Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Haunted all my dreams


If I enjoy a book or a film or a piece of music, I often find that I want to sample more product by the same creator. I’m sure this is quite normal behaviour, but more often than not, it results in crushing disappointment. This has been happening quite a lot lately. The most recent works by Jonathan Coe and David Mitchell fell flat, the former because of the clumsy addition of a bit of metafictional self-reference in the closing stages; the latter, conversely, because the book was entirely lacking in the structural cleverness which made Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas so compelling, and ended up like a cross between a textbook on economic history and Shogun. I also finally got round to watching ‘What Did You Do In the War, Daddy?’, the final, un-broadcast episode of Secret Army, and soon realised that the reason it was never broadcast was not because of its virulent anti-Communism, but because it was crap. And then there was The Illusionist, which wasn’t crap, but because it was directed by Sylvain Chomet (director of  The Triplets of Belleville), and based on a script by Jacques Tati, whose Les vacances de M Hulot is still one of my top 10 movies of all time, it should have been astounding, a combination of deadpan surrealism and existential melancholy and a bit of slapstick, Gilliam meets Bergman meets Keaton. And it was quite good, which really isn’t good enough.

OK, let’s throw this out to the people formerly known as the audience. Is there an author or film-maker or musician or tennis player or pastry chef or masseur who has never, ever disappointed you? Or is there someone you keep going back to, despite the fact that his or her mojo clearly stopped working years ago, and you know it’ll never come back, and you’ve no idea why you still bother but, hey, it’s Woody Allen or Jeanette Winterson or The Wurzels and for the sake of the old times you just can’t let go?

10 comments:

Vicus Scurra said...

John le Carre.
I didn't like one of his books - The Naive and Sentimental Lover - but that was ages ago.
Do I win a prize?

Rosie said...

Is there an author or film-maker or musician or tennis player or pastry chef or masseur who has never, ever disappointed you?
Chris de Burgh. set your sights low and you'll never be disappointed.

Or is there someone you keep going back to, despite the fact that his or her mojo clearly stopped working years ago, and you know it’ll never come back, and you’ve no idea why you still bother but, hey, it’s Woody Allen or Jeanette Winterson or The Wurzels and for the sake of the old times you just can’t let go?
Margaret Atwood. her recent books should have "just read Oryx and Crake" printed on the cover.

Chris said...

Never let me down: The Pastels, Vic Godard, Scott Walker, Bill Drummond... Is this cheating?

Boz said...

Hmm. This is tough. because there are some people I will always go back to on the assumption that I might get something great, or I might just get the 'quite good'. But I'd be disappointed if they just churned out more of the same.

...I'm thinking...

The militant working boy said...

I think I saw a perfect example of this when I was in Paris. I bought tickets to a concert at the Opera Garnier having no idea who was preforming but wanting to experience music in the theater nonetheless. The pianist was an absolutely ancient man named Gyorgy Kurtag who would tentatively hit two keys, look at his wife, who sat beside him on the bench, with a puzzled expression on his face. She would shrug, cough, adjust her spectacles, and the process would repeat.
Being idiotic, disrespectful, overly exhausted Americans, my two friends and myself were trying desperately to stifle our laughter... which was stifled soon enough by a three minute standing ovation.
Upon returning home to Wikipedia, I found that Gyorgy Kurtag, besides being a contemporary minimalist composer, had been quite a hit back in the day.
It kind of makes you wonder if our tenancy to cling to the old and broken will shove the age-improved off our radar.
I keep imagining an all-French audience at a Bob Dylan concert today, laughing their derrieres off.

GreatSheElephant said...

I don't think I've ever been truly disappointed by Placido Domingo.

Nor indeed Gluck, Mozart, Verdi or Puccini and there's no danger of them producing anything new and substandard.

I also thought about Terry Pratchett but I have to say I didn't much enjoy Monstrous Regiment (although now I know what the title alludes to I appreciate it a bit more).

Annie said...

Do you do that completist thing though? Boys are good at that, I am rubbish, especially with music. I bought PJ Harvey's first album. I loved it. Did I ever buy anything else by her, despite all good reports? No. Couldn't be bothered.

I like Terry Gilliam a lot, though he is wildly erratic. The last one I saw was The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnussus & it was all over the place, in a way that seemed to sum him up.

blackwatertown said...

Chris de Burgh - perfect suggestion by Rosie - consistently bad. Which inspires me to propose Daniel O'Donnell - far worse.

But on the disappointment stakes. Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness (gripping atmosphere and cameo by derided Irish goodie), some other one I forget and The Secret Agent(paranoia perfectly captured) ... then it all gets unsatisfyingly overwrought in Lord Jim, which I'm currently just over halfway through.

blackwatertown said...

Oh no - UB40 - Signing On - great.
Everything else - not great.

There's a lot of it about and I'm going to stop thinking about it now in case I get depressed.
I know, I'll listen to the Pogues, they never let me down.

Oh oh - the Pogues. Them. On the other side of it.

Spinsterella said...

Also not a completist..

But - Bunnymen. I even like their new stuff.

Er, Shakespeare?