The Merry-go-Round in the Sea

(by Randolph Stow) The great Australian family-at-war yarn. The scene of Rick and Jane on the beach is the literary high watermark of dates gone wrong.

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Memoirs of Hector Berlioz

Like Wagner, Berlioz was a pain in the neck, a necessary pain, the kind reminding one both of life and mortality.  There is still no agreement as to how good he was and a lot of his work has Wagnerian length without the same depth. But check out his Faust, Trojans and Symphonie fantastique. This autobiography, painstakingly translated by David Cairns, (who has also produced a massive biography) shows the composer kicking like a mule to get ahead, to get his way, to get some recognition, in a France that has always been indifferent to him.  A great work even for…

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The Maybe

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, Ulalume |

(2013) Tilda Swinton sleeps, encased in glass, at MoMA in Manhattan. The bed is cleaner than Tracey Emin’s but Tilda, with her death’s head and pale, slight figure, surely can find better roles than this pallid piece of modern confectionary. At least Marina Abramovic nudes up. In a letter to The Australian, Mr Tony Hennessy of Casino, New South Wales, avers “Two people standing on a box may be difficult but it is not art”. This begs the old answer-less question ‘what is art?’ And the claim made by the pop artists ‘all art is already mediated’ surely confuses outcome…

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Lord Berners

(by Mark Amory) It’s not possible to know what made Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners tick, but everyone seemed to like him and his eccentric acts were mostly harmless; dyeing animals, driving around in grotesque masks, hiding under a bearskin rug to ‘fool’ tedious guests.  A soft spoken flower with a small but keen talent justifies this very readable and accomplished bio.  And remember, ‘Red roses blow but thrice a year, in June, July and May.  But those who have red noses can blow them every day.’  

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The Leopard

(by G. T. di Lampedusa) The times, they are a-changing.  But the Prince of Lampedusa, understands that “everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same.” Fragments aside, this is the only book the author, himself a Sicilian Prince, had in him and it is a jewel.  Clear, unhurried, conventional in structure, it shows all the hallowed power of the novel in evoking time, place and mild regret for things that pass. Its nostalgic pessimism skewers Italian politics and history, without being political or historical, which turned-off publishers in the author’s lifetime, and seemed to enrage the partisan literati…

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