An American Melodrama

(by Chester, Hodgson & Page) Definitive account of the 1968 Presidential campaign, written by three accomplished British journalists, manages to avoid the faux pomp of much American political writing; brilliantly covers the most critical election since 1932 with telling vignettes of key players, Democratic, Republican and independent. Pithy chapters on RFK‘s death in Los Angeles and Nixon working southern delegates at the Miami Hilton are classic. At page 355, this passage appears, describing the aftermath of RFK’s wounding in the kitchen area of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles: “It was very claustrophobic , like an alleyway deep in a…

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All My Sons

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Plays, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(by Arthur Miller) Perhaps shaded by The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, this is Miller’s most nakedly and emotionally satisfying play, centred on a father’s guilt and a son’s retribution.

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Alexander Hamilton

(by Ron Chernow) Definitive biography deals comprehensively with the life and work of the highly contentious Treasurer of the early republic.  (It largely bears out Gore Vidal’s fictional portrait of him in Burr). Hamilton was fundamentally a pessimist in an optimist’s land, who wrote that its inhabitants were fit for chains, hoping only for gold ones. [Update: In Vidal’s novel Burr, Hamilton, a powerful figure in the highly-charged early political days of the American Republic, is referred to as “that Creole bastard.”  The record is redressed, better late than never, by Chernow’s fine work and a new musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in…

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Tranquility in Sorrento

Sorento

I essentially completed my novel, Tranquility in Sorrento, Tasso’s town, circa April 2013.  Unlike Joseph Conrad, who, when finishing Lord Jim one early morning, shared a piece of chicken with his cat, I couldn’t hear my cat’s insistent calls to breakfast: he was thousands of miles away.  Moreover, there was no feeling of triumph, merely relief floating in a sea of fatigue and alcohol.  I started this thing in 1979, ignorant of vast swathes of modern fiction, an ignorance that cannot be overcome, perhaps only palliated, by reading 24/7.  By 2013, having worked on it in time to spare and short periods…

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Withnail & I

Withnail and I

(dir. B. Robinson) (1985) Perfect homage to the strange death of swinging London. Withnail, I and Uncle Monty et al emblematize La Bruyere’s epigram that self-indulgence and severity towards others is the same vice. Looking up from our slim volume of Nigel’s poems, its pages stained with buttery tears from crumpets, we see the sky is beginning to bruise…home lads!  To Vim under the sink and one bar on.  (Look for more killer (and accurate) quotes from the film here). [See “Vivian & I” by Colin Bacon (2010, Quartet Books) for Withnail’s prototype, Vivian Mackerrell. Vivian & I available at Amazon.com]…

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