21 April 2017

In vino juventute

The narrator of Nutshell, an as-yet-unborn baby, discusses his precocious fondness for a tasty tipple:

"I like to share a glass with my mother. You may never have experienced, or you will have forgotten, a good burgundy (her favourite) or a good Sancerre (also her favourite) decanted through a healthy placenta. Even before the wine arrives - tonight, a Jean-Max Roger Sancerre - at the sound of a drawn cork, I feel it on my face like the caress of a summer breeze. I know that alcohol will lower my intelligence. But oh, a joyous, blushful Pinot Noir, or a gooseberried Sauvignon, sets me turning and tumbling across my secret sea, reeling off the walls of my castle, the bouncy castle that is my home. Or so it did when I had more space. Now I take my pleasures sedately, and by the second glass my speculations bloom with that licence whose name is poetry. My thoughts unspool in well-sprung pentameters, end-stopped and run-on lines in pleasing variation. But she never takes a third, and it wounds me.

'I have to think of baby,' I hear her say as she covers her glass with a priggish hand. That's when I have it in mind to reach for my oily cord, as one might a velvet rope in a well-staffed country house, and pull sharply for service. What ho! Another round here for us friends!"

- Ian McEwan, Nutshell, London, 2016, p.6-7.

19 April 2017

Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly

It's a little bizarre to think that I've been following Aimee Mann now for 24 whole years, ever since I read Elvis Costello's heartfelt praise of her lyrical solo debut album Whatever ('Today's the 4th of July / Another June has gone by / And when they light up our town I just think / What a waste of gunpowder and sky'). She released her latest album, Mental Illness, a couple of weeks ago and it's her strongest work in years. Here she is on the Late Show with a beautiful arrangement of the single Goose Snow Cone. Love her distinctive voice, and was so lucky to see her perform in London in 2007.
 

See also:
Music: Waiting for the gift of sound & vision, 16 January 2016
Music: Lawrence Arabia, 24 October 2015
Music: Pajama Club, 4 December 2011
MusicThe Girls Guitar Club, 2 September 2009
MusicHere & Now 80s Tour, 19 May 2008
MusicGrant-Lee Phillips, 29 April 2008

13 April 2017

Danny Morrison's potato-eyed joy

[T]he IPL TV commentary is, if not the worst TV commentary ever conceived by any industrialised society, then certainly up there, the worst yet. Danny Morrison in particular seems to be astonished by pretty much everything from dot balls to thrashed sixes. Listening to his T20 commentary is like listening to a child’s toy that has mysteriously come to life – a friendly rocking horse, a bouncy space hopper – and which just wants to share its potato-eyed joy in every single object that swims into its line of sight.

- Barney Ronay, 'The IPL is back: cue bedlam, squeals, thunder and pure cricketing energy', Guardian, 7 April 2017

02 April 2017

The rotten boroughs

Antonia Fraser, in her book on the Great Reform Bill of 1832, outlines the marked unfairness of the British electoral system of the time, in which new industrial towns were largely unrepresented, representatives in the Commons could be elected by next to no-one, and seats could and did change hands for large sums of money:

[T]here were the infamous 'rotten boroughs' such as Old Sarum, where two MPs represented - quite literally - a lump of stone and a green field. No wonder visitors flocked to see this miraculous site! John Constable was sufficiently fascinated by this wild landscape which had once been a medieval city to commemorate it - Sir Thomas Lawrence admired the result and told him he should dedicate it to the House of Commons. Gatton in Surrey was only slightly less miraculous: here there were six houses in the borough, and 135 inhabitants in the parish - 'those celebrated and opulent and populous Towns', as the painter Haydon sarcastically called them. This particular borough of Gatton was sold several times, the price in the summer of 1830 said to be £180,000 (approximately £18 million in today's money). There was no miracle where Dunwich in Suffolk was concerned: it had in effect fallen into the sea, but it still returned two Members of Parliament. Places with long and ancient history frequently had a disproportionate amount of seats to their inhabitants, witness Cornwall, where there were a total of forty-four Members for a thinly scattered population. In general, there was a pronounced bias towards the south over the north of England.

- Antonia Fraser, Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832, London, 2013, p.19.

East of Brooklyn