Robert Pimm

Jumping Jack Flash 8/10

‘Is it cold in here?  I’m a bit cold.’

Mick Jagger, in a skin-tight stage suit displaying his gaunt chest and an ornate cross around his neck, is drenched in sweat.  You can’t hear the crowd respond.  Are they delirious, or puzzled?

“Ladies & Gentlemen” on a 300-square-metre open air screen in Vienna

Until now I’d never heard of the Rolling Stones’ 1974 concert movie Ladies & Gentlemen.  Drawing on performances from four 1972 concerts in Texas, it was released in quadrophonic sound (remember that?)… then disappeared.

Most concert movies are boring.  This one – not so much.   (more…)

How to increase your attention span

A man is writing a novel.  He decides to check a fact.  He consults his computer, or his phone, to find he has six new messages from friends.  An extraordinary news story has come out.  Some thrilling sport is available, live, on-line.

You know the rest.  By the time our writer friend returns to his novel, 45 minutes have passed, and he has forgotten what he originally set out to research.

Our apparent inability to focus on anything for an extended period of time is one of the problems of the 21st century.  It risks hampering our creativity and channelling our energy into bitty activities which leave us unsatisfied or unhappy.  What can we do?

Two things.

First, we can learn from the masters of concentration.  One of these is the novelist Anthony Trollope, about whose awesome qualities I have written before, including this: “Trollope’s work is a reminder that sometimes, life in the slow lane can be better than the alternative. There’s no way to rush-read Trollope.  His novels are best savoured: read in chunks, rather than a few pages at a time.”

(more…)

How men think? Part 2: Lucky Jim 

‘Do you hate me, James?’

Dixon wanted to rush at her and tip her backwards in the chair, to make a deafening rude noise in her face, to push a bead up her nose.  ‘How do you mean?’ He asked.

I first read Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim several decades ago.  I enjoyed it immensely; and noted this exchange as summing up both how some women speak; and how some men react.

Re-reading the book recently I felt it had not aged well; but that it was still full of laugh-out-loud moments, including the one above.

What I was less sure of was how similar Kingsley Amis’s eponymous first person narrator is to Kemal, the first person narrator of Orhan Pamuk’s scary and thought-provoking novel The Museum of Innocence, which I reviewed recently.

In particular, are they similar in the way they treat women?

What do you think?  I would welcome thoughts from readers.

As I am on holiday without a computer or iPad I cannot give this subject the attention it deserves for now; but will aim to do so in August when reunited with a computer.

Watch this space.

Transience and Fat Lama

The novel Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny, opens with the following lines:

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha– and the –atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.

I was thinking of Lord of Light the other day, and the new start-up Fat Lama, when planning to walk the last 100 miles of the Pennine Way.

I do not have pictures yet of the Pennine Way. This is the Lake District in 2007

I was due to walk the Pennine Way with my brother, with whom I walked the Dales Way in 2003 and who has done all the hard planning, including scoping the route, booking accommodation and so on (and has walked the first 168 miles of the Pennine Way, on his own).  But for various reasons he now cannot go – disaster.  Fortunately, my daughter (more…)

How to read P G Wodehouse: a practical guide

I recently inherited a splendid shelf-full of P G Wodehouse in a hand-tooled Folio edition.

My shelf of Wodehouse 

But where to begin?

Pondering this problem, I was delighted to come across fellow WordPress blogger Plumtopia, who specialises in the works of P G Wodehouse.  I discovered two invaluable articles:

Following the advice at the first link, I started with The Inimitable Jeeves and Carry on Jeeves, both of which are packed with laugh-out-loud moments and I can recommend wholeheartedly.  Fine quotes include e.g.

  • The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say `When!’
  • Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, “So, you’re back from Moscow, eh?
  • It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.

The stories are undoubtedly somewhat similar to one another and appear to feature a smaller cast of characters than, say, Richmal Crompton’s Just William series (of which I am also fond).  So, up to now I am going for a conservative 8/10 rating.  But the bumptious dimness of the “mentally negligible” Bertie Wooster and the calm brilliance of Jeeves the butler has a reassuring, satisfying rhythm and as I get stuck into the third book (Very Good, Jeeves) I am thoroughly looking forward to spending time in their company.

Indeed, Jeeves’s problem-solving abilities remind me of my very own Ms N, the world’s most brilliant, unpredictable and occasionally homicidal hotel manager, in The Hotel Stories.

I look forward to revisiting the advice of Plumtopia as I move forward with the works of P G Wodehouse over the months and, possibly, years ahead.

P.S. if you fancy trying another brilliant author, see my review Trollope: 11 reasons to read him 10/10.

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Wonder Woman and Wartime Moral Confusion (WMC)

When I was 8, my friend Barbara Stewart used to receive a package of DC and Marvel comics every few weeks from a relative.  We lived in the mountainous African kingdom of Lesotho, and used to retreat to a certain deserted basement room in the university campus to gorge ourselves on the newly arrived treasures.

In that room was an electric point with the cover missing.  We discovered that by inserting our fingers into a certain part of the wiring, we could give ourselves a powerful electric shock.  We spent many lovely afternoons reading comics and daring each other to give ourselves another shock.  Barbara, if you’re out there, please get in touch.

Wonder Woman “Official Final Trailer”

I mention this story because, back in the ’60s, we used to think the DC comics, with characters such as Superman and Batman, were cool; and that the heroes in the Marvel comics, (more…)

Review: “Lion” – the film. The real India? 7/10

Saroo, a tiny boy, arrives confused, in Calcutta.  He does not speak Bengali and has no family or friends or idea where he is.

Lion is his story.

The “Lion” trailer is packed with spoilers.  Avoid!

I watched Lion on a wise person’s recommendation recently on a plane to Chennai.  I thought the first half, featuring the stunning Sunny Pawar as Saroo, was riveting – especially if, like me, you hadn’t seen the trailer and the plot developments came as a complete surprise.  The second part, which featured amongst others Nicole Kidman, struck me as OK but relatively routine and schmalzy in parts, especially the dodgy finale. (more…)

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