Friday, September 04, 2009

SWANSEA BAY STYLE Book Review June 09

Death and the Penguin
by Andrey Kurkov
Vintage Books £7.99

Who would be a penguin in a bankrupt zoo? Our hero Viktor lives a lonely life in a two room flat with his penguin Misha, which he rescued from Kiev Zoo when they could no longer afford to feed the animals. Misha plays in a cold bath and enjoys his fresh frozen fish at the kitchen table.
“But Misha had brought his own kind of loneliness, and the result was now two complementary lonelinesses, creating an impression more of interdependence than of amity.” Add to this the grim realities of urban life in the post-Soviet confusion of the Ukraine and the mood is set for deep pathos, expressed by Kurkov in a dispassionate narrative style that spreads a feeling of hopelessness and dread throughout the novel.
When Viktor, an aspiring author, lands a well-paid job writing obituaries of notable people for the files of a daily newspaper, the two flatmates share a treat –vodka for Viktor, salmon for Misha. But soon the subjects of the obituaries have ‘accidents.’ They start dying off one by one, and suspicion and fear enter Viktor’s life. The leitmotif of the penguin’s gentle co-existence with Viktor’s growing terror adds a poignant counterpoint to the story.
Kurkov paints deeply memorable scenes of Misha being taken to swim in the frozen Dnieper river, of their flight to a dacha --- and of the fear and danger of life in a totalitarian police state.
Don’t borrow this book. Buy it. It’s very beguiling. It’s very profound .And it is a sad story that haunts you long after you should reasonably have forgotten it.

The Vintage pedigree
Vintage Books is the paperback section of publisher Alfred A Knopf founded in 1954. It is owned by Random House, now taken over by the giant German publisher Bertelsmann. Vintage UK was established in 1990. AS Byatt, Angela Carter, Haruki Murakami and VS Naipaul are among their Nobel and Booker prize-winning authors.


Swansea Bay July 09
There are 133 entries for the 2009 Man Booker Prize and the longlist will be announced by judges James Naughtie (in the chair), Lucasta Miller, Sue Perkins, John Mullan and Michael Prodger on July 28th.
The Man Booker longlist, or ‘Man Booker Dozen' will be narrowed down to six titles for the shortlist which is to be announced on September 8. The winner will be announced on October 6.
It's Booker time again. The 2009 longlist of books selected by the judges will be issued at the end of July and all enthusiastic readers are agog to see which titles make the grade.Despite the fact that the Booker judging panel has acquired a reputation for making ‘safe’ choices that are not of the literary quality that the world’s most famous literary prize should represent, the glamour surrounding the prize makes the actual quality of the book a negligible issue. In the last 10 years, many of the winning books have been so dreary that I have forgotten the title and author as soon as I'd finished the book. Take the 2007 winner Anne Enright’s ‘The Gathering,’ a dull and utterly pointless novel that was instantly forgettable. And then in 2006 Kiran Desai’s long-winded ‘Inheritance of Loss’ only proved that her mother Anita Desai was the better writer.
I look back on others like John Banville’s ‘The Sea’ (2005)and Margaret Atwood’s ‘Blind Assassin’ (2000) with the quiet satisfaction that I will never knowingly be so mind-stoppingly bored again. Nice work, judges.These two titles were easily the worst ever.
I stand admonished for presenting what is unarguably a personal and subjective point of view.I retort that reading is a personal,subjective issue .
I'll concede the rare exception -- two winners in the last decade of the Booker do stand out for outstanding merit.In 2004 Alan Hollinghurst's haunting ‘Line of Beauty’ and in 2002 Yann Martel’s ‘Life of Pi’ were both books of timeless quality.
Last year, from the shortlist, I quite liked ‘White Tiger’ by Arvind Adiga but thought it too much of a lightweight to be a serious contender for 2008 -- and predicted that it would therefore probably be the choice of the judges.
In fact,from the shortlist, Sebastian Barry's ‘Secret Scripture’ was beautifully written,even poetic in parts and should certainly have been the winner ---- given that the best entrant, Salman Rushdie 's ‘Enchantress of Florence’ did not appear in the shortlist at all.
Rushdie’s was easily the finest work of the whole 2008 lot, long and shortlist. Profound yet entertaining, it has more philosophic content in two pages taken at random than the whole of any of the listed novels.
To vindicate my (personal and subjective) opinion, Rushdie has subsequently won the Best of Booker 40th anniversary award for ‘Midnight’s Children’ - -- he is now Nobel material!
Nonetheless I love the whole Booker flurry and wouldn't want to see its demise, but it has become a circus for lightweights and cannot be taken seriously any longer.
In any case whatever the title that wins, the publisher can be assured of huge sales worldwide which itself is a bit of a turn-off. I do loathe being one of a mindless herd……
The Booker Prize was the brainchild of Tom Maschler,chairman of publishing house Jonathan Cape who was inspired by the prestigious French Prix Goncourt literary prize to create a British equivalent.He campaigned for a UK prize that would be bigger than the Somerset Maugham award
A sponsor was found in Booker McConnell Ltd and the Booker Literary Prize was launched in 1969 with PH Newby’s ‘Something to Answer For’ as the first winner.
Maschler appears to agree with my assessment of the judges’ choices. He says, “ I have two particular concerns. One is that on a number of occasions the winner seems to have fallen far short of fulfilling our goal i.e. it was inordinately difficult to recognise the winner as ‘the best book’. Clearly this is a highly subjective question. Nonetheless, some of the novels have been such very strange choices that it is really difficult to make sense of them.” Hear,hear Tom. Perhaps you need to select the judges with as much care as the books??


THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE - Swansea’s own literary award
Booker Counterpoint
The £60,000 Dylan Thomas award for writers under 30 years of age is the brainchild of distinguished Swansea polymath Prof Peter Stead. Peter had long wanted an event or initiative that would truly epitomise the poet’s international celebrity, and provide a focus for the world’s interest in his birthplace.
Just as the Prix Goncourt was the inspiration for the Booker prize, the Viareggio Prize in Tuscany prompted Peter to consider a similar regionally based but internationally active event for Swansea. Naming the award after our very own literary giant was icing on the cake.
Awarded every two years, the Dylan Thomas Prize was launched as the biggest literary prize in the world in 2006.It has since attracted entrants from all over the world. From 2010 the prize is to be awarded annually and reduced to £30,000.
Peter’s personal enthusiasm has been the driving factor in winning support for the prize from the University of Wales, City and County of Swansea and numerous private sponsors. As founding chairman, Peter Stead is committed to making the Dylan Thomas Prize an integral part of the cultural regeneration of Swansea.


SWANSEA BAY Restaurant Review August 09

A roar of approval for The Dragon Brasserie

The benchmark attributes of a good restaurant are consistently superior food, unobtrusive yet attentive service, and congenial surroundings. The Dragon Brasserie in the dragon Hotel, Swansea wins on all counts. Every time I have had a meal there in the last few years I have been impressed anew by the sheer excellence of every dish put elegantly before me.
Last week we popped in for lunch -- relieved to find ample free parking (for diners only) in the Dragon’s private car park – to check whether it was as good as I remembered.
At the moment there are several laudable restaurants in Swansea offering TV-chef inspired menus which feature inventive ways of cooking traditional British meat and vegetables. Competent chefs are serving up a range of interesting dishes with a focus on local produce.
One of the starters popularised by cookery programmes is ham hock terrine and I order this where available as a point of comparison with other restaurants. I can categorically assure you that the best I have ever tasted is at the Dragon Brasserie. Head Chef Sam Thomas presents a gourmet version of this rustic dish adding foie gras and chicken to the ham hock for a feast of taste and texture. Follow that!
My main course of lamb chops in reduced balsamic vinegar and red wine sauce was reminiscent of the American super-chef Emeril Lagasse. It was succulent and full of deep flavour, demonstrating that lamb lends itself to complex French cooking techniques more than beef ever will.
Sam Thomas has been creating these and other remarkable dishes for the Dragon Brasserie for the last 4 years and is a credit to the teaching skills of the doyen of celebrity chefs, Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester where Sam spent two years training under the master.
“As a boss, Anton Mosimann is a true gentleman,” says Sam. “He never shouted or swore and as a result we learned to cook with confidence. Above all he taught us how to maintain consistent high quality with every dish we made -- at all times.”
And that, fellow foodies, is the secret ingredient. Not just creating good food but knowing how to deliver superlative quality time after time -- the very attributes for which Michelin stars are awarded.
Now back to earth. A two-course table d’hote lunch at the Dragon Brasserie is offered for £10.The brasserie is open for lunch and dinner and all day for light meals. Booking is not essential but is advisable.


SWANSEA BAY Food section August 09

Chalk and cheese?
Are you one of those criminals who buys cheese in the supermarket and bungs it in the fridge straightaway? Do you eat it while it is still cold? Is your Camembert chalky, your Dolcelatte dull and your cheddar hard and tasteless? This article is aimed at you and at all those who want to get the full flavour out of your cheese.
Chris Leach, chef-patron of Slice restaurant in Eversley Road, Sketty serves up a cheese board of luscious Welsh cheeses in peak condition. Because good cheese is live, you arrest its development when you refrigerate it. In order to achieve Chis’ standards of presenting a cheeseboard at a precise stage of perfect ripeness every time, you
need to store your purchase correctly and remove it from the fridge at least two hours before serving. It’s not rocket science. Just follow these tips to do justice to the quality cheeses you purchase:

Chris Leach’s top tips for a perfect cheese board

X Serve cheese straight from the fridge
X Store cheese wrapped in cling film
X Take out more cheese than you expect to use

 After purchase, remove cling-film wrapping
 Refrigerate cheese (individually) in Tupperware boxes
or wrapped in greaseproof paper or alufoil.
 Do not store with strong smelling foods—cheese absorbs smells easily
 Remove from fridge at least 2 hours before serving
 After use, refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible


Gourmet Oasis in Rural Gower
Gower Wildflower and Local Produce Centre

Have you a weakness for sophisticated smoked foods?Would you like to bottle your own purchase of olive oil? Fancy trying pickled samphire? Or a bit of salt-marsh lamb salami?
The Gower Wildflower Centre is bursting with all these goodies and is an eco-friendly site as well, satisfying your hunger for both self-indulgence and virtue delightfully. This new Gower attraction is a combination of shop, café/restaurant, and eco-centre, a rural conservation paradise with the most sophisticated delicatessen counter in Swansea. Ecologist David Holland who runs the center as part of his wildflower nursery complex is aided by his wife Rachel . He sees the new development as a focal point to spread awareness of the range and beauty of local wild flora.
Dropping in for lunch is an excellent way to start your education.”Soups and salads are our forte” says David.”We have a grower on the premises who supplies us with all the vegetables and herbs that we use –and the saltmarsh lamb is local as well”
I rather fancied the charcuterie platter with its delectable variety of air dried hams,fennel salami,venison salami…and a cheeseboard of beautiful goat’s milk feta and halloumi produced in the Cothi Valley.
The cheese counter is an eye-opener displaying a range that could not be matched by any supermarket.And you must take home a hand-crafted pork and stuffing pasty or a salt-marsh lamb pie.
Towering locally hand made cakes and scones,washed down with coffee or home pressed elderflower cordial leave you barely able to totter weakly to one of the hides to catch a glimpse of tiny wild creatures.Or to stare into gorgeous Gower space as you resolve the world’s problems.
So if you’re in danger of running out of quail’s eggs, make your way to the new Gower Wildflower and Local Produce Centre. It will take more than one visit to enjoy all the wonders this lovely new attraction has to offer.The café is open from10am-5pm every day

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The Booker Longlist --Will losers be winners again?
What defines a geat work of literature? The oldest written comments on the subject are from ancient Vedic scriptures (Natyashastra) which prescribe the criteria that characterise a great work of art. Greatness can only be ascribed to an opus if it contains all the following creative components but can still be appreciated (and possess genuine merit) at every individual level of human understanding it addresses:
i. Straightforward narrative for the intellectually undemanding
ii. Stylistic excellence for the discerning.
iii. Timeless/eternally valid truths for the seeker of beauty
iv. Universally valid analysis and insights for the intellectual
v. Philosophical propositions and questions for the spiritual
The winner of the Man Booker (or any) Literary award must demonstrate viability at all 5 levels to qualify as the greatest book of the year. With rare exceptions it never has, because the judges have lacked artistic integrity --- their decisions have been compromised by considerations such as ,inter alia, political correctness, topical validity , easy accessibility and facile populism.
Here are quick reviews of ten entries from the 2009 longlist,submitted by their publishers. The missing three titles were not received from the publishers and were not available from the library.The shortlist will have been announced at the time of going to press.

Me Cheeta by James Lever HarperCollins - Fourth Estate £7.99
Unlikely for shortlist.This autobiograpy or better anthropomorphography is written(in the first person) by Tarzan’s chimp Cheeta. It’s main significance is that Cheeta’s life both in the African jungle and in Hollywood is mirrored by the harsh experiences of the superstars of the thirties, whose long-forgotten names are dropped like confetti throughout the narrative.The only qualification for this book appearing on the longlist is that title and content are easy to remember.
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds Jonathan Cape £ 12.99
Definitely on shortlist. A bit of biography, a bit of history,a bit of romance all in a narrative that is lyrical in style.Quite poetic –very apt since it’s main characters are Alfred Lord Tennyson and the ‘ploughman’s poet’ John Clare. A pleasant read but lacking in the insights and depth necessary for an outstanding novel.A book full of hidden shallows, innocuous enough to be a possible winner.
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey Jonathan Cape £12.99
Definitely on shortlist.Disease is the new fad in fiction.We’ve had Parkinson’s, cancer, schizophrenia, psychotic paranoia and now with The Wilderness, it’s Alzheimer’s. Whatever happened to good old violence,crime,sex and romance?Illness seems to have its own literary merit and it is not done to slate a book on such a worthy subject.I personally am bored by books on illness and fear illness itself abjectly.Is the success of this genre evidence of the masochistic streak in every Brit?
However it has to be said that Sarah Harvey’s debut novel cannot be dismissed in this fashion. It is a compassionate portrayal of an architect’s experience with Alzheimer’s, tracing the degenerative development of the disease with great sensitivity in commendable prose and intriguing narrative.The Wilderness does make a contribution to the body of good literature and deserves respect. A possible winner on the grounds of general worthiness.
Heliopolis by James Scudamore Random House - Harvill Secker £12.99
Heliopolis is very like last year’s Booker winner,Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger.I had a feeling of déjà vu as James Scudamore took his protagonist Ludo through the heat, the squalor, the slums, the bankrupt economy, the dirty politics and the uneasy wealth –not of India but of Brazil, a location established early by the (frequent) mention of caipirinhas.
Our hero Ludo is rescued from the slums by plutocrat Ze and is given a sinecure in the family marketing firm.He is overwhelmed by having to deal with the betrayals and secrets of his wealthy new milieu but finds solace in the occasional snort of cocaine and a great deal of alcohol.His relationships with his mother, his adoptive sister and the office cleaning lady would be hilarious if they weren’t laden with the inevitable doom of a classical tragedy. This unremarkable book will make the shortlist because it is within the judge’s comfort zone.It may even win.

How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall Faber and Faber £12.99
Faber&Faber is an imprint that is synonymous with literary excellence and it is only to be expected that Sarah Hall’s ‘How to Paint a Dead Man’ is an outstanding work of fiction. The structure of the novel is quite intriguing following four protagonists on their journey towards their respective destinies. Particularly haunting is the strand about the celebrated Italian artist who obsessively paints only bottles and his relationships with the local villagers --- somewhat evocative of Il Postino and Pablo Neruda.
Sarah Hall’s strong, stylish prose and her gift for impressing her readers with the originality of her perceptions make this book too good to win the Booker. Certainly a candidate for the shortlist ( and a possible winner)
The Children's Book by AS Byatt Random House - Chatto and Windus £18.99
WOW. We have a winner! AS Byatt pulls it off again with a gigantic tapestry of interwoven stories, peopled by strong and strange characters in a wide collection of settings . You could make your choice of which facet of the book you will follow avidly and which you will save for pursuing when you read it again.
As far as simple narrative is concerned, The Children’s Book deals with several dysfunctional families – adultery,incest, and paedophilia compete for one’s attention with warm, loving, domestic scenarios and positive resolutions of unsavoury problems.
The biography addict will also find satisfaction ---the novel is based on the turbulent lives of E. Nesbitt and Eric Gill. Equally if you enjoy a period setting, AS Byatt presents a detailed collage of Edwardian Britain with all the social constraints and movements towards personal liberation that were played out in that epochal era.
But for me the joy of The Children’s Book is the exploration of the puppet theatre and the Germanic folk and fairy tales that it evolved from. AS Byatt’s protagonist Olive Wellwood, serial adulteress and celebrated children’s author, writes an individual story book for each of her 6 children regularly adding fresh installments till they are adults .These books are informed by her research into fairytale and folklore that she uses in her commercial writing.
At the moment I am totally enthralled by the fabulous pageant of fable and folklore that Byatt parades before the reader,completely taking control of one’s imagination with a combination of dazzling erudition and profound love of the great German storytellers and chroniclers of the genre.I greedily gorged on her interpretations of ETA Hoffmann, Grimmelshausen, Gebrueder Grimm, Kleist and his famous essay on Marionette Theatre ---but no reference to Adelbert von Chamisso?Tut-tut.
If I were of a more philosophic bent I would take time to examine deeper the psychological and behavioural significance of each story as related to her relationship to each of her children.I will save that for my second reading of this wonderful book. It is the Booker winner,whether the judges concur or not.

Summertime by J M Coetzee Random House - Harvill Secker £17.99
Now that JM Coetzee has won the Nobel Prize for literature,I feel under increased pressure to find something admirable in his books –and continue to fail to do so. Kudos to Coetzee for being one of the few contemporary novelists to deal with the hands-on horrors of apartheid and for focussing international attention on this aberrant practice. But literary brilliance? Somebody show me where it is in ‘Summertime’ please. I feel very stupid to have to confess that it has passed me by totally.What I read is a dull,depressing story of four dreadful harpies that our misogynist narrator encounters. And who is the narrator? Wait for this amazing subtlety. He is none other than JM Coetzee’s biographe.
This type of gimmick does no favours for any writer and Coetzee steps up the annoyance factor by having several characters using the first person singular. Such ploys do not work if the reader can’t keep track of who is saying what about whom.
Credit must be given to Coetzee for using the phrase so beloved of James Joyce “Agenbite of inwit.” This is clearly a claim to erudition even if little else in the novel is. (Don’t know what it means?It’s Middle English for ‘prick of remorse.’It is used 8 times by Joyce in Ulysses.)
Coetzee’s misogyny is quite startling---does his negative depiction of the women in his life replace the emotional vacuum created by renouncing apartheid?
Apologies for being forced to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. Summertime should never have been selected for the longlist.Will the judges have the courage to exclude it from the shortlist?
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer Little, Brown £16.99
Simon Mawer has set his book in the midst of the anti-semitism of Hitler’s Europe. He manages to include every stereotype of the genre,from persecuted Jew to Nazi monster, from sly Slav to brutal Russian, not omitting the wartime whore, the brilliant architect , the evil scientist--- all in stereotypical situations that have, alas, been done to death in literature and film.
A significant literary talent like Mawer’s should not be trammelled by the dull litany of wartime tragedies and injustices.What if the scenario were to be turned about…..supposeHitler were shot by a Jewish sniper in 1930 .Suppose the Jews of Europe took their rightful place as the cultural,intellectual and financial leaders of the continent and Germany was renamed Israel. Suppose the Arabs continued to fester undisturbed and unchallenged in their empty deserts. No Ayotallah, no Taliban,no Al Qaeda.No terrorists……...
Literature is supposed to be about the imagination.And quite honestly the creative potential of pure imagination wins over dreary fact anyday –especially when the war novel has already been done so brilliantly by (to name a very few) Gunter Grass, Erich Marie Remarque, Joseph Heller, Leon Uris, Ernest Hemingway et al. Thumbs down for The Glass Room
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel HarperCollins - Fourth Estate £18.99
I don’t really want to be dismissive of this historical novel about the Tudors and Cromwell.There are 650 pages of good one-dimensional narrative of which I read 30 pages before deciding that life was too short to persevere with a book in a genre which I outgrew in my teens. Wolf Hall is a well written and very absorbing novel --- quite innocent, though, of the complexity or sophistication or insight or philosophic content required for a book to be included in the Booker longlist at all. Thumbs down.
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin Penguin – Viking £17.99
I enjoyed Brooklyn. It is a cosy girlie novel about a passive but pretty Irish girl who is despatched to New York by her family to make a living and a life for herself.She finds success, love and a sort of happiness till tragedy forces her to return to her native land to (passively) abandon her secret marriage and look after her mother.Not quite Mills and Boon but definitely a lightweight entry, alas not in the Booker league. However Tobin has been shortlisted for the Booker twice before (for much better books) and will probably find a mercy position in the 2009 shortlist.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

If you really need evidence of social and cultural globalisation,consider this:
Genuine Indians have often sniggered at the strange food served in Britain's
soi disant or sogenannte(or in English, so-called)'Indian' restaurants which are in fact Bangla Deshi or Pakistani.The reality is ,though, that the curries served in the UK are now British curries -- to be regarded as a separate entity and not as a poor version of authentic Indian cuisine.
Following this logic -- and considering that there are more English-speaking people in India than in any country in the world including Britain,I suggest that Indian English should be accorded the same status as the British curry.Certainly Indian English is no less horrible than Australian or Kiwi English with the difference that Indians play hell with consonants while the antipodeans maul vowels.In fairness, we all have better grammar and spelling than the native Briton.
Think about it...


Monday, December 29, 2008

I see that I have been away for over a month --it's just that there hasn't been anything remarkable going on. Actually, I have been more depressed than usual by our uncomplaining acceptance of the mediocrity that is creeping into our daily lives. For example, low standards of English are now normal even in the BBC and pass unchallenged. I offer you Jenny Bond saying 'gourmand' when she clearly meant 'gourmet' as one of the more irritating examples.
I'm really annoyed that people don't even seem aware that they are fed on a daily pigswill of mediocrity in every walk of life.(The Times magazine constantly omits to put captions under photographs,a slovenliness I would expect --but not accept-- from some horrid small-town magazine).It is also almost frightening that colleagues and friends whom you would regard as discerning do not protest more.They seem to have lost their sense of discrimination in every aspect of our personal, business or public lives. This seems especially true in small-town Britain and is no less exasperating. The more you desist from complaining or criticising, the lower your standards become----till that dreadful day when mediocrity becomes the norm. Perish the thought.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

When you first encounter daily life in the UK you (that means me) are struck by how efficiently and speedily the public sector operates as opposed to the private sector -- in particular the civil service.Every matter you refer to is documented and easily found.Action is taken smoothly and accurately. You deal with highly intelligent,highly qualified officers who never patronise you and are unfailingly patient.
This is why I am relieved that so many banks are being nationalised.Certainly the private sector has demonstrated that it is incapable of sustained performance where banking is concerned.I feel far more confident with the civil service at the helm.
The only issue left is getting rid of politicians who are a major hindrance to the effective operation of any body. We don't need politicians anymore.All our parties have the same policies -- their manifestoes are virtually interchangeable. If a two party system is an essential for democracy,let's have another look at democracy.Hasn't it run its course? Are we hanging on to it out of habit,or for the comfort of familiarity like a boring spouse? Where are the great thinkers who will proffer some new ideas,some new systems?
Every political system has a finite life. Two-party democracy with its attendant body of parasitic politicians just does not fit the bill any more.Where are the philosophers for our era? Who will show us the way?


Friday, November 07, 2008

Dilys, the cat was ill and the vet's bill for investigations,treatment and a thyroid operation amounted to well over £1000.00.The cat itself is a 14yr old moggy of evil disposition worth absolutely nothing in the market-place, but a pearl beyond price to me, a normal besotted cat lover.
Extortionate vet's bills are horrifying enough.So is pet insurance which is a real swizz.The excess is huge and therefore does not include annual booster vaccinations or any consultancy fee.Consulting a pet psychologist also does not qualify -at £50 a pop that is a blow. Vets have to reexamine their billing policy and veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturers (are you listening Hoechst?)really need to be a bit more realistic with their pricing.
Thank goodness for the charitable surgeries like the PDSA, without whom having a pet would join the ranks of ordinary pleasures that have turned into luxuries. As it happens I trust my vet totally and as long as I can afford him, I will avail of his expertise and his gentle ,understanding handling of Dilys (who hates him with impressive venom).
I promise to return next week.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ah well,another year, another Booker and another quite ordinary book wins.I seem to remember saying a couple of weeks ago how unremarkable Arvind Adiga's White Tiger was.Perfect for the Booker prize and I am now bored with the subject.
The next most exciting thing happening is the credit crunch.I agree with most people that there should be a serious rolling of heads among those who have endangered global economies.As for public sector bodies who have lost our money, listen carefully -- investing only where the returns are the highest is a stupid and greedy policy, as the BCCI debacle demonstrated so conclusively.But the canker is at the core of the money trade with its artificial and unsustainable operations,which bear no relation to the realities of our economy in the UK.Enough for today.Await more rants next week


Friday, October 03, 2008

My last post was abruptly terminated in mid-sentence by my pc suddenly crashing while I was still deep in a grumble about the Booker shortlist. Salman Rushdie 's Enchantress of Florence did not make it from the longlist to the shortlist but is easily the best work of the whole lot It is profound yet entertaining and has more philosophic content in two pages taken at random than the whole of any of the listed novels.Rushdie should not bother with pedestrian literary prizes like the Booker -- he is now Nobel material.
Nonetheless I love the whole Booker flurry and wouldn't want to see its demise, but it has become a circus for lightweights and cannot be taken seriously any longer.Okay, I'll concede the rare exception as in 2004 with Alan Hollinghurst's haunting Line of Beauty.
In any case whatever the title that wins, the publisher can be assured of huge sales worldwide which itself is a bit of a turn-off.I do loathe being one of a mindless herd