Beyond the Rock

(by Janelle McCulloch) (2017) Do you know where you were in the early afternoon of August 8th 1975? Thanks to Janelle McCulloch, I do. I was at the world premiere of Peter Weir’s film Picnic at Hanging Rock. It is not that I could ever forget that day – it changed my life – but I was not sure of the date. The closest I have come to finding a description of the feeling which this film aroused in my upon my first viewing  is C S Lewis’s explanation of what he calls “joy.” This is from his memoir – “Surprised…

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Gwen by Goldie Goldbloom

Gwen by Gwen

(2017) It is difficult to see, from reproductions of Gwen John’s paintings, why her lumpy daubs are thought by many to be better than the skillful if dull portraits painted by her brother, Augustus John.  Goldbloom is at pains in Gwen, her novelised version of Gwen John’s life, to say that it was so, that even Augustus knew it.  Nor is it easy to understand, at this distance, just why women found those lumpy bawds Augustus and the sculptor Auguste Rodin to be utterly irresistible, but again, apparently they did – or at least the artistic ones like Gwen and Dorelia (the mistress…

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Twenty Thousand Roads

"Just because we wear sequinned suits doesn't mean we think we're great..."

Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music (by David N. Meyer) (2008) Never meet your idols. Gram Parsons didn’t give us a chance, checking out at the age of 26 in September 1973.  An insouciant, genial, audacious, southern-fried poor little rich boy, his devotees can credibly claim he fomented or drove the cross-over of American country-rock, a genre that, like its sires, has produced some inspired and much insipid music. Written, or rather, over-written*, in the excessively familiar, repetitive and talky style of books on popular music, Meyer has done his homework and manages to create a rich world…

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Being Nixon

Being Nixon – A Man Divided by Evan Thomas (2015) Sentimentality – which friend and foe agreed Nixon had in spades – was probably the trait that betrayed him.  The Peter Sellers of politicians, Nixon (9 January 1913 – 22 April 1994) never got comfortable with his own skin, so he posed as – machismo, family-man, kindly, bold, psycho, sucker and reclusive seer, etc., those personas he schmaltzily thought would play with the silent majority, or make him feel better.  In this very balanced and readable book, Mr. Thomas gets fairly close to the enigma of ‘Tricky Dick‘ without vituperation or high-falootin’ prose. Nixon’s life is…

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The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson

'The Price of Salt" by Claire Morgan (Patricia Highsmith), made as the film "Carol".

The Crime Writer is an imagined episode in the life of the novelist, Patricia Highsmith.  Highsmith spent time in Bridge Cottage in the village of Earl Soham, Suffolk, but she probably didn’t kill anyone while she was there, which Pat, in Dawson’s novel, does. When asked her opinion of Agatha Christie, Pat says, “‘The only thing Agatha Christie did that interests me is to go missing for a few days.  Fake her own death….That’s the closest she’s come to conjuring up a real crime in her life.”  And, as Christie’s missing days were imagined in the film “Agatha,” so Dawson imagines an life-changing…

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