A novel about the nostalgic early 70's.
Barnes & Noble.com
Frantic is a fast moving stream of consciousness, which reads like acid on steroids. Seventies survivors will wistfully confirm the authenticity of this frantic 'reportage', if they have any brain-cells left that is. Their children should also be fascinated by this dis-inhibited period of history, just to see why their hippy-hearted parents are still stuck in their flower-power time warp.
Alice, a young English girl who escapes London at the tail end of the Sixties for a sojourn in San Francisco. She quickly discovers that the psychedelic world of tie-dye and joss sticks belongs to the previous decade when she becomes involved with a glitter daubed, sprawling theatre group, leftovers from the insular Haight-Ashbury crowd. Alice gets sucked in beyond her head, but just when the crazy theatre group's popularity overdoses, she goes over the top and is shipped back to London. By now, the early Seventies are in full decay, as is Alice. She continues her downward slide by falling in obsession with a fragmented member of the Art World. Their exhausting fling, fuelled by a cocktail of opiates is interrupted by repetitive bouts of insanity, like a San Francisco acid flashback. No holds are barred in this frantic saga of drug-fractured psyches - and it's hard to guess who will stagger on into the eighties.
Alice was born in a London hospital during the year of the Tiger and almost expired from a heavy chest cold, but thanks to the hospital's Intensive Care unit, pulled through to face another lifetime.
She was brought up by her widowed mother in a converted old ballroom in World's End, and existed in a twilight zone of day school and extra curriculum activities. She then woke up when exiled to boarding school, an establishment that Alice's mum had herself attended during the Second World War.
In later years, a world-weary Alice recalled little about her compulsory stretch at the segregated girls public prison, but her school days had never been dull. Her academic days were a maroon-uniformed haze of letting off stink bombs in prayers, reading 'Teach Yourself Latin' books in biology (Alice devoured Latin after she discovered it was dodo dead), blowing up dim-witted girls in domestic science classes, and breast-stroking in one's regulation pyjamas in the school's indoor swimming pool. But, lacrosse was what Alice lived for. Not only did she regularly smash noses, limbs, skulls and teeth, but even assassinated one of her arch-enemies (a frizzy haired pygmy), by shoving her beloved lacrosse stick down the victim's throat. Excitable bystanders knew the girl had expired, when a red fountain of blood and clotted gore gushed from her mouth. Something vital had ruptured inside.
Fortunately for Alice, there were enough witnesses around to testify the tragedy had been an accident, but some of Alice's classmates were not so sure. It had only been the day before the 'murder', that the deceased had popped some of Alice's favourite Rolling Stones singles into the toaster with meltdown results. Then there was dieting. Some girls would gorge themselves on buns and stodge at elevenses, forcing themselves to vomit immediately afterwards, but most girls fanatically practiced 'hunger strike' fasting. The bewildered games teacher couldn't understand why all her healthy, beefy girls were shedding weight, until one girl who hadn't eaten anything for weeks, suffocated in her sleep. From then on, force-feeding was strictly part of the school curriculum. Twiggy had a lot to answer for.
When (an underweight) Alice left school at the first legal opportunity, she hadn't a clue what she wanted to do, career wise. In those days, school didn't focus on life outside its front gates. Thus, Alice was quite happy being enrolled in a modelling course at a well- known London charm and beauty dump. Her concerned mother didn't envisage her daughter as a fashion model, (who in their right mind would employ her?), but hoped the modelling course would teach her unkempt daughter basic grooming. The year was l966, and that meant panstick, more panstick and even more and more panstick. Each dreary, bleary morning, Alice would apply a generous layer of Max Factor face-gluck before the first cigarette of the day, inexpertly glue on a couple of layers of tarantula fur eye-lashes, slosh on panda eye-makeup, thick white lipstick and a slut was born.
Alice was no Jean Shrimpton. What with her perpendicular, mousy hair framing her original face (daubed with perennial red lipstick), spotty complexion and bullet deep, close-set green eyes, she was an un-groomed mess, wobbling precariously on top of her thin and shapeless figure. What a doll, she was not. The teachers at the modelling school sternly reprimanded her each morn for not applying enough face slap. Although she had risen at the crack of dawn in order to coat her face with gooey slap, she would then be forced to splatter even more muck on her visage. Her tarty appearance wasn't improved when she impulsively dyed her hair a luminous yellowish green. As a result, she could be spotted a mile off without the aid of high-powered binoculars, for her haywire hair shone like a day-glo beacon. Alice's Mum wasn't exactly thrilled at the distorted sight of her daughter, who by this time was running around town in mini mini-skirts.
When Alice bowed out of the modelling course's final fashion show, she bombed. Due to her out of sync persona, she was not destined for a glittering clotheshorse career. Sixties photographers attended the show in the miraculous hope they'd discover new talent for Vogue. But, when it was Alice's turn to strut her stuff, she ingeniously draped a lace tablecloth over her head, and then executed a gymnastic display of leapfrog jumps down the catwalk before falling off into the horrified audience. She was ordered to leave the school's premises immediately.
As the late Sixties progressed, Alice didn't wear bells on her fingers and toes like some of her contemporaries did, but shoplifted her cowboy hats, father boas and velvet trouser suits from Biba. She also wore divine flapper dresses (not stolen) from the Chelsea Antique Market where Ulla, the gregarious Queen of Chelsea ran the second hand clothes store with lashings of enthusiasm. Her daily uniform of a long, yellow felt coat was worn gaping over second-hand flower printed dresses, honestly acquired at Kensington Market, a popular hangout for snakeskin jackets and freaks, herself included.
Alice's obsession with L.S.D. enabled her to successfully obliterate herself in the Sixties rock 'n' roll culture. Snag is, due to her excessive consumption, she later couldn't remember it all. It was just as well really, for she would have had to spend the rest of her life recovering from mental exhaustion.