The Fifty Minute Hour

Thoughts on therapy and life


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A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara (but a big book)

A Little Life follows the experiences of four friends, newly graduated and steering their way through life in New York. Jude, Willem, JD and Malcolm wrestle with race, sexuality, disability and family as they try to assert their individual talents and creativity. At the beginning I thought the book would follow each man, crossing their paths every now and then, and whilst this is broadly what happens, JD and Malcolm fade a little as Jude and Willem take centre stage.  Their relationship adapts and morphs through the book, but is always figural.  Jude’s already frail body declines as the demons of his past grow and his friends struggle to keep him with them.

It is a book about love, reparative relationships and huge, isolating pain that made me cry more than once.

Read it, honestly, you won’t regret it.


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Savage Beauty

AQ

Savage Beauty

Usually, I carry a small notebook and pen around with me, but on Saturday I left them at home thinking them superfluous to my day ahead.

Wrong.

All the way through the Savage Beauty Exhibition at the V&A, I wished I had been able to note down the thoughts and questions popping in to my mind, as I wandered through the stunningly displayed body of Alexander McQueen’s work.  I had taken a fashion-mad teenager, and was expecting to meander around in their wake, vaguely interested. But actually, I was blown away.

  • Pin sharp tailoring turned once uniform lines into something recognisable yet unfamiliar.
  • Clothes that were not such much garments as structures, often rendered unwearable by their very design (it seemed to me).
  • Shells, bones, feathers, bits of hair, forcing the wearer/aesthete to absorb the proximity of the natural world, and decay.
  • Headdresses that hid faces and shoes that surely made walking (and probably standing) an impossibility.

Spectacular. But also…….what?

I’m often bemused/irritated by, male designers who produce fashion shows of clothes unwearable by any woman with a healthy BMI who has passed puberty. It makes me wonder what their work says about their understanding of, feelings towards, women. Savage Beauty had my brain firing all over the place in this respect.

McQueen is quoted as saying that

Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.

Which I couldn’t match up with the restraining nature of his clothes; these were not clothes to be worn whilst living, they were clothes to be admired and appreciated by someone other than the wearer. The collars that rise so high that they obscure the face, or the headdresses that cover it completely, plunge McQueen’s woman  into a solitary world where she have no way of connecting with those around them. Oh yes, a word about the head coverings; McQueen said that he was inspired by National Geographic and wanted to highlight the plight of women condemned to live this way by their culture.  Doing this by making money off the back of apparently emancipated rich women by similarly constraining them seems like a cynical way of doing so to me, but what do I know?

However, McQueen did talk about women having strength

“It’s like the Story of O, I’m not big on women looking naïve”.

And I could see where he was coming from with that, his clothes highlighted and offered parts of the body that might otherwise be kept covered in public, something his models would indeed have had in common with O

“ I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.”

But empowered? I don’t think so.

I suppose, in my mind McQueen saw women as somewhat mythical creatures; perhaps from a fairy tale, to be controlled and restrained, whilst admired from a distance. His women were not approachable, not people to be in relationship with. Perhaps that reflected how he ultimately felt? He acknowledged the unbearable

“I oscillate between life and death, happiness and sadness, good and evil”

Was loneliness a part of this?

Is it too simplistic to suggest a Madonna/Whore struggle, in the man who was inspired by Jack the Ripper but who also depicted Kate Moss as an ethereal, virginal hologram, and who was apparently driven to suicide by the death of his own mother?

Probably, but whatever need lay deep in his psyche, his clothes were stunning – not always pleasant or comfortable, but stunning.

Love Affair: Leslie Kenton

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Love Affair by Leslie Kenton

Love Affair by Leslie Kenton

Leslie Kenton describes herself as a writer, nutritionist, broadcaster, lecturer, shamanic teacher and social activist. You might know her from any of her books, TV appearances or through her work on the Origins skin care range. However she is also the daughter of Stan Kenton, the talented yet troubled (aren’t they all?) post war American Jazz musician.

Love Affair is the story of her life, her relationship with her adored father, and how at the age of 10, he raped her and began their sexual relationship which was to last for several years. View the pictures →

This gallery contains 1 photo.


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Side Effects, starring Jude Law and Rooney Mara

Psychological Thriller

Side Effects

Side Effects is a psychological thriller, (my favourite kind of film), about Jonathan Banks, a psychiatrist (Jude Law), his depressed client Emily (Rooney Mara), and the use of anti depressants in her case.

I was using the film to illustrate a point to my supervisor yesterday, Continue reading


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Navel Gazing: One Woman’s Quest for Size Normal – Anne H Putnam

Anne H Putnam's experiences of gastric band surgery.

Anne H Putnam’s experiences of gastric band surgery.

Ann Putnam had gastric band surgery at 16, (basically as soon as she was able to) and two further rounds of corrective surgery on the excess skin left after the ensuing weight loss.

Navel Gazing is the story of her life as fat kid, to thinner woman and a testament to the fact that you can take the fat off the girl, but not the girl away from her body issues. Continue reading


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Wild: Cheryl Strayed

WildCheryl lost her mother, broke her marriage and dabbled in heroin, then she decided to trek 1100 miles along the Pacific Crest Highway with no experience, a lot of stuff and very little money. As she did she faced her grief, her loss, inner demons, rattlesnakes, bears and a predatory man. She was also helped along the path by kind and giving people with whom she had authentic and unconditional, if brief connections.  Read the book and journey with her; she evokes the the might of nature without and the enormity of pain within, until she reaches journey’s end, at peace with both.