[2.5] I have a minor addiction to these joke guides to national stereotypes, but don't generally review them. (They just sneakily boost my number of b[2.5] I have a minor addiction to these joke guides to national stereotypes, but don't generally review them. (They just sneakily boost my number of books read, as if it somehow mattered.) This Welsh instalment was the most disappointing one I've read so far.
My ancestors are from quite a few different countries, though my family are a bit odd in their various ways, so I don't necessarily expect to see much correspondence between them and popular 'national characteristics' - here the only one was the matriarchs.
Winterson Richards is evidently from South Wales. At the beginning he mentions the differences between the regions of Wales - then for the rest of the book goes on to describe what sounds an awful lot like South Wales (going by my limited experience of visiting the place, when the North Welsh always seemed quieter, for a start). Or rather it sounds like the backdrop to an early 60s kitchen sink drama set in the Valleys: rugby, beer, lads down the club and 'er indoors, irreverence, gossip, cronyism, singing etc etc. All the references to work are about coal mining (S), not slate (N). And it's pretty much told from the POV of that bloke down the working men's club. What would the typical formidable Welsh Mam, as described here, have to say about it all?
One interesting point is a dislike of too much success, like an economic aspect of Scandinavian Jante Law, (but without the efficiency and organisation to balance it out). This allegedly means that many driven Welsh people leave, contributing to a paucity of Welsh-owned major companies, too many big employers having always been from elsewhere, as far back as the Industrial Revolution. Whilst evidently dear to the author, a business consultant and former Tory, this idea ties in somewhat to the novel that prompted me to pick this up, The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen - although it's eccentricity and dissenting views that are a problem for its hero in the late nineteenth century. This modern book mentions a tolerance for eccentricity within certain bounds, but the overall feeling is of a communitarian society with obvious parameters (like Jante Law again).
He never mentions was how physically small the place feels - because most buildings are strikingly short compared with England, Scotland, anywhere I've been, in fact. (Easy material for the kind of cheap jokes these books specialise in, if you jiggle this idea about a bit and add the short average height...)
Xenophobe's Guide to the Welsh just wasn't as funny as the other, Continental, guides I've read so far. Could that be because the jokes are already over-familiar? Guess I'll have to read the English one at some point to test that theory....more
These little books have been a bit of a vice of mine this year, sub-100 page junk reads inflating my stats. But they are fun and they can give more inThese little books have been a bit of a vice of mine this year, sub-100 page junk reads inflating my stats. But they are fun and they can give more insight into other books from a country. Besides, £1.79 is cheaper even than Ryanair.
More than the other Xenophobe's Guides I've read - or perhaps it's just because it's so long since I've had one to one conversations with anyone from Sweden - there are paragraphs where I notice that, although something sounds like a joke, you'd need to be familiar with how things actually are to know the exact degree to which it is a joke. And I'm not always. (I've found Swedes in the UK to be more modest and friendly than the people half-satirically described here - could also be a reflection of the sort of people who go to live abroad.)
Much like descriptions of star signs, with national characteristics you can always find some attributes you share; apparently I'd fit in well with Swedes on splitting bills and owing money, talking about sex, and being meticulous pedantic about the recycling.
In the sections on work in all the Scandinavian volumes, it's as if they've been written by one of those obviously-Tory CBI spokespeople from the news: there is shock at five weeks' holiday, finishing on time and other matters which are hardly outlandish and which are also part of the culture in quite a few workplaces in less cutthroat sectors here.
The writers mentioned (and that goes for the Danish book too) include those who aren't mentioned on lists of recommended translated authors on Goodreads, in press articles, by publishers etc. e.g. Vilhelm Moberg, Sven Delblanc as well as the better-known-here likes of Strindberg and Lagerlöf.
Also made me aware of Swedish terms for concepts I'm more familiar with as Norwegian or Danish - for the latter, especially undfallenhet ≈ Jante Law....more
A book for the same mood as Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner. It isn't as good a work because it's in close-up: this is the barfly talking straightA book for the same mood as Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner. It isn't as good a work because it's in close-up: this is the barfly talking straight to you, perceptive, boring, unwittingly empathic, slurring, rambling, cruel, candid and funny (and of course the rarer skill of music is absent). Both, whilst hardly shying away from the dark side, make a kind of sullen, messy dejection almost cool - in itself this is company for misery.
Characterful and sometimes objectionable drunks are, perhaps, the same anywhere. Plenty of these pieces could be scripts for Frank Gallagher or Rab C. Nesbitt (the meandering yet witty rants - usually unPC but sometimes surprisingly compassionate - the bedsit squalor, the debt collectors*, the drunk and disorderly arrests, the local that may as well be his living room, his dodgy mates there). It's just that his accent is posher, you might have heard of a few of his friends - the most enduringly famous being Tom Baker - and the generous expense accounts and freebies doled out to 1970s-80s London journalists meant that whilst he was personally in penury, he got some very good dollops of the high life too: a Christmas dinner at the Hilton, or being holiday in Barbados whilst back home he's served with a garnishee order. Bernard's 'Low Life' column in the Spectator ran for many years as a supposed contrast to a 'High Life' column by Europosh socialite Taki. Which I haven't read, but I do remember Taki's later stint on a paper we got regularly, probably the Sunday Times, and thinking him the most boring thing in the entire slab of tree.
Enjoyment of this, as well as being dependent on how entertaining one finds this sort of character, may be contingent on the extent to which you're familiar with a lot of the names dropped - one for Soho history enthusiasts or those who recall the British press of the 1980s. Thanks to reading the Guardian on the floor when I wasn't that much bigger than it, and in the days of the all-caps masthead, I can... (Although perhaps if you just like this sort of thing - I do remember getting much fun out of a book of Keith Waterhouse's 1970s columns, Mondays Thursdays, found at my gran's when I was a teenager). It was evident why Low Life had fallen out of print some years back - reissued in ebook form a couple of months ago, however.
Whilst I read a biography of Bernard recently, the extent of his candidness was still surprising (he also said more about his failings than the biographer implied - but because of his tone, one wouldn't necessarily take it seriously). Really quite a lot of these pieces are about being in hospital - his accounts of other patients and nurses is reminiscent of Alfie in hospital with a tad more self-awareness - so the magazine's frequent statement 'Jeffrey Bernard is unwell', in place of a missing column, wasn't actually just a cover for a bad hangover and manflu, he really was in a bad way, with alcohol induced pancreatitis, diabetes and smoker's lungs. He would likely make some drinkers think about cutting down. The other thing is that one always supposes this sort of witty character not to feel any great sense of loss and regret over their exes, to consider themselves well rid (cf. the track 'Better Off Without a Wife' on the aforementioned Waits album). But Bernard, although scornful about certain types of women, is quite frequently overwhelmed by loneliness and remorse for his actions - although it's evident that he can't and won't really be any different. (Incidentally, who on earth are these women in their early twenties who go out with out-of-shape men thirty years their senior? And what do they really think? There are far too many reports of their existence for them to be entirely a figment, but I don't think I've ever met one.)
The most - oddly - useful essay was the first, 'Happy Days', in which JB describes the aching sense of loss involved in going through a cache of old photos. (It's also more focused than many of the other pieces.) Before I'd even finished it, I went ruthlessly through two boxes of paperwork that needed sifting, much more efficiently than I'd expected to. Having already felt the worst in empathy with the book, the reality was almost a doddle. But then Bernard apparently supposed that people liked his writing because he showed them that things could be worse.
* He predated the equally infamous, though less-well liked, Liz Jones by at least 25 years in implicitly asking readers for help with his debts.
What a peculiar book. I hadn't read an Evelyn Waugh for the first time since I was at school: was his humour usually quite this dark, sick even? BitsWhat a peculiar book. I hadn't read an Evelyn Waugh for the first time since I was at school: was his humour usually quite this dark, sick even? Bits of Decline and Fall would have been distinctly dubious these days, I remember thinking, (schoolmasters and schoolboys) but it was par for the course of class and time etc, rather than bizarre (morticians in LA isn't usual Waugh-world). Though in my late teens the delicacy of my reading sensibilities was at an all-time low, so perhaps I missed things before.
Anyway, I found a lot of The Loved One very funny, including at least one comment which another GR reviewer objected to. The ridiculousness of the names tops his other work too: Aimee Thanatogenos, Mr Joyboy - and these people are as weird as they sound.
Those who might be upset by the mere idea of callousness or poor practice at pet crematoria probably shouldn't read this. (Really, I do know what it's like to be very upset by the death of a pet, and I wouldn't conscion simply binning a deceased animal, but I've always found the idea of pet undertakers quite absurd. A fine way to satirize the fixed-grin plastic decadence of nearly-1950s America.) Nor should those who might mind characters' blase attitude and one-liners about other characters' deaths, including those self-inflicted. We shouldn't think too ill of them, after all, they have been hardened by recent service in the war: Others in gentler ages had had their lives changed by such a revelation; to Dennis it was the kind of thing he expected in the world he knew.
There's undoubtedly something here about the demise of the Empire, and it's very amusing to see tweedy old colonial gentlemen talking about the U.S. (and the standards expected of Brits out here) much as they would about India in other books. Most characters were sympathetic some of the time, and not at all at others, and needless to say, everyone is skewered at some point. Even the sort of character one absently thinks of as his own kind: Sir Ambrose Abercrombie wore tweeds, cape and deerstalker cap, the costume in which he had portrayed many travesties of English rural life. I particularly liked the way he makes embalmers and corpse-beauticians creepy; that whole related business of ceremonially viewing corpses is so undignified and medieval.
I considered docking half a star for a plot device copied from a very well-known source (there's also a rather less-hackneyed reference to Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts), and the ending was a tad unsatisfying* and may or may not veer off the trajectory of the rest of the book. But I was so pleased with the weirdness of it all - weird in a way I'd never expected from Waugh, and very welcome after becoming exasperated with serious realist fiction in general - that I haven't.
* (view spoiler)[Aimee's death seems rather out of character, even if it does fit her name. She was so calmly calculating and determined to get ahead. She could have, say, climbed out of a ground floor window, to chime with a satirical theme of "these idiots do anything the press tells them to" - and that's literally closer to Slump's advice. But then I'm not sure what I'd have done to end the story. Maybe she could have gone back East after faking her death? (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"So my Lord is also a student of the subject?" "That's a rather strong term to use, in this island of ours. You study something, we merely have hobbies"So my Lord is also a student of the subject?" "That's a rather strong term to use, in this island of ours. You study something, we merely have hobbies. I dabble in the English mystics the way a retired general would set about exploring his family history. As it happens, those things are part of the family history."...
He seemed to embody a historical past the way no book ever could. My intuition told me that here was the last living example - and an exceptional one at that - of the genuine student of the arcane in the guise of the aristocrat-alchemist, the last descendant of Rudolph II of Prague, and one for whom, as late as 1933, Fludd had more to say than Einstein.
An expat Hungarian intellectual narrates a very British caper. (Perhaps this what I felt was missing in the Jeeves books: more ideas... and after all I'm not 100% English myself.) The Pendragon Legend, written after the author had spent time in England researching his serious non-fiction, is a satirical melange of many styles of popular British upper-class novel of the twenties and thirties, with a narrator somewhat less straightforwardly likeable than Bertie Wooster et al (closer to a Somerset Maugham character written in more polished prose), and it works really rather well. Had I read it before so many of its tropes were familiar - often from later stories - it might have been a five star. And the easiest way to describe it is, even more than with most books, by way of allusion.
From the long tradition of Gothic horror comes the journey to the castle with occult history (there are better books suited to the current weather...); the scientific bent of the current lord's researches recalls nineteenth century works from Mary Shelley to R.L. Stevenson to Arthur Machen. Mysteries tinged with supernatural possibilities may refer to Sherlock Holmes adventures like 'The Speckled Band' and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Twentysomething characters take matters into their own hands in a Famous Five-ish manner like they do in Ken Russell's The Lair of the White Worm. There are Rosicrucians, horsemen of the apocalypse, ninja-like assassins.
And romance swirls into all this like...Cold Comfort Farm, maybe? But it's not that simple. There are femmes fatales in the wings, there are more bedroom scenes than a similar English writer of the period would have dared, a couple of characters may be gay or at least bi, and our hero, like Wooster, is surrounded by strong-minded women he isn't always that keen on. (It's quite understandable in the none-too-bright Bertie, seems fair enough not to want to be intimidated by one's fiancee. But Janos Bátky admits to being that depressing creature, the intelligent man who doesn't find high intelligence in a woman terribly attractive. However we all have unfair turn-offs related to things people can't help, and the narrator often does appear to be sending himself up subtly.) An article I saw earlier this year compared Antal Szerb to Simon Raven as well as to Wodehouse; I'd meant to save this until after I'd read some Raven, but forgot; perhaps it's the racier element of these adventures that led to the Raven allusion. And the other way in which The Pendragon Legend isn't always as cosy as Wodehouse are the oddments of Imperial racism during scenes in London. (The Jeeves stories I've read have been so ahistorically nice in this respect that I wondered if the recent editions had been Blytoned. Although being actively rude about people in a book does involve mentioning them in the first place...)
These things are par for the course in a novel of this age though, and most of The Pendragon Legend is great fun. (The repeated use of the word "kind" to describe it in several blurbs is a touch misleading; this is a good book, simply not as twee and fwuffy as one might expect.) It has a slightly different angle on very British sorts of writing, whilst pitching the humour perfectly - an excellent translation - and it deserves many more readers among people who like similar stories of the early to mid twentieth century. ...more
The characters in St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose cycle are at once caricatures and possessed of extraordinary emotional depth. In Lost For Words - a satiThe characters in St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose cycle are at once caricatures and possessed of extraordinary emotional depth. In Lost For Words - a satire of a literary prize closely resembling the Booker - they lean far more towards the caricature, although some members of the large cast are granted real personality. And a dash of angst.
Essentially, this is a specimen of the English Comic Novel, with its fair share of farcical situations, silly names, allusions to news old and, er, new, and a few familiar character types. (Though being St. Aubyn, some of it is sharper and deeper than the typical example.) This sort of thing wowed me when I read What A Carve Up in the mid-90s, but two decades later, even though it still makes me laugh, I find it a bit routine and occasionally clumsy: comfort-reading material. I'm still not sure whether setting Lost for Words in a parallel universe, one in which digital media either do not exist or have had no adverse effect on publishing, sharpens the focus on character, or makes the book feel slightly dated. Probably both. (Authors with one or two literary novels under their belt can still swan about in hotels, rather than working as the night porter and revising drafts on their days off. They can email one another though.) At any rate, it's nowhere near so dark as Patrick Melrose and it's a book I'd recommend more readily.
What makes it stand out from a dozen other middle-class comedies is the precision of insight into emotional pain and screwed-up-ness, succinctly expressed, and saying things others never articulate: judge Vanessa decided to reclaim some floor space by throwing out the hopeless cases (she thought involuntarily of Poppy's bed at the clinic being liberated by her death) (how much that says about the dynamic of the entire household, and how crucial that 'involuntarily' is); novelist and female Casanova Katherine likes sex so much partly because it's a liberation from, something entirely different from, all those damn words; and the different, detailed experiences of heartbreak of two characters. And that particular way St. Aubyn has of at once mocking and having empathy with a state or idea. That shows best of all in the philosophical musings - especially with debut novelist Sam (who put his rejected experimental works in a box on top of the wardrobe and found acclaim with a thinly-disguised autobiographical novel) and French "public intellectual" Didier - what they say is silly and arguably ivory tower / self-absorbed, yet also pertinent and insightful in the situation. It's a very British way of not being able to take things entirely seriously even when you are serious, and he captures it precisely without ever explaining it.
I'm not generally a fan of novels about novelists and the literary scene (needless to say St.A has characters comment on that very idea) and was a bit hesitant about what one of my favourite authors might do with such a well-worn and insular topic. Pleased to say that - although it wasn't perfect - I quite liked it, it was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and occasionally resonant. ...more
I love this series but the earlier two books had a few too many flaws to warrant 5 stars. It's like starting Discworld in chronological order and at lI love this series but the earlier two books had a few too many flaws to warrant 5 stars. It's like starting Discworld in chronological order and at last getting to the really good ones like Wyrd Sisters or Guards, Guards, only quicker. Frankly, it would be harder for a mixture of comic fantasy, police procedural and psychogeography of a firmly multicultural 21st century London to be better than this. I hadn't been looking forward to the interpolation of lots of Americanisms, in a plot featuring a US murder victim and the FBI agent who arrives in his wake, but none of the local atmosphere is lost and Agent Reynolds never hogs the limelight although she's very good at her job.
It's great reading about streets you can remember walking down yourself, especially whilst in such a good mood that you forget to be sad about missing them.
And I really like the characterisation of Lesley here. (Also, those people who criticised her situation, or the female characters generally, in Moon Over Soho definitely jumped the gun.) In the previous book, Aaronovitch was excellent and realistic about the social isolation she experienced whilst having to live out of town with her injuries. Here, whilst she's back working to a limited extent, he still shows alongside a realistically slow adjustment process, how even if you want to be robust and have a sense of humour about things, other, well-meaning, people's responses to odd disabilities can still really hurt - plus also there's also mention the odd paradox of still being attractive in some ways, even whilst the other stuff has become a serious and unattractive obstacle on both sides.
Just like Pratchett, there are lots of references here to keep the well-informed and smug entertained. Material about role-playing where I may have missed a few things, architecture, centuries-old writers repurposed, and my favourites, unsignposted things that you have to know to spot, e.g. "Kevin bloody Nolan". (Though D&C, high street men's clothing - not G, it's obviously lower-end than that - remains a mystery, Google still bringing up the more established and distinctly less pleasant first associations for those letters.) Mentions of "Grant and May" and Hermione and Harry that confirm, as if it wasn't already obvious from his intelligence, that Aaronovitch knows exactly who his characters' antecedents are.
Sgt Kumar of the British Transport Police, their own, less official ghostbuster - and in his spare time urban explorer and potholer - is another character I'm looking forward to hearing more of in subsequent books. The series is doing a very good job of having enough of a self-contained story in one volume whilst also building up characters and carrying over a few plot elements from previous books. ...more
I liked Rivers of London so much that I didn't want to use up its few sequels too readily. The plot of Moon Over Soho was a draw: “Someone, or somethiI liked Rivers of London so much that I didn't want to use up its few sequels too readily. The plot of Moon Over Soho was a draw: “Someone, or something, is stalking the streets of Soho – drawn to that special gift that separates the great musicians from the rest.” However this isn't quite such a cosy, charming book as the first one. It's a slightly different beast, harder-edged. This is Soho, after all.
Even though I don't particularly like jazz, I loved the attention to detail around the music: describing the label on a vinyl record, talking about all the different versions of a track recorded by artists down the decades (jazz, or this field of it, seems to lack the prog-era obsession with singer-songwriter “authenticity” that remains a big part of rock & pop; here the virtuosity of musicians and their interpretation is what's vital). And the theme is poignant, a parallel with all the great musicians whose careers were cut short by more earthly demons of drugs, depression, drink and so forth. (view spoiler)[Though some might say the means is more like groupies... (hide spoiler)]
Peter Grant's personality has changed a smidgen: a bit more laddish, a bit more selfish than in book one. His “mistakes” could be a predilection for action-movie fireworks and collateral damage (not to mention dodgy femmes fatales) instead of the bumblings of a sweet, well-intentioned rookie. At the heart of this is a cocky young bloke in his early twenties with only a couple of years' policing experience being left to his own devices for large parts of the book, practically running an investigation – his superior in their two-man magical policing division of the Met has been recovering from serious injury sustained during their last major case, as is Lesley, his friend/crush from police college and voice of reason. Okay, it is a first-person narrative, but compared with the last book there's a bit too much of Grant's voice for the first two thirds, not enough of other people's, and he makes a few stupid decisions and throws his weight around in ways that Rivers of London suggests he wouldn't have with Nightingale and Lesley closer at hand. It looks like they'll have more to do in the next book, anyway.
He still, though, has that same background awareness of race issues that does sound like a mixed-race young British guy of his age with no radical / activist views. (I understand Aaronovitch's son is mixed-race and that the character probably owes a fair bit to him.) And his general mainstream, very marginally left-of-centre outlook and mixture of laddishness and responsibility reminds me of someone I knew who wanted to join the police around the same age. Aaronovitch's London sounds, more than most fictional Londons - and regardless of the magic - like the real one you actually walk around in now, in the early 21st century, a bit like Zadie Smith's but wittier and less judgemental and with an awareness of the layers of history as strong as Peter Ackroyd's. He still likes his engaging historical infodumps – fine by me, though if it were a city I'd never been to, the lack of maps in the book would frustrate – but he's becoming craftier at weaving in sly references, Pratchett style. Cosgrove Hall, the producers of Dangermouse and Count Duckula, becomes a school; and Sophisticats, Soho strip joint and subject of a TV documentary series c.10 years ago, seems a likely inspiration for part of the story.
The Grant series isn't quite as fluffy as I thought (I'd recommended it to a handful of people who probably wouldn't like this second book, thinking it as friendly as Discworld) but it's still a fun bit of comic fantasy, and there's plenty of potential for more stories in these characters. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Especially for a book I bought two years ago to find info that wasn't even in it, this was a lot of fun.
The first couple of chapters I liked so muchEspecially for a book I bought two years ago to find info that wasn't even in it, this was a lot of fun.
The first couple of chapters I liked so much I thought I'd be giving it 5 stars. The nostalgia was perfectly pitched - childhood 70s cinema, 80s leftwing student politics and journalism. That was being a "proper student", because of course, being a kid at the time, that's when my idea of how students were was formed. First time I tried to read it all the way through, it was kind of overwhelming and I stopped after a few pages; this time it was just perfect. It was surprisingly wise about a number of things, not only film. And having not spent much time around film geeks for a while, his enthusiasm was almost as exciting as when, a few days after starting university, a boy said to a group of us in halls "Come up, I've got some great music I bet you've never heard of". Not in the arrogant-hipster way that sounds on paper, but with a naive soft-spoken charm, and the enthusiasm of a friend who really wants you to meet their pets. I was one of two who had heard of nearly all of it - and there was that new feeling of having *found people*. Odd to have it echoed by a mere book, and by someone who, in it, doesn't display much overlap with my taste - even if, via other media, he did help form it. It must have just been the right moment.
Subsequent chapters have rather too much brass neck and ego and sheer stupidity (at nearly 30, not to realise that Russia in the early 90s would involve rough and ready conditions and travelling long distances, really?) - to be as charming as the first two, but Kermode evidently knows this, and I am in absolutely no position to criticise self-aware egotists. His opinions can be bulldozingly firm, yet he suspects they may also be rubbish, and at one point he describes his writing style as having evolved from 'NME teaboy' to 'pedantic dullard'. Which strikes a chord. Though I think he's considerably more entertaining than that. There are plenty of little things in here I identify with or which remind me of people I know, which made it a very cosy read.
He is evidently one of those for whom sheer dumb luck had a substantial role in his becoming famous - though he's clearly also got some quality that made people overlook the initial fuck-ups he made in most of his early, brazenly blagged, jobs. Here he's funny and has an enviable knack of making long digressions work. Some GR reviewer has described him as making crap dad-jokes... but then it's already a while ago that I started to think some of Mojo looked genuinely interesting...
Something that's largely off-screen is his marriage to film professor Linda Ruth Williams. They've been together since university and there's a sense of a great and idiosyncratic dynamic which has at times involved them living in different cities for work, whilst remaining a couple; together it seems they've both a lot in common and skill in living amicably with differences of opinion.
Kermode is well-known for his love of gory horror cinema. (Whilst I enjoy campy horror, I hate gore, and if ambushed by it in something I'm watching, like to make a sweary and muscular response, such as "that can fuck right off", so as not to feel like too much of a wuss.) It turns out he's a vegetarian who refuses to watch anything with unsimulated animal cruelty. I've never quite been able to grok the phenomenon of peaceable, sometimes sweet and quiet, people who love horror, but I've met enough of them to know they are real and that horror fan doesn't usually equate with depraved. I have a somewhat similar fascination with less civilised periods of history, ancient natural disasters and the like, and - as well as being an off-grid hippie manquée - among the reasons are something about the tenor and sharpness of life which resonates, which might be similar to the attraction of gory horror for its fans.
For me, Kermode has always been synonymous with the mid-90s Mark Radcliffe show on Radio 1 and I haven't heard a huge amount by him since - mostly written articles. However, to Kermode the Graveyard Shift was a relatively minor point and his greatest professional partnership is with Simon Mayo - it's from those shows and subsequent fame that many more people know him. I got this ebook because I hoped it contained a list of all the films he'd covered in the Cult Film Slot. It didn't, only alluding to a couple, and yet again I regretted throwing away the notebook(s) in which I'd listed most of the Cult Films and Cult Books from the shows I heard. I always thought someone else would have done the same and put the lists online, but if they haven't by now, they probably never will. It's Only a Movie shows Kermode having such a love of geeky uber-detail and recovering lost fragments that he seems like someone who'd be sympathetic to the question, even if he didn't keep the info, but it won't be me who asks, as I have an abiding dislike of the idea of anything resembling fanmail or bothering famous people. (The only fan letter I ever wrote was to Nicky Campbell when I was maybe 13 - his show was in the slot Radcliffe took over. I used lots of show-off vocab, including the phrase "bathos and pathos", because he had some sort of word-power type feature on his show. I haven't been able to watch or listen to Campbell since my late teens; even TV trailers induce intolerable cringing.)
This book can sound a lot like Kermode's radio delivery, but often I was too caught up in the narrative to be conscious of it. I didn't come away with as long a watchlist as I expected, simply enthusiastic reminders to get round to stuff I already wanted to see, especially Slade in Flame and something by Werner Herzog, who here sounds as fascinatingly eccentric as anywhere. Dark Water, the production that led to his ordeal of a trip to Russia and Ukraine, also sounds intriguing. ...more