Lola Bensky

07.01.2015

I immediately wanted to read Lily Brett’s novel Lola Bensky when I saw the cover. And read the book jacket that mentions the words “London music scene”, “1967” and “rock stars”. The novel is all that but also much more. It is a work of fiction but very autobiographical at that, the author did in fact work as a rock journalist in Australia in the 60s and she did interview many rock legends.

Lola Bensky is an Australian 19-year-old music journalist who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Lola has heard many gruesome stories of the horrors of Auschwitz. These stories Lola recollects in her thoughts and sometimes even shares them with her interviewees. Lola meets and interviews for example Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. And even Paul Jones and The Bee Gees are mentioned. The passage about Paul Jones is brief but it made my day! Lola recounts her interview with Mr. Jones whom she finds very confident and direct in a good way, without false modesty.

The themes of confidence, modesty and self-esteem are very crucial in the novel. Lola Bensky, who is quite content to be a rock journalist, doesn’t know how to enjoy life or to appreciate herself. She feels fat and rather than living the life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll like so many others in music business, she spends her time working and dieting (or planning her cockamamy diets consisting of boiled eggs and watermelon). To Lola’s mother Renia, excess weight is something suspicious, as only the traitors in death camp were allowed enough food to eat, others suffered from severe malnutrition. The Holocaust is Lola’s trauma through her parents, Renia and Edek, even though Lola herself was born after the war and didn’t experience it firsthand. The badly traumatized survivors didn’t know how deal with the fact that they survived while so many others died. To Renia her survival is a constant source of antagonizing guilt which lives on in her daughter. So, The Holocaust continues to be a collective trauma also for the next generation. Everywhere Lola goes she reflects her own Jewish roots to other Jews. How to make peace with a past so dreadful? How to live and go on knowing that humanity is capable of inflicting such horrors?

The novel also brings up gender issues. As Lola talks with Janis Joplin and later Mama Cass, they both reveal the difficulties of working in a very male dominated rock music business especially as women who are not considered to be sexually attractive or beautiful in the traditional sense. However, Lola finds both Mama Cass and Janis Joplin to be happy and content with their lives. Many of the beautiful and thin celebrities Lola meets seem to be more unhappy and troubled despite their perfect appearances.

All in all, Lola Bensky is a novel about making peace with your past and finding self-worth as a woman. And stories about some great rock music personalities whose depictions might be true. Or not.

Lily Brett’s interview in The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Watched a couple of days ago an interview with comedian-actress-celebrity Joan Rivers on Shrink Talk. The interviewer Pamela Connolly is a psychiatrist who talks to her guests about difficult subjects in their lives. For Ms. Rivers the one most traumatic thing in her life is her body. She hates her body, thinks it’s fat and discusting. She can’t think of a one single thing that she likes about it which to me seems so sad. A woman in her seventies still hasn’t been able to come to terms with her own body. What a waste, spending countless hours worrying how you look to others, undergoing plastic surgery in search of the ever elusive perfect beauty. Of course Ms. Rivers isn’t alone with her problem. Women all over are looking in the mirror shunning away from the reflection because of their distorted body image. Why should this be? Media plays a part for sure. All these images of perfect(ly photoshopped) female bodies coming at us from every angle. You can’t really ever become like them but you can sure try. Or is it that women just have this uncoscius need to feel bad about something? When you’re successful, rich and/or famous you have to “pay” for it somehow.

Oh well, I’m just pretty happy that in my late twenties I learned to accept myself as I am. Sure, sometimes I still feel self-conscious about the way I look but it doesn’t bother me on a daily basis. It just kind of saddens me that a woman like Ms. Rivers, popular, idolized and loved, should still feel that way about herself.