Random Observations

No blogging for awhile, I’ve been up to other things (not necessarily better ones). A little tired of fiction – as I periodically become – I’ve been turning to biography: William C Durant, Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, Paul Dirac and Charles M Doughty – a varied bunch.

I learned Ana María Matute had won the Premio Cervantes 2010, and thought: – there’s another Spanish-language writer I’ve heard of but never read who’s gone and won a prize. – A few hours later however, it began to dawn on me that maybe I had read one of her books: hadn’t it had a light grey and crimson cover, one of those Quarter Encounters books; – so I looked it up on Amazon and sure enough, there was a book called The School of the Sun matching the description, and it seemed even more familiar now I was looking at it. I’m sure I’ve read it, but I couldn’t tell you one thing about it.

Here’s a sentence from page 5 of Rourke’s The Canal. He’s describing the office-block across the canal from the bench he’s sitting on:

Numerous balconies featuring self-assembled Ikea and Habitat tables and chairs jostled for position, and those affluent enough to be on the fifth floor had veiled themselves, and their lives, with arrays of foliage on each roof terrace.

I had to read the sentence quite a few times – the first few times, the grammar troubled me – before deciding it must mean the “balconies” were “jostling for position”. [ed. I dunno. Perhaps you’re being unfair; perhaps balconies can jostle for position.] The “on each roof terrace” is classic Rourke.

I know it sounds a crazy thing to claim, but Film 20## is much improved – it seems to me – now they’ve dumped Jonathan Ross and brought in Claudia Winkelmann. To be fair to Winkelmann, I only know her from impressionistic satire – I’ve no idea what other programmes she’s appeared on, or how I should be pigeon-holing her in my celebrity-obsessed brain. – But it’s not the fact of Winkelmann qua Winkelmann (a fairly odd woman to look at anyway, I find) that makes the programme suddenly so appealing; it’s the fact that, rather than artificially delivering a written film review to camera, she suddenly has an antagonist – another person – with whom she sits and discusses the film. – It reminds me of that moment in Greek tragedy when it suddenly occurred to Sophocles (or it might have Aeschylus) that a whole range of previously unconsidered possibilities might be opened up if they put two actors on stage at the same time.

BBC2 are showing a film called Youth Without Youth, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, tomorrow. I’ve not seen it, nor read the book on which it’s based – but I shall be watching it, since the book it’s based on is by the interesting Romanian writer, Mircea Eliade.


6 thoughts on “Random Observations

  1. Going on the extract in the G, ‘numerous’ sounds like a Rourke word. He seems to have a taste for polysyllabic words related to number – that ‘multitudinous’ was a stand-out in the extract. I can’t remember the last time I saw it in print.

    I thought Winkelman was, or is, a celebrity. I don’t know why.

  2. There’s a good example of what you say on page 1:

    It was something about the light. I’d say it was almost crepuscular, even though it was some time between 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning and light can’t be described as crepuscular at that time of the day. But to me, on that particular morning at least, it could.

    As in: – I know this adjective is wrong, I just want to use it. – Although, as far as I recall, you can use crepuscular of the dawn as well – so it just depends what time of year it was, and what he really is describing when he uses the word “crepuscular” – we’re not really given a clue.

  3. I think I said on the Books Blog that the extract reminded me of John Major’s diary in Private Eye, and the piece you quote has the same stilted quality, as though Lee Rourke learned his English from police reports, or civil service documents. I’ve got to read it.

    Winkleman is Eve Pollard’s daughter. Her rise to celebrity must have been a titanic struggle.

  4. Yes, that’s it! – I was wondering why she seemed to be squinting all the time; she’s in denial of her natural heritage of outlandish glasses.

    Rourke would no doubt claim he was aiming at that stilted quality: that it reflects the stilted character of his protogonist, his stilted worldview and the stiltedness of our complacent attitude towards the relationship between literature and the world.

  5. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
    The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
    Making the green one red.


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