16 April 2014

Brief note on Hillsborough.

There was a moment in a football match in 1998 that has always stayed with me, nutshelling for me why so many of us obsess over this 'game', this 'sport', because it can be this beautiful, at its rare best it has this ineffable grace and power, and these are the qualities we're always panning for, sifting acres of dreck for a glimpse of a gem. This is what the 96 travelled to Sheffield for, twenty five years ago yesterday. Hoping for a Liverpool victory, of course, but they also wanted to see the gem sparkle. In the case of a certain Dennis Bergkamp, playing the game at the very highest level a few years later and himself the creator of one such jewel, as he turns away after scoring he puts his hands to his face, it's just too much, too bright. (he does this in the slo-mo right at the end of the clip.)  Justice and peace for the 96. 

07 April 2014

I finished The Search For Lost Time. It was a great read (I could add a score of adjectives, most of them positive). I'm not sure exactly how long it took but in a rare outing to Google+ last year I posted this. I read the second and third volumes at more or less the same pace as the first. So if my maths is correct I ought to have started sometime around.... December 2012?

This is a good short appetite-whetter if you're thinking of diving in: Can Proust Really Change Your Life? Possibly not, but it will surely enhance it.

I've resolved to read some short novels next, and to that end asked for recommendations on those micro-blogging sites. Here's a list of what the kind people said:


Nicola Barker, Five Miles From Outer Hope
Natalia Ginzburg, novellas
Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach
Arthur Miller, Focus
Martin Amis, Time's Arrow
Dickens, The Wreck Of The Golden Mary
Patricia Highsmith, Ripley novels, This Sweet Sickness
Katharine Mansfield, The Garden Party
Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
Francoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse
Philip Roth, Everyman
Stephen King, The Fog
Tolstoy, Death of Ivan Ilyich, Kreutzer Sonata
Saul Bellow, The Actual
George and Weedon Grossmith, Diary of a Nobody
Donal Ryan, The Spinning Heart
Arthur Schnitzler, Dream Story
Camus, La Chute
Antonio Tabucchi, Indian Nocturne
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Tim Krabbe, The Rider
Voltaire, Candide
Bruce Chatwin, Utz
Christopher Isherwood, Mr Norris Changes Trains
Graham Greene, The Quiet American
Don DeLillo, End Zone
Maupassant, Pierre et Jean.

I am however going to read this first:



Though not, unfortunately, a copy with this magnificent cover.

30 March 2014


Eighty pages from the end of Marcel Proust's epic comedy. I've been using the 3 volume Penguin edition published in the 80s. Each of which runs to four figures of pages. Four, seven, ten pages a night, depending on what kind of day I've had and the degree of difficulty of the narrative at that time. Because it does become (for want of a better term) difficult. The famously extended paragraphs, clause heaped upon clause. But always supremely balanced - and never, ever, for effect, always to a purpose. I like the fact that Marcel credits us with the patience and intelligence to listen and understand. There's so much to say in praise, I hardly know what to say by way of a beginning (I'm not qualified in lit crit in any way). It's a life - and in the telling of that life, several other lives - and a mind, and a world, described and portrayed in such heightened, loving, careful and vibrant language, that, simply put, we live it, live in it, and learn from it. Philosophy, aesthetics, social satire, sex and love, the pathos of our vanities, ambitions and passions, and the utterly, magnificently, tragically transitory nature of the lot of it. And it is really, really funny. A thoroughly understated, tongue-in-cheek, wry, humane kind of funny. Like the kind of funny you share with a close friend, who knows your bones.

Googling around, I found this lovely creation.

I've lost (for now) the know-how required to post pics on here, but if you click the link you'll see thumbnail links to images from a very attractive collection of portraits of many of Proust's characters. Needless to say, I'd love to have a copy of the book. Alas, just a hundred were made.

09 December 2013

The very centre of London on a December Friday evening is a swarming mass of humanity on a promise: theatre-goers with a pressing deadline to be somewhere, cabs and buses crawling with intent, hopeful holidayers staring about them, the pavements outside pubs a crush of jollifying office-workers getting the weekend or Christmas party started.

And then there's the National Gallery. Okay, the cafe is rammed, and noisy, full of well-off culture-vultures from around the world straining to hear each other, what with the possibly needless bass-heavy pop shmush coming from the speakers. However. The wee espresso bar gives out onto a space that is roomy and quiet, where I can collect thoughts arising from the very interesting work meeting I've just had on the South Bank.

And then on to the galleries: I'd imagined visiting the Rembrandts or the Italians in the Sainsbury Wing. But as it was nearby I drifted toward the French, late 19th/early 20th. Manet, Monet, Renoir. Light and colour and shimmer and vibration. I was brought up short by this. 


Miraculous mundanity. Also the planes and curves and interplay of light and shadow... And that burst of reflected sun.  

30 November 2013

Here again, isn't it. There will be new posts, as there's a lot going on in my little head and I need a place for the excrescences. To celebrate, here's a current favourite clip from Seinfeld.

02 May 2012

Yesterday I finished reading JG Ballard's Concrete Island  (there's a pattern emerging here). I've long been interested in / obsessed with the Crusoe myth of course (see above) and Ballard's livid bruise of a novel is a significant contribution to what's termed the Robinsonade genre. Here are two wildly different covers..



Meanwhile I spent most of the past week solo parenting, as B explored Berlin. The days went pretty quickly, the boys were good company and not super-demanding, and I enjoyed the quiet after their bedtime. One of those evenings I spent watching Andrei Tarkovsky's film Stalker. Geoff Dyer has written a book about his fascination with the piece. A quote from him -

" it's not enough to say that Stalker is a great film - it is the reason cinema was invented."

13 April 2012

Today I finished reading JG Ballard's ridiculously fantastical Hello America. It's playful and witty and sharp, less of a waking nightmare than Crash, a page-turner of a future-shocking yarn. But in addition its melodrama and landscapes, its outrageous costumery and gadgetry, its epic trekking and vistas and its set-piece action sequences positively scream out for cinematic interpretation.