Marianne Faithfull’s memories, dreams and reflections is her second memoir, and the release of this paperback edition coincides with the release of her 21st album, Easy Come Easy Go earlier this year. That record is a collection of cover songs, duets, and collaborations with a wonderfully varied group of talented, unique, and sometimes unexpected artists such as Sean Lennon, Antony, Rufus Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker, and Keith Richards. The book is quite similar, actually, in that it reads like a collection of conversations about Faithfull’s lifelong collaborations with other wonderfully unique friends, lovers, and artists such as Lady Caroline Blackwood, William Burroughs, PJ Harvey, and Gregory Corso.
memories, dreams and reflections shares a similar title with Carl Jung’s famous “autobiography” detailing how he came to his particular insights into the human psyche, which are now the basis for most modern psychology. There is little doubt that this was intentional on Faithfull’s part, as, while waxing nostalgic and telling intriguing tales of celebrity cohorts, she is also providing revelatory insights into her own unique psychology. The motivations behind certain choices she has made in her life seem to be of as much interest to her as she writes of them as they will be to readers, and she is clearly versed in the concepts, terminology, and literature necessary to thoroughly analyze herself. In fact, she is obviously very well-educated and exceedingly well read. Her casual references to, and quotes from, all manner of history’s poets, philosophers, and playwrights throughout the book prove her to be more than just the wanton woman wrapped in that rug at Redlands, more than the rock courtesan, junkie chanteuse, and chain-smoking muse of her popular legend.
That’s not to imply that she doesn’t discuss that side of her past here. There are still plenty of inside Stones’ stories and Beatles tidbits, though there isn’t as much focus on her relationships with Mick Jagger and others as there was in 1994’s Faithfull. Several of the more interesting and perhaps lesser known remembrances she shares here involve the Beats. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso founded the Jack Kerouac of Disembodied Poetics, which was associated with the Naropa Institute. Faithfull taught lyric writing at the school and relates a wealth of fascinating tales about the magnificent genius and mad goings-on of her fellow faculty members.
She also talks about her films and theater work, her recordings and touring, her home life and long time partner Francois, her battles with addictions and with cancer. Short sections of scattered recollections replace chapters and chronology, and it’s refreshingly fun to read as she veers from praising high art to prizing high heels, and occasionally, ponders just being high. Not only does she display her intellect, depth, and wide-ranging interests, but she is astoundingly witty. Faithfull’s prose is beautiful and breezy and her humor is deliciously wicked as she jumps from one topic or person to the next in the same way that a friend might say, “Oh, and that reminds me of … ” while telling you of her holiday adventures.
Of course, Marianne Faithfull’s everyday adventures are beyond anything most people will ever experience. We can’t all lay claim to living with Henrietta Moraes, or be embarrassed at being let go by Roman Polanski for the part of Lady MacBeth. We don’t get to witness Cher singing a cappella for Donatella, and we — thankfully — don’t get cursed by Kenneth Anger. Although she is aware she has lived an exceptional life, and she freely admits an addiction to decadence: “I don’t do much that is decadent in my life. But I still am decadent. It’s a state of mind”, Faithfull is often still surprised by the fact that strange and wonderful things continue to happen to her. She’s also surprised by the endurance of that fanciful and usually false image of her as some sort of depraved and declining deity. Her reputation as a fallen angel even took a humorously morbid turn in 2000 when a story about her carried the headline “‘Sixties Star in Death Plunge!” Her high fashion footwear fetish caused a terrible tumble down some stairs, but the papers had her on a decadent deathbed.
Fortunately, Marianne Faithfull is still very much alive. She lived through the ’60s and the several decades since, she was tested with tragedy, and she has bested breast cancer. She survived sex, drugs, and rock and roll and she has survived herself. She ends her fabulous memoir rather abruptly with the thought that she “may be around for another 20 years”. That’s a very heartening thought, and one would hope it means Marianne Faithfull will have more memories dreams and reflections to share in that time.