Regularly added bite-sized reviews about Literature, Art, Music & Film.
Voltaire said the secret of being boring is to say everything.
We do not wish to say everything or see everything; life, though long is too short for that.
We hope you take these little syntheses in the spirit of shared enthusiasm.
(dir. Alan J Pakula) (1971)
Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda) aspires to act. John Klute (Donald Sutherland) is a hick who comes to N.Y. to find his missing friend, who may have availed himself of Bree’s services. Together, they make a strange town-and-country team, each taming the other.
This very nifty thriller has a fine look and feel to it. The ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ is a (venerable) Hollywood cliché but Jane Fonda’s performance gives you a real person. Amongst the rest of a fine cast, Charles Cioffi as the sinister boss is a standout.Continue Reading →
(by Victor Klemperer)
Despite some confusing Anne Frank with a Nazi (see: Rijksmuseum moments), her diary is mandatory reading and so should be this diary of German Jewish academic, Victor Klemperer. He lived in Germany throughout the Nazi reign and this volume, covering 1933 to 1941, reveals the incremental march to holocaust. Each little step led to the next and so on, quickening in pace: May ’33: Klemperer can still lecture in Romance languages and literature at Dresden but he complies with a ‘request’ to no longer conduct exams; by May ’35, he is dismissed from his post; by October 1937 he no longer feels German. By the time of the Führer’s birthday in April 1939, he expects war and fears being beaten to death.
His recourse: to bury himself in literature as much as he can and, when that will not suffice, ‘to bear witness to the bitter end’.
This diary of a great and modest scholar marginalized by evil clowns is breathtakingly well written and the courage shown in its pages (both on the part of the diarist and his loyal, Aryan wife Eva) makes the reader almost ashamed. The 2nd volume, “To the Bitter End” covers 1942 to 1945 and the last, “The Lesser Evil” notes up post-war East Germany from 1945 to 1959. All three volumes are commended. They were abridged and translated by Martin Chalmers.Continue Reading →
(by Martin Amis)
A glittering specimen of that great archetype, the literary revenger’s tale. Richard Tull toils in vain on his indifferent and overlooked novels – friend Gwyn Barry, at the same time, produces fraudulent, flatulent pulp and is venerated and enriched.
Tull decides to ignore the sage words of Richard Nixon when he resigned in disgrace and despair: “others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”
Amis scores a direct hit here: As his fraud’s best-seller sequel, Amelior Regained, is ‘barbarically plain’, this literary revenger’s tale is barbarically funny.Continue Reading →
(dir. Powell & Pressburger) (1945)
A fey Scottish romance even the chaps will enjoy.
Joan Webster needs to get on the boat to the island of Kiloran, in the Scottish Hebrides, in order to marry her much older former employer, Sir Robert Bellinger.. Bad weather foils her, but during the wait, she befriends a young naval officer home from leave. He wants to get to Kiloran as well…
Rich performances abound, with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey entirely perfect as the two stranded travellers. Hiller, in particular, totally convinces, as a haughty lass who dissolves in the face of the unstoppable force of love. “Fine doings indeed! That girl is so foolish, she is a woman already.”Continue Reading →
(by V. S. Naipaul)
With Transparent Things, the best nihilist comedy ever: a long, lovely, sad, frustrating look at defiant failure Mohun Biswas. Full of ‘amazing scenes’ and family strife in Trinidad. When Biswas daubs brightly coloured spots of zinc cream on his face and goes out onto the footpath to watch the world go by, it is hard not to laugh till you cry.
The notoriously scratchy Mr Naipaul has produced an impressive oeuvre down the years, but this is certainly his best book. He has written that it is the one closest to him.Continue Reading →
(by Robert Conquest)
It is hard to understand why so many intelligent people admired the socialist experiment of Soviet Union c. 1934-1940. These useful idiots defended and lauded systematic mass slaughter on an industrial scale. Conquest’s book, originally appearing in 1968, helped convince those still impervious to, inter alia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The case is made, with solid and well sourced evidence, that Stalin basically topped anyone who looked at him sideways, or didn’t look at him, or whatever.
Nor were the good and great spared: my battered 1971 Pelican edition has, as Appendix D, a list of Full and Candidate Members of the 1934 Central Committee and of those, I have made notes that 49 of them were shot, mostly in the 1930s and 7 of them died in prison, under interrogation or by suicide. Osip Mandelstam died in the Gulag in 1938, largely because of a poem he wrote about Stalin, containing the lines : “the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip, the glitter of his boot rims. Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses he tows with the tributes of halfmen…He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries. He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.”.
Vale Conquest (15 July 1917 – 3 August 2015) – he was someone who followed facts, not ideology. Facts led him from an early flirtation with communism, and he learnt not only from his own mistakes, but, impressively, from those of others. One imagines him in a celestial library, gazing out of golden windows down at Stalin’s useful deniers, the whole gang of them floating in a sea of burning pus. Appropriate Conquest footnotes..
Continue Reading →