most people do not know, is that prior to interviewing Dominique Aury, John had been immersed in the extensive search for his mother.

Come, have a glass of wine and hear how John found his mother, Grace, and then Dominique Aury. How do their stories compare? Did one search help the other? What advice does he have for others involved in their own quests for the truth?

American Library in Paris – This event is free and open to the public. Please consider joining the Library.

10 rue General Camou – 7:30 pm.

Paris 75007

See you there!’

Those who haven’t bought the book yet in the UK are now invited to do so in order to show the Parisians that we too appreciate a good book when we find it. So it’s time to pull your socks up, run to the nearest bookshop in your vicinity and do the right thing! The author will be chuffed.

 

 

 

 

 

Are Nuts the Elixir of Life?

There was a lady we once knew whose diet was solely eating nuts and nothing else. She was healthy, full of energy and well-versed in antiques and objects of virtu. She had an unusually slim figure, a fantastic memory and lived to a good old age. So I am over the moon to read that a handful of nuts a day can slash your risk of heart disease and cancer, according to scientists.

They found that eating just 20g of nuts every day could cut the chance of dying early by more than a fifth. Sunflower seeds, pecans and particularly walnuts are high in anti-oxidants which are thought to protect the body against cell damage. And peanuts are so healthy that a review suggests even peanut butter could help us live longer although the sugar and salt may cancel out some benefits.

An analysis of twenty studies by Imperial College London found those who eat an ounce of nuts daily slash their risk of coronary heart disease by almost a third while the risk of cancer fell by 15%. The findings also suggested that nuts could cut the risk of dying from respiratory disease and diabetes.

Co-author Dr Dagfinn Aune said: ‘We’ve found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases which is a strong indication that there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes. It’s quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food.’

Previous studies had suggested that nuts protect the heart and prevent premature death but there has been little evidence on cancer or other diseases. The review said that walnuts may be particularly good at warding off cancer and peanuts at cutting the risk of a stroke. The handful of nuts a day can include ‘tree nuts’ such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and pecans. But Brazil nuts, which are actually seeds, and peanuts, classified as legumes, were also included in the study as they have similar nutritional properties.

Despite being high in fat, all these nuts are healthy because they contain polyunsaturated fats while also packing in fibre, magnesium and Vitamin E. It’s believed they protect against heart and blood vessel disease by helping the body break down cholesterol and cutting its resistance to insulin. They may also reduce cancer risk by helping the body develop new blood vessels and maintaining cells.

The review published in the journal BMC Medicine found that at least 20g of nuts daily cuts the odds of dying from respiratory disease almost in half and slashed the risk of diabetes by almost 40% although the researchers noted more data is needed.

Scientists also found little evidence that eating more than 20g led to further improvements in health. Dr Aune said: ‘Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts, are also high in anti-oxidants which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risks.

‘Even though nuts are quite high in fat they are also high in fibre and protein and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time.’

As I have always relished nuts in principle I must now ensure that I eat them on a regular basis, not only for health purposes but because I enjoy the taste and flavour they imbibe in the process.

 

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

 

Fashion has become more ridiculous with the passage of time. To attract attention celebrities – particularly female models or those who vie for exposure to keep themselves permanently in the news – opt for whacky outfits in order to standout no matter how bizarre or outrageously unkempt they look.

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Others compete by deliberately wearing as little as possible or, for that matter, even going commando so as to make possible the accidental unholy exposure of their most intimate parts to the roving eyes of their followers.

Is there a point, one may ask, where all these shenanigans no longer have the desired impact and vulgarity is discarded as a passé form of self-promotion making it virtually ineffective in the right quarters? Or is sexual impact so potent as to ravage everything in its way and remain more of an instinct embedded in the depths of our genes?

Kim Kardashian, notorious for her outfits – and her lack of them – is seen in this  picture rocking up for lunch in shredded jeans which she tears rather cleverly to get the maximum reaction from her fans. If that’s the ultimate in fashion then I’d rather be unfashionable and stick to conformity and elegance than choose tawdry displays of tattered bits of clothing pretending that this unpalatable look is the new norm in a society that has lost its focus and become vagrant, masquerading as an art form of the enlightened.

Perhaps Kim, with the bulk of her jewellery stolen in Paris, has decided to adopt a new endearing image of herself as a bag-lady in need of sympathy? Who knows what she will do next…

 

 

 

DOWN MEMORY LANE TEN

A New Year seems a good time to remember past achievements and I thought another listing of one of Quartet’s past publishing programmes might once again remind us of what a diverse and impressive collection of literature has been published over many years by Quartet.

The autumn of 1991 saw Quartet publish a number of books by European writers, most of them in translation. A few of them are listed here to draw the reader’s attention to what Quartet was aiming to achieve: to bring the imprint further international recognition to enhance an established reputation for avant-garde publishing and the pursuit of works of literary merit.

Hervé Guibert’s To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale, was a distinctive contribution to the literature of AIDS, presenting in journal form the life of a young man who was living with the condition and soon to die from it. Based on the fate of the celebrated French philosopher Michel Foucault, it saw the process as taking place at three levels: as a social document, as an unflinching clinical examination of the illness and its treatment, and as a commemorative account of the unorthodox lifestyle of its protagonist. At the outset he intellectualized the disease: ‘it was an illness in stages, a very long flight of steps that led assuredly to death, but whose every step represented a unique apprenticeship. It was a disease that gave death time to live and its victims time to die . . . ’

The End of the Novel by Michael Krüger, translated from the German by Ewald Osers, was a novella, both playful and profound, about a novelist close to finishing the novel that had taken him nine years to write – and before that, nine years to research. With only a few sentences left to write, he began to reflect, but the more he reflected on his magnum opus, the more he found himself cutting from the text. Entire chapters were jettisoned in progressive reduction till in the end he opted out of the whole business of literature, locked the door of his house, flung the key in a lake and set off on a journey ‘as if I were alone in the world’.

Body Snatcher by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated from the Spanish by Alfred Macadam, presented the work of a Uruguayan writer who was one of the precursors of Gabriel García Marquez and Carlos Fuentes. It concerned an attempt by a pimp and a widow to create the perfect brothel, an ambition doomed to failure through the petty self-righteousness of a society in which stupidity and lust overwhelmed integrity and love. The book was a tragi-comic fable of grotesque ideals and lost illusions. It had been written in ‘one of the richest, least self-satisfied versions of Spanish narrative prose’, wrote El Pais, ‘and is always centred on the same tight range of relentless themes: the solitude of contemporary man, the exploration of failure [and] ill-fated lives’.

A novel from Sweden, translated by Laurie Thompson, was Island of the Doomed by Stig Dagerman, an author who had been, according to Michael Meyer, ‘The best writer of his generation in Sweden [he only lived from 1923–54], and one of the best in Europe.’ It was a haunting, powerful allegory about the state of modern man and the dark regions of the soul, finding its metaphors in a tale of a shipwreck in the Pacific. Trapped on an island where the only bush bore a deadly fruit, the survivors relived the various guilts of their lives in nightmares till one by one they succumbed to death.

Thomas Bernhard’s Histrionics was a set of three play scripts translated by Peter Jansen and Kenneth Northcott. Bernhard had been singled out as a key figure in German literature by George Steiner and compared to Kafka by John Updike. His dark, absurdist plays had a kinship with Beckett and Pinter but possessed a wild energy all their own. ‘His minimalist, repetitive prose,’ wrote John Banville in the Observer, ‘tumbles along like a shot soldier held upright by a mixture of adrenaline and terror.’

Mozart and Posterity by Gernot Gruber, translated by R. S. Furness, was a strikingly original study of the impact of Mozart’s music in the two centuries following his death. It was the story of his evolution from being a forgotten composer to becoming a youth beloved of the gods. Along the way he had been romanticized, hero-worshipped, trivialized and debunked as cultural figures like Goethe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Strauss and Herman Hesse strove to define the elusive nature of the composer’s genius and discover ‘the true Mozart’.

Trial of Strength: Furtwängler and the Third Reich by Fred K. Prieberg, translated by Christopher Dolan, was acclaimed by Peter Heyworth in The Times Literary Supplement as providing ‘the most illuminating account yet written of musical life under the Nazis’. With scrupulous research and meticulous attention to detail, the book addressed the vexatious matter of how far one of Germany’s most pre-eminent figures had been able to continue working under the Nazi regime without colluding with its fundamentally immoral and loathsome activities. In his ‘trial of strength’, he had succeeded in helping Jewish colleagues, often against impossible odds, and had held firm to his position as a custodian of the higher ideals of German art; but in the end he had lost out to the ascendancy of von Karajan under Göring’s promotion.

Finally there was David Tack’s Impressions of Spain, for which V. S. Pritchett wrote a foreword. The launch party for this has already been described. In his black-and-white photographs Tack got under the skin of the ‘real’ Spain ‘as opposed to its popular image of cheap plonk and red-faced Benidorm louts’, said the Independent, having lived ‘among the peasant farmers and clam fishers and, fascinated by the country’s religion, visited many closed orders’. As an insider, he had managed to depict the lives of ordinary people whose way of life had remained unchanged for centuries, ‘seeking the ageless spirit of a nation undergoing great change’, as the Daily Telegraph put it. The quality and depth of his work avoided all clichés in its explorations of varied and little-known cultural traditions. Impressions of Spain was another collection of remarkable, unusual photographs to be proud of.