“Sometimes I’m thinking that I love, but I know it’s only lust…”
“Sometimes I’m thinking that I love, but I know it’s only lust…”
A marvellous night in the company of Edwyn Collins. I’ve loved him since the earliest days of Orange Juice. He’s still wonderful. He played a great set that featured tunes from his days on Postcard, right up to this year’s album.
Simply thrilled honey.
“He was the Last Englishman”
I first became aware of J.L. Carr having read his novel “A Month In The Country”. It is one of the best books I have ever read. It is rare that I have felt so powerfully affected by a story. In short, it’s a masterpiece, and one that I look forward to re-reading. A few days after finishing ”A Month In The Country”, I read another J.L. Carr novel “The Harpole Report” - a very different book, both in terms of style and content, but a great read. So, by now, I was very intrigued by J.L. Carr. Who was he? How did he come to write two such contrasting books? Fortunately his friend, and journalist, Byron Rogers wrote this biography of J.L. Carr that was published in 2003.
I am very grateful to Byron Rogers for such a readable and thorough account of the unusual J.L. Carr. I tend to overuse the word maverick, however can confidently label J.L. Carr as a maverick. In short he was brought up in a staunchly Methodist, and deeply religious, family in the North East of England; he was a teacher, and head teacher; was a photographer in the RAF during the war; spent time in South Dakota teaching; played amateur football; campaigned for the preservation of a disused village church; and, upon retiring, became both a writer and a publisher. That, however, is but a fraction of what defined this fascinating character. It is his intellect, idiosyncrasies, values, determination, and originality, that make this book worth reading. Not only are all his novels biographical, and therefore this biography provides helpful and illuminating insights, his is also one of the most unusual lives I can imagine - despite hiding behind a facade of profound ordinariness. J.L. Carr died on 26 February 1994, and that was, to quote Byron Rogers, “the last day of his life and the only one in which he had not been fully conscious.”
I will be reading the rest of J.L. Carr’s novels, and my enjoyment and understanding will be greatly enhanced by this splendid biography. I heartily recommend it: interesting and inspiring.
Finally, I should mention that The Quince Tree Press, J.L. Carr’s small publishing company, is still in business, and is run by J.L. Carr’s son and daughter-in-law. All J.L. Carr’s novels are available, in addition to to a range of pocket books, and J.L. Carr’s maps of English counties. I intend to foist them on my friends and relatives at Christmas and/or on their birthdays.
This is the remarkable story of Second World War double agent Eddie Chapman. Along the way Eddie meets an extraordinary cast of characters. Here’s a couple of examples:
There are many, many more. You couldn’t make some of this stuff up. It’s incredible.
The most incredible thing of all is Eddie’s tale: from criminal, to British prisoner, to Nazi prisoner (both in Jersey and Paris), to Nazi agent, and then to British double agent. Eddie’s gift was his charm and his cunning. Almost universally liked, he seemed to win over even the most sceptical. This appears to be because he frequently developed real affection for the many people he met, including his Abwehr controllers. He also seemed to genuinely love the various women with whom he became entangled.
Ben Macintyre tells Chapman’s story with skill, verve, and wit, and does his subject justice. Chapman emerges as a real life, working class James Bond-type character: handsome, charming, and drawn to danger, gambling, fine food, drink, and women. He is a seething mass of contradictions, with one essential attribute, he was the perfect double agent.
If you enjoy either good biographies, or larger-than-life characters, then you’ll almost certainly enjoy this book.
King Charles live at The Haunt was a joyous experience. The gig was sold out, and the crowd were supportive and up for a good time. He played the majority of his splendid debut album ‘LoveBlood’ and a smattering of new tunes. A great show and a great night.
An absorbing and sumptuous eulogy for the end of the golden age of the British aristocracy. Beautifully written and with so much to enjoy: faith and - in particular - Catholicism, duty, love, desire, grandeur, decay, memory, and tragedy. At its heart there is a beautiful and enchanting story. The various characters, right down to the most minor ones, are stunningly and credibly drawn - having just finished the book I feel that I have been amongst them and known them. I have read most of Evelyn Waugh’s novels and this is his finest. If you haven’t read it yet I envy you.
Carbon/Silicon “Big Surprise”
Great band. Great video. Great songwriter. Great song.
A gorgeous eulogy for the perfect Summer
Birkin, a damaged World War One veteran, is employed to a find and restore a mural in a village church, whilst another veteran is employed to look for a grave beyond the churchyard walls. The writer looks back 58 years later, and as an old man, on his idyllic Summer of 1920. The bitter-sweet happiness the writer describes feels fragile and ephemeral which makes the story all the more beautiful, powerful and haunting. This short book packs so much in: love, loss, social history, the way the past impinges on the present, ageing, war, nature, relationships, spirituality, religion, pain, healing, happiness, and disappointment. Beyond that, the less you know about this book the better, suffice it to say it’s a masterpiece and you should read it.
We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours for ever - the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, the touch of a hand, a loved face.
Trafalgar Street, Brighton - 20 March 2013 on Flickr.
Deadly Magic Pill…
…can I watch you shoot ‘em up?
Trafalgar Street, Brighton
Taken with iPhone / Instagram - 20 March 2013
Some might say that it is wrong to invoke the names of Philip K Dick and Kurt Vonnegut, however I think Gary Shteyngart’s imagination, social satire and storytelling are right up there with those two iconic science fiction novelists. I’m also tempted to invoke the “M” word. Masterpiece. I have been engrossed by this book for the last few days - and have picked it up at every opportunity.
The novel blends satire with a moving portrait of two lonely people (Lenny and Eunice) who, against all the odds, discover mutual love. Their love story starts in Rome and concludes in New York. The setting is the near future. A future where the US dollar is plummeting, China is threatening to stop providing the US with financial support, and most people work in either finance or media. People constantly stream information about each other on their “apparati” (a very, very smart ‘smart phone’) and no one reads books. It’s a future where current social trends (social media, a preoccupation with youth, online pornography etc.) have reached their zenith and inform all aspects of daily life. Friends meet in a bar and live stream in the manner of a chat show host, crowbarring in mentions for their sponsors, whilst elsewhere everyone inputs “hotness” ratings for those around them via their “apparati”.
This dark and prescient evocation of an all too plausible future would be sufficient to make this a very readable novel however Shteyngart manages some great writing too. The tale is told through Lenny’s self-absorbed diary entries and Eunice’s honest, simple, immediate - but still insightful - social media exchanges. Two very contrasting - but very distinctive - narrative voices. Here’s Lenny describing Eunice’s abused mother: “She was pretty, the features economical, the eyes evenly spaced, the nose strong and straight, but seeing her reminded me of approaching a reassembled piece of Greek or Roman pottery. You had to draw out the beauty and elegance of the design, but your eyes kept returning to the seams and the cracks filled with some dark cohesive substance, the missing handles and random pockmarks.” Masterly.
There is so much richness and detail to enjoy in this book. Shteyngart manages to make all kinds of amusing, chilling and interesting observations about: this dystopian future; Lenny and Eunice’s emotional journey; early 21st century Western culture; and the human condition. It’s a compelling, moving, and remarkable book.