Thursday, June 13, 2024

About indie reading

Anna Doble on being an indie music fan in the mostly-analogue 90s:

London Fields by Martin Amis sat on my shelf for at least a year in about 1997. Why? Because one of Blur once mentioned it in an interview. My copy wasn’t even mine – it was taken out on loan from my home-town library which led me to racking up a fine so insurmountable (£8-ish) that I eventually returned it under cover of darkness in a covert mission to the marketplace whereupon I shoved the book through the library’s awkward letterbox and ran panting for the hills. Other books on the curriculum in the School of Indie were Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Douglas Coupland’s Generation X (which we all actually read).

Do musicians tell people what to read these days? I know the likes of Dolly Parton encourage kids to read, but where’s the equivalent of Graham (I bet it was Graham, he worse glasses) begging up Martin Amis? And the Manics doing the same for Mishima and many others, Radiohead for Chomsky and Naomi Klein, Paul Weller for Colin MacInnes, Edwyn Collins for Salinger, Morrissey for Wilde and Capote (less so Keats and Yeats). Is literary prescriptivism not A Thing any more?

Saturday, June 08, 2024

About Kafka and crockery

Yet more musing on what we’re expected to know. This morning, in a discussion on Radio 4 about the overused adjectives “Orwellian” and “Kafkaesque” Evan Lian (who drew the cartoon above) says, “I’m not the most well-read person, which is sort of embarrassing to admit on a BBC radio programme” which does rather play into the idea of the BBC (and, by extension, Britain) as being the repository of everything and everyone erudite. Which is nice.

And then on the same station’s Electioncast, broadcast immediately afterwards, BBC's own chief political correspondent, who read PPE at Oxford, says that he thinks he once read an essay by Orwell and then admits he doesn’t actually know what a Ming vase is.

PS: And a few hours later, I heard another BBC journalist refer to a calvacade.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

About pumpkins etc

Far from new, stolen from Facebook, but it belongs here, I think.

And while we’re here, this can come out to play as well.

And then...

(And all the time I’m simultaneously worrying about and luxuriating in the exclusivity of all of these. Are they funny in spite of the fact that a lot of people won’t get the gag, or because of the fact? And somehow this ties into the most depressing article I’ve read this week, Elle Griffin on how nobody buys books any more.)

Friday, May 31, 2024

About Kindles

When Kindles and other e-readers first appeared, with the promise for travellers in particular that a whole library would occupy less space and weight in your luggage than a slim paperback, I did wonder whether the new form might have missed a significant consideration when it comes to reading in public: specifically, the act of letting other people see what you’re reading. Like the music you listen to, or the clothes you wear, or the flavour of crisps you eat, it’s part of the persona you present to the world. The latest Murakami, or a Richard Osman rip-off? Unfair as it is, people will make assumptions.

And then I saw this:

Saturday, May 18, 2024

About missing the point

Two examples of people who appear to be in the wrong job. A pub landlord who offers discounts to customers who order by app from their tables, thus discouraging the horrific prospect of bar staff actually having to engage with punters:

I’ve found that not having to be constantly serving people is way better for my mental health. Bar work can be really mentally tiring. This takes the stress away rather than having to constantly interact with different people for eight hours straight. 

And Adrian Chiles who, last time I looked, was still purporting to be someone who writes for a living, complaining about apostrophes and then

But, oh Lord, the agonising, circuitous routes around words you’d have to find to construct a bloody sentence.

Which sounds to me like a pretty good definition of Chiles’s chosen, and in his case, well-remunerated trade.

I don’t want to disturb anyone with an image of Chiles, so I’ll just leave this here, wondering whether in a year’s time we’ll have the faintest idea to what it refers:

Monday, May 13, 2024

About Roger Corman

Roger Corman, who died a few days ago, batting back accusations that his work was mere exploitation: “Show me a film which isn’t an exploitation film.”

Possibly a little trite, but when you give it even a moment’s thought, it applies to pretty much all art, doesn’t it?

Saturday, May 11, 2024

About nostalgia(s)

In an otherwise tedious and banal article about, of all things, Virgin’s cruise line, the CEO comes up with this inadvertently fascinating nugget: “People like to be reminded of nostalgia.”

It sounds daft, of course it does; surely it’s nostalgia that does the reminding. But then I realise that when watching the old episodes of Top of the Pops that BBC Four is running on Friday nights, some of my favourite moments come from Darts, a band that achieved success in the late 1970s by providing kooky versions of songs that were even then already 15 or 20 years old. And then when I was at university, when mainstream pop was wallowing in post-Live Aid earnestness, my friends and I constructed a world that resounded to soul and funk from past decades (and an aesthetic that merged 40s zoot suits and 50s Soho and 60s Left Bank blankness). So, sorry Mr Saverimuttu, I guess I do like to be reminded of nostalgia. Just not the crappy nostalgia you’re peddling.

And now I find out that Britpop, another trend that had more than one eye on an imagined past, has apparently been revived (although it appears that translates as “wears a Fred Perry and has a St George’s flag in the back of the video” but maybe that’s enough).

PS: And then there are conflicting nostalgias. I was annoyed when stories covering the death of the actor Bernard Hill led with his appearances in Titanic and The Lord of the Rings, with (to me at least) his most important role, as Yosser Hughes in The Boys from the Blackstuff relegated to a later paragraph (even on the BBC, where Blackstuff was first broadcast). Of course Blackstuff was over 40 years ago; but Titanic was nearly 30...

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

About Courbet (yet again)

And so we come back to Courbet’s 1866 picture The Origin of the World (see here) and more specifically the passions it arouses in Luxembourg’s finest provocateuse Deborah de Robertis (see here) who has adorned the painting (or more specifically the glass protecting it) with a #MeToo tag “because women are the origin of the world”. Which is a bit like complaining about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers because it’s called Sunflowers but, hey, it all adds to the sum of human joy, doesn’t it?

Except that then the French culture minister Rachida Dati weighs in with an intriguing contribution: “An artwork is not a poster to colour in with the day’s message.” Which may or may not be true but at least it suggests that Ms Dati has thought about the subject. And I remember that not so long ago my own country’s government gave the equivalent role to the ludicrous Nadine Dorries and not for the first time a bit of me wishes I were French.