scribbles tagged ‘4 smiles’

The human stain. Phillip Roth

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

ITV online allowed me to watch the film of Phillip Roth’s book. I was initially attracted by the powerful cast including some of my favourites. Anthony Hopkins, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Nicole Kidman.

4 smiles:)  :)  :)  :)   Ratings explained

This good rating is despite the film failing the Bechtel Test:

(1) are there  at least  2 women in  the film? (yes)

(2) Do two  women talk to each other (No)

(3) the conversational topic is not about a man (Not applicable, see 2)

As society progresses to make good films that include storylines that draw on the richness of life which includes women,  I’d like to add that the women in the film with  speaking parts have names.

I’ve rated this film so highly despite this prominent failure because the protagonists main storyline revolves around the challenge of living in a discriminatory, prejudiced culture. I recognised his challenges and could empathise with the difficulty and outcomes of the decisions he’d made.

Plot spoiler
The protagonist, Coleman Silk, is the son of African Americans, his skin is pale and he can pass as a white person if he chooses to do so. We see him treated as-if he is white, the position of privilege. To me this is analogous to a woman choosing a route where she highlights the characteristics associated with the male was as a technique to gain the benefits associated with a male privileged world. I wear a suit, I talk with the confidence associated with men. I’m confrontational in my discursive style. I recognise that these are not associated with the traditional female role.

When  Coleman has the choice of mixing in society as ‘black’, going to a college that is recognised as for blacks, joining the army and declaring his ethnicity, he chooses to not declare his status as a member of a disempowered group. At school I was teased for being like a boy, wearing my hair short, wearing trousers and flats shoes. All done for comfort and convenience. The teasing bothered and hurt me. But I chose to go with the values of physical comfort and convenience over conformity to avoid the aggressive, mean, teasing. Coleman doesn’t conform, he side-steps.

The film tracks significant events which lead to Colemans decision, through tragic and painfully ironic outcomes. Eventually,  he finds love and acceptance for who he is by closeness with a woman who’s been the victim of a broad range of typical outcomes of being a victim of male power. Unlike him, she never had the option of denying her ‘class’ as woman. In his senior years we see Coleman voluntarily walk into the type of prejudice and unstable life that he chose to avoid, with deception, in his youth.

A beautiful, painfully sad  film.

The human stain. Phillip Roth
5 votes rating 4.2

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Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Bus ticketwendy: I’m a stranger in your town, how do I use your bus

Bus driver: where do you want to go?

He explained that for $1.75 I could travel anywhere in the city for 2.5hrs. Brilliant. I can get on and off any bus I want to. Luxury. I wanted to spend a day travelling on the busses but instead focussed on the more socially acceptable activity of going to a local art gallery.

The bus driver reminded me when I got to the stop I needed to get off at. He was very helpful. We met again on my return trip and he remembered me, greeting me with a warm smile hello. The bus drivers that I met were all very helpful and friendly. Very impressive.


3 votes rating 5

1 wonderful musing »

The outsider. Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Reading Albert CamusI found Albert Camus’s ‘The outsider” profoundly disturbing. In just under 115 pages it moves the reader from a funeral through a killing to legal conviction and sentencing with straightforward and gripping prose. The protagonist appears to lack pretention. He lives with an uncomplicated world view, within a world that requires he play a role, demostrates conformity to social complexity.

Recommended for people that find human behaviour fascinating at both human and societal levels.

4 smiles:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂  Ratings explained

‘The Outsider’ appears to be one of those books that teenagers are encouraged to study – there are plenty of reviews online. Somehow my teenage self missed this book, making do with  ‘The catcher in the rye’, ‘To kill a mockingbird‘ and slighly later with ‘On the road

Someone's notes in the 2nd hand bookI found the book disturbing because it was so easy to identify with the protagonist, to be him.  To feel his pleasure, pain, passage of time and the way others criticise any lack of socially acceptable expression of  strong emotions.

I picked up my copy from Reading town’s Oxfam, this 2nd hand copy came littered with the study notes of someone who read the book in a radically different way from me. I found the notes almost as disturbing as the book itself. The notes accuse the protagonist of being unemotional, unfeeling. Yet I read him as experiencing a wide range of normal feelings described in short sentences, using very physical descriptions.

The outsider. Albert Camus
2 votes rating 5

2 bits of fabulous banter »

Being there: GOLD highlight

Sunday, August 19th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The pinacle gold highlight position for our teams’ recent Snowdonia hiking goes to:

Gold winner: being there

TryfanBeing completely there, watching where I place my foot, thinking about my balance, taking a deep breath of damp unpolluted air. My mind so totally wrapped up in the here and now that nothing bursts in. The details of work, home ownership, family membership are temporarily lost behind being on a mountain.

Even when I take a break from walking to soak-up the view I am still totally immersed in being on that mountain. The feeling is exquisit and rare. For me it compares to some unpublishable experiences and:

  • racing a Laser in a force 4 gale
  • climbing the technical move on a severe rated climb (highest grade that I managed).
  • excellent sex

This experience achieved ‘4 Smiles’ 🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂 on the Wendy House rating scale –  Ratings explained


This highlight alone more than cancels out all the nastiness of the 3 winning downsides:

Being there: GOLD highlight
1 vote rating 4

4 bits of fabulous banter »

One Plucking Thing After Another

Monday, April 4th, 2011 | tags: , , , , ,  |

The People’s Republic of South Yorkshire brings us 8 players of- Bass, Barritone, Tenor, Soprano and Fridge Magnet Ukeleles. Fresh from New York’s Carniegie Hall with only hand luggage, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain played the New Theatre Oxford to the delight of a mature audience and their teenage offspring. Witty banter inbetween singing, whistling, dancing all accompanied by Ukulele playing.  Playing songs from one musical genre in another style, for example, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights re-interpretted in the genre of Swing bands

Recommended for anyone with a sense of humour, love of diverse musical genres or 80’s music, and Yorkshire people.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

The set included:

  • Hawkwind’s Silver Machine as an ode to commuters
  • David Bowie’s Life on Mars delivered with duet lyrics from other songs. One person singing I did it my way and so on while the lead vocalist sang the main lyric. It was fascinating, creative and worked extremely well.
  • Ian Dury and the Blockheads Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll as a polite tea party
  • Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights as a Swing band
  • Wheatus’s Teenage Dirtbag” as a polite love song
  • Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK as a group campire singalong
  • Recognisable classical stuff that I am sadly ill-equipped to name
One Plucking Thing After Another
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6 bits of fabulous banter »

Read dating people

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The evening started with a £3 fee, a sticky name-tag, an empty-crib-sheet for notes, two opposing rows of 10 chairs, and a glass of wine. The organiser, Laura, recognised me by my bookMervyn Peake’sLetters from a lost uncle

Soon the evening was buzzing with quick animated talk as we used our 2 minute timed slots to promote our favourite book to each other. 20 people, each with 2 minutes to entice another person to read their favourite book. At the end of the 40 minutes we all voted for the book we liked-best.

A fascinating cross section of books, people and Library staff. All personable, quirky and good natured. And me. Organising this diverse collection of literary enthusiasts is a challenge. The Reading Central library team failed with flare and  improvised with charming grace.

For people that want a novel introduction to a range of books, to meet local people, and have a good swig of wine thrown in, this is an excellent event.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

Read Dating crib sheet

Two minute book promotion techniques varied from reading 4 pages of bulleted notes on a book I’d been given as an 18th birthday present, read, and loved (Lynne’s Gormenghast trilogy) to Marie Claire’s brief, almost self-apologetic, statement ‘Its like a soap opera, its about people‘ (Men from the boys by Tony Parsons).

Adam produced a polished, yet souless, advocation of Wuthering Heights. If I hadn’t already read the book his persepctive ofnHeathcliffe as misunderstood by the general reading public would have put me off reading it. Adam had no sense of tailoring his delivery to the audience, to me. His delivery felt cold, dispassionate.

Arathy bought the book that had changed her life ‘The science of self realisation‘ by his divine grace Srila Prabhupada. Ernestly she showed me chapter headings and managed to talk in a way that I found difficult to follow. I tried asking her questions about how it had changed her life but she didn’t manage to give me an insight into her revelations, her life before and her life after the change. I was pleased for her discovery but not persuaded that this book would engage me.

During a mid-session break I uncovered snippits of these people’s lives, an emigrant from Australia, an unemployed teenager from Henley-on-Thames, and a mother who’s children had recently left home learning German to fill the gap. No-one asked about me. Even in the midst of lively conversations my ability to feel invisible seeps in.

Read dating people
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4 bits of fabulous banter »

still raving about my washing machine

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

While estolling the virtues of my fabulous new washing machine a local German said

Have you heard of Miele? They’re a German company, they make the best washing machines

wendy: YES!

The Wendy House in the USA came with its own, new Washing Machine. No photograph and I can only vaguely remember it. It was a GE toploader. A big ugly thing with only 3 dials as control, each with 3 settings, I think they were

  • load size (small, medium, large)
  • temperature (cool, medium, hot)
  • spin speed (slow, medium, fast)

Simple design, not much room for making a mistake. Nothing to indicate temperature in a manner that could map to the labels put on clothes, no indication of wash-time, or cycle time. It did have a buzzer alarm that rang when it had finished.

I didn’t feel proud of it, it didn’t feel good to use, I took no pride in my laundry. Blugh. It worked and was very reliable. It lasted all 7 years that I lived in the USA without a hiccup, so I never had an excuse to replace it. But I suspect you know that I missed my European washing machine.

still raving about my washing machine
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Squeeze and the Lightening Seeds

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Lightening SeedsYour average height, 5″5 ¾, English gal standing in the stalls at a gig (Pop concert) has to decide whether to crane her neck for a view or

DANCE her socks off

Given the bands were Squeeze and the Lightening Seeds the decsion was easy – I opted for sock abondonment. Whenever I glanced up and between the gently rocking plumpified bodies of the middle-aged couples afront I could see fabulous back-drops and light displays. Displays clearly designed to entertaining the heightedly-average person such as myself. Good show. It was.

During the interval I joined the logistic challenge of ordering beers by acting as part of the chain to pass them from the bar through the 10-person deep seemingly random crowd that was actually multiple orderly queues. I’d forgotten the subtle skills and social coordination necessary to purchase a round of drinks at a sell-out concert in a large venue. It was fun, I got to meet and talk to other people in the Queue about their journey’s to the gig, their past experiences of seeing the bands. It’s a friendly psuedo-muddle.

SqueezeBy lifting my arm into the air I gained a snapshot into what the world looks like for taller people and those average heighties who are prepared to wear ankle-threatening high  heals. With only 6 inches difference in height the world would look so different.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

The Lightening Seeds sang the life of Riley

Squeeze sang up the junction

Squeeze and the Lightening Seeds
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the scheme for full employment

Friday, January 1st, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

by  Magnus  Mills

Highly recommended for people who  love watching the social dynamics of the British workforce.   This book was  a Birthday pressie!  

4 smiles: Ratings explained

What is the book about?  

A story of gradual social change within a nationalised industry featuring,  tea, cakes, chat, meetings  and canteens.   We watch the gradual decline of a national treasure – the scheme for full employment – through the eyes of an unnamed  employee.   Reminiscent of the decline of the national mining  industry,   national car industry,   and the NHS.  

The reader gradually learns how the scheme works through the daily experiences of  one employees.   We meet his colleagues, supervisers, and learn about what employees should do and what they acutally do.    The manner of storytelling reminded me of Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, as the protagonist appears to accept and observe all that goes on around him.    The short sentences, descriptive focus, economy with works,  make the book  very easy to read.   I wish I could write that beautifully.

Unlike the majority of modern novels this one focuses solely on work contexts.     The action, and sometimes  inaction, all  happens on work time, in work venues.   There is only one female character named and present in this workplace.   The scheme is currently, predominantly,  a boys world of work.

Is the book boring?

Unlike Kafka, the story is full of  situational humour that Mills gradually reveals like clues in a detective novel.   Other reviewers describe the humour as ‘Deadpan humour’.    For me the funniest part is what the scheme for full employment does,   how it delivers value above and beyond full employment.   Many of the reviews I read actually gave this away rather than allowing the reader to discover it within the book.   I am glad that I didn’t read any reviews before reading the book.

the scheme for full employment
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Blah mange

Sunday, December 20th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

AFHJohn Hegley

Once again Reading’s December Poet’s cafe offered the treat of  the engaging Mr. Hegley.  

Mr. Hegley manages varied and entertaining audience participation during his perfomance.  

For one poem he found a member of the audience that was prepared to nominate another member of the audience to translate a poem from French.     John would read each line and the audience member translated.   For each line John would comment on the quality of the translation.      Some of the French phrasing lent itself you English people making   translational errors.   The mistakes lead to some smile and laughter inducing imagery.    

I giggled myself off the chair on several occassions,  

Another form of participation involved the audience being given a line to sing on cue from John.   For example,   when he said ‘blah’ we had to say ‘mange’.   I do like being able to take part.

During the evening’s events I learned many things including

  • there are many, published, poets in Reading that regularly attended the poets cafe
  • John’s head moves with agility through  all sorts of angles, often quite dramatic.
  • AFH’s fingers are prone to splaying  and twirling

I wonder what bodily movement I should develop to enhance my (to-be-developed)  poem delivery talents?

Blah mange
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wall of remembrance

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 | tags: ,  |
Gassed (1919) by John Singer Sargent, Imperial War Museum

'Gassed' (1919) by John Singer Sargent, Imperial War Museum

A BBC history trail provides some context and history to this painting and John Singer Sargent,   the American artist comissioned to paint Anglo American cooperation

The painting  is huge, silent and painful.   The soliders blinded by mustard gas walk towards the  tent for treatment.   They follow each other in a chain of  hand on the shoulder, unable to see their steps  

Chemical warfare

Before seeing this painting I had only ever known John’s witty, bright and insightful society portraits.   Carnation, lily, lily rose has decorated my home since the early 1980’s. It was one of my first loves, the warm light of the lanterns, the of the grass, linen and flowers,  the children  silently together with thier lives ahead.  The bright optimism is good company on my bedroom wall

Pain is remembrance, you cannot forget pain (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)

The pain in ‘Gassed’ doesn’t need to hang on my wall to haunt me.   Like an old friend,   I will visit the painting again

wall of remembrance
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scribblers advance

Saturday, September 19th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

Thatched house

Long post warning.   Plot spoiler –   ‘The Court’ is a great place to spend a relaxing break from modern city life.

Deborah: Wendy?   Would you like a glass of wine,   a cup of tea?

Wendy:   Yes!   both please

Sunday early evening, I’ve just stepped into the Court,   a large thatched cottage in the heart of Sheepwash, North Devon.   What a wonderful welcome.   Deborah takes my bag and gives me a tour of her home while making tea, pouring two glasses of wine and finishing the ironing.

Dining roomDeborah Dooley and her family have  opened their home  to paying guests. Deborah gives subtle and caring attention  to all her guests,  making sure they have what they need, keeping the atmosphere welcoming. Guests might come to write, to hike, to take time-out from being a mum.

Sheepwash bustles at 8am in the morning.  The local shop opens it’s doors, literally.  School children chatter and scream  as they wait for the bus.  Milk is delivered,  tractors roll by and I wake from a deep sleep amidst thick white cotton sheets.

When I wander downstairs in the morning a mug of tea soon finds me.   Fresh fruit salad, cereals and  a full cooked breakfast with eggs from the hens in the garden  are served on the visitors’ book,  a table with messages scrawled from past guests.  Packed lunches are prepared for guests’ planning day trips.

My mornings are filled with workshop activities designed to improve my writing.  Whether my writing improves is up to me,  Deborah’s workshops  give fun, tactful, feedback and encouragement.

Cottage fireplaceEvenings are warmed by  a real crackling and hissing fire.    Guests recline and share stories from huge embracing sofas.  The pub across the tiny town square feels like an extension of the house, not that I’ve spent much time there because the hospitality in the Court is magnetic.

I stayed with 3 other guests,  an  Essex accountant with a detailed colourful story on any topic your care to mention and a Cambridge couple taking a Hiking holiday.  We share breakfast, dinner and evenings and mainly do our own thing during the day.  Deborah listens, thinks, then uses what she’s learned. A simple but rare combination.  An excellent combination for a hostess.

Our roomThis is not the sort of place to stay if you like all the modern conveniences available in a  multi-star  Hotel.   The Court provides a  different kind of luxury, not one that is packaged with the check-list criteria of hotel stars.

The bathroom is shared by all the guests.    None of the modern trendy en-suite nonsense.  The bath is BIG,   deep and long, surrounded by a wide selection of dissolving things that you might want to soak in.  You need to check if there is enough hot water in the tank for a bath before taking a bath.  This reminds me of  living in a house with a hotwater tank and 4 other adults, my family, coordinating use of the bath was something we learned to do without giving it a second thought.  There is an electric shower with always available hot water.  If this  breaks your idea of a cosey retreat  then maybe this isn’t the place for you.

There is a TV in one of the rooms, I have not used it.  There are no TV’s or phones in the guest bedrooms. There is a  wireless base-station hidden in the lounge which provides internet  connections. I couldn’t get cellular reception from either T-Mobile or Orange services.  If this type of thing will be a problem for you, the Court is not the place for you.  Lack of cellular service was a bonus for me.  The Court has a landline number that I gave  to the  neighbour looking after my fluffballs and thankfully  she had no reason to call.

My experience is a warm friendly, active, family home full of people that respect each other.  The atmosphere and attitude of  the place and people made my stay interesting and welcoming. This is a very pleasant change from the benefits of living alone. I’ll definitley be visiting again.

scribblers advance
2 votes rating 5

4 bits of fabulous banter »

facilitated footwear

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

Wendy:   I want Oxblood red please!

Conkers footwear facilitator (CFF): You can have any of these colours, you can have different colours for different feet, different colours for different sections of the boot, what would you like?

Wendy: Oh, Oh, OH,   purple, no green, no this electric blue,   no brown.   Oh!   …   um,   Oxblood red please..

Conkers, TotnessI discovered Conkers shoes in the summer of 1986.   discovered after having been sent there by a bouncy student friend from Newton Abbot who’s boots I couldn’t help but admire.   By the time I found Conkers  they were 9 years old and had a small shop at the top of Totnes High street.

They now have a larger shop half way up  Totnes High street. As a student I couldn’t afford the luxury of a well made, durable, easy to repair, natural tree-rubber soled, funky coloured, personalised pair of shoes. I sulked and promised myself that when I had a job I would come back and treat myself.   I’ve had one job or another for nearly 20 years.   This week I went back to Totnes and now I have a pair of boots being made-up to fit.   I suspect I will be back again…   for purple, or green, or…

facilitated footwear
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early captive

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , , , ,  |

My parents took the family on a day trip to London, to the Tate gallery.   At 7 yrs I was not well equipped to appreciate the treasures on display.   Mum and Dad seemed to spend ages looking at dull boring pictures of clouds (Turner).   I asked permission to explore the galleries at my own pace and was allowed to wander off.   I walked briskly,   errr ran,  around the building capturing impressions browsing for literally seconds at vaguely interesting paintings that I’ve long since forgotten.  

Then.   I turned the corner of a gallery to be confronted by the death of Chatterton.  

His vibrant orange hair glowing,   his purple velvet breaches full of warm lively texture in the daylight.   The torn paper on the floor.   His face white as marble.   Clearly dead.   I was captivated,   I stood studying the painting for what seemed, to a 7 year old, like eons.   I fell intrigued.   Who was this beautiful man?   Why was anyone that beautiful, dead before being old and wrinkly?  

He became my first love.   He was a local Bristol boy,   I was a local Bristol girl.   Later I read Peter Ackroyd’s book ‘Chatterton’ and wondered whether his death was an accident or deliberate. I visit St. Mary’s Redcliffe  occassionally,   the place where Chatterton reportedly discovered the manuscripts on which he forged his texts.   He has remained young, beautful, and with my thoughts.  

From AElla

O! Synge untoe mie roundelaie,
O! droppe the brynie teare wythe mee,
Daunce ne moe atte hallie daie,
Lycke a reynynge ryver bee;

Mie love ys dedde,
Gon to hys death-bedde,
Al under the wyllowe tree.

early captive
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friendly society

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Wedding CertificateQuaker weddings.   Highly recommended.

The couple marry each other.  No third party symbolic proxy as a represenative  of a god.   No-one gives the bride away.   The couple make a public commitment to each other in a way that suits their own personal relationship with their god.   Everyone shares meditative silence, interspersed with thoughts, poems  and music as the spirit provides,  followed by tea and cake.      Then  all the guests sign a wedding certificate for the couple to keep.

There is a fabulous peacefulness, equality and equanimity about the occassion.


Reception venue  The couple used a classic VW camper van to take them from the ceremony to the field that hosted the reception.   The same camper van  provided the bride and groom with a place to spend their wedding  night.

Wedding Car

In the reception field,   a marquee tent hosted a blue grass band,   bands with brass sections, inflatable chairs,   and oodles of wedding guests.   The field also hosted the guests tents,   fireworks, fire and pathways of candles carved through the grass.  During the fireworks I snuck off to keep warm by a fire where I was leant a  much needed  pair of long,   black, thermal leg warmers.   All around excellentness.


friendly society
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David Byrne | Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno

Saturday, April 11th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Air can hurt you tooOutstanding. Highly recommended.

My 4 day holiday weekend kick-started with  a magical evening of slick, creative, quality performances in  glowing cricketish whites over a glass of wine in the circle of the Oxford New Theatre.

Choreography  variously  included  synchronised office-chair twirling and dancers leap-frogging David while he played.  A packed audience of  silver-haired and teenage people  bounced in the good natured holdiay-ready atmosphere.

David’s vocal control and pitch has matured beautifully adding more depth to classic tracks, those played  included: Air, I Zimbra, Once in a lifetime, Take me to the river.

David was his usual unassuming, audience focused, personable-self.   When he noticed venue staff asked audience members to sit-down he stopped the band mid song and gave people explicit permission to stand-up and dance,  then  picked-up the song again where they had left-off.

Alien t-setA David-designed  alien themed  t-set was a featured part of the mechandising.

David Byrne | Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno
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have mercy on us all

Saturday, January 24th, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

by  Fred Vargas (translated from original French by David Bellos)

Highly recommended for people who like innovative twists on crime thrillers, novels that cunningly intertwine history with fiction, and rich characterizations of people living in another country (Paris, France).

4 smiles: Ratings explained

Times Literary Supplement Ruth Morse summarises the content in a recognisable way when she comments that “Fred Vargas has everything: complex and surprising plots, good pace, various and eccentric characters, a sense of place and history, individualized dialogue, wit and style.”
I cannot comment on how the translation had changed the book from the original. David Bellos worked with the original author on the translation.

Ruth Morse makes a scathing comment on the translation writing that David Bellos had ”simplified, adapted and anglicized throughout, diluting the specificity of Vargas’s well-modulated French. This is not a matter of competence, but of style choices. David Bellos’s translation is so free as to amount to wholesale rewriting, at the expense of the atmosphere. Reading his prose is like watching a hastily dubbed film.” David Bellos  replies to Morse’s criticisms.

I wish I could read the original French version because despite not being particularly interested in murder mysteries I was so gripped that I read this book in one, long, day. A rare un-put-down-able experience for me as a single girl and curmudgeonly reader, intolerant of murder mysteries with plots that are either

  • easily guessable
  • so obtuse its virtually impossible to guess potential plot evolutations

This book managed to effectively walk the line between these two literary traps.

have mercy on us all
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Readings in Reading

Friday, December 28th, 2007 | tags: , , , , , , , ,  |

Early on a chilly Friday evening afore Christmas Mr. Hegley and longtime associate Mr. Bailey jumped on a train from London Paddington to Reading Central.     Once in Reading they sought out the South Street arts centre and there joined the poets cafe.   The cafe was hosted by AFH who skillfully introduced us to the intricacies of the concept of first half,   second half and interval.   He cunningly avoided  reference to the powerful football analogy that subsequently snuck its way into several of Mr. Hegley’s poems including his opener which described the emotional ebb and flow of  Luton town beating Reading  town.   Both almost cities missed gaining city status in the Millenium celebrations  when the Queen granted 3 towns city status.John’s delivery was perfectly complimented by his companion, Andrew’s, acting skills.   Neither black bird, woman,   nor alien were beyond Andrews talented delivery.

At the poets cafe audience are also invited to be performers,   slips of paper, published and unpublished books proped newcomers and professionals alike while sharing their work about ghosts, parties, typewriters, family, and TV shows.     I slouched at the back with a pint of John Smith’s rapidly disappearing from my  plastic glass wondering if I should bring a piece of paper and a little pluck  to the second half…   …after the interval…   …of the next meeting.

Readings in Reading
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Monday, February 26th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Highly recommended to people who enjoy independent films with  all the components that make it a classic cult film.   In an outstanding directorial debut for Lee Daniels he demonstrates a level of maturity that can take many good directors decades to reach.

:-)  :-)  :-)  :-)  

Ratings explained

The conversational style is akin to french films.   The plot is  intricate and innovative akin to English gangster films.   The  New York settings and characters are colourful.   I experienced the film  as a blend between Nikita, Terminator and Lock Stock and two smoking Barrels with a touch of Pulp fiction thrown in.   If you like those  4 films,   you will probably enjoy this one.   Cuba Gooding Jr as the inscrutable lead and Helen Mirren as the, red, Rose provide  weighty lead performances.    Music fan’s will enjoy the  parts well executed by  Macy Gray and Mo’nique.   The film has a sombre mood throughout with diverse music from a french sounding piano accordian through a classical Cello solo backing a poignient moment  to soul music,   all  literally setting different tones.

The unusual plot unravels at an even pace that is easy  to follow and gripping in its twists and turns.    Helen Mirren takes  a role  that is  not a role  commonly given to a female.   There are seamingly surreal, or real life, touches like  a Zebra roaming the night-time shots  of a mansions garden,   Jessie  at ladies night, that add amusement if they capture your eye.   Careful product placement Wild Turkey bourbon and social-cultural  indicators,  red nail varnish, chain smoking, drinking build the atmosphere.   Stylistic lighting with shifts between realistic outdoor colours and colour-themed indoors shots or fuzzy-edged back-lit romatic outdoor shots.

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Monday, January 15th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

Highly recommended for raunchiness, innovative characters,  plot, attention to visual detail that conveys the period as dark,  lavishly dressed, wigged and  ill-washed.    The biograhpy of this poetic raunchy athiest provides the plot with twists, turns and endings more fabulous than stories concocted to please a mass audience.    The scope and detail of the script is worthy of its topic.   The language is used to good effect.   Every sentence is worthy of inclusion in the film, no redundancy.   I laughed,   I cried,   I winced, I disliked characters, I wanted to befriend characters,   I admired characters,   I was reviled by characters.   This film was a fulfilling experience for me.   The production credits the audience with intelligence

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂    

ratings explained

The film opens with a young adult  John Wilmott (Jonny Depp),   Second Earl of Rochester, making a self descriptive prologue directly to us, the viewers, in a classical stage play  style.   He sneers as he knowing  describes himself,  his knowledge of how we will experience him.  Willmot is wonderfully objectionable, spiteful even,  with the engaging cleverness worthy of  a witty poet and playwrite.   He is spikely cynical throughout:

the moral of the incident is that any  experiment of interest in life  will be carried out  at your own expense,   mark it well

“all men would be cowards if the only had the courage

The film is birightly bawdy.   It sprays a wealthy variety of recognisable,   yet obscure words,  that mechanistically describe sexual acts.   The context and delivery of obscure phrase’s makes meaning clear,   for example a phrase delivered by a prostitute/actress describing copulation with a wife:

shooting good chisum up the lawful

Sad cynicism pervades the film, life is conveyed as tough and yet the lyrical words thrown in pain are beautiful,   bring poignancy to the struggles of the players.   Sepia tones,   mud, smoke, puss, music played on period instruments,  dark lighting  rich language  and costumes sink us deeply in the period.    The tone and pace of the dialogue moves like a symphony.  

Examples of bawdy cycnicism expressed by the female characters:

I believe that men are hurdles that must be negotiated…     …you could buy my slit for a pound a night sir…” (Elizabeth Barry played by Samantha Morton)

when a gent sees the spirit and not the eyes and the tits,   then the gent is in trouble… …don’t make me care for you, I’d rather you came your fetch over my face than leave me with that lump of caring” (Prostitute/Actress)

The temporary relief from cynicism and life is through plays, acting,  Drama.    Dreams.  The relationship between John Wilmott and his prodigy actress, Elizabeth Barry, hints at a deeper more profound, mutually beneficial relationship.   The relationship between John and  King Charles II (John Malkovich) is similarly more profound.   No single quote captures the subtlety and power of these threads of hope and optimism, each peaking at a different point in the film,   beautifully balanced.   John Malkovich’s is exceedingly  well cast, delivering few and powerful lines with quiet gravitas.  

The film ends with an  epilogue that invites the audience to take a slightly new slant on  all that they’ve seen.   It asks a question,   I wonder what your answer will be.    My answer was   ‘no more or no less’

Excellent production.

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review ratings

Monday, September 25th, 2006 | tags: , , , , , , , , , ,  |

Ever wondered what Wendy review ratings really mean?   You need wonder no more.    Rating system explained:

:-(  :-(  :-(  :-(  :-(  

Don’t touch this,   lest it be contagious or induce severe fits followed by sudden brain death

:-(  :-(  :-(  :-(  

No.   It’s just wrong,   so wrong.   Turn around an walk away before anything valuable  like sanity or toothbrush gets broken

:-(  :-(  :-(  

Thow the phone down.     Icky, icky, icky,   could prompt a minor tantrum involving  some small hand-held household item hitting the floor with a little more speed then naturally supplied by gravity    

:-(  :-(  

Wince making.   What were they thinking?   Walk away now  


Why?   Even lashings of tea and biscuits couldn’t make this work  


Mining required.   Get your spade out,   if you are  prepared to put the effort into  digging for it you’ll find some virtue buried somewhere in this  

:-)   :-)  

Darn good.   Like a pint of well kept real Ale  from a cask in good company,   or a Sunday morning reading a broadsheet in bed with the  fluff-balls snoring nearby    

:-)   :-)   :-)  

Lovelly.   Simply world class talent.   Easily recommended and probably even remembered,   which given my scattiness is a major achievement      

:-)   :-)   :-)   :-)  

Gorgeous.   Oh!   that was good for me.    Expect this review to include a bit of gushing because  the work has  genius potential      

:-)   :-)   :-)   :-)   :-)  

Hero Worship.     Realised genius, lets do it again,   and again,   and again.   There’s a stong risk that Wendy’s planning a proposal.

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Saturday. Ian McEwan

Sunday, September 10th, 2006 | tags: , , , ,  |

Saturday gets  a self confessed McEwan addict rating of

4 smiles.   ratings explained

 Highly recommended for people who like Ian McEwan stories where  everday life is intertwined with the exceptional in a suspense drama,   or is it?   For a well thought out and written analysis read this  review by Mark Lawson in the Gaurdian.   Review excerpts:

  • Saturday catalogues the local only in order to focus on the global
  • By recording with such loving care the elements of one rich Englishman’s life, Saturday explores the question of to what extent it is possible to insulate yourself against the world’s concerns
  • One of the most oblique but also most serious contributions to the post-9/11, post-Iraq war literature, it succeeds in ridiculing on every page the view of its hero that fiction is useless to the modern world.
  • The most recurrent theme in McEwan’s 10 novels is the sudden ambush of the safe and smug.

We follow the protoganist,   a neuro-surgeon Henry Perowne, through 24 hours set in London, 2003, on the day of a major Anti-war (with Iraq) rally.   Through his recollections we succinctly cover the last 20  years  of significant family events as he prepares for a special evening.   Through conversations,   news broadcasts and the anti-war rally we learn about different perspectives towards Britians engagement in the Iraq war.   His job centres on diagnosing complex human physical disorders,   then fixing them,  saving lives.   Analogous to governments diagnosing world problems and attempting to fix them,   saving lives.    McEwan’s writing style is captivating.   In this single sentence he conveys so much about the   old people in a ‘home’:

They stir,   or seem to sway as he enters, as if gently buffeted by the air the door displaces

I read the first half of the book sporadically,  reverently, on a Saturday.     The first half focuses on detailed,   relevant,  scene setting with events.   The home,   the car,   the family,   the health activities,   the job,   the friends,   the colleagues, the rally, the news, the values.   The second half of the book was so gripping I couldn’t bear to put it down,   my evening stretched into the early hours of the morning.          


Ian McEwan addict confesses
Saturday. Ian McEwan
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Mountain Goats @ Nuemos

Sunday, June 11th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Extremely good value  :-)   :-)   :-)   :-)

3 chirpy performances in Nuemos  for $9:  

A very pregnant black gal,   Kimya Dawsons,   sang difficult to hear lyrics in a ‘peepy’ cute sounding high pitched voice while deftly managing to play guitar around her pudding bump and commeting that her lungs were currently squished up a bit.   I caught a few worthy lyrics… “It’s like farting in the bath”.    When not performing Kwimi, unpretentiously,  sat at the merchandising Tressle table.   One of her Albums ($10) was called.   “Hidden Vagenda“.   I nearly bought it for the title alone.  

Skinny, white, German Barabara Morgenstern bounced around the stage while reaching to play her electronic keyboards.   The perky high energy gal provided a stark contrast to Kimya’s performance.   Her music reminded me of the 1970’s exploration of keyboard possibilities.   It felt like a ‘retro’ sound,   yet fresh and cheerful.   I couldn’t understand any of the German lyrics.  

The Mountain Goats,   2 boys 1 base guitar, one acoustic.  The set was mainly from Sunset tree,   new songs and some from ‘Tape number 2″.    Quality delivery,   John Darnielle is witty and personable,   punctuated with short stories about Darnielle’s favourite  Boxer ‘Pinkerton’ and details about song inspirations. Before seeing them perform I thought,   this guy is messed up,   if he ever gets sorted it will ruin his musical talent.   After seeing them it was clear that his talent stems more from astute observation that ‘messed-up-ness’.   Thoroughly enjoyable.

Mountain Goats @ Nuemos
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V for Vendetta

Friday, April 28th, 2006 | tags: , ,  |

Highly recommended 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

An excellent heroic story that creatively  re-weaves threads from  classic themes in an original, engaging,  way.   Very topical.   High quality acting across the whole cast,   well constructed sound track and visuals.  Understandable at both superficial and multi-layered levels.

Long review warning 😉

Some  themes that I recognized:

  • Revenge: Alexandra Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Christo” is both explicitly and implicitly referenced.
  • Masked caped hero of justice: a similar theme to “The Mask of Zorro“,   a story familiar to US audiences.   The hero uses a pre-christian runic style ‘Z’ symbol.   V for Vendetta uses a runic style symbol.   Why do I call them runic style?  ((not an actual rune))   Runes were originally created by cutting-wood, straight lines are more easily carved than curves.   Runes are made of short straight lines.   This runic site comments that:

Adolf Hitler added a corrupted form of Runic occultism to his ideal of creating a master race. Several runic symbols were adopted as insignias by the Nazis, probably the most instantly recognisable is the use of Sowelu (the S-rune) by the infamous SS.”

  • Totalitarianism:   Numerous implicit references to the strategies, practices  and timing of Hitler’s rise to and maintainance of power.   Another reference is to George Orwell’s ‘1984’.   For me this was particularly striking because John Hurt played a roll in the film of 1984 and a contrasting roll in this film.   The filming of the scenes starring John Hurt are powerfully reminiscent of scenes from the film 1984.   The analogy to America is very subtle,   I believe it does exist through references to ‘Terrorism’ and how fear is used to manipulate the populous.
  • Scapegoat & Spin:   the gunpowder plot theme is beautifully  used in the film.    The film exlicitly portrays the story as ‘man against government’.   Implicitly its relevance is far more substantial.   The government of 1605 spun the story that  Guy Fawkes had lead a large Catholic conspiracy to undermine government.  It is likely that the authorities knew of the plot in advance, let it happen,  picked Guy up at the scene, published the treasonous event  then used it to engender sufficient fear to support the subsequent removal of key Catholics.   Many were  hung drawn and quartered for complicity in the ‘plot’.    Fear invoked.   A national celebration instituted.   We survived, etc.   Politically influenced media spin 401 years ago!  

Other notable points:

  • Use of the 1812 overture.   As a pre-teen I  didn’t like  listening to my parent’s Sibelius albums on a Sunday.   If they HAD to play classical music could they please  put on  the 1812 overture or Holst’s Planet Suite (I liked Mars).   Occassionally they indulged me and I’d jump up and down to the 1812 overture while improvising explosion noises.   It’s a fun game.   I resisted the temptation to jump up and down in the cinema…
  • English rose: The English rose plays several significant symbolic roles in the film.   It’s a  very evocative symbol to me:   The national flower of England;  Represented in  the English Rugby Union team and Football team insignia; The red rose  is the symbol of the House of Lancaster;   The white rose is the symbol of the House of York;    Famously battling for control of England in the War of the  Roses;   Paul Weller’s poignant accoustic ballard  “English Rose”;   The Damned’s first single ‘New Rose“;    The concept of an ‘English Rose’ as an outstandingly beautiful  of girl of snow white skin, rose red lips and dark hair;   The idealistic image of roses growing around the door of an English, thatched,  cottage.   I buy myself red roses when I need good heart, courage.
  • Natalie Portman cast as a Londoner.   Why cast an American when there are plenty of talented and capable British actresses?   The rest of the cast were predominantly British.  Presumably Natalie was included to draw the none-British  audiences with a ‘big name’.   Despite my initial reservations I found Natalie’s performance worked extremely well.  
  • The dialogue coach was the first credit following the cast.   Very approrpriate.   Natalie Portman’s accent was increadibly good.   It was subtly regional rather than the often inappropriate  ‘plummy’ upper class accent that I found ruined my experience of Renee Zellweger’s  interpretation of the essentially middle-class Bridget Jones.  
  • Church & Monarchy: The light reference to established churches and complete lack of reference to  a monarchy   are  not detrimental to the film.   They are interesting.   The gunpowder plot was conducted on a day when the Monarch,   James  I,  would be in Parliament.   He was part of the target.   The protestant catholic tension was a core point of discontent in 1605.   V does reference religeous corruption and a core spokesperson talks of ‘God’ being with England.     I noticed no references to Monarchy and the existance of a hereditary class system.
  • Speech excerpts played over the closing credits.   I heard the voices and felt more compelled to stay and listen than when a song typically plays with the credits.   This comment that I later discovered was a recording on  Gloria Steinem was very powerful: “This is no simple reform… It really is a revolution. Sex and race, because they are easy and visible differences, have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor in which this system still depends.

Frendy Fizzz recently published another, shorter,  praising review.

V for Vendetta
1 vote rating 5

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King James Bible Missprints…

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006 | tags: , ,  |
Adam Nicolson’s ‘Gods Secretaries’, reports that over 24,000 variants of the King James Bible were printed.   These, early, variations were mainly due to printing errors:  
littered with misprints, ‘hoopes’ for ‘hookes’, ‘she’ for ‘he’, three whole lines simply repeated in Exodus, and alarmingly ‘Judas’ for ‘Jesus’ in one of the Gospels. None of these was quite so catastrophic as a misprint that would appear in a 1631 edition, the so-called Wicked Bible, which failed to put the word ‘not’ in Exodus 20:14, giving the reading ‘Thou shalt commit Adultery’” p226
The main text of this Bible is none-the-less impressive.   Nicolson details the producion process as a group process.    This Bible  is largely a reproduction of earlier translations (William Tyndale)  with significant distinctions.    It deliberately attempts to
  • avoid the language of the day  
  • focus on literal translation    
  • leave  ambiguity where it already exists.        
Arguably, achievement of these goals helped maintain its usefulness across continents and several centuries.
I adored  Adam Nicolson’s  book.   Often re-reading paragraphs.   Their meanings  are thick, rich,  multi-layered like the Jacobean text itself.   Yummy, lickable.  
I would highly recommend  Nicolson’s book to people interested in:
  • Jacobean England
  • England/Scotland relationship
  • the evolution of Christianity (the reformation)
  • English influences on the US pilgrim settlers
  • Language
  • Black Adder II





King James Bible Missprints…
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Mostly Harmless. Douglas Adams

Saturday, December 31st, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |

Mostly Harmless is “the Fifth Book in the Increasingly Inaccurately Named Hitchhikers Trilogy“.    Highly recommended… …read the other books first.  


This was Mr. Adam’s pen-ultimate book.   It is persistently funny in the style of previous books and bleak.    More bleak than earlier  hitchhikers guide books.   The audiobook I listened to on SR101  was narrated by Mr.Adams.    His voices suited the characters.   His female ‘Oracle’ voice was evocative of Monty Python females characters.

Mr. Adam’s imagination and storytelling skills remain engaging and outstanding.   The ideas developed around the following quotes, as with many others,  had me laughing out loud,   looking for a place to park:

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”


The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to repair


Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news which obeys its own laws  



Mostly Harmless develops several intertwined themes as a coherent plot, I noticed them as

  • Capitalism
    • the impact of success on Hitchhikers guide (Ford Prefect).
    • bureaucratic business strategy.
    • corruption (hacking, fraud).
  • Predictability tensions
    • Probable and improbable parallel universes.  
    • Bob and a Bird as omnipotent beings.
    • Astrology and Astronomy.
  • Relationship tensions
    • Trilliums story ‘before’ and ‘after’ meeting Zaphod.
    • Arthur Dent’s life ‘after’ the destruction of the earth.
    • ‘Random’  a displaced  teenage girl.




Mostly Harmless. Douglas Adams
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Saturday, November 26th, 2005 | tags: ,  |

Production of the book  “In Cold Blood” from inception to execution.

Intensely harrowing







1 vote rating 5

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Edward R Murrow

Saturday, November 12th, 2005 | tags: ,  |

Good night and Good luck” is an outstanding film.   It draws on  events in  March and April 1954,   the CBS TV News business,   the power of the media to influence, Senator McCarthy, the rights of the individual within the US political system,  the use of fear as a manipulative tool,    and  the central heroic  character of  Edward R Murrow.      

The film is excellent on multiple levels.   For example:

  • Storyline,  script, direction.   The writer (director and co-star), Clooney, makes the film ‘feel’ topical without wasting time detailing analogies for the audience.   Carefully placed humour that moderates without breaking  the  tense moments,    for example,  early TV advertisements,   an interview with Liberace.
  • Acting: while I recognised the faces of key actors their previous ‘roles’ weren’t spontaneously interrupting the experience and setting my expectations for their character ‘type’.   They were so convincing.  
  • Sound.   Poweful use of ‘silence’ and ‘soft’ sounds like clearly being able to hear the burning pattern of a cigarette in a tense moment as the smoker inhaled.     ….ssssSSSZZZZZZZSSSsssss……
  • Camera work.    Visual construction of scenes.   Very stylistic and contributing rather than distracting from the storyline.  



Wendy allegedly-immoral-alien

Edward R Murrow
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Gods Secretaries. Adam Nicolson

Saturday, September 10th, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |

‘The Making of the King James Bible’

Fabulous book full of socio-cultural, historical, political, and economic insight. He paints very rich pictures of the characters and events that lead to the way the King James Bible was produced. Adams demonstrates incisive use of language with colourful illustrations of lost common knowledge. For example, did you know that the term ‘Stroke’ (apoplectic siezure) is a reference to a blow from an Angel?! Nicolson often quotes original Jacobean English from letters. Example

I was forcid at last to saye unto thaime, that if any of thaime hadde bene in a colledge disputing with thair skollairs, if any of thaire disciples hadde ansourid thaim in that sorte, thay wolde have fetchid him up in place of a replye & so shoulde the rodde have plyed upon the poore boyes buttokis”. p54

Other excerpts that caught my imagination:

Uniquely in England, an increasignly powerful state had made itself synonymous with a – more or less – protestant church… …It bridged the divisions which in the rest of Europe had given rise to decades of civil war” p.38

Jacobean England was an expressive culture (straight-laced continentals remarked on how often and warmly the English kissed)” p.45

Nicolson’s use of the English language is richly concise. It was also challenging. Here are examples of obscure descriptive words I double-checked in the dictionary….

Acquiesce, Agglutination, Amity, Anomolous

Cantankerous, Carapace, Circumlocution


Elision, Elysium, Emolliently




Largesse, Louche




ObsequiousnessPanoply, Parsimonious, PaterfamiliasRecalcitrant, Reprobates, Redolent, Riven




Gods Secretaries. Adam Nicolson
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Amsterdam. Ian McEwan

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |
The book won the 1998 Booker prize.
The book is a short,   intense and easily flowing read.   It follows  5 wealthy people,   a dead woman and her surviving husband,   the editor of a national broadsheet,  the govenrment foreign minister,   and a composer.  
You learn details of their daily lives and  values as the plot evolves around several distinct morale decision points that lead in an almost invisible, inevitable,  chain to the conclusion.
John Sutherland, of The Sunday  Times summed up my experience quite well with -“Never mind the width,   feel the quality”    I found it outstanding.   I am a little biaised.
Here’s a contemporary review published by the Guardian that includes some basic plot and character details:
Review excerpt
Ian McEwan is a damned good writer. [Will]  Self said that he read the novel in two hours, while also looking after children and doing a spot of bank business; I read it pretty quickly too, and I suggest that this is not only because of the book’s slightness, but because of the compulsive nature of McEwan’s prose: you just don’t want to stop reading it, even when he’s writing about musical composition, or the difficult characters and bad behaviour of ‘creative’ people. (‘These types – novelists were by far the worst – managed to convince friends and families that not only their working hours, but every nap and stroll, every fit of silence, depression and drunkenness bore the exculpatory ticket of high intent.’)
Wendy what-should-i-read-next?

Amsterdam. Ian McEwan
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