Category: Books


514oymgsnpl._sx323_bo1204203200_The seemingly unstoppable momentum that culminated in what many regard as the greatest movie of all time was the basis for ‘The Road To Xanadu’, the compelling first volume of Simon Callow’s four-part biography of Orson Welles.

Prior to Citizen Kane, Welles brought his radical vision and insatiable creative energy to bear on innovative radio broadcasts and ground-breaking theatre productions.

Having achieved so much at such a young age, the remainder of his career was, by common consensus, anti-climatic. Welles himself joked of his movies that he started at the top and had been working his way down ever since.

Volume 2 of his story is therefore an attempt to explain what went wrong when this larger than life actor, writer and director seemed to have the world at his feet. Continue reading

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What are film critics for?

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MULTIPLEX. WHAT’S WRONG WITH MODERN MOVIES by Mark Kermode (Random House Books, 2011)

10304270Spare a thought for lonely film critics in the age of streaming. They are an increasingly marginalized and, some would say, dying breed.

It’s not as if we really need them anymore. Often they just ruin our entertainment by over detailed reviews of popular movies. Either that or they wind up smugly enthusing about some obscure art house ‘classic’ that only they and a few of their buddies have seen.

Mark Kermode is one of the smartest and self-aware of this endangered species so is well placed to argue for their preservation. Continue reading

goodreads 2018.jpgSince 2014, I have set and maintained a relatively modest reading target on ‘Goodreads‘ of 50 titles a year. I find this website invaluable at the end of year when it comes to reviewing the books I’ve read.

Being gifted, and being thoroughly absorbed by, Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Buried Giant’ led me to a reappraisal of the Nobel Prize Winner. Up until then, I’d read only ‘Remains Of The Day’ and hadn’t been particularly drawn to his other novels. The slow, deliberate pace and absence of colloquial language put me off but now this actually drew me in. Perhaps it’s an age thing. Ishiguro skillfully takes the reader deep into the mind and, above all, the memories of his characters. The only novel of his I haven’t read is ‘The Unconsoled’. Aside from the uncharacteristically messy ‘When We Were Orphans’, I rated all of his works very highly.

Getting fixated on this male author sabotaged my resolve to read more female writers this year. By the end of the year only 20 of the 50 were by women. Of these, my two favorite novels, one old and one new, were Sarah Waters’ quietly subversive ‘Fingersmith’ and Gail Honeyman’s funny/sad study of loneliness : ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’. Continue reading

doughnut book.jpgIn this important book, English economist Kate Raworth sets out an optimistic, many would say idealistic, vision of a new global economy that creates a thriving balance thanks to its distributive and regenerative design.

She is searching for the “sweet spot for humanity” arguing convincingly that the time is ripe for a radical rethink of the profit-driven model that runs, and ruins, too many lives stating that “now is a great moment for unlearning and relearning the fundamentals of economics”.

Given the way the world is rapidly spiraling out of control, it is sadly a case of now or never: “Ours is the first generation to properly understand the damage we have been doing to our planetary household, and probably the last generation with the chance to do something transformative about it”. Continue reading

A bio-friendly David Lynch

ROOM TO DREAM by David Lynch & Kristine McKenna (Canongate Books, 2018)
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This is book for those who love David Lynch and his unique art life. If this part memoir-part biography is to be believed, this includes approximately 99% of the population.

In all the interviews with friends, family, ex-wives and actors practically no-one has a bad word to say about him and the level of critical analysis is about as deep as an article in Hello magazine. I’m a huge admirer of Lynch’s work but even I wearied the constant fawning tone adopted by journalist Kristine McKenna.

The book’s structure provides that a chapter of biographical details by McKenna is followed by one by Lynch who corrects any errors and adds his own memories. The introduction states: “What you’re reading here is basically a person having a conversation with his own biography”.

In principle this seems like a good plan. What we know of Lynch  is that he plays his cards very close to his chest. He gives relatively few interviews and never explains his strange visions. The most you’ll get out of him is that his ideas come from dreams, chance encounters or overheard snippets of conversation. Continue reading

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