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‘Twin Peaks Season 3 – The Return’ directed by David Lynch

twinpIt goes without saying that David Lynch divides audiences. His surreal visions of the world and the tall tales he weaves are never going to be to everyone’s taste.

The naysayers continually complain of the absence of linear narrative in his work, or point to the wilful weirdness, the stilted dialogue and the wooden acting. Actually, a lot of the time, all these criticisms are valid but what count as weaknesses in other auteurs turn into strengths in the Lynchian universe. View full article »

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Viking Press, 1962)

A friend recommended this extraordinary novella and I am a little ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of it beforehand. It’s such an immediate and surefire classic that it seems amazing that it hadn’t crossed my radar before.

This dark, funny and strange tale sadly proved to be Shirley Jackson’s final work. She died in 1965, aged just 48.

Here’s how it begins:

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This hooked me from the get go.

The unreliable narrator – whose pet name is Merricat – proves to be a real enigma and remains something of a mystery right to the end. View full article »

Aldous Harding live at Hana-Bi, Ravenna – August 22nd 2017

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Aldous Harding at Hana-Bi

The striking stage presence and breathtaking vocal dexterity of New Zealand’s Aldous Harding is a thrill to behold.

The assured body language and the way she makes eye contact with members of the audience is in equal measures flirty and defiant. She is warm and genial between songs but then is like a woman possessed while singing. The focus and feeling this generated gave me goosebumps.

Her one hour set,accompanied by Invisible Familiars (Jared Samuel) on keyboards, begins where the new album, Party, ends.

In her song by song guide on NPR, she talks of ‘Swell Does The Skull’ as having the same “archaic fume” that fired the gothic folk songs on her self titled debut album but the baseball cap wearing Indie Girl who graced the cover of that record has evidently grown up and moved on. View full article »

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS by Marlon James (Riverhead Books, 2014)

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The Novel

When asked in a recent Channel 4 interview how much of this bold and extraordinary novel came from personal experience and how much derived from rumors, Marlon James replies without hesitation “All of it is rumor. In Jamaica, you trust rumors, you don’t trust facts. Facts come with an agenda”.

 

It is something of a dumb platitude to say that truth is stranger than fiction but, like most dumb platitudes, this has a strong basis in reality. Nowadays, people increasingly struggle to separate the two concepts, reacting to natural and man-made disasters with comments to the effect that ‘It was like something out of a movie’ or routinely responding to some shocking or bizarre news story by saying ‘You couldn’t make this stuff up’.

To make sense of the ‘real world’ (whatever that is) and the irrational behavior of humankind, I must have some Jamaican blood in me because I don’t believe it is enough to stick to the facts by watching documentaries, reading history books or studying psychological manuals. While these resources can give valuable insights and context they, as James observes, always come with an agenda.

Fiction comes with its own baggage too of course but, while novels can take greater liberties with the ‘truth’ they can also encourage readers to embrace scepticism by ‘seeing’ events from diverse and multiple perspectives.

This is brilliantly exemplified in James’ masterly and multi-layered third novel, a worthy winner of 2015’s Man Booker Prize which has been accurately and acutely described by one New York Times critic as “an epic of post colonial fallout”. View full article »

Ferragosto

People having fun at Ferragosto.

Most of the time, as an Englishman in Italy, and Brexit notwithstanding, I generally feel like an integrated European. However, there are still times when I feel I stick out like a sore Johnny Foreigner.

Depending on whether you’re a half empty or half full kind of person, Ferragosto is either the point at which Summer is just getting started or marks the date (August 15th) when it is nearly over.

Back in the day when people made things, paternalistic factory owners conceded this mid-August holiday to the workers. Since it coincides with the Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary, it is also a good excuse to stuff yourself stupid. Old habits die hard, especially when you get to enjoy a day off work (unless, of course, your job is in the service sector attending to the needs of the thrill seekers).

So, traditionally, this state endorsed vacation is a day when traffic is severely jammed, restaurants are booked solid and beaches are ridiculously overcrowded.

What could possibly spoil your enjoyment? View full article »

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