Louis Ives is a young man leading a quiet life teaching in Princeton. No, not Princeton University, but year 7 at Pretty Brook school. As he enjoys his job and is rather shy, he cannot see his life changing. But he has his weaknesses, and an incident where he is caught trying on a colleague’s bra in the staff room sees him moving to New York. Continue reading Jonathan Ames – The Extra Man
This month my self-imposed task of reading a Great Book each month brought me to the work that would present me with my greatest challenge. It was time to take down that copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses sitting on my shelves for the last twenty-seven years and actually read it. I knew only that it was about one day in the life of Dublin and some of its citizens and that its structure was loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey. I also knew that it is considered one of the greatest works of Modernist fiction and that its author is considered a genius by many. Hence my trepidation. Continue reading James Joyce – Ulysses
Thomas Dalton and his flatmate Tom Hamilton, singers with the Australian Opera, created something of an internet sensation when they went out onto their balcony to sing “I Still Call Australia Home”. The performance was captured by a neighbour who happens to be a professional videophotographer. A corny song, but one that warms the cockles of the most cynical Aussie’s heart.
Lucy Ellmann’s first collection of essays has been described as ‘excruciatingly funny’, ‘breathlessly brilliant’, ‘comedic genius’… But the trouble with Lucy Ellmann is her humour always seems to use the same devices: CAPITALS, long alliterative lists, anger, denunciation, and this tends to pall after 196 pages. Her book comprises fourteen essays and is almost entirely a rave against modern civilisation and the people who have created it: MEN. Continue reading Lucy Ellmann – Things Are Against Us
In the morning there was hope. It sat like a fleeting gleam of light in my mother’s smooth black hair that I never dared touch; it lay on my tongue with the sugar and the lukewarm oatmeal I was slowly eating while I looked at my mother’s slender, folded hands that lay motionless on the newspaper, on top of the reports about the Spanish flu and the Treaty of Versailles. My father had left for work and my brother was in school. So my mother was alone, even though I was there and if I was absolutely still and didn’t say a word, the remote calm in her inscrutable heart would last until the morning had grown old and she had to go out to do the shopping in Istedgade like ordinary housewives.
On 26 th June this year one of the world’s greatest trumpet players, Jon Hassell, died at the age of 84. In obituaries he is noted for his collaborations with Talking Heads, Brian Eno and Ry Cooder, but for me his greatest albums are the ones he headlines. Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in the Street, Fascinoma and Hollow Bamboo are quite remarkable. His versions of Nature Boy and Caravan on Fascinoma are unique. Continue reading Vale – Jon Hassell
Paula Byrne’s recent biography of Barbara Pym provided some surprises for those who imagined her as a demure church going spinster. She was shown to have desperate crushes on ambivalent men, who then sometimes ended up as characters in her fiction. I am saving this biography for the end of the year holiday when I can read it at my leisure. In the meantime, I am revisiting some of her fiction, to remind myself what it is about her writing that saw her dropped by Jonathan Cape in the 1960’s only to rise in popularity again ten years later. Continue reading Barbara Pym – A Glass of Blessings
Is Throw Me To the Wolves a story about media manipulation that corrupts ordinary people? Is it a well-written, if too long, crime novel? Or is it, as The Guardian says, “an elegaic exploration of memory and the legacy of childhood trauma”?