The following gem comes from A.A. Gill in the Sunday Times:
Publishing is run in the main by women, or by men who are frightened of, or would like to be, women.The flavour of Christmas
Yes, I know it's all over for another year (who said Thank God?) but the flavour of Christmas in England was best captured on Brandywine Books, 24 December, by the simple expedient of quoting a passage from The Wind in the Willows. But what, please, are oat-sleeves? Google isn't any help.
The greatest story never told
In the Times for 23 December, Peter Ackroyd reviewed The Nativity: History and Legend, by Geza Vermes. For a sensible perspective on the old, old story, it's worth reading the review if not the entire book. And, in case you're a Christian and are already worried, no, Ackroyd does not do a hatchet job on your faith. Rather the reverse, actually.
On 24 December, John Dugdale, in the Sunday Times, listed what he described as 'the funniest and most farcical moments of the literary year'. Well, maybe it's just me, but I couldn't get a smile out of the whole piece. I found some of the 'moments' pathetic, appalling, frightening, disgusting, depressing, and a whole lot more. But not funny.
Perhaps it's a postmodernist list.
Grime and punishment
A week later, the Sunday Times did rather better with a review of Elizabeth Ladenson's Dirt for Art's Sake. The subtitle is 'Books on trial from Madame Bovary to Lolita.'
This, as you would expect, covers ground which will be very familiar to someone of my age who has kept an eye on books for fifty years or so, but much of it will no doubt be entirely new, and not a little dismaying, to new kids on the block.
The subject is censorship, and the banning of books. Ms Ladenson's unique selling point is perhaps that she makes explicit what so disturbed the Victorians, and continues to disturb right up to the present, namely the link which often exists between the erotic and the excretory. The very language of condemnation makes this clear: dirty, filthy, straight out of the sewer, and so forth.
The review, by Christopher Hart, contains the best comment (bar one) about D.H. Lawrence that I've ever read. Lawrence was not, says Hart, the liberated, guilt-free, inhibition-less creature that is often assumed. Au contraire: 'Lawrence had all the broad, generous, tolerant humanity of a Scots presbyterian minister with a migraine; and about as much sense of humour.'
Damn right. The only better brief description of Lawrence is the one that was commonly heard in my youth. It was said that Lawrence never really wanted to be a writer at all; what he wanted to be was a sex maniac, but he failed the practical.
Grayson Perry, who was mentioned here only the other day, in the context of married men with families who wear frocks, has published a memoir: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl. It tells, apparently, how the boy became the man became the transvestite became the artist. Essential reading obviously, but as it sounds quite cheerful I don't expect it to zoom to the top of the charts.
Sexual advice for kids
Clive Keeble, and all other independent booksellers, will love this one. In the Times, Suzi Godson wrote a column about how to teach your kids about sex, and listed some books which might be useful. Then she added, also very helpfully: 'Don’t order these books online without having a look at them in a book shop first.'
How to hang a man in three easy lessons
The Sunday Times quotes an eye-witness as saying that Saddam Hussein's execution was 'so, so, quick.' It didn't look quick to me. It looked shambolic, and I'm quite sure that Mr Pierrepoint wouldn't have approved.
Any time you want to hang a man properly, do yourself a favour and send for an English executioner. Although I do have to admit that we are a bit out of practice.
I have updated the blogroll, somewhat (column on the right), during the Christmas break. I have also tried to improve the facilities for searching this blog. If you look in the right-hand column you will find a new search box. This is to supplement the box provided by Blogger at the very top of this page.
Neither of these damn things, I have to report, works very reliably. For instance, I just searched for 'pierrepoint' in the new widget. Nothing. Did it in the top-line box, 3 results. But the best way remains the laborious one which I describe under the new widget box.
What's the point of me writing stuff here if you can't find it? All of these search facilities, by the way, are provided by Google, which owns Blogger, on which the GOB is hosted. So theoretically it should all be compatible and seamless and infallible. Ha.
Sky gets it right
More than two years ago, I wrote a letter to a guy at Sky, complaining about Sky's habit of having a voice-over, at the end of each film (actually well before the end), advertising the next one. See my post of 14 July 2004.
I don't often watch a film on Sky from beginning to end these days, but over the holiday period I did. And, amazing to relate, there was no voice-over! Well done, Sky. Let's hope it wasn't a fluke.
Meanwhile, of course, the BBC has caught the habit. Two movie-length dramas that I watched last week both had some moron leap in at the end, yammering on about whatever it was they had on other channels, other days, and so forth, thus entirely ruining the enjoyment of what one had just watched.
I was going to say that it is hard to believe that the Tristrams can be so stupid. But it isn't hard at all, unfortunately.
The Constant Gardener
The Sky film in question was The Constant Gardener, adapted from John Le Carre's novel of the same name. I enjoyed this film, not least because of Bill Nighy, who has a habit of nicking every movie he's in.
In this case, Nighy had two scenes which I guess were taken pretty much verbatim from the novel. In one, he gives the hero lunch in one of those gentlemen's clubs which you might have thought had disappeared. In a masterly way, the Nighy character tries to flim-flam our hero, but fails, because the hero is quite smart enough to figure out what's going on.
In the second scene, Nighy delivers a eulogy at our hero's funeral in a posh church. This eulogy is, again, a masterpiece of euphemism and lies, of the kind that one has heard all too often, in a certain kind of church, for a certain kind of man.
Le Carre is so good at writing that kind of dialogue or set piece. But then he has, of course, mixed with the kind of people who do that sort of thing in real life.
Finally, here's a little conundrum for you.
On the Penguin Blog, just before Christmas, Sam the Junior Copywriter wrote about the best of times.... In the course of enthusing about a Black Swan Green proof that he swiped from Colin the Copywriter, Sam referred to himself as 'lauding it over everyone who had to wait for the hardback'.
Now, had I been writing that, I would have said I was lording it over everyone. Or, possibly, lauding it to everyone, if I had gone around recommending it.
Google gives quite a few examples of both usages. So which (if anyone cares) is the correct version?