This debut collection is essentially comedy of the banal. It's not bad, but it does seem to have been written by someone who's taken a writing class aThis debut collection is essentially comedy of the banal. It's not bad, but it does seem to have been written by someone who's taken a writing class and has learned that stories don't need a structure or an ending. That's true, but in their absence something else needs to fill the gap. Also, the title and some of the publicity imply that this is a work of erotica, which it most certainly isn't.
There's a clue in the title "and other people", not "and other stories". These are vignettes: moments from people's lives. That would work better if the characterisation was deeper: if nothing is going to happen in terms of story, then something needs to happen in terms of character. Mostly it doesn't, or, when it does, the characters aren't deep enough for the reader to care.
In Desert Hearts, one of the more entertaining pieces, a law graduate gets a job in a sex shop (the reference to Jane Rule tells you it's a lesbian sex shop). All the gay clichés are there as this straight woman tries to pass off as gay, while her over-working boyfriend becomes increasingly distant. The story is moving inexorably towards a conclusion and Holmes knows it, so, to adhere to the diktat of Great Literature that 'nothing must happen', she simply kills the story, bluntly and implausibly.
The story that starts least promisingly is probably the best: My Humans, in which a couple's relationship is told through the eyes of their rescue dog. The simplicity of the dog's understanding allows the pathos of humans' feelings to come through; pathos that is absent from the characters in the other stories because Holmes doesn't dare show deep emotion. By focusing on the dog, she allows the humanity to shine through.
As an aside, these stories are strangely anachronistic for a collection published in 2015. Almost all the references, cultural and technological, seem to be from the 1990s: VHS, audio tape, Backstreet Boys.
On this evidence, Holmes is a writer of potential but perhaps she needs to emerge from the shadow of her tutors, who are numerously and profusely thanked in the acknowledgements (which appear prominently at the front of the book, not the back). At the moment, her work reads a little too much like exercises for a creative writing class. ...more
Seen at Bromley Little Theatre: definitely a play that achieves its full potential on the stage. Plenty of slapstick and fast-paced, physical humour,Seen at Bromley Little Theatre: definitely a play that achieves its full potential on the stage. Plenty of slapstick and fast-paced, physical humour, with audience participation wired in. All the elements of high farce are here, with mistaken identity and messages (and money, and food) going astray; quite similar to Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors (which I saw the previous week)....more
Deutschland is a short book, detailing a few days in summer for one family. Richard, Suzannah's American second husband, is wrestling with an unspecifDeutschland is a short book, detailing a few days in summer for one family. Richard, Suzannah's American second husband, is wrestling with an unspecified guilt. Kate, Suzannah's daughter, is on holiday in Germany with her new lover, Steve, where she challenges him to do something that will test their relationship. Kate's nephews and niece, Tony, Jeff and Sam, spend their days concocting elaborate and dangerous dares. The common theme of pushing the boundaries of what is right holds the narratives together.
The strands of the three stories only really come together at the end, before which the motives of the players are nebulous. Regrettably, the writing and characterisation aren't compelling enough to hold the reader's attention while we wait for the point of the novel to be revealed. The reveal at the end isn't forceful enough to make the exercise worthwhile. ...more
During the interval, my companion said, "I don't really understand Pinter." Two others said, "I don't think you're supposed to," with one adding, "JusDuring the interval, my companion said, "I don't really understand Pinter." Two others said, "I don't think you're supposed to," with one adding, "Just let it wash over you." We concluded that if you think you've understood it, you almost certainly haven't.
Pinter was in the vanguard of the sixties drive away from linear narrative, and in Old Times the conversation is used not to drive any plot as such but to delve into the nature of Deeley and Kate's relationship. The obvious interpretation is that Kate and Anna had been more than friends, which would have been far more shocking in 1971 than now, but that seems too simplistic. More plausible is the interpretation that Anna isn't actually there: the memory of her is what intrudes into the couple's relationship rather than her physical presence.
But even that might be too literal. The younger Kate comes across as almost autistically shy, and would have been a curious best friend for the outrageously gregarious Anna. There's a clue in their sharing of underwear and in Deeley's assertion that he had known Anna too. Perhaps Anna is actually also Kate: the extrovert part of her personality that was suppressed when she married Deeley.
Despite its impenetrability, obscure dialogue and occasional pretentiousness, Old Times is also funny and poetic and has real dramatic energy. ...more
It doesn't take long to divine Taraborrelli's opinion of himself in this book: it begins with a quote from Miss Ross herself telling him how he knowsIt doesn't take long to divine Taraborrelli's opinion of himself in this book: it begins with a quote from Miss Ross herself telling him how he knows her better than any biographer. Yes, the first words of the biography are about him, not her. And this reviewer found this writer's constant references to "this writer" (rather than simply "I" or "me") to be tiresome and pompously self-serving.
Now, having written two previous biographies of the Motown superstar, he's returning to squeeze the last bit of milk from his cash cow.
To be fair, despite being an unashamed fan, Taraborrelli is even-handed. It's long been alleged that Ross is an uncompromising, career-focused manipulator and, despite his obvious love for her as an artist, he's quite happy to show her in this unflattering light. He even colludes with the consensus that Ross was miscast in The Wiz when a one-eyed fan might have presented it as a triumph. This is by no means a hagiography. Its failings lie elsewhere.
The book is over-long and excessively detailed, with the accumulation of facts valued far above writing style. Taraborrelli is meticulous at the expense of readability and his prose is workmanlike and uninspired, as if he's desperate to collate every scrap of source material rather than tell a story. And yet the opposite is true when it comes to the photos. Nearly all of them are PR shots taken from the glory years 1966-68, giving a frustratingly incomplete picture.
In the end we don't learn much about Ross that we didn't already know. We just know it in more detail. A lot, lot more detail....more
Tongues only works on the stage: it's abstract, poetic and potentially exciting, with a strong percussive element. As such, it should only really be rTongues only works on the stage: it's abstract, poetic and potentially exciting, with a strong percussive element. As such, it should only really be read by someone looking to perform it, so the two stars is strictly for the book version. But I'd recommend it to anyone seeking to put on a short play that's challenging and different. ...more