Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Epistolary Fisticuffs"

There's a delicious spat going on between Anna Ford & those two terrors, Amis & Hitchens. Ford, a former newsreader, whose beauty once made her the pin up of the chattering classes, has taken issue with Amis' self-pitying, misogynistic ways, & rebuked him for his callous treatment of her late husband, Mark Boxer. Amis has responded to this attack, and Hitchens, implicated as a boorish accomplice, & never known for his self-restraint, has also jumped into the fray to sling a few barbs. Ford has just written another letter to the Guardian today,, in faintly conciliatory tones. This is so very, very Guardian...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ghost Writer

Saw the latest Polanski film yesterday. It's good stuff - Polanski still knows how to do suspense. There are many reviews out there, & almost all of them point out the analogies between the plot (loosely based on the post-leadership travails of Tony Blair) and the real-life circumstances of the director himself. I'm not going into that except to say that yes, the roman (ouch) a clef element is a big part of the film's appeal.* But there are lots more things to enjoy. Smart camera work, great sets (the look of the film is one of dark, stylized menace)& an outstanding score that drives the action along with a classic, jittery zip. Generally a fine cast, & I was particularly happy to see Olivia Williams in a leading role. She's an interesting actress to watch, with something of the rangy ferality of Charlotte Rampling. As many critics have noted, the closing shot of the film is a brilliant one, but stick around for the credits too, & see the way Polanski makes every second on the screen count.
* One caveat though. The plot seemed a bit shaky in places & I had to stop the logistics of it from bugging me & just get on with enjoying the fun. A real, but minor irritation.

Henning Mankell

The Guardian has an interview with the Swedish writer Henning Mankell, best known for his dark, brooding Kurt Wallender crime novels. Mankell lives part time in Mozambique, where he directs a theater company, and has written extensively outside the realm of detective fiction. He is married to a daughter of Ingmar Bergman, and is working on a four part biographical drama about the director. The final Wallender novel (really the final one this time) will come out next year.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hitchens Q & A

An hour of Hitchens (ha ha), including a youthful 1980's version of same. This is a bit dated & on the long side perhaps, but quite enjoyable.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Today I was unlucky enough to end up at the Barclay School Supply store, in downtown Brooklyn. The place is a monument to educational incompetence. Amidst the dizzying array of commercial teaching aids, forlorn & rather bored teachers wander, gathering their materials. One woman, chatting on her cell phone, was discussing recent lessons with a New York City theme:
"Somebody did the Statue of Liberty, & the Empire State Building's been done too. Still, there's a lot of city landmines left, aren't there?"

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I'm still awaiting the arrival of my book order from Amazon, so today I decided to go over to the horrible Park Slope Barnes & Noble, to get some interim reading material. While there I idled away a certain amount of time in the cafe, looking at magazines, and in The Atlantic, what did I discover but a glowing review of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, by none other than (of course) Christopher Hitchens? I fear I'm in a very specific demographic niche when my interests are met so tidily. Hitchens calls the novel "a magnificent service to the language and literature whose early emancipation it depicts" and suggests that "anyone who has been bamboozled by the saccharine propaganda of A Man for All Seasons should read Mantel." Anyway, after this rousing & thoughtful review I went downstairs and picked up a copy of an earlier HM work, An Experiment in Love. I'm content.
Incidentally, the Starbucks practice of displaying the calorie count of their food pleases me no end. It's a complete disincentive to my buying any of their nasty crap & stops dead in its tracks my occasional urge to buy the least offensive of their bland, sugary fare.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Red Shoes at Film Forum

I wish it was easier to get hold of films by Michael Powell. I saw I know Where I'm Going a long time ago, but I'd really like to watch it again. I'd also like a chance to see Peeping Tom, but haven't seen it around. Next week at Film Forum, however, there's a chance to see The Red Shoes, & the 7:00pm show on February 19th will be introduced by the film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who has edited many of Scorsese's films & was married to Powell. This is an important film event.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On the Book List

An Edible History of Humanity - Tom Standage
Essays - Montaigne
Love Undetectable - Andrew Sullivan

Whatever Happened to Neck Face?

I was very fond of the Gowanus Neck Face graffiti you could see from the F train a few years back. I still see tags scattered about from time to time, but they're nothing special & much smaller than his earlier work. This van appears on my block every so often, but I don't know who it belongs to. Could it be his?


Saturday, February 6, 2010

This can't be the finished facade, but I quite like the painterly sort of look to it. Very short on windows though, & those railings aren't pleasant. This building rises between 11th & 12th Streets in a mildly secretive way.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Juana del Pipa

Here's the late, incomparable Juana del Pipa. I was trying to find out when she died, but couldn't come up with any details. She was one of the featured performers in the film Gypsy Caravan, that came out a couple of years ago. Del Pipa was part of a legendary flamenco dynasty, and also saw many of her family destroyed by drugs. What a voice.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Yes! The Faith Instinct & the two Maria McCann books are winging their way to my door ...


Though I have no religious faith, I'll still revel in medieval painting, in the King James Bible or the Book of Common Prayer. I'll still love church architecture, the Coventry Carol, & Faure's Requiem. As a teenager, in a strictly Church of England world, the smell of incense and the faintly taboo allure of Catholicism was distinctly appealing. Aesthetics, aesthetics... I'm still thrilled & inspired by the art of Christianity, amazed how this collective fiction could inspire such beauty. Only the art could ever have tempted me to Believe. But even as a child, caught in the dull, pious sickliness of Sunday School, I knew it all to be a lie.
At university, I fell in love with the poetry of George Herbert, a metaphysical Anglican priest whose dialogue with God is a dazzling display of devotion & technique. With no shred of belief in me, I love his work still.

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgramage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against th'Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

The Knives Are Out

A savage review of The Pregnant Widow from John Crace! With a vicious illustration by Neal Fox ...