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Showing posts from December, 2008

2009

Film - January: Revolutionary Road, hits UK cinemas January 30th.

Literature - February: The Letters of Samuel Beckett (5th) the first comprehensive collection of letters written by one of the greatest.

Film - February: Doubt, hits UK Feb, starring the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Music - February: Morrissey releases his ninth album: Years of Refusal

Film - March:The Young Victoria

Literature - May: Colm Toibin's Brooklyn (5th), about a young Irish immigrant woman arriving in New York in the 1950s.

Stage - May: Waiting for Godot, with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as Estragon and Vladimir. Haymarket (6 May to 28 June).

TV - May: Samantha Morton's directorial debut, The Unloved (C4), about a young girl growing up in care.

TV - August: Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood six-part drama, Desperate Romantics (BBC2).

Saudade

Never, before a few hours ago, had I heard of the word 'saudade'. I haven't been sleeping too well the past few weeks and so have been staying up late and have been watching the BBC3 (or is it 4?) series on RKO films and after knowing more about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers than anyone could ever need to know in any number of lifetimes, tonight it was the turn of Orson Welles' and one of, if not the best film ever made, Citizen Kane. Before the film I watched the dated documentary and for one interview they go all the way to Brazil, to interview one of the people involved with the film, a man Orson Welles became friends with. And this man said that Welles left, leaving him a silver cigarette case, inscribed, and he treasured it. But one night, after drinking too much, he left it in the back of a taxi. And he said it was all he had left of that time. And he used the word 'saudade', and then moved onto the next sentence, yapping on. Then the unseen interv…

Daan van Golden and Andro Wekua

I schlepped up to Camden Arts Centre today where Daan van Golden (Dutch) and Andro Wekua (Georgian) were exhibiting. van Golden's seemed promising, the website blurb stated that he has enjoyed both renown and celebration in the Netherlands since the sixties and that they were proud to host this, his first solo UK exhibition, bringing together over thirty of his paintings from the last forty years. It also included photos of his daughter growing up from 1978 to 1996. The photos were touching, but many photos of kids growing up are, and the only stories they told was that a) his teenage daughter didn't seem to mind being photographed by her father whilst she is in the shower, and b) like most little girls she liked dressing up in an array of costumes. So what? Anyway. His paintings. Hung on the wall were three large paintings of what looked like a canary silouhette, a beautiful pale blue and one striking red. They really stood out, but I could detect no trace of artistic t…

Books for 2009

Here's the Observer's outlook for 2009 as well as that from The Financial Times.

To read...

My 2009 reading has already begun, or at least, is in a pile, waiting impatiently. Today I began Dag Solstad's Shyness and Dignity, and the first page impressed with a prose style as clear as an Arctic glacier, although the next twenty or so pages he does go on somewhat with his draining analysis of Ibsen. Anyway, unlike the previous Solstad book, still laying face down at page something, I shall (snow) plough on. I have also been sent a book to review. Someone has caught on that I have a penchant for Scandi. It's The Pets by Bragi Olafsson, translated from the Icelandic by Janice Balfour, and which (the?) Berlingske Tidende (Denmark) has hailed as 'one of the best pieces of Nordic literature I've read in a long time'. I shall see. I also have Paul Bailey's Uncle Rudolf to finish, as well as to begin on Night Crawlers, by Nani Power. Which is leaving little time for continuing with Jenny Diski's Apology for the Woman Writing, but which I know I shall return…

The Agony and the Ego...

I felt drawn towards an old classic yesterday. It's The Agony and the Ego, edited by Clare Boylan, a series of essays on the 'art and strategy of fiction writing', from writers such as the brilliant John McGahern, John Banville, Patricia Highsmith and Marilyn French - and the latter gives a revealing account of how she came to write the feminist The Women's Room. I love this book because the essays within are not 'how to's...' but 'here's what I do/don't do...and I'm not saying they'll necessarily be comfortable for you.' And I also like the revelation that some of them declare themselves astonished that some writers talk of their characters as 'talking to them, like real people' as though justifying the fact that they then ought to be considered as fully-fleshed out characters and not simply constructions of words written by the author, similar to the belief that some writers have that they are connecting with some Divine …

Hysteria part deux

Paul R. McHugh has written a very interesting article on the case of Sybil, a woman diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder in 1973, from which followed a book and a movie. 'Hysteria' is one of those words most often associated with women - most famously amongst the leisured middle-class woman in the Victorian era, yet is held up to be a symptom of patriarchal control and general societal oppression through gender and class conventions. Hysteria was also used in relation to those soldiers suffering trauma in WWI, but which was changed to the more manly 'Shell-Shock'. Now it is normally reserved as the ultimate shut-up clause in arguments between couples when the man says, "Oh shut up, you're hysterical!" which only makes said woman more hysterical, turning his cheap put-down and escape from challenge into a diagnosis and ensuing self-doubt on her part and guilt on his! The history of mind-fucking. Now 'they' are saying that hysteria is n…

2008

January began with the completion of my MA as well as well as the rumblings of the ‘credit crunch’. First off the block to voice funding fears were the indie publishers who began to fret over potential Arts Council funding that, unfortunately for some, such as Ambit Magazine, came to pass in the first quarter. Never mind, at least Waterstone’s launched their ‘Writers Year’ – although when it could ever claim not to have a writers year is beyond me as without them there is no Waterstone’s.


It was also the month in which I finished my first Bernard Malamud novel, his excellent The Assistant, which earned my unbridled praises and I declared that I would consider myself very happy if I read anything this year of a similar calibre. Well, I should have been very happy. Well, not very with all other things considered, but quite satisfied with quite a bit of what I picked to read throughout the year, although I wasn't that enamoured with some of the books published during the year like Ros…

Harold Pinter

Playwright, poet and former actor Harold Pinter died on Christmas Eve. Pinter, he of the dramatic pause which revealed far more, was originally labelled as being one of those Angry Young Men. I read Pinter's biography a couple of years ago and was moved by his life in the East End during the thirties and forties. I loved The Caretaker and The Homecoming, both deliciously dark and loved him even more when I discovered that he had adapted one of my favourite novels, The French Lieutenant's Woman. A sure sign that Pinter's plays will move and challenge subsequent generations was proven when Matthew "Harry" Burton directed The Dumb Waiter in a highly successful 50th anniversary run at The Trafalgar Studios in 2007. Guardian obituary here.

More to come...

It's that time of year when all book sections are putting together 'best of' and 'what to watch out for next year' type things. There's also the usualy doom-laden 'where's the book going with the e-reader on its tail' type thing too, which can, so far, be taken with a huge pinch of salt. The Telegraph also have a little Christmas quiz, here. So, before the year ends I too want to post on this 'umble little blog an overview of 2008 because I found it a particularly good year and came across many a gem. I also predict that next year will provide a rich crop from the literary fields that, whilst we will always have the fluffy pastel chick and lad-lit and Hampstead domestic drama type crapola, will involve fiction with ever more greater insights into our internal and external lives and those with a penchant for dystopia will be spoiled for choice. More soon. In the meantime have a Happy Christmas and hope some (all would be very boring) of you…

Culture shrugged off as luxury?

On Thursday Jonathan Jones wrote on the Guardian's blog that the first consequence of economic recession may well see culture widely shrugged off as a luxury and cites Jonathan Freedland's earlier in the week article that claims our cultural attitudes would become more conservative and cosy as we look for reassurance in a scary economic age. It is an obvious conclusion to jump to. When people are busy trying to keep the roof over their head and earning their daily bread they will have no concern with such trivialities as 'culture'.
Complete nonsense.
My usually pessimistic head has reasoned, by taking a little peek back and applying a little projection based on emotional reasoning, that the 'financial bloodbath' that is widely anticipated for 09, will bring forth a richness and a depth, predicated on people's greater need to seek meaning in such times, that will produce much stronger voices of dissent, a need to portray a grittier gritiness - something which…

I Create Myself...

This month's Literary Review (Dec/Jan) has a review by Elaine Showalter on the late Susan Sontag's illuminating and inspiring diaries, Reborn: Early Diaries 1947-1964 (Hamish Hamilton 336pp £16.99). Although I would question anyone who declared that they create themselves wholly Sontag's diaries will be going on my to-read list. What I found touching was the fact that Sontag did not keep a diary for 1951 - 2, because, as Showalter points out, 'she was depressed, suffering from constant migraines, (and) despairing of her future'. Now there's a nugget of identification.

Reading...

Jenny Diskis' Apology for the Woman Writing.

Fabian Society

Click here for details on the Fabian Society's New Year Conference - Fairness Doesn't Happen by Chance.