Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Farah Damji: Try Me: Just give this princess a cross


A review

There are many reasons why the journalist and convicted fraudster Farah Damji won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

For me, there’s a very personal one. In Arcatiland she was the first herald of Michael Jackson’s death. She emailed the news to a posting here and I said to myself: Oh no, is she making this up? Then Sky confirmed it later. Proustian memory has now locked Damji and Jacko together over an eternal keyboard late one summer night.

And the infamous two do have one big thing in common: both, for different reasons, move us to ask of their lives - what am I to believe?

This is the question many readers will ask as they rocket through Damji’s enthralling autobiography Try Me. Critics expecting a string of self-serving excuses written in throwaway tabloidese will be disconcerted. As a piece of writing Try Me is a nuanced, self-punishing, sometimes lyrical, always compelling and an all-too-revealing performance. It's a beaut.

What’s she like? Put simply, if you gave this girl a life-size cross she’d probably have herself nailed to it just to see how it feels. That’s the kind of person who emerges from these pages.

Try Me seethes at times with a fury that’s not always easy to understand. “My temper was like a genie which possessed me…” she writes. If the heavy pall of fraud convictions, prison spells and recent criminality hangs low over her then this book may serve some kind of purpose in helping to get into the head of the inscrutable, “Chanel-clad” rich girl-socialite-magazine editor-brothel madam-fashion designer who simply can’t keep out of trouble.

Farah Damji was born in Uganda in 1966 to South Asian parents. She thinks her mother loved the extended family more than her own kids while her wealthy father’s side “were Dallas-like in their aspirations and the depths of their deviancy” with one or two involved in “semi-criminal shenanigans.” Damji haters will make much of that.

Via Tramp’s, Annabel’s and other London glory spots she soared into adulthood. At 21 she drank a whole bottle of gin just to see what would happen (think of the cross) and in New York sex, too, got the cross treatment - “I fucked frenetically for a place in the fornicators’ Hall of Fame.” In the Big Apple, she soon gravitated towards the sleb-serving glitz-dreck where nightclub managers could fix meets between the Pope and Monegasque royalty, and drugs and whoring bankrolled a world glammed up by crime movies. A collision with law enforcers was inevitable.

“Life was a game I played. I made up or changed the rules as I went along,” she writes. Later she regularly stole cash from a lover - “I never felt bad about stealing from him, it was payback in the transactional game of our relationship.” “Game” is a motif Damji word.

“Should I tell you I am a thief, that I will steal your soul?” she teases the reader. “I took people and things, the way I’m taking you now, with my long brown fingers, with the Pied Piper’s tune of distance and dreams. You know all about me. Yet still you follow.” Is this book another game?

Back in the Cool Britannia of the Noughties, Damji launches the short-lived magazine Indobrit and is immersed in controversies and the London media scene: two major affairs with married media men add to the profile. The infamy. And the in-for-me.

Then a wonderful chapter on India offers respite and a clue to her true gifts: as an explorer and observer. “India is about erasing, taking away preconceptions,” she writes. “Just the stark juxtaposition of wealth and scarcity – the tuk-tuk ride from Malabar Hill mansions to the slum dog hovels, though a short one, is hard to grasp.”

The final part of the book is a depressing litany of cops and frauds and did-she-didn’t-shes?, culminating in a long jail term. Now she has time to outline Try Me and discover Kabbalah but still she jumps prison leave and while on the run writes a blog - a first of a kind that tickles the media. The papers love it because she's an errant princess of sorts, dirty Diana-lite, but one who eats, not kisses, frogs.

I could have lived without the love affairs with the named marrieds - I’m only thinking of their aggrieved wives - and I think Damji has turned many of her crimes into abstractions so that she has lost sight of those she has harmed: you won’t find a big unambiguous sorry. Or, I didn’t find it.

Instead, you’ll encounter a gifted, highly intelligent woman observing herself in mirrors, scrutinising the different perspectives amorally, no matter the light or unflattering murk. Try Me is a trove of insights on types and experiences well outside Acacia Avenue so that reading it is an adventure in itself. A game, even.

And she's not the first princess of darkness who can write like an angel.

Try Me, click here to buy.

(For another perspective on Try Me, read the New Statesman review)

64 comments:

A Damji Observer said...

Damned if you do Damji, damned if you don't, Madame. You're good at sailing close to the wind. I'll give you that.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

...Farah and I share many of the same traits...I am a true admirer; and breaking the rules or changing them is what a true artist is all about....
s~ x

Anonymous said...

The thing that makes a memoir is great is the memoirist having self-awareness. I have read Try Me and found the memoirist to have no sense of reality. Even the way she portrays herself in print as a glamorous lost little princess is wrong, having seen recent photographs of her in the Evening Standard I saw a dumpy, frumpy middle-aged woman. The idea of her being infamous. I'd never heard of her until Madame Arcati began writing about her. She seems to view herself as relevant, renowned and of interest to society at large but reality is she has only been in the press when she has relentlessly courted and even stalked members of the press trying to get them to notice her. One line in the book rang true 'I frequently saw spiteful articles about me. They hurt but they also showed me I existed, because I was there, written about in black and white.'

Anonymous said...

This review gives a better sense of what the book is really like

http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2009/08/damji-try-father-book-world

Frances Lynn said...

This is such an exhilarating review, it should be posted as an Ezine article (they accept reviews now) and splattered all over the web - not for the book - but for you!

Anonymous said...

I have read Farah Damji's book and as a woman I was appalled about the way she wrote about sex, men and relationships. I had heard of her way before Madame's postings began. The New Statesman reviewer is slightly misleading. It states that Jemima Hunt and her friends had never heard of Damji and accuses her of apportioning blame on themen who betrayed her. In the interest of disclosure I think it is fair to say Jemima Hunt knows William Dalrymple, an ex of Damji's rather well and maybe had her own agenda for the book.

Madame Arcati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...

Jemima's review in the New Statesman today is perfectly competent. However you have to wonder why she or the mag went to the bother when towards the end she says no one's heard of Damji: this is the sort of media talk you hear at parties as people peck at each other's ego. Everyone in the media at least has heard of Damji: what they mean is they disapprove of her, as they are entitled to. It's also the job of a reviewer to explain why the book disturbs her; not to simply tag it on for the moral tick box. But Jemima is certainly a good writer and shows much promise.

Madame Arcati said...

That's very kind Frances. Don't forget to read Jemima's review in the NS -I know her commissioning editor thinks it's great - and certainly it is perfectly competent. After Croatia I am turning to your book....

And don't say promises promises...

Anonymous said...

I see that Amazon has no copies of Try Me. Can MA vouch that copies have been printed?

Madame Arcati said...

Yes. I have a hard copy myself. Amazon replenished its stock a few days ago, as was indicated by the site, and now they're sold out. Last night there were just two copies left. I understand more copies are coming.

Anonymous said...

A fantastic review MA. I don't know of Farah Damji but your review has made me want to know more. I have a feeling the book will make me angry.

Anonymous said...

Madame Arcati once again publicises Damji. Readers should note that Arcati is promoting a convicted criminal.

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you. I assume you have made a similar point to those other promoters of Damji such as the Evening Standard and the New Statesman. Or is it that you just hope to intimidate 'umble blogs because a mainstream dead tree medium would dismiss your green inked shit as the ravings of a vindictive loony? I know who you are and frankly you're the second biggest fucking liar I have ever come across. Cunt.

Anonymous said...

I do not think Jemima was being untruthful when she said she had never heard of Damji. Outside of Asian media circles I do not think many people had heard of her.

Madame Arcati said...

If that is true then why do newspapers write about her so much and why would the NS give over a valuable page to a nonentity -indeed, why would I? Damji may not be up there with Jilly Cooper as a sleb but she has a notoriety that goes beyond UK shores. I'm sorry that notoriety is based on her misdoings, but let's be grown up about this. Damji offers celebrity goss, criminal narratives, monied delinquency, tertiary education level prose with bells on. Of course our sleb-loving media will go for her.

Anonymous said...

The only media outlet giving Damji a positive spin is MA

Green Goddess said...

Darling
This is the best review. EVER.I know you are not supposed to comment on your reviews (unlike the brilliant Alain de Botton) but I can't help it. You are a rock star. Amazon have reordered today. God, MA, anyone who wants to write a book needs you to talk abut it, forget anyone or anything else, you have sold it out three times on Amazon. BTW, they have copies now, they are showing stock this afternoon
All blessings, whoever you are you old tart
X

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

MA, why is my gut telling me that the pot is calling the kettle black (once again)..is it possible that by condemning Farah's criminal past they are wringing out their past angst from their depraved criminal towel..?
it's just a thought...
steph ~ xx

Anonymous said...

When I asked Farah Damji if she was Madame Arcati, she deleted me off her Face Book friends. Does that mean something? Just asking...we know she loves to be so many people. I don't think she is frumpy. Quite sexy really. And before you diss me, no I am not her. And who is this "investor" she is seeing? I see her around with one of that Decima lot everywhere.

Madame Arcati said...

To the anon who says MA is the only place giving Damji a positive review - I suggest you re-read my review. No punches are pulled. I have however been mnore open about the pleasurable aspects of Try Me, namely the writing. A dead tree medium hack must work in a suitably sniffy tone because PAYE editors on their throne appoint themselves as atheistic moral arbiters on behalf of their publics. The sniffiness is like a nosegay to disguise the relish of reading about slebs, crims and priapic hacks. I have thrown away the nosegay and just admitted to the relish. Instead of fake disapproval I have reminded readers Damji is a convicted fraudster who's in trouble again. Very positive!

Anonymous said...

There is an almost feverish tone MA takes on when defending her newest protege.

Madame Arcati said...

Double Geminis can get feverish. It's because I'm always right and am very focused about other people's errors.

As for Farah being MA, you'd have to go back to 2006 and cursorily (at least) read through a few postings. Then tell me MA is Farah.

Dear Steph, welcome back, how's your former bro in law, Lord Kevin Spacey? There is certainly one pot around here. I know who she is.

Anonymous said...

MA is obviously not Farah. There is more to her recent postings than meets the eye.

Farah Watch said...

MA could be Farah. But other outlets have given her good spin too, strangely, Asian media such as Eastern Eye, and mainstream stuff such as Look magazine, More Intelligent Life and Vogue-on-line. Leav MA alone, she is not alone in her delusion about La Farah.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I have just ordered a copy on Amazon. They're stocked up again.

Anonymous said...

To the person saying that the book is not available: I just ordered a gift copy on Amazon.co.uk (there are problems with Amazon.com, no idea what that is about) and from my local Waterstones.
I heard Willie Dalrymple and Allan Jenkins were going to sue when the book was published, anyone know anything about that? Because boys, the book is definitely published. And you are in it.
Sorry, I am a hack trying to get news and Farah is hard to find some days...

Anonymous said...

The book isn't bad. A bit disjointed but very good in parts and not as polished as it could be overall. I don't understand the odd collection of comments that follow any posting about the book.

Madame Arcati said...

Sue because the claims are untrue or because of a privacy breach?

Anonymous said...

So, is anon saying he or she ordered a copy of Try Me from Amazon.co.uk AND Waterstones? Why would you order from two outlets? Or are you Farah Damji?

Anonymous said...

To Anon, yes most of the people posting are Farah. She even posts negative comments about herself. MA is just the stooge.

The late Michael Jackson said...

Interestingly the New Statesman review has attracted no comments so far.

Madame Arcati said...

Yes, it's a well known fact that Stephanie Mastini and Frances Lynn are Farah Damji.

Madame Arcati said...

Oh, and the person who says Damji is posting comments against herself, she's Farah, too.

Bob Dylan's grandmother said...

My only complaint here is that Farah seems to have concentrated on credit card fraud which is a tad pedestrian although in the big scheme of things-the only honest thing to do is rip of financial institutions.

Madame Arcati said...

The one individual who is sending spiteful remarks should save their energy. You're no better yourself.

mark said...

She is a beautiful and a lovely person who gives her all to others. I can't condone her past but at the same time it is the past. I have to look in the mirror and realise my history, maybe the slayers should do the same, squeaky clean I think not. Mx

Anonymous said...

Several things MA darling:
1) I agree with Frances Lynn that your review is phenomenal. Actually, almost too good for Farah's benefit. If I hadn't been impressed with the girl herself when you first interviewed her, I would almost be worried about potential customers being a bit turned off by it - you know, feeling sceptical about her talent (This is why I'd like to ask you, Farah, to allow for your book to have a bit of the "read inside this book" feature that Amazon offers, because you are very gifted and people like me that read not just to find out what's about but to savour the words would be quickly hooked by your style). I read the NS review MA darling and I can't understand how you can say it is competent. J. Hunt has made up our minds about the book for us. I can't help but imagine her wrinkling her nose through out the whole time she was typing this opinion - I can't take her seriously.

Anonymous said...

2)I agree with Steph (eeek! This may mean Agamemnon is close). I have seen this "pot and kettle" thing happen many times around me in my life time (actually, right now we have a serious case, work related, going on - battery charges involved). This kind of relentless criticism (would you put a cork on in already, bitch, we heard you the first time) comes from people that are judging based on their own flaws and frame of mind. In Spanish there is a saying (el ladrón juzga por su condición) that roughly means this person thinks all these things about Farah because she (the accuser) is capable of doing them herself and she is looking at her own demons. She (again, the accuser) is incapable of accepting Farah being a better person, overcoming adversity and making the right choices.

Anonymous said...

3)Lastly, for now, I think you are thoroughly sweet to show sympathy and empathy for the aggrieved wives affected by the affairs; I have no respect for people that go ahead and have relationships with people that are seriously involved already with someone else; that is wrong in so many levels. But I will have to agree with Farah that everyone of the parties involved must carry their share of responsibility in such situation. I roll my eyes at society always putting all the load of responsibility on the woman having the affair (regardless of her being the wife having a lover or the mistress to a married man) as if men "just can't help themselves" and "should not be provoked" (Y'know the "men think w/their dick" mentality - that is such bullshit) and I certainly will not look at the "horned" woman as a helpless victim, she should confront her man and in some cases, happy slap the mistress, like my favourite auntie did once to a hussy that was accepting being courted by my uncle - she showed her, I tell you. If you want to hear it let me know; I'll e-mail you - we laughed!
ox

Anonymous said...

The New Statesman now has one comment, from Soraya, who thinks Jemima's review "good".

Farah Fan said...

The book doesn't condone having affairs with married men, it describes explicitly what happened and the chaos that let loose on many lives when Farah did just that. Reading the story from a man's point of view, I think it was the initial relationship with her father that lead to her making disastrous decisions about relationships and lead to her downfall, not once but twice.
I am intrigued by her, always will be, as she is inscrutable and a natural object of male desire, as a man because she has said and done things that most women I know wouldn't confess to doing or thinking about.
Frumpy? I think not. She looked pretty hot in the ES pictures. Let's leave out the judgement on her past and discuss the book, if any of you sorry transparent detractors have actually read it?

Annoyed said...

Well, we heard, at a certain London Diary page that they were going to sue "if the book was ever published." So we asked the publisher to confirm the book was out, called a few indys and chains and yes, they all had the book or could get it pretty pronto. ( Pages of Hackney, Daunt books, Waterstones." So we told them, the aggrieved exes, the book was indeed out and on what grounds they intended to sue. Then they went very quiet and our phone calls remain unreturned. Strange because he doesn't half like to chat, that Alan Jenkins.
And to you, the cock-cunting twat who thinks I am Farah, I ordered one on Amazon as a gift and Waterstones to check out ( for my diary story) if the book existed. You stupid cunt. Hermes Kelly bags at dawn on High Street Kensington if you keep it up.

Anonymous said...

There are two issues here that is probably impossible not to link up. The first is the question of the book. Is it any good? Yes it definitely is. It's not without its weak points, but what book isn't? Is it worth reading? Without a doubt it is. Is all of the book true? Not sure, but it is entertaining.

Second issue is the question of Farah's criminal career. It is not a secret at all that she has been in prison several times in the past. She has written about it in this book. She is not the first person to write a good book about her criminal past. Howard Marks is another.

The twist in the tale is that if recent news stories are to be believed she has been convicted of new fraud charges. That is an interesting and disappointing story but also a story that makes no difference at all to whether her book is good or not.

Reviewers have expressed confusion about the anger Farah displays in her book. Why wouldn't she be angry given the child abuse she suffered?

She was a victim to an abuser and her abuser got away with it. As an adult she became a criminal and now has a lot of people who became victims of her behaviour. It is not surprising that the victims are angry with her and have negative feelings towards her. It is extremely sad that Farah probably never got an apology for the abuse that happened to her.

This is not petty crime we are talking about. Farah became a serious criminal. You do not get sentenced to over three years in prison for anything small-time. But the far more serious criminal here is the child-rapist who attacked Farah and no doubt set her on a criminal path. The child-rapist probably didn't ever do even a day in prison and that is so unfair and enough to make anybody very angry.

It does not appear to be one person saying negative things about Farah. There appear to be several including a whole archive of nasty comments on an Asian media website. The journalists who wrote about Farah in the Standard and the New Statesman were very snide and disapproving as well. Somebody picked up on Farah not sounding apologetic towards her victims in the book or in interviews and that will understandably not endear her to people. Her victims will achieve nothing by slagging off her book but it might not be a bad move for Farah to display a little remorse for the victims she has left in her wake. That may calm them down.

It is a shame the book is not being reviewed separately from Farah's history and personality as the circus is detracting from the book which is a shame because it is a quality product that should be reviewed objectively. Nobody has managed to write a completely objective review yet. Jemima's was a trifle bitchy and Madame Arcati's was a trifle fawning, though nicely written.

Madame Arcati said...

An objective review is one that is uninfluenced by personal interest or knowledge. But a review by its nature is always subjective, it's a personal response to the book or whatever. A review that ignored Farah's criminal history would be no review at all since Farah herself devotes a lot of space to the subject. Unfortunately the main reason why anyone might want to read Try me is because she's now infamous.

The JW2 lot said...

Is MA Farah Damji? No. Definitely. All those who've been following "Madame's" outing by a certain JW (or JW2) know who "she" is actually.
As to the anon who rambles about the pot and kettle thing, obviously they have no idea of who Steph is really referring to, otherwise they'd be more careful... and more ironical. :->

Anonymous said...

I read Farah's book. I didn't like all of it but it is powerful and it moved me beyond my preconceptions, as should all good art. It is important as social dosumentary and as a snapshot of some of the glory days of the last century and this one. It made me understand her a lot better and for better or for worse she has become an icon, the "dirty Diana-lite" princess, as you eloquently put it.

Farah has said sorry to her "victims" but what kind of "victims" spend days trying to udnermine her new life? Spend hours on blogs posting malicious and potentially libelous comments and seek to bask in the long shadow of her notoriety? I know her well, many of the people who claim to know her, don't at all. If she hung out a great big sorry sign for people to pin her too, would that make anything any better? She has publically said that she apologised to people she stole from and I was one. She sent me a very moving message, not seeking renewed friendship or approval, simply extending a heartfelt apology. I am glad she didn't do it publically, she would have been doing it for attention or fame, this meant much more to me and I felt that it was sincere. Of course I was very angry for what she did to me but in the context of all the things that were happening TO her, the shitty relationships she was trying to get out of, becoming pregnant by Alan Jenkins, imploding in her drug addiction, I decided I should show mercy and leave judgement to the Courts. Her sentencing Judge made an example of her, anyone else would have received a lesser sentence, he said as much in his summing up. She has more than paid for her crime with her time. I am contacting you privately MA so you can verify who I am.

As for recent events, she has written about it here. http://moksalondon.blogspot.com/

The story being spun is quite different from the one we're being told.

Let's let the courts decide who's the guilty party here, shall we? Asians in media is an amateur site, the owner has his own issues with Farah and describes himself as "her number one Nemesis," which is a shame because I am not sure she even knows who he is.

I don't seek to take away from what she has done, her criminality or her past, all I am saying is that as a society we are all morally bound to look at our contributions to what happens to each and everyone of us. We are interconnected. WE created Farah.

Anonymous said...

Hey, MA darling. I hope that last anon is not "justifying" Farah's actions because of her being a victim at one point. I have serious issues with that but I can't fully comment right now. I got to go. Btw, I hope for the sake of humanity that anon and I never end up in the same room in real life, eh ? - ZZzzzZ - a kindred spirit! *sigh*, X-)).
ox

veritas and possible Damji fan said...

I can't wait to read this book..I reckon I'll like Farah and her past just makes her that much more attractive. I like people who live outside the law. They tend to be more honest.

Agreed-Madame gives good review.

Madame Arcati said...

JW2 mob! You're back! What a relief. At least you're a bunch of recognisable loonies who scrupulously filter Twitter and assemble your facts as sometime contributors to Wikipedia ought to. You may have conducted quasi-criminal vendettas against this site in the past, complete with certifiable contributions to other places on MA and her authorship complete with those essential " " marks, but I understand some people get their jollies in this way. Why not? Give my love to Precious while you're in the vicinity. xx

Madame Arcati said...

Oh, and Clover sends his love. Mwah

Anonymous said...

The person who writes this blog is wasting his or her talent. Go get a proper job for fuck's sake.

Preciouswatch said...

Oh God. Precious-I-Fucked-Jon-Snow-Williams, but he denies even knowing me,is in the house? Give me patience.
Let's OUT her, shall we? I am feeling rather revengeful today. Stupid bitchfaced cunt.
There I said it.

Precious Farah Watch said...

Why does Precious hate Farah? I have a review copy of Farah's book and she has given her a blurb...what is this feud about or is it a publicity stunt? Quite clever if it isn't true...

Anonymous said...

Jemima Hunt makes a strong point in her NS review about Damji's feuds with men and her desire to get the better of them. She has a power complex that compels her to try to beat them at their own game, whatever the cost. That's her downfall, sadly.

Farah Fan said...

"She has a power complex that compels her to try to beat them at their own game, whatever the cost."
Very simplistic, dearie. Try redoing that Psychology A level again. Farah is her own game. She doesn't give a flying what you or I or anyone thinks. MA has got her pinned to a T when she says, "even this book may be a game." She's inscrutable. Jemima Cunt couldn't understand Farah, way out of her league. The envy and confusion about Farah pour out of her review like fever from Swine 'Flu.JH is a failed writer who would have DIED for the exposure Farah's book is attracting.

Anonymous said...

The person who really needs help is Madame Arcati and the eccentric who runs it. The worst case of self-inflicted masochism I have ever encountered, with or without lycra.

The JW2 mob said...

> JW2 mob! You're back! What a relief. >

You asked for me, here I am, your always devoted servant. So nice to be missed and wanted!

> At least you're a bunch of recognisable loonies >

So delighted to make you feel comfortable!

> who scrupulously filter Twitter and assemble your facts as sometime contributors to Wikipedia ought to. >

I don't filter Twitter. You're coming to me. What can I do about it? Should I unfollow you?

> those essential " " marks >

I didn't realize those were my exclusivity. I think I'll seriously consider putting a copyright on them.

> Oh, and Clover sends his love. >

Mmmm, Clover, my dream lover!

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

it's amazing how people that are living in glass houses, are the first to cast the proverbial stone...I know who the obliviously crass anon is, and she needs to look carefully inside herself..it's a shame when one has to always throw darts at people because they a have such severe felony charges over them..what a bummer to have to always register as a sex offender..and you know who you are..so get off my back...
I am not perfect but I don't try and hurt anyone, unless they come after me...
and whoa is you that tries..I am a true Scorpio..
and yes, anonymous..I am a kindred spirit in many ways with Farah, so go sit in the corner and play with yourself, you aren't perfect darling... ...
s~xx

veritas said...

" Anonymous said...

The person who writes this blog is wasting his or her talent. Go get a proper job for fuck's sake."

wow-I haven't heard advice like that to someone since my mother said it to me when I was 16. So I ignored her completly and I can assure you-not having a "proper job" is the hardest job in the world.

Duralex said...

And... what's your job, Veritas, if I'm not being too intrusive? I fancy you as a multi-purpose socialite. :-)

veritas said...

"Duralex said...

And... what's your job, Veritas, if I'm not being too intrusive? I fancy you as a multi-purpose socialite. :-)"

oh such flattery Duralex- "multi purpose" yes,but "socialite' would have them rolling in the aisles. If only.

Anonymous said...

All I know is how she's treated me, and it was gracious, generous and compassionate. She was genuine and caring. People are flawed, it may take years to resolve those issues, but at the core, Farah is a smart and loving person.