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Showing posts from March, 2014

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

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“We knew about the Kingston Trio and Harry Belafonte and their hordes of squeaky-clean imitators, but we felt like that was a different world that had nothing to do with us. Most of those people couldn’t play worth a damn and were indifferent singers, and as far as material was concerned they were scraping the top of the barrel, singing songs that we had all learned and dropped already. It was Sing Along with Mitch and the Fireside Book of Folk Songs, performed by sophomores in paisley shirts, and it was a one hundred percent rip-off: they were ripping off the material, they were ripping off the authors, composers, collectors, and sources, and they were ripping off the public.”

“We had so much opportunity to try out our stuff in public, get clobbered, figure out what was wrong, and go back and try it again. It was brutally hard work, because these crowds of tourists usually started out at the bars and by the time they got around to us they were completely loaded. So we would be play…

What You Gonna Do When The Mail Runs Dry?

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It’s World Book Day, and in answer to the question World Book Day naturally provokes, I’m reading the diaries of English actor Kenneth Williams. I’m also reading the journals of Betsy Sheridan and Soren Kierkegaard and the letters of William S. Burroughs. I move between them, usually using their proximity to the place I’m sitting as my criterion for selection.

I love reading the private documents and ephemera of public figures. I know that some insist creative work should be read and understood without reference to its creator; but something that excites my intellect or my imagination always provokes an extra curiosity in me. When I read “A Season in Hell” by Arthur Rimbaud the fabulousness of it made me want to know more about the person responsible for bringing it into the world. Not that Rimbaud was an easy man to locate.

Which has me wondering, today, how the arrival of the technological age will affect our future study of the arts. My poet friends and I used to send each other…

GUEST POST: Fear and Loathing at the Royal Mail (by Bartholomew Bundy)

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2013 ended for me not in the blaze of literary awards shows and gala dinners, but in the hard slog of casual Christmas work for the Royal Mail. This is how it is for poets and artists in the underground, unless they get lucky, and no one complains about it. You start out believing it will give your work an edge, but then you realise that’s romantic drivel. Manual labour is as soul-destroying and spirit-flattening as any other kind of labour; usually after a day digging gardens or sorting in a warehouse all you want to do is get drunk, not write poetry. But while it’s no better than any other kind of work, for the poet, it’s no worse either, and even John Cooper Clarke spends half his life on tour. Unless you’re rich or dead you have to do something.

The Royal Mail job seemed like it would be okay. I needed the money, and we would only be doing 8 hours a day 5 days a week. But I wasn’t prepared for what I found at the freezing cold, leaky warehouse the Royal Mail had rented temporari…

Virginia Cherrill

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There are two scenes in all the movies I've ever watched that I would run into a burning house to save if the last copy were inside. One is the final moment of Eric Rohmer's "Le Rayon Vert," where Marie Riviere sits on the cliffside with a new love as the sun goes down over the sea. The other is the scene in "City Lights" where Virginia Cherrill's flower girl, her sight restored, sees Charlie Chaplin's tramp for the first time. Both moments are so beautiful and so moving I cry every time they're on.

A week or so ago Michelle and I were in Kettering, touring the charity shops as we do in search of rare books, movies and things for the flat; and we heard a violin playing mournfully. Someone nearby was busking in the rain. "God, that music so reminds me of 'City Lights'," I said, and began talking, probably for the hundredth time, about the scene with the flower girl.

"Le Rayon Vert" has an underlying theme about pers…