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THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Corsair, 2015)

51gf6tbbznl-_sx316_bo1204203200_Vietnam was a war that was technically won by the Viet Cong but which American are reluctant to concede to having lost. The unnamed Vietnamese Army Captain narrating this tale has sympathies with both sides but this only serves to place him between a rock and a hard place.

As a reluctant revolutionary he pleads guilty to the charge of being westernized, admitting: “If longing for riches made me a Occidentalist, I confess to it”. As a uncomitted communist he sees no attraction in the authentic “rustic realities” of village life in Saigon.

While not being blind to the faults of the US, he recognizes that there is more freedom of speech than in his homeland. This, together with air conditioning, an efficient traffic system and the modernist novel are among the other things that he admires. On the down side, he reviles the American knack for putting a positive spin on defeat and for hyping up the benefits of individualism. View full article »

TRAINSPOTTING 2 directed by Danny Boyle (UK, 2016)

trainspotting2posterI was a big fan of the 1970s British sit com ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads’ in which two buddies meet up again after drifting apart for five years.

When they reconnect, one, Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes) is nurturing nouveau riche trappings and getting settled into a cosy, middle-class suburban niche complete with a conventional, status conscious, fiancé. Meanwhile, Terry Collier (James Bolan) remains stubbornly working class. He is back from Germany after a failed marriage and a wound sustained during military service that he prefers not to talk about.

“What became of those people we used to be”, ran the show’s theme tune and this is also the unspoken question that hangs over Danny Boyle’s sequel to the hugely successly 1996 Trainspotting movie. View full article »

freedom-flagI read this passage today and, although it is from a book published in 1996, I was immediately struck by how topical it is. What do you think?:

“Always with you this freedom! For your walled-up country to shout ‘Freedom! Freedom!’ as if it were obvious to all people what it wants to mean, this word. But look: it’s not as simple as that. Your freedom is the freedom – from; no one tells your precious individual USA selves what they must do.[……..] What of freedom – to. How for the person to freely choose? How to choose any but a child’s greedy choices if there is no loving-filled father to guide, inform, teach the person how to choose? How is there freedom to choose if one does not know how to choose?”

pg 32o - Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

 

 

GIMME DANGER directed by Jim Jarmusch (USA, 2016)

220px-gimme_danger“Things have been tough without the dum dum boys” sang Iggy Pop as a tribute to the original Stooges on his 1977 comeback album The Idiot, a collaboration with David Bowie that helped ensure that “the world’s forgotten boy” will not only be remembered but also elevated him to the status of one of rock’s great innovators and survivors.

This is a movie about The Stooges and a fan’s tribute to Iggy’s role in the iconoclastic band from Detroit.

Now fast approaching 70, Iggy still looks in remarkably rude health and is still performing bare-chested to show off his incredibly muscular physique. Despite many years of various addictions and regular self abuse he is living proof that,contrary to conventional wisdom, the drugs do sometimes work. View full article »

Why Woolf Works works

woolfworksIt might seem an odd notion to base a dance performance on three novels by Virginia Woolf, but Wayne McGregor is a choreographer who makes his own rules. He proves that great prose can inspire and captivate in the same way that the rhythmic flow of lyrical poetry can.

Woolf Works was premiered to huge acclaim in 2015 and is divided into three sections: ‘I Now, I Then’ is based on the themes in Mrs Dalloway; ‘Becomings’ takes its cues from the surreal wit & vitality of Orlando and ‘Tuesday’ is inspired by The Waves, Woolf’s most experimental novel.

This final section is also named after the heading to the suicide note Woolf left for her husband. This letter, which begins “I feel certain that I’m going mad again”, is beautifully read by Gillian Anderson as a preface to the profoundly moving conclusion.

The revival of these pieces was a hot ticket at The Royal Opera House but has now reached a wider audience thanks to a live worldwide broadcast in over 1,500 cinemas and more than 35 countries on February 8th 2017. View full article »

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