Literary Review http://culturecatch.com/index.php/literary en A Woman Missing From The World Of Words http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3981 <span>A Woman Missing From The World Of Words</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>October 27, 2020 - 20:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/612" hreflang="en">fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><strong><em>Nets To Catch The Wind</em> - Barbara Worsley-Gough (Cassell &amp; Company, London, 1935)</strong></p> <p>A literary twilight is an unusual state of affairs akin to the value put on obscure vinyl. Certain authors continue to matter despite their work being steadfastly out of print for decades. The books when they do surface are expensive and invariably realize their asking price. </p> <p>You'd imagine it would be easy to find copies of the novels of Barbara Worsley-Gough, such is her obscurity. Her two cookery books and her tome on London fashion are easily uncovered, but her nine novels remain expensive, elusive and therefore have a following or a select coterie of admirers. I can subscribe to this as I have for years scoured many a dusty shelf for her work, and therefore count myself a fan of a forgotten woman who died in 1961. From that moment her reputation became a faltering one, her volumes slipping into neglect, and as I can source no reference to her having children, there was no-one left to carry or curate the flame of her brief celebrity. It can be be co-incidence that she once more picked up her pen after the early death of her husband, though I imagine she was the kind of figure whose writing was a capricious act, rather than one burdened by any financial necessity.</p> <p>Her career, and indeed there was one, splits into two distinctive strands. In the 1930s she published five novels <em>Public Affaires</em>, <em>Sweet Home</em>, <em>A Feather In Her Cap</em>, <em>How To Be A Lady</em>, and <em>Nets To Catch The Wind</em>, and worked as a reviewer. They are erroneously considered light and gaudy pieces of literary froth, it indeed they are considered at all. Most mentions of her cannot even add a death date to her life. She died in Purley, Surrey in 1961. It seems that her youthful output stalled from the late 1930's and the outbreak of war. Worsley-Gough married in 1932 and was five years older than her barrister husband. James Lyall Sheridan Hale, 1908-1949. She  began publishing once again in the 1950s. Two detective novels <em>Alibi Innings</em> and <em>Lantern Hill</em>, the previously mentioned cookery books, the one on fashion and two novels of satiric bite <em>The Sly Hyena</em> and Old Father Antic. Her return marked a distinct change in her literary voice and tone. The lightness of the the 1930's was replaced with waspish, at times withering observations about human nature, a mixture of the now celebrated Barbara Pym, 1913-1980, and the yet to be rediscovered and reassessed, Kathleen Farrell, 1912-1999.</p> <p>Fairly recently I picked up a battered but intact copy of <em>Nets To Catch The Wind </em>and put it to one side for perusal at some future date. If ever a year was one for such obligations being realised, 2020 allowed me to give Mss Worsley-Gough the full attention of a curious spin. I sensed from her 1950s books a presence I might not have altogether liked. Flinty and brittle I gleaned she would not have been the kind of woman good at putting one at one's ease. It was therefore a shock to discover kindness and an insightful nature in <em>Nets To Catch The Wind</em>. It possess a great understanding of the human condition, and is kindly, tolerant and benign. Her characters are flawed, but not dissected in a forensic manner, and the book reads like a pure delight. It matters not at all that there are no more modern means of communication than letters or telephones, and the story unfolds after a funeral, with the inevitable obligations and expectations such an event entails. Sam Allen has become a widower, his wife of five weeks died, and in his late twenties, she being ten years his senior, a rather bold move for a novel of the time, has become step-father to twins, the diffident but sweet Leonora and her brother, the ambitious Angus, and their younger sister by a year, Elizabeth, who is remote, intelligent, calculating and determined. Allen is committed to honouring his familial obligations to his late wife, though he is only ten years distant from her brood in age. They in turn do no wish to have a young rich step-father who looks more like a brother.</p> <p>The myriad of emotions that seep out are the core and the petrol of the novel. It becomes a wise treatise on obligation, expectation and compromise. The characters are largely sympathetic, flawed but likeable and the book cuts an interesting swathe through the social structures, the snobbery and decay at the heart of 1930s London. It has a canny, and for the time, honest conclusion, an ending of a certain but uncertain happiness of sorts. From far from ideal rooming houses the reader meets disagreeable landladies, a pompous academic with wandering hands, and a blind wife, and the spoilt and rather lost John whose sense of entitlement is mirrored by his inability to harness his life. His overbearing mother is the root of much of his diffidence and the book is a wonderful cavalcade of a lost brief era that the Second World War was waiting to destroy. It is a novel of cinematic scope, and one of resigned optimism tempered by harsh reality. Since it sketches the nature of our our interior worlds, it is also strangely timeless.</p> <p>Barbara Worsley-Gough is a writer ripe for rediscovery. Her pre-war efforts have a lightness of touch and possess a sense of kindly consideration. It is therefore hardly surprising that her literary second act in the 1950s was a more cutting and impatient output. Her mutation from a pretty and bright young thing, to an impression of tweedy foreboding was perhaps inevitable having witnessed two world wars. Her later books are very funny, in the way that certain forms of entertainment are best viewed from a safe distance. She remains a character waiting in the wings for a benign act of appreciation. Whilst there may be a few who might remember her, it is hoped that this small barb of a reminder might be the spark to reignite her valuable literary flame. She is a beguilingly elusive talent, but one that amuses and rewards if you happen to stumble across her on a stall or on a shelf. She really is a rather original lady in waiting.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3981&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="PqHd4N9vzSvuqUe5TxFxAWo8Th6yt8RAYNyM8tA7iD0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 28 Oct 2020 00:57:15 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3981 at http://culturecatch.com Suburban Entries in a Cosmopolitan Style http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3970 <span>Suburban Entries in a Cosmopolitan Style</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>August 17, 2020 - 09:12</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/885" hreflang="en">memoir</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity align-center"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-08/john-howard-book-illusions.jpg?itok=FACbKi5i" width="959" height="1360" alt="Thumbnail" title="john-howard-book-illusions.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><em>Illusions of Happiness</em> JOHN HOWARD (Fisher King)</p> <p>If John Howard's first volume of memoirs <em>Incidents Crowded With Life</em> was about hope and ambition and the promise of success, his second <em>Illusions of Happiness</em> annotates the flip-side of the spinning coin that his career had become. He mercilessly details a certain loss of faith and direction with the taut tension of a novel, whilst detailing his existence in sequences festooned by a cavalcade of gaudy characters. Life gets in the way of what we were born to do, and his career had come to an end with a resounding thud from the balcony of his flat as he sought to escape the murderous attentions of his flatmates knife wielding piece of Russian rough-trade. Prone and supine with busted feet and a broken back, lucky not to have been paralysed for the rest of his days, he has long months of recovery in hospital with which to reflect and pursue a new trajectory and to consider the rueful cost of the past. His never substantial form shrank to an astonishing seven stone allowing one friend to pithily remark that he resembled the immaculate consumptive Aubrey Beardsley on heroin.</p> <p>The book hold elements of the gothic aspects of Alan Hollinghurst's novel <em>The Swimming Pool Library </em>because the house he lives after leaving hospital is peopled with sad, but largely unsympathetic souls intent on delivering as many verbal wounds and blows as possible. A hotbed of resentment and sorrow, and one he eventually escapes from to the suburbs for the sake of his own sanity.</p> <p>There is a relationship with an older Canadian who despite being out of the closet, has one rammed with secrets and partial truths. Howard returns to making a decent enough living playing piano in various swanky clubs and restaurants like The Blitz where he is heckled by the Sex Pistols and April Ashley's club where he becomes increasingly soaked in gin and tonic. Along the way he encounters a pre-Buggles and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Trevor Horn, who produces a single for him. He is managed briefly by Tom Watkins, The Pet Shop Boys and Bros, who turns him into a cross between a slimmed down Gary Numan and an attendee at a Star Trek convention. Howard releases seven singles, and they all rapidly vanish along with their possibility of success. Even two with Steve Levine, who tasted giddying success with Culture Club, tanked.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1DPePeghg3A?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>John Howard has an Alan Bennet-like eye for character and a neat ability at sketching kindly without being judgemental, a chore he astutely leaves to his reader. He writes with an easy candour, be the subject his neurotic, whittering step-mother, or a nervous hotelier with murder on his mind. There are some farcical sexual details, absurd and absurdly amusing and as the book slips towards its resolution, the spectre of AIDS is slowly encroaching upon the hedonistic freedom people were only just beginning to enjoy. Given his spindly thinness he is abused in the street as having the disease, a certain indicator that thankfully society has in some ways moved on, and for the better. He ends up as a successful compiler of music anthologies, something that suits perfectly his musicologist nature. Things end on a high note but not at all where he'd planned to be.</p> <p>Along the way there is an almost tryst with the film maker Derek Jarman, who eventually became a friend, and the book has a soundtrack that stretches from the Beatles to Joni Mitchell and T.Rex to David Bowie. He even manages to turn down the offer of fronting Bronski Beat, and has his portrait by Paul Brason, which graces the cover of this volume, hung in the National Portrait Gallery.</p> <p>Howard is proof perfect that you can be around success, possess a genuine and engaging talent, and still miss out on a ride on the coat tails of greater glory. This is the second volume in a quartet of books. Pretty much a perfect, if unintentional primer for the downside and pitfalls of the music business, with emotional problems added as further seasoning. Despite the sky-high promises that are really victims of external circumstances, and a smattering of luck, Howard retains, and requires his Northern sense of grit and bemusement as he navigates the bright lights of the metropolis. By 1986 he is on higher ground. Gainfully employed via music, but not making his own.</p> <p>His writing echoes <em>The Naked Civil Servant</em> but with a pop music at the centre, and just like its predecessor one is beguiled to discover what there is to follow. His life could and should, be a movie. At least the soundtrack exists already, and stranger things have transpired. If you want a plethora of polaroids of an '80's life, this is the book to take you back, or to acquaint you for the first time. Inspiring in its tenacity, it is honest and captivating, as his memory serves him, and his readers, terribly well.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3970&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="dz7uhe-9XE1L59XiNZmGTfI2x_yv4cn761gfVIMBUIs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 17 Aug 2020 13:12:31 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3970 at http://culturecatch.com Happy Thanksgiving 2019! http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3839 <span>Happy Thanksgiving 2019!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/webmaster" lang="" about="/index.php/users/webmaster" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Webmaster</a></span> <span>November 27, 2019 - 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/96" hreflang="en">cartoon</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-11/krimstein-t-day.jpg?itok=ux6QYz-H" width="1200" height="900" alt="Thumbnail" title="krimstein-t-day.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Ken's critically-lauded new graphic novel <a href="http://www.kenkrimstein.com" target="_blank"><em>The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth</em></a> (Bloomsbury Publishing) is available for consumption in many languages all over the globe. Order it and his previous book -- the very astute <i>Kvetch as Kvetch Can -- </i>through his <a href="http://www.kenkrimstein.com" target="_blank">website</a> link or at Amazon, et al.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3839&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="R1F-UkLZlpwQmjBrFG_QEscYae_mk08Gk0nwLR2jv6g"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 27 Nov 2019 15:00:00 +0000 Webmaster 3839 at http://culturecatch.com Dudeness Is http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3841 <span>Dudeness Is</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>April 10, 2019 - 08:15</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/779" hreflang="en">essay</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity align-center"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="812" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-04/star-dude.png?itok=UYf9CE0h" title="star-dude.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="665" /></article><figcaption>Photo Credit: d. Bindi</figcaption></figure><p>"My dad's a cooler dude than your dad!" bragged my ten-year-old daughter Mina to one of her friends on her phone.</p> <p>Wot? I'm a dad and a dude? Hey, that's pretty cool. I still play music, but I thought Quincy Jones was "the dude." After all, he did release an album in the '80s called <em>The Dude</em>. But where did my daughter pick this "dude" tag up? From my wife? (Doubtful, she might not have married me if she believed I was a dude.) Probably from the Scooby Doo cartoons we watch together. Or from her older brother and his crazed sidewalk skateboard pals in our 'hood. Or maybe she caught <em>The Big Lebowski</em> at her one of her friend's apartments.</p> <p>In the end it didn't matter, 'cuz I suddenly became obsessed with defining what makes a guy a dude. And more importantly, did I possess any of the dude DNA? </p> <p>Fast forward...</p> <p>"Hey, dude!" I grimaced, turned, and saw two tanned, healthy young men in their late teens in baggy, neon surf gear fist-punch each other and continue their conversation. I shuddered and continued reading my morning paper in some nondescript restaurant in Venice Beach. I was on the West Coast for my friend's wedding and a little business, away from the comfort and sanity of my family and home in New York City. Five days into my excursion had left me weak for good deli and something other than surfer lingo.</p> <p>This dude thing had reached critical mass. Dudes everywhere were chasing me. Even on the radio as David Bowie's early '70s anthem, "All the Young Dudes" blasted from my rental car's speakers.</p> <p>Malibu, Huntington, the Valley, and San Diego -- the entire Pacific Coast was crawling with them. From Sunset Strip to the Santa Monica Pier, I couldn't travel anywhere without hearing that word.</p> <p>I decided to query my waitress about this dude thing; after all, she'd been talking to the two surfers.</p> <p>Much to my dismay she said she didn't know much about it, but volunteered that her friend Buddy "probably-definitely qualified as an expert dood."</p> <p>Buddy!?! Now there was a name I could appreciate. Love to meet the folks that decided that was a proper given name for a dude child. Come on. Nonetheless, if I were going to hack free this albatross clinging around my neck I'd have to confront the enemy, regardless of the consequences.</p> <p>I assumed that by polling people I'd reach a coherent working definition. And, perhaps in some delusional manner, determine if I fit the dude criteria for dude-dom.</p> <p>Over the next couple of weeks I randomly put forth the question -- "What is a dude?" -- to countless folks everywhere. From Los Angeles to Ohio to New York, I left them to ponder.</p> <p>Once I settled back in New York, I would collect the data and hopefully piece things together. (And keep in mind this was without any government subsidized art program backing me.)</p> <p>Much to my amazement, as I started to assemble this mythical character I discovered all sorts of shared qualities. And more often that not, these qualities were universals. So much so that the West Coast surfer had more in common with the East Coast Harlem tough guy than either would care to acknowledge.</p> <p>If you asked the average person on the street to bridge such seemingly opposites, it's doubtful they could find any common bonding material. Yet there existed essential elements that were easily interchangeable between characters as diverse as the Silver Surfer and/or Shaft.</p> <p>For starters, all dudes emanate a particular sensibility, lifestyle, and attitude. They neither wallow in squalor nor swim in ostentatiousness. And most importantly, they always remain righteously true to themselves first. Moreover, when possible, they seek out the truth, whether commandeering a woman to her full feminine sensuality or shooting the perfect game of billiards with their peers.</p> <p>I examined my past. Did I encounter any such beings while growing up in Ohio?</p> <p>Maybe they were the characters we referred to in school as "cool."</p> <p>If that was the case, I remember one of my classmates in elementary school definitely fit the profile. His name was Jeff Thompson. And come to think of it, he did possess a certain something, although I'd bet our teacher felt he was a troublemaker. But I don't ever recall him actually causing trouble. (He never started any wastepaper basket fires, but he did boast of masturbating at a prepubescent age.) He just seemed bigger than life.</p> <p>It is possible that dudes, in the purest sense, represent the essence of individuality. They don't copy anyone else. They don't dress like anyone else. They don't sound like anyone else. They exist within all dimensions of popular culture without being too trendy or too stylish. Just look at James Bond and all the leading men he's endured. While the Scotsman Sean Connery (image above) remains the quintessential dude amongst the Bond actors, Daniel Craig (trailer below) has breathed a much-needed dudeness into the contemporary 007 legacy. (Check out Sir Connery in Goldfinger!)</p> <p>A real dude lives on the cutting edge, taking his life in new directions daily while the rest of us just try to keep up with his predestined course. Again, who else but 007 could single-handedly save the world defeating evil in the catacombs of Rome and, in the next moment, sit with the Queen looking unhassled, relaxed, and fabulous.</p> <p>A true dude is free of ego and all of the destructive elements associated with it. He would never say, "Hey, baby, look at me, am I not the most dynamic fella you've ever encountered?" He doesn't have to announce his own self-worth. Those around him will usually do it for him.</p> <p>A real dude doesn't aspire to anything except being at ease with himself. Whether he's feeding ducks in a pond or strolling in a summer rainstorm without an umbrella, nothing is too banal about experiencing the simple side of life.</p> <p>As stated, he is a guy who embodies many desirable qualities. Many folks view him as dangerous, aloof, coy, cute, clever, charming, tough, handsome, endearing, righteous, free, timeless, spiritual, and true.</p> <p>He is not necessarily the most handsome or the most spiritual, but rather the perfect blend of all these qualities. He may be a hero to some and provoke envy in others. And this depends on the individual's perception.</p> <p>Who else but a dude would even attempt surfing a thirty-foot wave and pull it off and ride it all the way to the shore?</p> <p>He doesn't hide behind his clothes. He's got his own style. Check out any cool urban movie, like Shaft or Superfly, to highlight this point. Do you honestly think that rapper Snoop Dogg would have graced Starsky &amp; Hutch without some serious cuts? Or that Curtis Mayfield would've wasted his time writing the theme song for anything less then a perfect dude-heavy flick like Superfly? Ditto for Isaac Hayes and the very righteous Shaft.</p> <p>Anything a true dude wears merely adds to his totality, whether he's chillin' in his tattered old button-fly denims at a BBQ during the day or playing baccarat in his tailor-made tux in Monaco at midnight.</p> <p>A real dude is not without emotion, though many people may be fooled by his leather-tough shell. But once you get beyond his veil of 'tude, you'll find a soft side underneath.</p> <p>He could be cheering for his favorite baseball team on Saturday and crying over the beauty of his sister's newborn baby on Sunday. Moreover, it's not the silly vibe of Ashton Kutcher in <em>Dude, Where's My Car? </em>It's the cool "abide" of Jeff Bridges in the Coen Brothers' epic dude paean <em>The Big Lebowski</em>.</p> <p>So there I was, left with a much broader understanding of what a dude was, is, and probably will always be.</p> <p>Did I possess any of that stuff? Since I've never surfed, this prevented me from drawing any relevance from the beach scene. And I've never been known as a tough street guy, even though as a kid I played two-hand touch football in the street in Akron, Ohio.</p> <p>Yet, I always felt I could be engaging, even when people feigned interest in my opinion. And most of my closest male friends agreed that all guys were "dudish" from time to time. So I guess I could be, too.</p> <p>Maybe all you needed to do was borrow a little -- "Bond, James Bond" -- from time to time. You know, you've been milling about some boring social function when your gaze meets some femme fatale trapped in some mindless chatter with some oafish chap. You imagine yourself offering her an expensive glass of champagne from a bottle you've hidden in the kitchen from the rest of the party. It's got to be better than the designer drink this affable clown offered her. Now if you only had the balls to approach her, maybe you could fulfill your fantasy.</p> <p>Nonetheless, my observations lead me to one universal conclusion:</p> <p>He represents the quintessential man -- a total Utopian state of malehood. Moreover, he is the apex of perfection in man; perfection that no man will ever reach. And he always abides by being truly comfortable with himself in each and every situation in his life.</p> <p>If Adam was the first dude, does that make Jesus the perfect dude?</p> <p>Country dude Kris Kristofferson thought so and even wrote a very dude-worthy song about him called "Jesus Was a Capricorn." Besides, who would argue with Kris, as he's still one of coolest older dudes on the planet.</p> <p>But what about Or Krishna? Or Buddha? Or Muhammad? Or Ghandi? </p> <p>Or your favorite teacher? </p> <p>And what about Dads? Can they be dudes, too?</p> <p>Sure. Just ask my daughter.</p> <p>As for dudettes? Well, that's another story. Best check with my wife.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3841&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="AfC0M5_LuSKB0XFcaqv3ukIzLOAo2Mg0lQ0wtvOXQts"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 10 Apr 2019 12:15:13 +0000 Dusty Wright 3841 at http://culturecatch.com A Long Life In Words http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3817 <span>A Long Life In Words</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>January 25, 2019 - 10:10</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/553" hreflang="en">celebrity obit</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/689" hreflang="en">author</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_KR1wPK8T4Q?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>A Long Life In Words</p> <p>Diana Athill, 1917-2019</p> <p>Editor and Memoirist</p> <p>At a time when most people have left the building, or are in the process of preparing to do so, Diana Athill found herself embarking upon a career of tremendous literary success in 2008 at the age of 90. Her book about old age <em>Somewhere Towards The End</em> became a surprise bestseller, and she a regular contributor to the papers, invited to speak on the radio, and a doyenne of many a literature festival. It won the Costa Award for biography that year and was unflinching in the way it dealt with the passage of time. In it she remarked of one elderly friend's abiding faith in the restorative power of red lipstick, observing that the way it bled into the cracks around her mouth rather left her resembling a vampire bat that'd been interrupted mid-lunch. She was equally unflattering about her own foibles, and the diminishment of any remnant of sexual cachet.</p> <p>Books had been Athill's life, the editing, promotion, and the production of them at Andre Deutsch, so her new career was simply a late and logical extension of that. She had cast her meticulous eye over offerings from the likes of Margaret Atwood, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, V S Naipaul, a writer whose work she greatly admired, but that feeling didn't extend towards its creator, Philip Roth Jean Rhys and John Updike. Her influence on the literary output of the last century has yet to be fully realised, and reads like a "Who's Who" of the great, the good and the gone. She didn't retire as an editor till she was seventy five years old, in fact Diana Athill never really retired.</p> <p>Athill only published two works of fiction by her own pen <em>An Unavoidable Delay, </em>a collection of short stories in 1962, and the remarkable, if still somewhat underrated, <em>Don't Look At Me Like That</em> in 1967, a novel which concerns a free-wheeling girl living against the grain of conventional standards. Despite her rather reserved manner and appearance, she was unorthodox in her outlook and behaviour. Her lack of fiction allowed her to trawl her long life, and it was one cluttered with unusual incidents and characters, and these she dissected with shocking frankness. An initial literary splash was created in 1963 with 'Instead Of A Letter', a book that pre-dates by decades the confessional memoir. It concerns her failed relationship with Tony Irvine, an RAF pilot with whom she fell in love at the age of fifteen. When he married another girl she was devastated, a wound detailed years after in that book. It took her years to apparently recover, but when she did she was initially distant in relationships, and the developed a liking for, in her own words "'lame ducks" and "oppressed foreigners."</p> <p>Diana Athill was born in Norfolk on 21st December 1917 into a privileged background at Ditchingham Hall which she detailed in her 2002 book <em>Yesterday Morning, A Very English Childhood</em>. She graduated in 1939 from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and spent the war years working for the BBC. In 1952 Athill helped Andre Deutsch found the publishing house that bore his name. This she used as the basis for her tremendously readable 'Stet' her memoir of her life as an editor, published in 2000. She successfully translated several French novels that their imprint championed. Instrumental in the late second flowering in the 1980's of the Irish novelist Molly Keane,1904-1996 who had been successful as M.J Farrell in the 1930s through to the '50s, she also had long, often difficult dealings with the writer Jean Rhys, 1890-1979, a gifted, reclusive author, but a chronic alcoholic. </p> <p>Athill's private life was far from conventional. Her longest relationship was with the Jamaican playwright Barry Reckford (1926-2011). It lasted a mere eight years of the forty of which he shared her Hampstead flat, at one time with his much younger girlfriend, who moved in at Athill's suggestion. She and the girl became good friends, a period which she described as being amongst the two happiest two years of her life. It was she remarked a "detatched sort of marriage." It was by the standards of the time, a progressively interracial one, and not what was expected from a woman of her background. In the early sixties she became emotionally involved with the gifted but manic depressive Egyptian novelist Waguih Ghali circa 1927-1969. It was a toxic and manipulative affair, consummated only once in a drunken fervour. He'd leave his diary open, fully aware that Athill would read his unflattering opinions of herself. Ghali committed suicide in her flat, a torrid tragedy that she would later dissect with incredible honesty in <em>After A Funeral</em> published in 1983. Her other strange and significant affair was with Akim Jamal 1931-73, a cousin to Malcolm X who believed he was God. Athill managed to get his autobiography <em>From The Dead Level: Malcom X and Me</em> published in 1971, a period briefly touched upon in the 2008 movie <em>The Bank Job</em> where he is played by Colin Salmon. She retraces their relationship in <em>Make Believe</em> which was published in 1993 and brilliantly observes his descent into madness and delusional activity. Jamal was shot dead in a Black Power factional struggle in Boston in 1973.</p> <p>Athill was of the generation that still wrote and valued letters, but was far from absent from the computer world. Once in a correspondence with me about Waguih Ghali a parcel arrived in the mail. It was her own copy, and only one that she possessed of his lone novel <em>Beers At The Snooker Club</em>. Unsolicited, she lent it to me, aware it was then hard to find, and felt that we had corresponded sufficiently for her to entrust it to me. She also ruefully remarked that it was a shame that having once written such a wonderful book that it was a feat he would never repeat, then adding that to do it once was perhaps a sufficient achievement in itself. Read and returned in utter agreement with her assessment of the book's worth, it remains a rare and valued act of emotional charity, as well as her taking the time to cast her eye over my poems, and to respond with precise and accurate suggestions for their improvement.</p> <p>In 2009 Athill was made a OBE in the New Year's Honours List, and was the subject of <em>Growing Old Disgracefully,</em> a BBC documentary of her life. She was described as one of the best dressed women over 50 by <em>The Guardian</em> in 2013. Having opted to move into a care home for for sprightly seniors in North London, she was sorry to lose so many books in order to facilitate such a drastic transition to one room living transition, but adored her new surroundings calling it, "A life free of worries and a snug little nest." Her 2015 book <em>Alive, Alive Oh!</em> covers this period of her life. As she passed her century she was still writing and broadcasting, a force of nature, and a trail blazer from a time when women in publishing were there to either type or make coffee. One of her many adagesm -- "Enjoy yourself as much as you can without doing damage to other people" -- is rather like her books, direct and deceptively simple, but much more difficult to achieve in the process of any life, let alone one as long and productive as hers.</p> <p>Her books are laced with astute observations, wry comments on the human condition, and are a crash course in brevity, and the fine art of a deceptively simple style.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3817&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="96Fd4GDjne_y_pA46ehDvYHgQShdwSTQGfqb31FRuuw"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 25 Jan 2019 15:10:32 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3817 at http://culturecatch.com Happy Halloween 2018! http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3788 <span>Happy Halloween 2018!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>October 30, 2018 - 20:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/614" hreflang="en">short story</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="1600" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2019/2019-04/tree-legend.png?itok=kEcoOKIW" title="tree-legend.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo credit: Dusty Wright</figcaption></figure><p><em>The Legend of The Sassafras Monster</em></p> <p>Native Americans -- like many indigenous cultures -- believe in the spirits of nature and so the natural world inspires them. It would come to pass that many, if not most of their myths and legends would been passed down and ingested by "white" settlers who decided it was easier to conquer "Native Americans" then co-exist in their natural world. And with any myth or legend, sometimes the facts get twisted and  turned into something that the original story teller, or witness as it may have been, never intended to share with anyone else for fear that the myth or story would become true. Such was the "myth of the Sassafras Monster." But I digress... one must first understand that this story starts with nature and in particular a tree -- the sassafras albidum also called Ague Tree. A species of Sassafras tree native to eastern North America, from southern Maine and southern Ontario west to Iowa, and south to central Florida and eastern Texas. It occurs throughout the eastern deciduous forest habitat type, at altitudes of sea level up to 1,500 m. It's aromatic leaf, bark and root are used as a flavoring, used in traditional home medicine, and as a tea. It was once used to flavor root beer, too. And for certain Native American tribe, it was part of their sacred rituals. It was believed that essence of sassafras could bring health and wellness and offer safe passage during certain "manhood" rituals. And this is where my "monster" story begins.</p> <p>I grew up in Northeast Ohio and heard about the Sassafras "monster" from my Grandfather Mac, my mom's father. He had heard about the "monster" from his grandfather who had fought alongside some of the Chippewa during the Civil War. One of the Chippewa braves had heard about a strange ritual from his father who was a member of the tribe where the legend began.</p> <p>Grandpa Mac told my brother David and I the story one dark and stormy Halloween eve. I had just turned thirteen and my younger sibling was ten.</p> <p>The year was 1777, a year removed from 1776 and the new Americans "declaration of independence" from their British tormentors; it was the first year of nationhood. The country was giddy with the future. But what of our Native American brothers and sisters? How would it impact their daily lives, their rituals, their journey? What would become of their freedoms?</p> <p>It was late spring during the month of May. Outside a small village in Ohio, on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, a river very much needed by the Chippewa (Ojibwe) tribe for their livelihood. It was not only their fresh water supply, but it was bountiful with fish and fowl. It also served as part of a young brave's rite-of-passage manhood ritual. For example, in many Native American cultures, the transition is often ceremonial, featuring some feat of bravery or strength against pain, such as success in a first hunt, or surviving painful tattooing or piercing. But the Chippewa's "Vision Quest" / Right of Passage was something that could provoke fear even from the older braves that had endured the ritual many decades previous. Just as important as the quest, the young Native American boys were forbidden to share their "journey" with any of the other boys about their experience for the rest of their lives. Only the elders were permitted to discuss things with them.</p> <p>During the typical vision quest, a young boy fasts, prays, and seeks his spirit helper which usually presents itself as an animal, and which becomes the young boy's lifelong aide and guide. In some places, vision quests are supervised by, or discussed afterwards, with elders. Many tribes would include local terrain -- hidden caves, small islands in the middle of lakes, remote wooded areas removed from their tribe's camp -- as part of the vision quest. The Chippewas favored a certain tree indigenous to the region of their river and water camps. The mighty sassafras. It was that genus of tree that was included in their "brave" ritual. Legend has it that a young brave-to-be was strapped to the trunk of the largest sassafras tree found many, many miles from their camp. And <i>only</i> on a "new" moon night. The darkest night of the lunar cycle.</p> <p>In the early dawn light of one of the darkest days of a late spring day in May a young Chippewa boy known as Broken Tooth from the Sandy Lake Chippewa tribe and son of Biauswah, the chief of the Sandy Lake <a href="https://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/chippewa-tribe.htm">Chippewa</a>, was summoned before his people. Today he would begin his journey into adulthood and the beginning of his quest to become a "brave." He was led from the camp by a "guide" --  Ahmik  (aka Beaver) -- with only a few meager provisions for their two-day long journey into the thickest and darkest region of a heavy forest far from the safety of their encampment. That thick forest could spook even the bravest Chippewa as many believed that the "lost" ghosts of their ancestors and spirit beasts haunted that forest.</p> <p>When the young brave was far enough away from their teepees, his "guide" would locate the biggest sassafras tree he could find and at dusk lash the young pre-teenager to the trunk of the tree. He would be left alone for the entire evening, left alone to summon his spirit animal for protection from the ghosts and real life predators (bears, mountain lions, etc.) roaming the forest. A fire was built to help illuminate the area and to keep any feral beasts away. Moreover, the fire also helped the nearby guide navigate the darkness of the forest if he needed to "assist" the young brave-in-training especially if he heard a cry for help.<b> </b>Rare that a guide was ever summoned as that could have been construed as a sign of weakness during a rite of passage.</p> <p>But on this particular vision quest, only an hour from daybreak, a faint cry from Broken Tooth was heard by his guide Ahmik. Startled, Ahmik cautiously made his way towards the "tree" in case a bear might be lurking nearby. Imagine his shock when he arrived at the tree just as dawn was starting to rise and Broken Tooth was not there. Yet the twine that had lashed Broken Tooth to the trunk of that massive tree remained tight and unbound. It was if the young teen had been swallowed whole by the sassafras for nourishment. The tree's knotted face looked down on the brave as though it was smiling at him; holding some dark satisfying secret.</p> <p>Broken Tooth's body was never found, ever. Not a trace. Ahmik was convinced that the sassafras had indeed consumed Broken Tooth. And that his soul was damned to haunt that forest for eternity! In fact, that tree was never used for any Chippewa rituals ever again. And before the year was out most of his tribe fell victim to a smallpox outbreak that would wipe them out. The few who survived were convinced that a Broken Tooth Sassafras curse caused their demise.</p> <p>For my tough-as-nails grandfather Mac that "tale" provoked a rising curiosity and a need to test his own mettle, try his hand at self-exiled bravery. It was a hot summer morning in August 1913, a new moon loomed after dusk. He convinced some of his young teenage friends to go camping at an old hunter's camp near Chippewa Lake in northeast Ohio. It was a magical place that his father had brought him to a few years before to go deer hunting. On the hike out to the camping site he shared the "Broken Tooth" story with his cocky pre-pubescent friends. They were in no mood for make-believe, but they still remained intrigued by the promise of testing their "manhood." One in particular, the toughest of the lot -- Colin O'Hurley -- taunted the group that it was all a myth and that my grandfather was looking to prank them. But Grandfather Mac remained steadfast and threw it back at Colin, stating that he was "probably too chicken to be lashed to a mighty sassafras tree on this moonless night." The other boys joined in and dared Colin to take the "sassafras" challenge. If he was indeed the toughest amongst them, he would certainly let them tie him to a sassafras in the middle of the woods. Colin laughed them off, stating it would be easy-peasy.</p> <p>After finally arriving at the old cabin the boys quickly set up their temporary camp -- built a fire, spread out their sleeping bags, smoked some cigarettes, ate some beans from a can, and started teasing Colin about tying him up. Mac pulled out some clothing line rope from his rumsack and smiled menacingly at Colin. As there was still a few hours of summer daylight, Mac suggested they hike a few miles down from the cabin near an old abandoned stone quarry tucked away in a wooded area. He was certain the quarry would be lined by a few dozen sassafras trees! The boys pressed Colin until he finally agreed.</p> <p>They couldn't wait to tie up the cocky Colin and leave him to "satisfy the hunger of the sassafras monster." They built a fire for their friend, teased him some more about wetting himself in the middle of the night, lashed him to the tree, and left their friend all alone in the fading dusk light.</p> <p>They laughed and joked all the way back to the cabin, certain that Colin would be taught a lesson, knock his ego down a few pegs...</p> <p>In the wee hours of dawn the boys awoke in the cabin, quickly got dressed, and set off to "rescue" Colin. But a pea soup-thick fog had descended over the wooded region and it hindered their ability to travel with speed and ease. From their approaching vantage they could barely make out which sassafras tree that had been used. Pressing on they finally spotted that beastly tree. But they could not make out if the ropes still entwined their brave comrade. As they stumbled forward they yelped for Colin, announcing their arrival. Suddenly some faint moaning could be heard and the noise stopped the boys cold in their tracks. They cautiously moved towards tree. A few weak embers glowed in the remaining ashes of the fire that had built the night before.</p> <p>As they circled towards the front of the tree, they stopped dead in their tracks...</p> <p>The ropes clung tightly to the trunk of the sassafras tree yet their beloved comrade was gone! They were stunned. They started screaming for him. But Mac was frozen. His mind racing. Could it be true? Was Colin swallowed by that hideous tree?</p> <p>They searched that quarry and surrounding forest for most of the day calling out for their "brave" friend, praying he might be hiding from them. That he had somehow pulled the most amazing prank of all. When it became apparent that he could not be found the boys returned to their cabin and nervously agreed that they would have to summon help. They quickly packed and hiked to the local sheriff's office. Thinking it was all a hoax the sherif was slow to respond to their search and rescue request. But ultimately search parties were deployed and once the local authorities realized that their friend was indeed missing a call was put into the local FBI field office to investigate Colin's disappearance. Mac and his friends were all subjected to heavy interrogation, too. But the boys never deviated from their story. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, but alas no clues to Colin's disappearance were ever uncovered.</p> <p>A year later Colin's parents held an empty casket service for their missing son. The boys were devastated.</p> <p>Colin's case remains unsolved to this day. In the end everyone who'd gone camping on that tragic night believed that the "sassafras monster" must have swallowed their friend and that his restless spirit still haunts the forest around Chippewa Lake.</p> <p>Regardless of the veracity of the myth, I shudder every time a new moon descends upon the land. And I never venture into a forest were a sassafras tree might be looming. Especially on a new moon night!</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3788&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="8-Q4o7quWFtOjKrm1Z5tnOFQYf5_QQwyIxBdjGtkNH4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 31 Oct 2018 00:56:30 +0000 Dusty Wright 3788 at http://culturecatch.com A Modernity of Touch http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3767 <span>A Modernity of Touch</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>September 17, 2018 - 09:36</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/112" hreflang="en">book review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><strong><em>The Adults</em> Caroline Hulse (Orion)</strong></p> <p><em>The Adults</em> is the adroitly named debut novel by Caroline Hulse. Wise, forensically observant and darkly funny, it begins like a light piece of social comedy, encapsulates elements of a tightly paced thriller before concluding with moments of magic realism and Jacobean tragedy. It also has an intense and claustrophobic tone which makes it more than a chattering classes piece of fluff, or a drawing room, comedy of modern manners, affair. </p> <p>Its premise, though promising, and terribly sensible, a blended family holiday at a forest park over Christmas, is the perfect recipe for disaster. The reader senses this from the outset, but the six main characters, who include Matt and Claire, divorced but with their daughter Scarlett and her imaginary friend, a colossal toy rabbit named Posey, and their respective new partners, Patrick and Alex, are so obliviously playing at being nice, all caught up in the compliments of the season, they really are as deluded as they are oblivious. It is a book that is imbued with a air of thunder in the distance. Things possibly could go awry as they are all skating on the thinnest of ice.</p> <p>As perfectly nice and educated people trying to do the right thing, attempting to ignore the impact of the past on their present, they have a chance of seasonal success. Claire is “uber” efficient and organised, Matt has a difficulty with telling a whole story, Alex is a likeable recovering alcoholic, whilst Patrick, an action man on the borders of middle or muddle age, who despite his qualifications, is something of a “himbo” and a square. Add to this Scarlet and her appeased and rather meddlesome imaginary rabbit, and the scene is set for a less than restive, festive vacation. They all suffer elements of what could be called emotional woodworm, have all the little anxieties attached to dealing with someone their old partner has rejected or dealing with someone they would have never chosen, the inevitable comparisons, and emotional measuring up, of doing well or better than via the proving of real or imaginary points.</p> <p>Hulse is a kindly but brutal narrator of their respective angst and failings. She rests her all too observant eye on her literary off-spring, and we can all recognize someone they resemble, and indeed are likely to be as guilty as them, of their inadequacies and conceits. As the proceedings slide like a car with the brakes off down the hill and over the cliffs it reminds me of the late Kathleen Farrell's (1912-1999) neglected master-stroke novel of the early 1950's <i>Mistletoe Malice</i>, again about people marooned together at Christmas. There may be no internet nor mobile phones in her book, but the tone of the emotions, riven and exhausting, are as much to the fore. The things around us may change, but the thoughts within remain the same.</p> <p>It’s easy to see why there is such a fanfare around this book. It is being published in fifteen different countries, and deserves to find an audience in them all. People in love, people who once were in love, or people simply trying their best and usually failing, are suffering from a global condition. Hulse has a certain Barbara Pym mischief about her observances, but is seldom cruel. I can see why the book will likely find a greater readership amongst women, but it is universal in its understanding of the sexes, and will reward accordingly by observing, annotating, but never judging.</p> <p>A democratic and audacious debut, it doesn't read like a debut at all.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3767&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="4DeFd-CcZvKioQ1nGib45h9IBk-ujxZQ2EtIBiviqDI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 17 Sep 2018 13:36:45 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3767 at http://culturecatch.com Through The Sails of the Past http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3105 <span>Through The Sails of the Past</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" lang="" about="/index.php/users/dusty-wright" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Dusty Wright</a></span> <span>September 7, 2018 - 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/332" hreflang="en">poetry</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-08/jameslyonscoverproof.jpg?itok=JlsyvAez" width="1079" height="1688" alt="Thumbnail" title="jameslyonscoverproof.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><em>Do You Remember: The Selected Poems of James Lyons</em></p> <p>Edited by Robert Cochrane (<a href="https://www.thebadpress.co.uk" target="_blank">Bad Press</a>)</p> <p>Some artists languish in the dusty bins of used bookstores waiting for their moment. For the Manchester-based poet James Lyons (1896-1918) the wait is finally over albeit 100 years after his passing. Sadly his life was all to brief. Had it not been, perhaps he would have gone on to pave a literally road of greater magnitude. Regardless, fellow Mancunian poet/critic/Mancunian Robert Cochrane has taken on the task of editing and sharing his work with the world in a new book entitled <em>Do You Remember</em>. His simple, but evocative imagery is best captured in this poem appropriately entitled "A Fragment":</p> <blockquote> <p>"The angels keep their ancient places</p> <p>Turn but a stone and start a wing!</p> <p>'Tis we, with our estranged faces,</p> <p>That miss the many splendored thing!"</p> </blockquote> <p>It's not wonder that Mr. Cochrane has wisely decided that Mr. Lyons poetry as well as been seen should be heard and be set to music. One might ponder what music Mr. Lyons might have listened to in his short life, what might have inspired his prose. It requires no leap of faith to appreciate how said prose lends itself to musical melodies.</p> <p>To that end, Mr. Cochrane's produced an extraordinary album of his poetry performed by some of the UK's most beloved singer-songwriters including Bill Fay, Sharon Lewis, John Howard, The Children of Rain, etc. The limited edition CD with book, limited edition vinyl album, and standard issue compact disc are scheduled for release in late summer/early fall. </p> </div> <section> </section> Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Dusty Wright 3105 at http://culturecatch.com Incidents Crowded With Life http://culturecatch.com/index.php/node/3753 <span>Incidents Crowded With Life</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>August 20, 2018 - 09:36</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/112" hreflang="en">book review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <p><strong><em>Incidents Crowded With Life</em> - John Howard (Fisher King)</strong></p> <p><em>Incidents Crowded With Life</em> can effectively be viewed as three books under one cover. It has all the storytelling tension of a finely honed novel, and resolves itself as one. It can be gleaned as a "coming of age" memoir, an outsider's odyssey, or can equally be seen as a primer regarding the perils and pit-falls of life in the music business. However the reader approaches it there is a guarantee of pleasure from the candid insights of a life lived with ambition in mind, a kind of gaudy Dick Whittington minus the cat.</p> <p>Howard possesses a vivid strength of recall. He writes honestly and spares himself few self-administered punches. He was a talented boy supported by his parents, the usual piano lessons and a mother with upward mobility in mind, and a burning passion for pop music, especially his heroes, The Beatles. Although he knew his talent wasn't the only thing that rendered him different, his sexuality didn't cause him angst, the sleepless nights from being at variance with the norm were not his. He got on with it in a quietly brazen fashion but eventually realised in order to blossom and succeed the confines of a Northern town had to be abandoned, so at the age of twenty he got on a train from Manchester and headed for London.</p> <p>Initially things couldn't have been less charmed, Despite initial blips he soon ended up with a wonderfully supportive manager, Stuart Reid, who along with his wife Patsy became Howard's de-facto London parents. His name became rechristened as John Howard, not far removed from the Howard Jones on his birth certificate, and before he was even to release a record at the age of twenty was flown to Rome to record the theme song for <em>Open Road</em> a Peter Fonda/William Holden vehicle. Much of this would have short circuited the valves of a lesser being, but Howard simply took it all in his stride since he'd always known his abilities, and had expectations that were imbued by them.</p> <p>His story proves that dreams do come true but do not end with their realisation. Despite a recording deal with CBS, an album in the can recorded at Abbey Road and Apple Studios, there were ominous aspects of portent. He was told by those in power at the label that his handshake wasn't firm enough and that his initial portfolio of photographs were disgusting. Admittedly they were a tad camp. The gothic dandy they revealed was part-Ziggy, part-Noel Coward with a dash of Quentin Crisp. A problem was emerging that proved despite John not being a crusader, his mere existence was a crusade in itself. Years later he was to learn that the reasons proffered by the BBC for ignoring his three superlative singles (too depressing, too sexist) they were effectively banned, were more to do with a power to be being in the closet, He later emerged from it, but at that time didn't wish to be seen promoting someone who was obviously living happily a life he couldn't embrace.</p> <p>There were the inevitable comparisons to Elton John, but this John didn't sing in as faux American accent, and all they had in common was a piano and a good ear for melody. Howard has more in common with his American counterpart Jobriath. The verve and glitz, if not the catty sexual politics, though I fear if CBS had allowed John Howard the image he desired he too would have been scissored and sneered at in the way Jobriath sadly was. Homophobia was once the bearded rock critics axe of choice for effete contenders. When <em>Kid In A Big World</em> appeared the now twenty-one year old star in the transit felt that the world was his oyster, but when he witnessed the treatment gifted Leonard Cohen at a CBS industry bash, talked over and ignored by drunken staff, he was rightly shocked and appalled. </p> <p>The lack of hit singles meant there was no lead-in to make punters embrace a new album by an unknown commodity. It sold a respectable amount, but not sufficient to earn the continued support of CBS. Two further rejected albums later and the game was up. Stardom once so near had wandered off and bestowed her favours upon others. John Howard was dropped, made a reasonable living playing piano in clubs and restaurants, again a thread of similarity to Jobriath's fate, and a '70's lifestyle became his and a transient sense of paranoia flowered. The usual sex and drugs and getting up close and personal with people who wanted to, and did try to kill him.</p> <p>His story begins with Howard leaping from the balcony window of his flat in order to escape the the marauding vandalism and worse of a marauding Russian sailor, think Popeye's Brutus, a pick-up, not of John's but his ditzy Philipino house-mates. His fearful descent ended with a broken back and smashed feet and a long stay in hospital. A shooting star had fallen heavily and painfully as a frightened man to earth. That future that came after is now a distant past and beguilingly lies in another book, but in this one Howard has successfully dealt with ambition and its loss. He writes engagingly, movingly and with supreme delicacy, especially of his mother's early demise from cancer just prior to his album's release, and his chapter on Glam Rock is astute, as it is unstarry. This is a book with a talent to amuse, but that will also touch your heart. It is proof positive that true stars are born, not made and not always massively rewarded by success.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3753&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="uc3Aq3LuVQOA4000EB2Jo102TARtofwaLNu4tBhg2oU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 20 Aug 2018 13:36:50 +0000 Robert Cochrane 3753 at http://culturecatch.com A Yard Sale Of The Mind http://culturecatch.com/index.php/literary/mozipedia-history-of-morrissey-smiths <span>A Yard Sale Of The Mind</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>March 28, 2018 - 07:05</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/838" hreflang="en">rock biography</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BegKo0RvZIE?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <div><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FMozipedia-Encyclopaedia-Morrissey-Simon-Goddard%2Fdp%2F0091927099%3Fie%3DUTF8%26qid%3D1255658181%26sr%3D8-1-fkmr1&amp;tag=cultcatc-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325"><i>Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey &amp; The Smiths</i></a></div> <div>by Simon Goddard</div> <div>(Ebury Press)</div> <div> </div> <p>Andy Warhol surrounded himself with a variety of freaks, drag queens, and speed heads. The miscreants of Manhattan. He used them in his films, took Polaroids of them, and provided their short and tragic lives with a longevity they wouldn't otherwise have attained. There is a trace of Warhol in Morrissey's supporting cast of stragglers. The difference between him and the silver-wigged wonder is that his are obscure, misunderstood, and largely unknown to the person who admires them so.<!--break--></p> <p>Warhol hung out with his, and in most cases hung them out to dry, like the paint on his canvases. Morrissey, however, clings to his obsessions; sharing like a true fan, he blasts his audiences with PA obscurities. He passes round what he cares for and admires. A quiff-adorned, flower-waving Saint Francis of those who tried and largely failed. Morrissey, despite several attempts, never got to meet Charles Hawtrey, the spindly alcoholic English comedy actor who was notoriously waspish to fans. He only heard Jimmy Clitheroe -- another comedian who dressed as a schoolboy and committed suicide on the morning of his mother's funeral -- when he was a Mancunian child listening to the radio. Klaus Nomi, the sad little space clown with a voice of a diva, and Jobriath, the American cousin of David Bowie, who earned only ridicule for all his glittering ambition, were both lost to HIV in 1983 before fame would allow Morrissey a chance to importune them. James Dean had hit a tree long before the star in question was born. Marc Bolan proved another casualty of cars against bark. Oscar Wilde expired penniless in Paris, a victim of Victorian derision and his own brazen vanity. And so a thread of commonality emerges. The tragic outsider, the misfit as martyr, the long list of causes largely lost because they have been forgotten, marginalized, or rendered immortal through death.</p> <p>There is a major air of mystery to Stephen Patrick Morrissey. People can't quite fathom him. They want to know what makes him tick, but he is a notorious chameleon, a wayward wit that will not be defined.</p> <p><i>Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey &amp; The Smiths</i> employs a more expansive swipe at his myriad of influences than Len Brown's Wildean driven, wonderfully readable <i>Meetings with Morrissey</i>, which attempted to diffuse his mystery by probing his obsessions. Simon Goddard's tome applies the same principle, but more widely so.</p> <p>Every song is dissected, each obsession profiled. What emerges is a confetti of quirk, strangeness, and charm. There can't be another artist who has composed so many songs whose titles begin in the first person singular guise of "I." Thirty plus, and it won't end there. Goddard is never a fan adrift. He writes with detached determination and isn't frightened or bowed by his subject. In the wrong hands, a book like this could be utterly sickly, or bathed in the pretentious prose of the devoted scribe. Dylan has been subjected to such seriousness, and it proved a dull affair, weighted down by a sense of the author's respect and admiration for his sacred cow.</p> <p>What awaits the reader in this case is a Pandora's box of earthy and ethereal delights. It never takes itself too seriously and is the perfect book for both the initiated and the obsessed to delve into. Obscure alcoholic actresses rub shoulders with the New York Dolls. Tragedy queens and might-have-beens are given equal billing to movie stars, murderers, Manchester legends, and obscurities. Indie also-ran bands get to hang around with Truman Capote. In Morrissey's mind, the party is a strange after-life of many who appear to be waiting for those who have survived.</p> <p>This book is the ultimate yard sale of another's mind. Morrissey as the man who sold his world. At the end of 532 pages devoted to the songs and obsessions of a figure in the public gaze, the reader is informed. But the enigma code of Morrissey remains uncracked. He has that sense of other-worldliness old movie stars had when they seemed to live in a different world from the people who sat and gazed upon their likenesses in darkened picture palaces.</p> <p>This is a devotional work, a lot of effort employed in the transcribing a singer's obsessions. We all require an artist to express something of ourselves that we do not understand till it is sung to us by a stranger. A lost love, the one that never arrived, the fear of just being alive. That is Morrissey's role. He is the mouthpiece of millions, and what remains the unknown part of him is the unknown part in us all.</p> <p>It is all too appropriate that the last words in the book, by alphabetical chance, belong to Tim Yuro (1941-2004). She's just one of the many girl singers to transfix Morrissey, but the one with the most grace, pathos, and guts, and whose larynx was removed in a failed attempt to save her life. She could easily be explaining him, the man who many misguidedly consider miserable. "My greatest pleasure on earth was to go on stage and be sad. And when people would applaud it was the greatest thing in the world for me. Just going out there and crying and singing a song. It wasn't just to blow people away. It was to give them the truth of me."</p> </div> <section> </section> Wed, 28 Mar 2018 11:05:58 +0000 Robert Cochrane 1259 at http://culturecatch.com