REVIEW: THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE VOL. 3– 1955-1991

The Life of Graham Greene Volume Three: 1955 - 1991: 1955-1991 Vol 3The Life of Graham Greene Volume Three: 1955 – 1991: 1955-1991 Vol 3 by Norman Sherry

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The first two volumes of Sherry’s biography of Greene skirted hero worship by dint of sheer volume of reportage– Greene’s life was filled with momentous happenings, and simply relating them kept Sherry’s over-ripe familiarity mostly at bay. Here, unfortunately, as the subject’s life begins to wind down, there are no such brakes– what has been, until now, a mildly cringing sycophancy devolves into full blown toadying. Anyone who is apposite to Greene is portrayed as deluded, jealous, or outright wrong. Greene himself is a warrior for truth, a noble of unsurpassable grandeur, Sherry’s personal hero. The author even begins to insert himself into the narrative in an effort to tie himself to his famous subject. This is the weakest, and most tedious, volume in the series, deeply flawed and worthwhile only for a sense of completism, because Sherry has committed the cardinal sin of the biographer: he has fallen in love with his subject.

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10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

A Night At The Opera

Oh, God. How to describe the impact the Marx Brothers have had on my psyche? You know that thing where my first reaction to everything you have to say is a wisecrack? You know how I’ve had three sons, and if they’re within five feet of me you have to keep telling me to stop rough-housing with them? You know how, every now and again, I tell you that it made sense to me? That it’s not my fault if people can’t keep up? That I’m only here to amuse myself, and everyone else is only watching?

Yeah. That.

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10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: GORILLA

Bonzogorilla

And so we come to the final entry in the 10 Albums, 10 Days series. And I’m going to cap it with the beginning of a lifelong love.

I have two musical loves that prompt scratches of the head and bemused horror from the majority of those I encounter: I could have gone with Tom Lehrer’s magnificent An Evening Wasted With… here, but he only recorded three albums, and while I love him (much to Luscious’ chagrin, I can now perform an a capella version of Poisoning Pigoens in the Park with no less than three sons), my love for him is an ordinary one, without the element of weird that comes with loving the Bonzo the Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The Bonzos are something special… and something special.

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10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: DOCTOR STRANGELOVE

Strangelove

Art should never be comfort food. It should always challenge, undermine, rebel, and otherwise find apple carts to upset. And while humour can be a reassuring reinforcement of your thought patterns, I’ve always been drawn to a rather black variation of the form.

Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, to give it its stupidly full title, is a deliciously uncomfortable viewing experience. It is absurdism writ large and painful, cut so close to the cultural bone that future archaeologists will take it as proof of cannibalism. It is, in many ways, Stanley Kubrick’s misanthropic masterpiece, and the perfect exploration of his working habits– every scene, every moment, cut and recut until they are pared down to their very minimum; no fat, no blether; simply distilled, pure, predatory, poison. It’s all tied together, of course, by the pitch-perfect performances of George C Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, and the never-better Peter Sellers.

I never quite cut it as a stand-up comedian. I couldn’t bring myself to pitch my material at the heart of the beer-and-knob-gags crowd that populated Perth’s evenings, and late in my career I developed a case of the performance yips that sunk me completely. And movies like this were partly to blame– perhaps, had I been less in love with Kubrick’s acidic perfectionism, and more a fan of, well, Porky’s…… but as an artist of a different stripe, the beautiful turns of phrase, the sublime juxtapositioning of elements, the obsessionally fierce holding to point of view and narrative voice, all have been part of my artistic education. And, just as importantly, this movie remains a sublime and simply magnificent slice of perfection, more than 50 years after the possibilities with which it concerns itself have reached their first-run nadir.

It’s still the War Room, and you still can’t fight here.

 

THIS ISN’T THUMBNAIL THURSDAY. IT’S JUST A CASE OF PAREIDOLIA

Seeing things that aren’t really there. A common human occurrence, which I’m sure has no basis in the fact that we are all weaselly little malcontencts with ideas above our station who have been raised on a diet of Disney bullshit abduction fantasies.

None of you are princesses. None of you.

Anyway, here’s a cartoon about seeing things that aren’t there. Or is it? (Bum bum BUUUUUMMMMM!)

Yeah, it is.

0130

“Well, I can see a kitten, and a choo-choo train, and the glorious Gluznunbian War

Fleet come to visit ruination and enslavement on your entire miserable planet…”

 

 

18 MONTH PLAN PROGRESS UPDATEY STORY BIT EXCERPT OF THE DAY GOODNESS!

           The song follows Charles O’Connor along the beach, as it has followed him for nearly ten years. His horse is nervous underneath him, tugging against his lead as if ready to bolt at the slightest provocation. He tightens his grip, nudges it ahead. He knows his destination.

            The mothers are waiting for him at the water’s edge. Spray shines on their black skin, beautiful, so beautiful in the morning sunlight. They do not talk to him, nor he to them. Instead they sing, as they have always sung: their bodies still, their mouths closed. The song led him out to this stretch of beach, through Fremantle, along Cantonment Street, here to where the old jetty once stood. Now the music hangs in the air between them, swaying in time to the rise and fall of waves upon the sand.

            The horse whinnies and skips sideways. Charles lays a hand on its neck, leans down in the saddle to cluck calming noises. The horse rolls its eye back towards him, and calms. Charles rubs its neck. He has always been good with horses. He has always been good with things. His wife Susan would call it a gift from God. Charles is not so sure. Inanimate objects he is good with, but people have always eluded him. It is a strange gift for a God to give, to be so good with things that cannot rear up and attack you, and to struggle so much with those who pay you, comment upon you, and use their newspapers to smear your name into oblivion.

 

The first draft of Song of the Water, a 3900-word story about the suicide of C.Y. O’Connor that will go out to market and be included in the Claws of Native Ghosts collection of supernatural stories set throughout Western Australia’s history, is finally complete.

 

10 ALBUMS, 10 DAYS: TUBULAR BELLS

Tubular Bells

When I was young, music happened in three-minute bursts. It involved someone complaining about their love life, or lack of it, or death of it, or all three, over a frenetic bashing of drums. Guitars, and possibly keyboards, accompanied, unless Big Pig were on the radio, in which case MOAR DRUMS! And it all happened in between the false chockablockofstockcockrock bletherings of the smug twats who somehow got jobs at the local FM radio station.

Then I watched The Exorcist.

As well as being the single scariest goddamn thing I have ever seen, it featured some, frankly, creepy-as-fuck music that I needed to hear again. And lo, I was told that it came from an album by a would-you-believe-he-was-only-nineteen-when-he-did-it genius, and lo, my local music shop had a copy.

And that’s when I began to understand that music could be about immersion. That lyrics were an addition, not a given. That you could close your eyes, plant your headphones onto your ears, and sink into a journey. I have never quite engaged with ‘classical’ music. But here was music made within my zeitgeist, with instruments and arrangements that were recognisably of my time, that took the tenets of older musical forms and translated them into a form that was at once familiar and challenging to my barely-formed musical sensibility.

Tubular Bells is still the album I play when I want to lie back in the bath, eyes closed, and simply float away. It’s still the tether I tie my consciousness to when I need to rise above everything and see which way the winds of my unconscious are blowing. It’s my first journey, and my most meaningful. I have developed a deep and abiding love of the concept album over the years: Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Jeff Wayne, and countless others loom large in my musical karass. But this is the album around which they all circle, the one that most fully encapsulates that sense of narrative that I love, because it supplies the tools and I write the narrative, and that is still, thirty-five years later, the purest and most exhilarating of drugs.