The Information

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(by Martin Amis) (1995)

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.

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I Like You

'Make sure to pre-crack all your liquor bottles.'

‘Make sure to pre-crack all your liquor bottles.’

(by Amy Sedaris)

Indubitably the creepiest, funniest book on hospitality ever written.



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I Know Where I’m Going!

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(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.”


Embrace the curse

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A House for Mr Biswas

(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.


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His Girl Friday

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, Comedy Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Howard Hawks) (1940)

High speed comedy with no feelings spared. Cary Grant’s and Rosalind Russell’s finest hour.

Hilde has left Walter and the newspaper business behind, or so she thinks….

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(by Mary Daly)

The Gravity’s Rainbow of feminism, an inspired sample-bag of misogyny, a panoply of male sadism.  Arguably an insane tract, nevertheless the facts are there – they are indubitable and to this mere male reader, quite compelling.

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The Green Man

(by Kingsley Amis)

The landlord of “The Green Man” pub has an alarming drinking problem and wandering hands.  Also, there is some monolithic horticultural product about, that could cause further alarm.  Amis senior’s famous book, Lucky Jim is superior to this slight work but this novella is so weird and perverse it is almost decadent.

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The Great Terror

Robert Conquest (photo Rob C Croes)

Robert Conquest (photo Rob C Croes)

(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..


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The Great Gatsby

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. Baz Luhrmann) (2013)

We were in glamorous Station Street, Birmingham, which turned out to contain “The Electric”, the UK’s oldest cinema. So The V.C. went to see Gatsby in 3D. Looked great but Baz has not nailed the brief: who could? Joel Edgerton looks like Tom Buchanan but talks like Ron Burgundy…Jordan Baker, Meyer Wolfsheim, Owl Eyes, have walk-ons and nothing to do. Gatsby is played like a sad sack with Asperger’s…Luhrmann should take a tip from Visconti when he filmed “Death in Venice”: forget revision, in fact, forget a script – just film the book.

"The Electric" in Birmingham

“The Electric” in Birmingham

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, HISTORY, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, USA History |

(dir. Sergio Leone) (1966)

The western as grand opera, with a poke at the Civil War thrown in. See in particular the late Eli Wallach scrambling about for the grave with the buried treasure.


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