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)
It’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”. Continue reading
THE LITTLE BOOK OF ATHEIST SPIRITUALITY by André Comte-Sponville (Penguin Books, 2007 – translated by Nancy Huston)
I chanced upon this slim volume at the excellent Judd Books in Bloomsbury (a highly recommended source for bargain books if you are ever in this part of London).
I hadn’t heard of the book previously but it proved to be an inspired and inspiring purchase. It makes the case for atheism in a concise and intelligent manner whilst maintaining a tolerance for those who believe in God or some other supreme being.
André Comte-Sponville addresses this question from an overtly philosophical perspective so it is cogently reasoned with numerous quotes about faith and belief from heavyweight thinkers like Nietzsche, Kant, Spinoza and Wittgenstein.
These are not just chosen to make the writer look smart (although he plainly is!) but to illustrate that the big questions – ‘Can We Do Without Religion? ; ‘Does God Exist? – are far from new and can be answered in numerous ways.
These questions are the titles of two of the three chapters in the Frenchman’s guide for the perplexed, the third seeks to respond to the query: Can There Be An Atheist Spirituality?
Needless to say, his answers to these three points are, respectively, YES, NO and YES. Continue reading
THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown, 2013)
After her two previous bestsellers, Donna Tartt is in the enviable position of being able to call all the shots with any publisher.
She is like an esteemed movie director who knows her work is never going to be subjected to unwanted cuts.
Moreover, she has established herself a writer who works slowly and meticulously, preferring quality to quantity.
A book every decade is her current rate of production and she expresses no desire to change this. She says she’ll be content if her life work consists of five big novels.
Constant rewriting and self editing are among the reasons why she is not more prolific. In a recent BBC interview, Tartt describes how she decided to scrub 8 months work after realising she had taken the plot down a wrong track.
You can well imagine why, after labouring for so long, she would resist any further editing suggestions. However, I can’t help feeling that this degree of total control is a double-edged sword. The Goldfinch is a novel that cries out for some bold editing and in my view it is at least 200 pages too long. Continue reading
Pleased to finally get to see ‘My Summer of Love’ (2004) which was directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and recently featured on the Observer’s list of the best British films of the last 25 years.
It’s a fine movie that works mainly because of the perfect casting of Natalie Pressna as Mona and Emily Blunt as Tamsin. There’s a real chemistry between these two that draws you into the story immediately.
Freely adapted from a novel by Helen Cross, the movie tells the story of these two isolated young women from different social backgrounds who meet by chance and become friends and lovers.
Tamlin is a fantasist, cellist and atheist from a wealthy family. She’s been suspended from boarding school for being a bad influence on others.
Mona’s mother is dead and she doesn’t know her father, so she lives with her brother who has found God (“or God found him”) while in prison. “He went inside, but came out funny” she says.
While the brother’s crusade to rid the small northern village of sin is a key aspect of the story, it is intense friendship between the women that lies at the movie’s heart . Their relationship is a failed attempt to live an existential existence beyond good and evil (Tamlin has read her Nietzsche!).
That freedom has its limits, is something the more streetwise Mona understands more readily than her supposedly more educated lover. Asked by Tamlin what she plans to do with her life Mona at first jokes that she’ll become a lawyer, then gives an altogether bleaker outlook : “I’m gonna get a job in an abattoir – work really hard – get a boyfriend who’s a bastard – churn out all these kids with mental problems and I’m gonna wait for the menopause ……….or cancer”.
For all her apparent learning and haughty detachment, Tamlin is unable to face up to reality in such stark terms. While Mona seems the weaker and more impressionable of the two, it is she who ultimately seems to be the most clear minded and purposeful.
The hint of optimism of the end of the movie comes from the feeling that she at least has the courage and wits to make something of her life.