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THE GREENLANDERS by Jane Smiley (Anchor Books, 2005)

franzen_smileyIs life too short for big books?

When it comes to novels like Infinite Jest or Middlemarch, I’d say not.

David Foster Wallace was so overflowing with ideas that he needed the space to expand his thoughts while George Eliot used a larger palette to create a world with a world.

Yet, there seems to be a trend (or requirement) for writing 500 or more pages as a demonstration of a writer’s prowess.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s  sprawling ‘Here I Am’ is one recent example of a novel that would have greatly benefited from trimming by at least 200 pages.

Jane Smiley’s epic Norse saga is another. View full article »

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS directed by Tom Ford (USA, 2016)

“All the animals come out at night” – Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver (1976)
“Now it’s dark” – Frank Booth – Blue Velvet (1986)

nocturnal_animals_posterInspiring comparisons with the finest works of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch is a sign of how impressed I am by this magnificent movie.

Tom Ford’s equally fine debut A Single Man from 2009 can no longer be dismissed as a one-off.

Well-established as a hugely successful fashion designer, Ford does not need further acclaim or money. Wealth does not guarantee creative inspiration but it does buy a certain freedom. Perhaps this is how he has been able to be so uncompromising and daring in his adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan. View full article »

THE ART OF SEDUCTION by Robert Greene (Profile Books, 2001)

seductionThis is not overtly presented as a self-help book but it will mostly be consulted as one.

Although it contains some bleak truths about the human condition, American author Robert Greene takes to the cultural high ground in an attempt to make the salacious details more palatable.

He draws examples from literature, notably  Les Liasons Dangereuses by Laclos, and from the amorous exploits of historical figures like Casanova and Don Juan who have all been immortalised in novels, plays, operas or movies.

Psychological mind games are ruthlessly advocated on the dubious basis that the ends justify the means. The object of one’s lust or desire is frequently described either as a “target” or as a “victim” with the ultimate goal being to lure, ensnare and manipulate. View full article »

The democratic lesson of Donald Trump

 

103666044-rtx2aqxh-530x298Donald Trump’s shocking win in the US election is a victory for the democratic process and a catastrophe for the human race.

As Brexit showed, having a vote offers a unique opportunity for the middle-mass of common men and women to express a collective ‘fuck you’ to the establishment. In so doing, they make a mockery of media pundits, self-appointed experts and pollsters.

The gospel according to The Clash in ‘Know Your Rights‘ reads : “You have the right to free speech as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it”.  With the option to have your voice heard being notoriously limited, the ballot box can be used as a weapon – one of the few ways in which the ordinary citizen can ‘speak’ his or her mind. View full article »

The

SHOCK AND AWE – GLAM ROCK AND ITS LEGACY by Simon Reynolds (Faber & Faber,2016)

“Got your mother in a whirl ‘cos she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl” – David Bowie (Rebel Rebel)
“Even the greatest stars live their lives in the looking glass” – Kraftwork (Hall Of Mirrors)
“There’s something in the air of which we will all be aware yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah” – Sweet (Teenage Rampage)
“Whatever happened to the heroes?”- The Stranglers (No More Heroes)

glamIt’s fair to say Glam Rock has never really been taken all that seriously. Being casually dismissed as a joke genre is partly what drove Simon Reynolds to write this impressively weighty tome.

In so doing, he proves that this musical phenomenon deserves to be more than just an amusing footnote in the story of popular music. The author doesn’t claim that all the music tagged as Glam (or Glitter is you’re American) is of a universally high standard yet, even at its most crass and commercial, Reynolds endorses the viewpoint of Noel Coward who once wryly observed : “It’s extraordinary how potent cheap music is”. View full article »

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