and no, it isn't a typo.
and no, it isn't a typo.
As a reader I often find that a brilliant book is tainted by a disappointing ending. This is one of the few exceptions - I got to the end and thought ‘Wow, he did it! He managed to seal it off in a clever way’. I always take it as a sign of a skilled author, and to be honest I thought the same throughout the whole book: ‘this guy surely knows what he’s doing’.
I was at the Shoreditch House Literary Salon in June and Howard Jacobson was reading from this book at the end of the evening. And boy, did he bring the house down! It was one of the funniest, wittiest performances I’ve seen. ‘The Jewish Jane Austen’, he called himself. And he was being modest.. I loved the idea behind the book, however weird, and I thought I could really do with a fun read. I was lucky enough to bump into someone who had a spare proof copy just a few weeks later.
It’s an absolutely hilarious book, but funny in a very dark way. I found myself laughing out loud at the surreal monologues going on inside the main charachter’s head, his pitch-black cynicism, the witty remarks, the outrageous dialogues. His wife cutting off his every singing attempt with a ‘No you don’t!’ got me every time. Great characters - bonkers, neurotic, but very human. The story in itself doesn’t sound like something that would make you want to read on, but it’s laid out in such a clever way (with the jumps forward, the flashbacks and mainly the constant subtle hints) that you can’t help wanting to know more.
I laughed a lot, but what sometimes felt like a bit of a ‘silly’ book turned out to be quite profound. Most of my favourite books have a twist at some point. Things turn around and you realise your perspective had been distorted. There’s always an element of doubt, and in this case doubt is what sparks the major change in the narrative. Jacobson is great at leading you by the hand (very much of a skilled author, as I said) - there are so many quick appearances throughout the story that it’s easy to forget names, but he’s there to remind you. And he winks at you, he winks all along. He’s a writer writing about a writer who (guess what?) is writing about a writer. It doesn’t get any more meta than that - and the result is brilliant.
I don’t do stars but this one would definitely get quite a few. A thoroughly enjoyable read, a fine example of good writing, a fast and outrageous rollercoaster. Don’t let the monkeys put you off, it’s not all about monkey sex! (well.. actually..)
This was one of the very best gigs I’ve been to in my whole life, which is why straight after attending I decided to book tickets for her October date at Shepherds Bush Empire. I must admit I’m quite new to Sharon’s music – I fell in love with Serpents the first time I heard it and got a copy of Tramp, but I hadn’t really listened to her older songs before the gig. I had seen some videos on Youtube which made me quite sure she’d be worth seeing live.. but I was definitely in for a treat.
Scala is a rather small venue, there’s hardly any gap between the artists and the audience and this makes the whole experience a lot more intimate. I was right at the front. The opening act (Exitmusic) was very atmospheric but also incredibly loud, in sharp contrast with what was to come. I loved them, they reminded me of why I love live music and why it’s always worth being there in time to check out the supporters. There’s something so special about the first time you listen to a song..
And then came Sharon, this lovely little thing - shy smile and crazy tattoos. It was magic straight from the beginning, and the obvious chemistry between her and the band together with the visuals being projected on the back of the stage definitely had a role too. It felt like falling in love, coming to life, or dying. It was surreal from start to end, and I would never have left. Her voice and style are so unique, and every track she played was as perfect as on the CD - just a lot more intense. I felt a real connection with her, something that’s incredibly hard to describe with words. She shattered me to pieces and I ended up in tears, thinking about her words and how incredible it felt to be there, and my life, and where I’m going, and where I’ve been, and why. For a couple of hours she was the sister I never had - I would have hugged her and told her all about myself, and told her not to worry because life is massively complicated, but it’s fine to let yourself go from time to time, and things change so fast. With her words and her music she brought out everything I had hidden inside me, and it was like a Tornado indeed. I hadn’t experienced anything this beautiful in a very long time.
Her band is absolutely incredible. All of them are brilliant but I kept my focus on the girl in charge of backing vocals/keyboards/second guitar/the occasional tambourine/pretty much everything - what class! The harmonious mix of lead and backing vocals is what I love the most about Sharon’s music - she seriously knows how to create something special and that girl is just amazing. Another special mention goes to the drumming, which was pretty much flawless. And despite what some drunken lady shouted, I loved the banter in between songs too. I thought it was sweet, and the input from the audience was simply great. The crowd can make the whole difference. For a change, I felt part of something beautiful and like-minded rather than figthing for some space.
Brilliant set, top-class musicians, heart-felt performance, unforgettable evening.
Can’t wait to see her again in October.
(can also be made as muffins or a cake)
- 150gr FLOUR
- 1tsp BAKING POWDER
- 70gr SUGAR
- 1 EGG
- 1/2 cup YOGURT
- 50gr WHITE CHOCOLATE CHUNKS
In a bowl, whisk flour and baking powder until combined. In a separate bowl mix butter and sugar, then add the egg and whisk well until light and fluffy. Add the flour one spoonful at a time, alternating with the yogurt. Stir in the chocolate chunks and transfer to baking cases filling them up about 3/4. Place a few raspberries on top of each cupcake and press lightly in.
Bake in the oven at 180’C (Gas Mark 4) for 20mins or until golden.
It isn’t in the mirror
It isn’t on the page
It’s a red-hearted vibration
Pushing through the walls
Of dark imagination
Finding no equation
There’s a Red Road rage
But it’s not road rage
It’s asylum seekers engulfed by a grudge
It isn’t in the castle
It isn’t in the mist
It’s a calling of the waters
As they break to show
The new Black Death
With reactors aglow
Do you think your security
Can keep you in purity
You will not shake us off above or below
Edwin Morgan (1920-2010) / Idlewild
‘She had never actually cared one way or another about his ambition, she had cared only for him’
I like to think of myself as a Londoner. Maybe it’s a bit presumptuous but I do feel the sense of belonging, and it fills me up with joy and hope. Being a Londoner is turning a corner and knowing what you’ll see before you actually see it. Being a Londoner is turning a corner and being surprised by what you find there, a smile cracking open on your face in wonder and disbelief. Beauty is everywhere in this city, and I’ve never felt at home like this anywhere else. London has sucked me in in a very short time and has made me part of it.
The city doesn’t need you, it’s true. It’ll find someone else to chew on in no time. But there’s little things you’ll leave behind. Just like that tiny Buddha still laughing in the attic, there will be objects in London to testify that you, at some stage, were there. And somewhere in a flat in East London there’s still that kettle you bought in Willesden Green when you first arrived..
Am I ever going to be ‘finished with London’?
I decided to buy this book after hearing a lot of buzz about it, which led me to attend an event with the author. I immediately loved the idea, or the question rather, behind the book: what makes a Londoner? It’s more difficult than you’d think. Who can really claim to be one? And what is London to the very people this city is made up of? What does London mean to them?
I tried to answer to all of the above myself and came up with some fairly ironic and naive ideas. Then I started reading. It was a bit difficult to read on at times (especially at the beginning) because I would constantly compare the narrators’ stories with my own and London hasn’t always been a happy place to me..
It was a great read though - I love the fact that there’s so many different stories in just one book. Each one is something special, and you do feel a real connection, or even affection at times for some of the narrators.
I found this book very moving but equally funny. It was great to read about people I’d never have thought about, great to find out about shades of London I wasn’t aware of, great to read genius quotes and observations from random strangers.
But the question remains.. Am I a Londoner or not?
I like to think of myself as one. London is a very special, absolutely unique place. You can make of it what you think, and the same goes for Londoners.
I’ve always been a bit sceptical when it comes to contemporary art. I’ve come across so much rubbish over the years (the Turner Prize is, unfortunately, one of the best examples) that it’s all gone to support a sad and nostalgic theory of mine: contemporary art is nothing but pretentious nonsense. There have been exceptions, of course, so I’m still trying to keep an open mind - but if something doesn’t catch my eye then I don’t bother and just walk past.
With this in mind, on Saturday night I went to see the Gerhard Richter exhibition at Tate Modern. Well, it was a particularly extraordinary exception to the rule! In a word: WOW. I found it truly inspiring, special, enchanting almost. I loved the grey works and the photographic black&white canvas more than the colourful abstract paintings, but every room had something remarkably beautiful and worth spending some time on. He pretty much shattered all of my preconceptions and gave me a completely new perspective to look at abstract works and modern art objects from. The mirror, the ball, the glass panes - who would have thought they were actually worth some attention, and could turn into something meaninful? certainly not me.
Richter’s style has changed so much overtime - it was a treat to go from one room to another and discover how his research into art and his experimentation with different techniques have evolved. I also do like an artist with a sense of humour, and who scatters a bit of irony throughout his works. One of my favourites is this one, called ‘Tourist (with two lions)’:
On top of being very fond of the two gorgeous lions, I inappropriately giggle at the idea of the tourist in the title (or at least part of it) being likely to rest inside the lions’ tummies..
To add to the magic, Tate Modern is fairly empty on a Saturday night so I had a chance to take my time around the paintings and to read all captions and introductions with hardly anyone around. The silence, stillness and quiet do change the experience considerably.
If you get a chance go catch this while it’s still on:
If not, you might want to book a weekend in Berlin or Paris for 2012.. I promise it’s worth it.
‘She would always suspect that love was a kind of repulsive, debilitating madness [..] far from being the source of ultimate happiness, it was extreme unhappiness masquerading as happiness, a temporary euphoria that felt wonderful for a little while, then killed you, like freezing to death.’