Two guys Jeunet and Carot made Delicatessen in 1991 which is an all time favourite of mine, then followed it up with The City of Lost Children four yeTwo guys Jeunet and Carot made Delicatessen in 1991 which is an all time favourite of mine, then followed it up with The City of Lost Children four years later. Hard to believe, this second film is much weirder and much better, one of my top ten movies. (Not many other people liked it but I don’t care. Maybe they just made it for me. I think it gave people the creeps. It gave me the creeps but I like that kind of creeps.) So Jeunet and Caro had by now typed themselves as steampunk surrealists. Then Caro left to do something else and Jeunet’s next movie was the bad Alien film Alien : Resurrection. Yeah, he sold out to Hollywood, and it didn’t work out. But hey, with a big paycheck he could do what he wanted to do now, which was Amelie. And now you could see that Caro was the Lennon and Jeunet the McCartney.
As you no doubt know, Amelie is cutesy, fey, whimsical, a romantic comedy with no possible relation to real life, all goldenhued and cloying, which rhymes with annoying, and I expect has made more than a few people thwow up into their handbags. “A big fat dollop of saccharine fairy floss” says tombur1 on IMDB. “By the end of the movie you just want to reach into the screen and choke her” says AmomyBP. I see what they mean. The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye. Jeunet deliberately removed all the graffiti and litter from his exteriors by digital means. The more I think about this movie the sillier it is, but when I watch it that’s a different thing. So am I really saying that Ram is nearly as good as Abbey Road ? If there is a guilty movie pleasure this is it. (Leaving aside Italian nunsploitation movies, of course. We don’t want to talk about those. )
(Amelie phones a sex shop to speak to one of their assistants but they mistake the nature of the call.)
It’s true my movie taste is all over the place. What? You dare to admit to hating The Green Mile AND The Shawshank Redemption AND Vertigo ?? Yes, that’s me. So are you one of those guys who only like Battleship Potemkin and Last year at Marienbad? No, I hate those too. What kind of monster are you??
(This is Amelie criticising old movies for not being realistic - she's got some nerve)
All right, so what we got – cute shy loner girl meets cute shy loner boy in a manner that redefined the words convoluted and contrived. At the end – oh, spoiler! – they chug off into the Montmartrian sunset, literally, on a white Lambretta. Laughing.
I can’t deny that – but I would say that a large amount of the movie is taken up with Amelie trying to fix other people’s problems (thus avoiding fixing her own). She does this by stealth and in so doing reveals herself to have psychopathic tendencies – she has no qualms in breaking into neighbours’ apartments and stealing stuff; once she conceives of an idea of improve someone’s life all normal rules of behaviour go out the window. Underneath the fairydust is a borderline-deranged passive aggressive type. The fairydust is mixed with ground glass.
YANN TIERSEN’S SOUNDTRACK
In keeping with the retro visual style is the lush accordion waltz soundtrack by this composer who was a new name to me. The soundtrack album is great. Any fans of Gus Viseur or Tony Murena will lap this stuff up.
There have been three more films – A Very Long Engagement which bored me to death, Micmacs which is brilliant and The Young and Prodigious T S Spivet which is everything Amelie-haters say about Amelie – avoid, avoid.
Alas, we have the usual film studies lecturerspeak here. It’s crammed with banal clunkers such as :
The nostalgic appropriation of Paris in Amelie has enchanted, concerned or angered the viewers, and become one of the most critically discussed elements of the film. However, by recycling and stimulating the collective memories fed by many past pictorial and cinematic sources, and by bringing his own personal imagery of the city, Jeunet has successfully created an enticing postmodern cityscape, which contributed to the success of the film, and is part and parcel of his aesthetic signature.
I mean, who needs sentences like that in their life. Not you, not me.
Two star book, five star movie.
(I feel like that occasionally but then I lie down until the feeling passes.)
Earlier this year a company called Protein World launched this advert in the London Underground
and over 50,000 women signed a petition calling for itEarlier this year a company called Protein World launched this advert in the London Underground
and over 50,000 women signed a petition calling for it to be banned for body shaming (and it was banned). The posters were defaced with many rude words. Other protestors offered alternative versions of beauty
Well, seeing as to how this is the Planet Earth and not the Planet Disney, you won’t be surprised to learn that sales of Protein World’s “Weight Loss Collection” products took off like a rocket after all the bad publicity. But that’s by the bye.
So, you don’t have to look far to find examples of the female body as a political and psychological battleground. This book is all about that. It’s Fat is a Feminist Issue crossed with Fight Club. (Our author says this is pretty much a riff on Fight Club in her acknowledgements.) It’s the story of Plum, a 300 pound woman who has spent her life wishing she was “normal”-sized. She’s gone through all the diets, nothing has worked, and finally she decides to go for the stomach-stapling surgery. But before that happens she gets involved with a bunch of feminists, and then while we’re following the detailed account of Plum’s consciousness-raising, a brand new terrorist group hits the headlines – it’s called Jennifer and this part of the novel is a fantasy of feminist revenge, whereby porn barons and rapists are abducted, murdered and dumped in the desert. Oh, and their female aiders and abetters are killed too. It’s all more than a little cartoony, but that was fine by me. I love a bit of revenge.
Along the way, we have accounts of Plum shoplifting from stores called V--- S--- … yes, like that. She says many rude things about V—S--. Well, I guess Sarai Walker was advised that if she actually said Victoria’s Secret she may get a writ.
I didn’t have a problem with this being an explicitly political and not very realistic wish-fulfilment fantasy. The problem with this novel was that it just didn’t go far enough. To explain why will involve spoilers.
(view spoiler)[ The lovely kind feminists enable Plum to accept her own body and to reject the stomach stapling. (This is all conducted as if Plum has never heard of any feminist writers ever, by the way. No mention of Susie Orbach or Naomi Wolf – gosh darn it, this book is specifically about The Beauty Myth so it’s like writing about a worker’s strike in the 1930s and never mentioning communism.)
So the fat woman accepts that fat she is and fat she’ll be and she’s (finally) okay with that. But there’s a but. Why did she want to become thin in the first place? To avoid the endless rounds of daily humiliations, and to well, you know, if it’s not too much to ask, meet someone and experience love. Yeah, love. Why not? Plum finally sees that the problem is not her’s but the hateful world’s, i.e. the hateful men who mock her and hate her just for being fat. She realises that the hateful men hate many women – probably most - for one reason or another. The only ones they don’t hate are 18 year old sex zombies.
So - just because Plum is now okay with her body doesn't of course mean that the rest of the world will behave any differently. the taunts and rudeness will still be there. The lack of relationships will still be there.
So really, the idea of happy heterosexual love has to be ditched along with the stomach stapling. Sarai Walker in this novel appears to be suggesting that expecting happy hetero love from modern American men seems to be a like a mental version of foot binding. But she needs to come out and say it. We seem to be left with the resolutely 300 pound Plum striding about Manhattan in a perpetual fury at the way all the “normal-sized” women behave. Is Dietland saying that “normal” heterosexual relationships are just a psychological snakepit best to be avoided by any sane woman? If so, is the alternative living in some cosy commune with your sisters, which is the alternative presented here? If that is what Dietland is telling us, it’s inadequate.
In the end I needed more feminist terrorism, and particularly more investigation of the effects such a terrorist group would have on society – for instance, they issue a “Penis Blacklist” featuring the names of 50 misogynists – any woman having sex with any of these men will be killed, they say. Well, I want to know what happened then! What a luridly interesting idea! But it’s just kind of tossed off, if that’s not an inappropriate phrase.
Heart in right place, keyboard not quite there yet. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Now I was innocently thinking that the concept of product placement would not really apply to books -PRODUCT PLACEMENT QUESTION - IS THIS NOW A THING?
Now I was innocently thinking that the concept of product placement would not really apply to books - I mean I can't see Givenchy calling up Sarah Waters' agent with a great deal although I can see a nice comedy sketch you could write - but anyway, I found a genuine product placement thing right here in this very book page 194. It's the summer holidays and Georgia my daughter has finished her exams and can now read novels again - so she was reading this one and pointed it out to me :
So, on the second anniversary of her death, we spent the morning visiting all of her favourite places, Dad even bought me a book that was recommended by one of the staff at Kidsbooks, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
And at the end of this volume, lo and behold, an advert for .... The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
And both books are published by Andersen Press.
I mean, it's trivial, but still. I never saw that before. ...more
I’m struggling to figure out what makes this quite so great, it could be Truman’s beautiful limpid style which winds its sentences through your innerI’m struggling to figure out what makes this quite so great, it could be Truman’s beautiful limpid style which winds its sentences through your inner ear so that you might think that language itself had been melted and turned into vanilla frosting or it could be that this is the sweet sad little tale of a guy who met this creature and got stuck permanently in the friend zone, and kind of almost didn’t really mind because at least the friend zone was something and not nothing, that’s how entranced he was, or it could be that one of the major characters is a cat. It could be that it’s funny, and kind, and that Holly says some really surprising things (just to mention one, that she thinks people of the same sex should be allowed to get married – in 1958!). But this novelette is a small 100 page thing, a drifting fragrance, a single chord, a glint, a hello then goodbye too soon, too soon – ah yes, itself therefore being the perfect embodiment of the Holly Golightly experience. So, of course – that’s why. ...more
This book has the most beautiful cover I have seen in many a year.
But what’s inside? Contextless fragments of violent American lives, one after anotheThis book has the most beautiful cover I have seen in many a year.
But what’s inside? Contextless fragments of violent American lives, one after another, 37 of them, tiny bits and pieces. You can stumble over some great paragraphs here & there, like this one when a woman tells her boyfriend she’s pregnant and that her parents will be very happy:
“Here’s the thing, though,” he said. “Your folks are dead. And I have a warrant out for my arrest. And you’re forty years old. And I am addicted to getting tattoos. And our air conditioner’s broke. And you are drunk every day. And all I ever want to do is fight and go swimming. And I am addicted to keno. And you are just covered in hair. And I’ve never done a load of laundry in my life. And you are still technically married to my dealer. And I refuse to eat vegetables. And you can’t sleep unless you’re sleeping on the floor. And I am addicted to heroin. “
That’s really quite funny. But eventually the bittiness of this collection, the constant stop-start reboot (way more than other short story books) plus the gruelling lack of warmth (oh well, another body hits the deck) meant that Gutshot wore out its welcome. Nil desperandum, though - I will be looking out for Amelia Gray’s first novel which it says here she’s working on. She’s got the style and the flair, I just need a little leetle teeny bit of ye olde character’n’plot to go with it. Call me old fashioned.
I know two stars is way harsh but check out all the nicer reviews.
This was a shambolic upturned banquet of a life of a man who was able to live exactly as he wanted. So many books, so many wives, so many girlfriends, so many children, so much earned and spent, the energy and throughput of this life is astounding. Look at the subjects covered in the books – these are just the big ones - WW2 , the counterculture , 1960s/70s politics in all its mania, the moon landings , feminism , Marilyn Monroe, boxing, hip hop culture – The Faith of Graffiti (1973 book!!), true crime, Ancient Egypt , the CIA and the Cold War , JFK, Picasso, Christianity…. on and on. Norman didn’t have an OFF switch. His mill was vast and he ground everything. He ran for mayor of New York in the Democratic primary (got 5% of the vote) – he really thought he wanted to be a politician, do some actual good instead of all this scribbling. He made three experimental movies which were generally hated – entirely improvised, bad sound, etc. One notch above Warhol. He really thought he was going to become a film director, so he nearly bankrupted himself. He had a horror of semicolons. In the 60s he was way more famous than any novelist is now, probably including JK Rowling. He believed in telepathy and thought it explained why dogs don’t watch television. He acted in the movie Ragtime:
He had many odd obsessions, like ropewalking. Ropewalking?
It’s a feat of balancing that has religious import in some societies and is a circus act in others… Norman has a capacity not only to get totally absorbed by something like that but also to communicate his enthusiasm for it to everybody else. We hadn’t been there an hour before we were trying to find the right ropewalking shoes and Norman was showing us the basic techniques.
By the late 60s he was thought to be both an original and bracing thinker about America and a cultural loose cannon:
Vulgar, violent, and weird, spouting ideas about orgasms and existentialism that resembled the most outrageous theories of Wilhelm Reich… his novels… appeared to have been written by five different authors
Our biographer is a little kinder, describing his personality as
Sometimes brave, sometimes clownish, sometimes earnest, often peckish, invariably opinionated, regularly comic and usually honest
I knew almost nothing about this guy, that’s why I read this huge biography. I was very surprised to find out that NM was a Marxist in the 40s and 50s, and then morphed into a prophet of the counterculture in the late 50s (key essay : The White Negro). He campaigned loudly and constantly against the Vietnam War and got himself thrown in jail for it (three days, no sweat). But what was this about him being a great outspoken enemy of feminism? That didn’t square with the leftism at all, but it turned out to be just so – he was a prophet of left-right hipness, whatever the hell that was. He didn’t make any kind of consistent sense at all. The antifeminism (which biographer Lennon doesn’t trouble to explain at all – in fact he steers clear of all of NM’s theories) led to Gore Vidal traducing him in a book review by linking him with Henry Miller and – wait for it – Charles Manson.
The Miller-Mailer-Manson man (or M3 for short) has been conditioned to think of women as, at best, breeders of sons; at worst, as objects to be poked, humiliated, killed
Wow – them’s fightin’ words – and some years later Mailer finally found himself at a party with Gore Vidal and threw a glass at him followed by a fist in the mush. I mean, when was the last time Jonathan Franzen head-butted Brett Easton Ellis? These are uninspiring times.
The anti-feminism plus the wife-stabbing (reported in detail in part one of this review) kind of cemented his rep for women.
A TYPICAL NIGHT OUT WITH STORMIN NORMAN
One of his wives, I think the third, was a jazz singer and she was performing.
Halfway through Carol’s third number the man nearest Norman turned and called out “Is that broad stacked!” “Be quiet, “ Norman ordered. “Sex-y!” the man continued. With that Norman turned to face the stranger, grabbed him by the ears and in a split moment had butted his head so hard against the man’s head that there was a resounding craaaack! The stranger was holding his head and moaning….. The music stopped. Mailer and the man went outside…. (After some minutes Carol goes to see what has happened and sees a gaggle of people in the bar-room)… “Standing in the center were Norman and the stranger, no longer a stranger, bear-hugging, toasting each other. ‘You have a hard head,’ Norman said admiringly.
Now, it’s true, everyone has baggage. But Norm had more than most. He meets a new girl and likes her a lot. She eventually becomes the final wife, No 6. When they’re getting involved with each other, Norman lays out the situation for her.
He explained his obligations : three homes, seven children, three ex-wives, an estranged wife, Beverly, and Carol, the woman he was currently married to except in the eyes of the law. All told, he was the sole supporter of fourteen people.
“It was all rather overwhelming,” said the new girl, who, in the time-honoured way of rich guys and their later wives, was 26 to Norman’s 52, “but I appreciated his honesty.”
Our biographer points out that as well as the above at that point in time Norman was “seeing” three other women.
I have to say that this is live lived on a scale I simply can’t conceive. Later that year, 1976, Norman threw a party for a couple of hundred people. Guests included Jackie Onassis, Arthur Schlesinger, Dick Cavett, Kurt Vonnegut, Bob Dylan and Hunter Thompson. And just after that Norman got roped in to write something about the current cause celebre, which was Gary Gilmore. Just a little magazine article.
NORMAN ON GARY
He said he came to know Gary Gilmore “as well as I know some of my ex-wives”. The Executioner’s Song is one Mailer book I did read, and 5 starred it too. After this biography you’d have to pay me to read any of his actual novels.
DESERT ISLAND DISCS
It’s a British radio programme where a celebrity gets gently interviewed about their glittering career and asked to choose eight gramophone records to mark the stations of their particular bejewelled cross. Norman was on it in 1979 and the programme is here
He comes across as likeable! How strange – but of course he must have been something of a charmer, as well as an egomaniac. His book of choice to take to the mythical desert island was Labyrinths by Borges and his luxury was a stick of the best marijuana, which fluttered the pulse of the plummy BBC interviewer.
POP CULTURE REFERENCE NO 23
Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper, Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsberg, Hare Krishna Hare Hare Krishna All we are saying is give peace a chance
AND NOW : GOODBYE NORMAN
Leaving this biography I was punchdrunk. The ceaseless cramming in of everything in American life, the shovelling it in and shovelling it out, the appetite involved, was frankly appalling. He was like a tiny Roman emperor, charging around, owning the place, picking fights. It felt like I had been in the presence of a monster for many days. But one I was glad to have met.
My friend Sid lives in Belper in Derbyshire and when I visit him we go walking in the Derbyshire countryside which is very pleasant and looks like thiMy friend Sid lives in Belper in Derbyshire and when I visit him we go walking in the Derbyshire countryside which is very pleasant and looks like this
(Sid would be an adornment to Goodreads, he specialises in French literature but has an acutely political turn of mind which I think we need round here; alas he’s a Luddite technophobe).
So anyway, we recently ended one of our walks in Cromford which has this bookshop
which is where I found a copy of Careless Love by Peter Guralnik, the 2nd part of his Elvis biography, and In God we Doubt by John Humphreys. I thought it was appropriate buying a books about Elvis and God at the same time. You could make a case for their careers being very similar - a brilliant start and then a whole long time where it was just the same old Vegas grind, nothing to see at all. In God’s case he did not have the excuse of Colonel Tom Parker. He was his own Colonel Parker. And of course we believed in Elvis to begin with, but came to doubt him in the end. He turned out to be a flabby metaphor for our rancid gone-to-seed dreams.
But enough of this blasphemy. The present book is built round a short radio series Humphreys in Search of God. JH is an annoying news presenter on the big political BBC morning radio show. He interviews the big names and makes them howl in pain or strangle themselves on their eel-like circumlocutions. The idea was that he grew up a Christian, lost his faith, and was now going to interview three leaders of the monotheistic religions to see if they could convince him of their version of the truth. Here are his victims – er, interviewees :
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks “leading Muslim scholar” Tariq Ramadan
Given the above heavyweights it’s surprising – make that aggravating – how very lightweight this book is. I had to keep putting a large block of cheese on it to stop it floating up to the ceiling. In spite of regular mentions of the Nazis, earthquakes and psychopathic killers, the jaunty hail-fellow-well-met tone of the whole thing was enough to grate the large block of cheese mentioned earlier into very small particles.
HERE’S SOMETHING I DID LIKE
There’s a nice tale about Niels Bohr, Nobel prize winner for physics in 1922. A visitor is astonished to see a horseshoe nailed to the wall over the great man’s desk.
“Surely”, he asked Bohr, “you don’t believe that horseshoe will bring you good luck?” “I believe no such thing, my friend. Not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe in it or not!”
Well – I got to say that I think that’s exactly how 90% of religion actually operates.
THE CHIEF RABBI’S REACTION
John explains the concept of the interview to the Chief Rabbi :
“It’s simple enough,” I said, “All you’ve got to do is convert me – turn me into a religious Jew.” He put his hand on my arm, smiled rather sadly and said, “John, I wouldn’t dream of it. You’ve got enough problems already.”
They were especially critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury. They said he seemed so full of doubt that he’d have trouble persuading a two-year-old to eat his ice cream.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE ARCHBISHOP DEFENDING THE FAITH
In answer to the old chestnut about bad things happening to good people:
I’d say there’s hope… hope of healing. In God’s perspective, in God’s time, maybe within this world and maybe not. And part of the difficulty in living with faith is the knowledge which you’ve underlined so powerfully, that for some people in our time frame in this world there is not that kind of healing. And that’s not easy to face or to live with.
Hmmm…. Let’s give him a second chance:
What I’m trying to outline, and I know it’s not a simple thought, is that God set up the universe in such a way that when certain causes come together, certain circumstances come together, more is possible than those immediately involved imagine, as if there’s something that breaks through… because God has set up conditions in which, in this situation rather than that, it happens.