Category: fiction


 A SINGLE MAN directed by Tom Ford (USA, 2009) based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood.



When I first saw this movie I hadn’t read the book on which it is based.

I have just watched it again after being hugely impressed and deeply moved by Isherwood’s flawless novella.

 Tom Ford’s expert adaptation is faithful to the story yet makes key changes;  some for better, some for worse.

Note that this post contains spoilers.Don't say I didn't warn you!

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INTIMACY directed by Patrice Chéreau (UK, 2001)

intimacy-POSTERSex in movies or music videos is mostly more concerned with titillation than realism while in porn its primary function is stimulation.

The makers of Intimacy, based on a short story by Hanif Kureishi, adopt a less glossy and therefore more adult perspective.

In the movie, scenes of coupling are explicit, including un-simulated fellatio. Little is left to the imagination but, equally, nothing is particularly arousing.

On the contrary, the sex act is reduced to the level of a basic human need (like eating and sleeping but more energetic).

This is fucking not lovemaking and seems more akin to an act of penance than passion. Once the desire is satiated, words are unnecessary and the two go their separate ways arranging only to meet again the same day (Wednesday) the next week. Continue reading

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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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”. Continue reading

THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt (First published 1992)

 Donna Tartt’s remarkable debut novel begins boldly with a chilling description of the murder of Edmund ‘Bunny’ Corcoran.

We immediately how this young man dies and who kills him. What we don’t know is why he was murdered and what the consequences of this act will be, Book I takes us through the events leading to the crime while Book II deals with the fall out from the killing.

Despite Tartt’s dramatic prologue, I confess there were times initially when I found her claustrophobic narrative style hard going. However, she more than rewards perseverance and once the story kicks in at the beginning of Book II, I was well and truly hooked. Continue reading

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