Robert Pimm

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Review: words and music in Vienna 10/10

No-one is allowed to applaud.

After each item the audience stirs, a captive beast, constrained – and stays silent.

Only after 15 performances – seven readings by Julian Barnes, and eight piano pieces by Angela Hewitt, lasting two hours – is the audience unleashed.  Rapture ensues.

The Konzerthaus is one of Vienna’s great cultural institutions.  With four separate concert halls, it offers an eclectic range of arts designed to be accessible to a broad public.  In recent years the programme has included the “Originalton” cycle – literary readings with music.  Most authors read in German but in 2015 British author Ian McEwan read; and in 2017 it was the turn of Julian Barnes – both accompanied by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt.

Julian Barnes and Angela Hewitt at the Konzerthaus – Photo Robert Pimm

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Nine questions about the Alan Clark Diaries: 0/10? or 10/10?

“Why am I still, in the main, so zestful?

I know, but I don’t like to say

In case the gods take it away.”

As so often, Alan Clark, here aged 62, is talking about what he refers to as the other – as in “I fear that if I’d come from ‘an underprivileged background’ I’d probably by now have done time for GBH, or assault, or even what Nanny calls the other.”

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An Amazon reviewer of Alan Clark’s diaries, which cover the period 1972 (when he was 44) to his death in 1999, described him as The Mr Toad of the Tory Party – vain, boastful and a lover of fast cars.  No-one outside the UK has heard of him.  He quotes Hitler, of whom he keeps a signed portrait in his safe, and revels in the shocking effect this has on listeners.

So why read his diaries? (more…)

Valley of the Rogue

In 1979 I hitch-hiked for seven weeks around the United States.  It was, with hindsight, a wild ride.  The following is an account of what happened on the night of 27-28 July 1979.  If you like it, tell me.  I’ll be happy to publish a few more excerpts.

To TC and Miguel: if you’re out there, get in touch!

Valley of the Rogue

TC was too young.  Miguel was older, but didn’t like being asked to show his ID.  So when their ancient Chevy had wheezed into the gas station in Crescent City, we pooled six grimy dollars and I went to buy the beer.

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California coast near Monterey, 1979 – photo Robert Pimm

In California at 20 you can have sex, smoke dope, and die for your country, or someone else’s; but you can’t get a drink without a friend.  The two Mexicans and me, Oregon-bound, were old friends for the night.

So how did I end up with TC and Miguel in Crescent City?

In summer 1979 even the most laidback, doped-out, rock-lobotomised New Yorkers said (more…)

Museum of Innocence: how men think? 8/10

A man repeatedly lies to and harasses both his fiancé and his young lover, while pontificating about the “unpalatable anthropological truths” which plague relations between the sexes.  In pursuit of his obsession with the young lover, he then displays over 728 pages (in my paperback edition) every one of the unpleasant male characteristics he decries, from jealousy to over-control.  In the process he ruins her prospects for either marriage or a career and brings about a tragedy.

Yet, at the end of the novel, the author invites the reader’s sympathy for his protagonist, making his last words in the book: “Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life.”

The author also invites the reader to explore and even share in the obsession of the protagonist, Kemal, by filling a house with objects supposedly collected by Kemal and associated with the object of his obsession, Fusun.  This house is the eponymous “Museum of Innocence“, to which I gave a rave 10/10 rating in an earlier review.

 

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The case containing 4,213 cigarette stubs in The Museum of Innocence (Photo: Robert Pimm)

I wrote in my review of the Museum: “The story… is told in the first person by Kemal, a spoiled, wealthy 30-something year-old from Istanbul.  Kemal narrates the story of his obsession with Fusun, a younger woman, over a period of nine years.  During that time, Kemal discovers that one way to salve the ache of loss when Fusun is not present is to handle objects associated with her.  So he begins to steal items from her family.  These objects form the nucleus of the museum.”

I also wrote that “Kemal is beyond creepy”.  But he may also be interpreted as a prototypical man.

So: do the ghastly actions and self-justifications of Kemal depict a warped misogynistic monster?  Or is author Orhan Pamuk simply laying bare with unprecedented honesty how all men really think – and act, if they are given the chance? (more…)

Museum of Innocence: a slow-burning, textured revelation 10/10

A man buys a house in Istanbul in order to turn it into a museum, filled with objects collected by an imaginary character in a novel which the man plans to write later.

That man is Orhan Pamuk, Turkish Nobel prize-winning author, about whose awesome productivity I’ve written before.

The museum, and the book, are called The Museum of Innocence.

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A display case in The Museum of Innocence (Photo: Robert Pimm)

I hesitate to review The Museum of Innocence.  Others have done a brilliant job already.  For example I recommend this superb 2012 piece by Elif Batuman in the always-crushingly-intellectual London Review of Books.

But I felt it might be worth alerting people to two aspects of The Museum of Innocence.

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Two great sources of writing inspiration

You are a brilliant writer.

But not everyone realises it yet.

What to do?

One of the great truths of writing is that however brilliant you may be, getting someone to read and appreciate your work requires contact with other human beings.  I don’t mean publishers and agents, important as they are; but writers; editors; critics; and other, often annoying, people who give you advice on how to improve, polish and market your fiction.

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George Orwell: another inspirational author (see below)

Here are two sources of such contacts.

First, I recently had the good fortune to hear the writer Paul McVeigh reading from his debut novel The Good Son in Izmir (the link goes to a goodreads site with rave reviews).  He was inspiring and entertaining, and mentioned his blog, which gets a staggering 40,000+ hits a month.   (more…)

How to write: Orhan Pamuk

I had the good fortune recently to attend two events at which the famous Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk was present.

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Orhan Pamuk with British film director Grant Gee (Photo: Robert Pimm)

The first was a dialogue between Orhan Pamuk and the British film director Grant Gee, whose intriguing film Innocence of Memories explores Pamuk’s book, and museum project, The Museum of Innocence.  

The second was an event to mark the closing of the rather terrific !f Istanbul Film Festival.

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