Archive for May, 2010

Tom Courtenay

I hope I am not spreading myself too thinly. There’s not much of me to go round. But I have recently joined Goodreads (see sidebar) after prevaricating for a while. I decided I needed to broaden my horizon and find some recommendations for books from outside my narrow social circle. I particularly like recommendations of books that are free, such as those on Project Gutenberg, but I don’t want to be seen as a mean old-fashioned fuddy-duddy who only likes dead authors because they don’t need to get paid. I read books by living authors too. Short ones. I’ve started a few trilogies and quartets and even a dodecameron but I’m still stuck in the middle of them. So short single-volume novels are best.

I’m a bit lonely on Goodreads, so you are welcome to befriend me there.

I find it quite useful to be able to keep track of what I’m reading there because I have a tendency to get distracted and forget. I also like the way Goodreads allows you to consult public opinion rather than rely on the marketing of publishing companies. I have a sceptical relationship with publishers. Of course, I love the way they publish books for us to read. Especially short ones. But I sometimes get really frustrated by their policies and their marketing tactics.

One of the things that really frustrates me with publishers is the tendency to publish unwieldy versions of books I really want to read. I like books to be light and portable. I love ebooks. I hate hardbacks. I really hate so-called trade paperbacks, which have all the inconvenience of hardbacks without the durability.

I am really grateful for computers, digital text and the iphone.

But I don’t want to sound like a geek. I really need some friends.

Oh, but I nearly forgot to mention. I do have one friend. She may be a nerdy blood-sucking phlebotomist but at least she likes me for who I am and not just because I’m willing to post a link to her populist feature on vampire novels.

I think.

Thanks, Nicole!


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A fruity finish

I’ve never understood why film critics always write in opaque sentences stuffed with pretentious abstract nouns. I’ve always imagined it’s because they need to establish the fact that they’ve had an education. It’s one of the reasons I never read much about films. Another is that the critics seldom reflect my own tastes. The only way to know if a film is any good is to go and see it.

The problem is knowing which films to go and see. Luckily I’m married to a passionate researcher. Lanying scours my Sight and Sound every month and nags me about the films that have aroused her curiosity. She takes notice of the emails from the Curzon cinema and researches what ordinary people are saying on the internet.

That’s why on Friday night she took me to go and see Revanche by Götz Spielmann instead of Life During Wartime by Todd Solondz.

I loved Revanche. I was really pleased I hadn’t read any of the reviews and had no idea what to expect because it drew me in gradually, as a story should, and took quiet hold of my imagination. I almost forgot I was watching a film and got absorbed in the story and the characters. I didn’t completely forget, though, because the images resonated in my mind and I kept thinking about them. The film opens with something black hitting the surface of a pond and sinking without trace. Then you see a man mowing his lawn. There is no drama here, you might think, but as the story unfolds you appreciate what is under the surface.

To me it was as satisfying as a good novel, which is the highest praise I can give it. Lanying and I had a good chat about it on the way home. What a perfect end to a nearly perfect evening!

I say nearly perfect because there was the experience in the restaurant beforehand. It was a pleasant enough restaurant and the food was excellent but our waiter was new and he was being supervised by an eagle-eyed female mentor who noticed that we had to wait a long time and she kept coming over to apologise. Then a waitress got pushed from behind just as she was serving the table next to us and she spilled some white sauce all over me. I had to rush to the bathroom and sponge my (cheap) Italian suit with cold water. I’m pretty sure my suit will be come back from the cleaner’s looking OK but the well-meaning mentor apologised profusely, waived the bill and gave me a bottle of Santo Stefano Ruggeri Prosecco.

Lanying doesn’t know anything about wine so I googled it and discovered that

This brilliant wine has an inviting pale greenish colour and fine strands of persistent perlage. Its delicate fruity bouquet is subtle yet persistent, with aromas of mature apples and lemon blossoms. Fresh and lightly sweet, Santo Stefano is well-structured and rounded. It is harmoniously balanced and has a long and gently fruity finish.  It is the classic ‘ombretta trevigiana’ (which could be roughly translated as the ‘between-meal drink of Treviso’) often drunk with pastries and cakes.

(The drinkshop)

I see. It’s a good job we still have wine critics, as I really don’t have a clue.

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