Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Extracts from BLEAK HOTEL, published early Nov.

Mr Jarndyce waiting for judgement in The White Hotel legal case

In 1981 I published a novel, The White Hotel, which unexpectedly aroused in readers a passionate admiration or equally passionate distaste. Within a few months of its publication, I received an offer to option the film rights.

My novel’s heroine, Lisa, born in Odessa in 1890, walks a tightrope between Eros and Thanatos. She has a great gift for happiness and pleasure, but is tortured by the suffering of others and the intuition that great suffering will come to her. She is right, for in 1941 she becomes caught up in the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar in Kiev. The ‘white hotel’ of her sexual fantasy, written for her analyst Sigmund Freud, encompasses the extremes of pleasure and pain, joy and grief. The novel is complex in structure, moving from Lisa’s sexual fantasy in verse to a prose expansion of it, then to Freud’s ‘intellectual’ fantasy, to the nightmarish ‘real’ fantasy of Babi Yar, and finally to a spiritual fantasy. Each section is stylistically different. The novel therefore poses serious challenges for a film maker.

The present book traces, from the author’s limited perspective, the story of 26 years of the non-making of the film, 1981-2007. It is not important whether a novel becomes a film; often the result is unsatisfactory anyway. And long delays are not infrequent. Nevertheless, the history of this particular non-making is an extraordinary one; it involves years of passion, obsession, alleged financial skullduggery, hatred and vengeance. At one point, the film rights were sold for one dollar, though for the next seven years I was kept in ignorance of this; at another, the film looked set fair to be made, but an improbable war stopped it. I was sued for millions of dollars, and feared to lose my home. One of the main protagonists fell dead of a heart attack, in mid-life, when apparently in perfect health. His partner ascribed his death to a venomous legal battle over the rights. His legal opponent queried in a New York law court whether in fact he had really died –implying that he might have faked his own death to escape justice.

Inevitably the story of the non-movie blends into my own life-story and that of the people closest to me. One of the main though half-unconscious inspirations for my novel was my mistress, then wife, and always Muse, Denise. She died of cancer, aged 53, in 1998; but just as the dead and the living are mixed up in Lisa’s fantasy, so my relationship with her did not end with her death. ‘For nothing in the white hotel but love / Is offered at a price we can afford’. I was caught up, as collateral damage, in the brutal legal conflict which has been going on for almost a decade; it was costly to me, both financially and, even more, emotionally and creatively, draining my energies. But those lines of Lisa’s about love remain the enduring truth.



Briarpatch Limited, L.P. and
Gerard F.Rubin Esq.
Plaintiffs Index No. 8502847613

Robert M.Geisler et al
D. M.Thomas, D.M.Thomas Ltd..
The Honorable Holy Sophia,

THE COURT: All right, let’s make a start. In the courtroom is---
MR URIEL: Archangel Uriel. I am counsel for the plaintiffs Briarpatch Limited, LP, and its limited and sole winding-up partner, Gerard F.Rubin.
THE COURT: And who is speaking for Mr Thomas?
MR SHEMUEL: I am, your Honor.
THE COURT: I have here a fax from him… Did you receive a fax?
MR SHEMUEL: I’m not sure, your Honor, I’ve been working from home.
THE COURT: Well, that’s your problem. Well, the fax says… Just a minute, I don’t seem to have the papers…
MR URIEL: He was never apprised by Mr Shemuel of any stay of application.
THE COURT: And was Lady Dedlock apprised?
MR URIEL: I believe so, your Honor.
MR GABRIEL: The issue today, I thought, was the TRO portion of the request of the Order to Show Cause. I am also concerned that referee Ishmael is pressing Mr Geisler in the primary action to proceed forward with this accounting situation. I am also concerned that nearly immediately after we left the court at the last appearance, where your Honor made it clear that you were going to try not to take any action in these cases until my counsel’s motion to dismiss the action against me were determined, we received default motions from Mr Uriel as against Mr Geisler and Night Hawk.
THE COURT: Is Night Hawk present? I’m sorry, I don’t seem to have my papers, I must have left them upstairs.
MR SHEMUEL: Night Hawk is not an entity, your Honor.
MR URIEL: Night Hawk has no existence.
MR GABRIEL: Night Hawk stands on its own with respect that motion for default. However, as to Mr Geisler in this action, what we call the D.M.Thomas action and the White Hotel action, again, I am in the same position both with respect to the accounting in the first action and the default now sought in this action. I just need some clarity whether I have an actual conflict of interest, which will be determined when your Honor determines whether I remain a party in this litigation or I am dismissed.
THE COURT: I wish I had my papers. There are two orders to show cause, am I right?
MR URIEL: Correct, your Honor. 603820 of ’99 and 603364 of ’01.
THE COURT: Since notice was not given to everyone in the lawsuit in the ’01 action –and I can’t remember the parties, actually, in the ’99 action.
MR GABRIEL: That would be Geisler, the reincarnated John Roberdeau—
MR URIEL: Purportedly reincarnated. We don’t know where he is.
MR GABRIEL: --Briarpatch Film Corporation, Samuel Myers, and his daughter, Claudia Myers.
THE COURT: Briarpatch is bringing this action, am I correct? So why did you say Briarpatch is the defendant? –Oh yes, I see. Since not everyone got notice in the ’01 action, which is D.M.Thomas and D.M.Thomas Limited –
Mr GABRIEL: Well, I assume he is pro se at this point and I’m sure we can take care of that notice issue.
THE COURT: Fine. So every opposition should be in everybody’s hands by Armaggedon, and I’ll hear the motion next day.
MR GABRIEL: And what time will that be, your Honor?
THE COURT: Third millennium.
Mr GABRIEL: Thank you, your Honor.
THE COURT: I am concerned to move this action forward. It was already old when Mr Jarndyce was alive. It’s been in process now for –how long is it?
MR SHEMUEL: Six trillion years, your Honor.
THE COURT: Six trillion years. Well, that’s a long time. So I want any opposition to the motion to show cause to be in my hands by the Day of Judgement at latest.
MR GABRIEL: Understood. If we can find Mr Geisler. It is very difficult to find Mr Geisler.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I haven’t written creatively for a long time.

I’ve spent five minutes looking at that short sentence, while sucking a Rennie and absently gazing out of my study window at the tops of trees and the sky –which surprisingly in this dreadful summer is showing a pale wash of blue amidst the storm clouds. There, that’s a much longer sentence.

I haven’t written creatively for a long time. Repetition can be effective, though it isn’t here. I’ve been wrestling with anxiety Apart from that, I have nothing to write. Nothing that needs saying.

But that leaves me extremely bored. Therefore I’ve made up my mind I’m going to write, to write this –journal, let’s call it—for an hour each day, and just see if anything comes. And I’ll put some of it on my blog, so that other writers who read it can be tremendously encouraged by the display of my helpless sterility.

It’s late afternoon; I’ve just stubbed out my twentieth cigarette of the day; the sun outside, past my computer, is actually visible, shedding light on wet leaves. God, that’s almost a poetic phrase! I really ought to go out and –oh no, it’s behind a cloud again. Too late. I tell writing students when there’s nothing in their heads, just write. Like this. Something will come. Sooner or later, something will come.

Yesterday I came across a dead badger at the bottom of our long, sloping garden. I don’t often walk down there. At first I thought it was a large sleeping grey cat; then, that it was a large, dead cat. I saw its snout, and flies landing on its pelt, and realised it was a badger. A young badger. Sad.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Forthcoming publication


D.M. Thomas
Quartet Books
Publication Date: October 2008
Price: £18.00
ISBN: 978 0 7043 7145 3
Format: HB
Extent: 212pp
Size: 225 x 140mm
Category: Literary Memoir

The story goes that it was Barbra Streisand who started it off ... Someone remarked to her at a party that she ought to look for an intelligent, demanding role, and suggested The White Hotel ... Bernardo Bertolucci told me, years later, Streisand had invited him to her Hollywood mansion to discuss the film over dinner. Gold dinner service – butler – the works. She said, ‘Bernardo, there’s just one thing bothering me: how are we going to deal with all the sex?’ ‘Well, Barbra, I have this idea for glass fibre optics to enter the woman’s vagina.’ A moment’s silence, then: ‘Let me show you the house.’ And she never spoke of The White Hotel to him again.

Chronicling the futile and relentless attempt to translate his iconic novel, The White Hotel (1981) into a Hollywood movie, Bleak Hotel is a gripping story of frustration, hope and, ultimately, of indifference to both the machinations of the film industry, and the legal maelstrom that surrounds it. More big names have been attached to the making of this non-movie than any glittering, cameo-littered outing in Hollywood’s history, from its greatest producers and directors to Hollywood’s brightest stars and starlets and still the film remains in the imagination. His account is interwoven with colourful and moving tales of his personal life, involving tangled love relationships and the pain of bereavement.

Bleak Hotel will be heralded as a seminal account of how the highest literary intentions can be bruised and battered by the ramifications of Show Biz and will ensure its author’s travails will rank alongside the Hollywood writings of Nathanael West, Walker Percy and F Scott Fitzgerald.