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THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown, 2013)

After her two previous bestsellers, Donna Tartt is in the enviable position of being able to call all the shots with any publisher.

She is like an esteemed movie director who knows her work is never going to be subjected to unwanted cuts.

Moreover, she has established herself a writer who works slowly and meticulously, preferring quality to quantity.

A book every decade is her current rate of production and she expresses no desire to change this. She says she’ll be content if her life work consists of five big novels.

Constant rewriting and self editing are among the reasons why she is not more prolific. In a recent BBC interview, Tartt describes how she decided to scrub 8 months work after realising she had taken the plot down a wrong track.

You can well imagine why, after labouring for so long, she would resist any further editing suggestions. However, I can’t help feeling that this degree of total control is a double-edged sword. The Goldfinch is a novel that cries out for some bold editing and in my view it is at least 200 pages too long. View full article »

BLOGGER vs CAT

Any blogger (and cat!) will relate to the funny cartoon strip courtesy of The Oatmeal in which an increasingly desperate feline seeks ever more elaborate strategies to attract the attention of the internet addict.  This is my favorite panel:

CAT VS INTERNET

STILL ALICE  directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (USA, 2014)

This moving and sobering film is based on a bestseller by Lisa Genova. Her novel was initially self published after being rejected by numerous publishers who believed that readers would not be interested in such a depressing subject. Just goes to show what they know!

The movie vindicates Genova’s decision to choose a woman with an early onset of Alzheimer’s as a means showing the devastating effect of dementia on an active, otherwise healthy, individual’s life. This is a film about living with the disease rather than dying from it.

Catherine Shoard, writing in The Guardian, gets it spectacularly wrong when she says that the film “perpetuates the notion that dementia is more tragic when it affects the intellectual”. It does nothing of the kind.

The fact that Alice is a respected university professor of linguistics in no way suggests that the loss of communication would be any less devastating in a less prestigious job, as a film critic for example! View full article »

BIRDMANBIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (USA, 2014)

From the stylish opening credits and free-jazz drumming of Antonio Sanchez’s unorthodox soundtrack, this is a movie that is keen to make an immediate impression.

It is the kind of derring-do which could so easily have backfired and then been dismissed as nothing more than brash arty-fartiness. Yet Birdman postively revels in its showiness and having a excellent supporting cast, that includes Naomi Watts and Edward Norton in prime form, means that all the risks are calculated ones.

The story revolves around Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, one time celluloid superhero who now feels all too human as he approaches the third age. By adapting a Raymond Carver story for a Broadway show he wants revitalise his flagging career and, in the process, demonstrate that 60 is the new 30. View full article »

PIRATE TEACHES MORALS

BLACKBEARD’S GHOST directed by Robert Stevenson  (USA, 1968)

blackbeard

What was your favourite movie when you were 10?

At that age, my tastes were strongly dictated by Disney so mine would have been a toss-up between Jungle Book and Blackbeard’s Ghost. The latter would probably have narrowly won by a hair of the dread pirate’s ragged whiskers.

Watching it again now, I can guess that one of main appeals was the way it pitched underdog outsiders against crooks and jocks.

It is based very loosely on real life 18th century pirate Edward Teach and a novel by Ben Stahl.

Blackbeard’s spirit has been wandering in limbo following a curse put on him by his aggrieved wife Aldetha as she was being burnt at the stake as a witch. View full article »

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