Kafkaworld's Blog

March 31, 2010

Chuckling With Major Pettigrew

Filed under: books and reading — kafkaworld @ 10:09 am
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I’m going through a rather esoteric stage with my reading at present.  I’ve developed an obsession with women’s writing from the United Kingdom from the beginning of the 20th Century up to the fifties and sixties.  My main focus is domestic and literary.  Firstly, how did women live and manage their lives, and secondly, how did they manage to write while doing all that and even more importantly, why did they bother?  This has all led to a brisk trade with Persephone Books, who specialise in this area.  Their books are veritable jewels with their distinctive silver covers and beautifully selected endpapers; and they come with a matching bookmark – heaven between two covers.

However, that is all bye the bye.  Major Pettigrew is Helen Simonson’s first novel and is set in an English village, but is very much in today’s England of predatory development and multi-culturalism.  It is the most delightful book I have read for some time, essentially a love story but unsentimental and full wickedly dry observations of the village’s inhabitants.  It is chock full of quotable quotes, but this is my favorite.

“Life does often get in the way of one’s reading,” agreed the Major.  They drank their tea in silence as the logs cracked and spat in the flames of the fireplace.

Ain’t that the truth.

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March 28, 2010

Good news!

Filed under: Visual arts — kafkaworld @ 4:44 am
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Tim Minchin by Sam Leach

This portrait has won the 2010 Archibald Prize.   Not being an expert in art history, I have no idea if a painting of a comedian has ever won before, but I suspect not.  It’s heartening to see a man whose comedy is defined by the artist as “social commentary … and the appeal to reason over religion” not only appearing on the wall of a prestigious art gallery but winning a chunky $50,000 for the artist.

Tim’s comment that “I particularly like how he’s made my loungeroom floor look so clean – this will please my mother” is very pertinent to those of us who spend a week desperately cleaning the house and unclogging the toilet before Mother comes to stay.  We can then greet her at the door without guilt, and pretend that the house is always immaculate.  And she can pretend to believe us.

So good on you Sam Leach.  I hope you enjoy the hard won financial benificence, and that it makes your life easier for a while.

March 25, 2010

Once Upon A Time

Filed under: family — kafkaworld @ 8:16 am
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I had this really good idea.  I often have them, generally in the early hours of the morning, but being a Grand Mistress in the Sacred Arts of Procrastination, I seldom act on any of them, and they quietly drift off to The Island of Unfulfilled Dreams.  I have a huge file there; they love me.  I’m one of their best customers. This particular idea, which has been hanging around nagging at me for years, is to write some sort of autobiography for my boys.  They’re much too absorbed in their own busy lives to be interested now, but in thirty years time, in an idle moment perhaps, they may wonder what was going on in my life, especially the fifties and sixties before they were born.  Having sat down to this project on numerous occasions, I’m usually defeated by how much there is to say.  How can I possibly sort out what to put in and what to leave out so that it’s not just a load if disconnected drivel (my speciality!).  At this point, my trusty muse, who is a snarky piece of work and despairs of my ability to do anything ever, suggested that I might recall music which has been important in my life, and centre my meanderings around that. So I’m going to practise writing them here, reread the posts in a few months and if I’m still happy with them, they can move to the ‘keep’ folder.  There will be no chronological order, just whatever occurs to me at the time.

“All The Things You Are”  Music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein ll.

“You are the promised kiss of springtime
That makes the lonely winter seem long.
You are the breathless hush of evening
That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.
You are the angel glow that lights a star,
The dearest things I know are what you are.
Some day my happy arms will hold you,
And some day I’ll know that moment divine,
When all the things you are, are mine”

This song, originally written for a musical (Very Warm For May) in 1939, has been sung by many people.  But the version which made such an impact on me was released by Peter Sellers on his 1958 LP, “The Best Of Sellers”.  My father bought almost anything Peter Sellers related and laughed himself sick listening to the records.  He took great delight in sharing his discoveries and held regular Funny Record Evenings where friends and family would be forced to sit through hours of Sellers, Shelley Berman, Spike Jones, Stan Freeberg, Victor Borge and others who I can’t recall.  In this song the context is all important.  Sellers sings it as an elderly man, singing to himself while he shaves.  It begins a cappella but an orchestra gradually fades in and this beautiful song ensues finally brought to an abrupt end by his wife (I presume) who shouts at him  “‘Ere.  ‘Ow much longer you gonna be in that bathroom”.  The poignancy is tangible.  Listen here



March 24, 2010

Ah Julia Julia Julia …

Filed under: theatre — kafkaworld @ 8:45 am
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There was a lot of that going on at the Concert Hall last night where we lobbed up to see the Rockwiz take to the road.  Not only is she gorgeous and intelligent, but she’s very professional and keeps the show zipping along, coping with the more freaky contestants along the way.  It’s an entertaining show because it’s so scary.  With random members of the public up on stage and miked up, anything can happen at any moment.

I couldn’t fault anyone really – Dugald (the Housewives’ Choice), Brian Nankervis who was out in the foyer strutting his stuff before the show, revving everybody up, and the band who were funky beyond belief.  They give the impression of having seen and played everything, and I believe them.

What to wear?  I mulled this over all day.  Finally, knowing that I would be close to the oldest person there, I went for the Christmas Tree effect.  Put on as many of your most colourful clothes as you can carry,  pile all the jewelry you possess on top of that, then sashay through the foyer as if you own the place.  It worked a treat.  The crowd parted before me as if I had leprosy.  Success!

Favorite bits?  Julia’s brilliant simile ” sometimes those riffs go in one ear and out the other, like a ice-pick through Trotsky’s head”.  Graphic, but it worked for me.  Goosebump time arrived with the encore and a beautiful rendition of Tom Waits’ ‘Come On Up To The House’, worth whatever I paid for the ticket and more.

March 14, 2010

‘Marley and Me’ and Me

Filed under: books and reading — kafkaworld @ 7:19 am
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I went to see this when it was a movie, and loved it, even though Jennifer Aniston usually irritates me beyond belief.  I forgave her all the irksomely self-conscious tics and twitches because she interacted so well with the dog.  If a dog loves you, you’re okay by me.  Marley was funny and sad and made me realise that my dogs aren’t so weird after all.

Then, for my birthday, somebody who knows I’m a sucker for dog stories bought me the book.  He’s the kind of person who wouldn’t be seen dead reading the book or watching the movie, but I can reveal to you, exclusively, that this is because he is secretly hankering for the day when he retires (not in the forseeable future!) and is able to bring home his very own adorable golden retriever.  So his opinion doesn’t count.

I immediately dived into ‘Marley and Me’ and resurfaced several days later, wiping the tears from my eyes.  Damn dogs.  How do they worm their way into your heart the way they do, simultaneously costing you a fortune in vet fees, puking all over the carpet and barking savagely at falling leaves thus waking you up at 3am?  Author, John Grogan, makes the point that dogs teach you all you need to know about unconditional love.  To your dog, you are everything, you make the world go round.  The most wondrous part of his day is when you come home and his life can resume where it left off when you left him (no, deserted him!)  in the morning.  I don’t care how supportive your partner is, how much your children love you or you them, none of it comes anywhere near how much you mean to your dog.

So, rather reluctantly, I recommend this book, even though the writing disappointed me rather.  Grogan is a professional journalist so I did expect more tightly written prose.  He seems to ramble off looking for imaginary rabbits at times, much like Marley does, instead of keeping the focus firmly on the plot.  None the less, Marley is brilliantly and lovingly brought to life in these pages.  You will fall in love with him as I did.


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