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THE CHILDREN ACT by Ian McEwan (Vintage Books, 2014)

With this novella’s strong focus on the burden of mortality and the melancholy reflections on ‘what-ifs’ from the past, it seems to me that, not for the first time, Ian McEwan takes a lot of inspiration from James Joyce’s Dubliners and ‘from The Dead’ in particular.

The delicate line that divides life and death centres on the fictional case of a 17-year-old boy, Adam Henry, who will almost certainly die unless he receives a blood transfusion. Since he has not quite reached the age of consent, the decision over his treatment rests with his parents who are both Jehovah’s Witnesses.

McEwan is an Atheist but he is interested in the nature of belief so is not about to score cheap points criticising the rigid application of religious principles. The opposition to transfusions is therefore presented as a serious moral dilemma rather than merely the result of blinkered thinking.

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PLAID / M+A / CLARK – Villa Torlonia, San Mauro Pascoli, Italy

acieloaperto_12-giugnoIn the first of an excellent series of ‘a cielo aperto’ (open-air) summer concerts in Romagna organised by RetroPopClub, an impressive line up of three IDM electronica-orientated acts were each given an hour each to strut their stuff.

London duo Plaid (Andy Turner and Ed Handley) opened proceedings with a solid but visually dull set. Two guys standing behind laptops is not the most thrilling spectacle at the best of times and the music was not dynamic enough to compensate for this. A few visuals were projected on the walls of the building behind but did nothing to hold the attention.

Local heroes, M+A from just up the road in Forlì put on a much more crowd-friendly show to warm up the atmosphere admirably. On record they are the duo M (Michael Ducci – vocals) and A (Alessandro Degli Angelo on keyboards). For the live show Marco Frattini adds some meaty percussion as a welcome alternative to soulless drum machines. View full article »

VIRGINIA WOOLF biography by Hermione Lee (Vintage Books, 1996)

leeVirginia Woolf’s life story is one that is continually being re-evaluated. After all, it was fully  two decades after her suicide in 1941 before she began to be more widely acknowledged as a literary great and a feminist icon.

Even so, there are still far too many (mostly male) detractors who will routinely belittle the achievements of Woolf. Hermione Lee recalls that as a student she was taught to regard her as a “minor modernist”, not fit to be ranked alongside Joyce, T.S. Eliot or D.H. Lawrence.

She also recounts a revealing (and humorous) story of a St Ives bookseller who decided to take advantage of Woolf’s association with one of her former homes but only had a vague idea of who she was. He put up a sign which read : ‘Talland House. Home of Virginia Woolf, wife of the famous novelist”. View full article »

senecaInspirational quotes and pithy anecdotes plague the social networks but there is nothing new about them.

If the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65) were blogging, tweeting and posting today he would have a legion of followers enthusing over words of wisdom ike these:

  • “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that things are difficult”.

  • “Our lives are either spent on doing nothing at all or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do”.

  • “We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there were no end to them”.

  • “To err is human, but to persist (in the mistake) is diabiolical”

  • “The whole future lies in uncertainty : live immeduately”

  • “Life is amply long for he who lives it properly”.

  • “Postponement is the greatest waste of life”

  • “It is better to have knowledge of the ledger of one’s own life than of the corn market”.

All quotes taken from : On The Shortness Of Life & other life lessons for the 21st Century (translated by John W. Basore, 1932)

YOUTH directed by Paolo Sorrentino (Italy, 2015)

1youth3“Youth is wasted on the young”, quipped Oscar Wilde, or was is George Bernard Shaw?

Whoever made this observation, knew something of the poignancy and sadness of growing old.

All Paolo Sorrentino’s films to date have featured elderly characters struggling to come to terms with the realisation that the best years of their lives are almost certainly behind them. Youth , despite its title, is no exception.Paradoxically, it is more about facing up to the inevitability of dying than the carefree pleasures of our ‘salad days’.

At its heart is the friendship between a retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) a film director who believes that he still has at least one great film in him. View full article »


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