The Arts

Evan Help Us: How Good Intentions Can Go Wrong

Why a post about a film that flopped? Because it illustrates how badly any creative project can go wrong because of one key mistake. Two months before the pandemic started, I posted a piece about ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. The melancholy tale by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul spoke in a relatable way to middle-class teens and their families, and […]

It’s Going To Be A Trilogy

I’ve been granted leave of absence by my doctors so I’m off to Madrid for the weekend to see my oldest friend, who has been restricted for a very long time by one of the toughest lockdowns in the world. The thought of fresh sights thrills me to the core. As much as I love […]

Make Mine Music

I always write with music playing. I find that soundtracks can provide the perfect atmosphere in which to write. But where do you start?  Soundtrack music is created to enhance the emotion of visuals, so it makes an ideal accompaniment. I went through a phase of writing to Michael Nyman scores, particularly the Handel-like ‘The Draughtsman’s […]

Last Night In Soho I Saw Last Night In Soho

    They asked if we had seen a man in a chicken suit go past. That’s Soho for you. Edgar Wright’s new film is a psychological puzzler that’s a love letter to London’s Soho then and now. That’s its blessing and its curse. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are faint-voiced mentally fragile fashion student and […]

The Missing Musician

There are a handful of modern composers whose identity can be clearly established across a crowded room. Obviously Phillip Glass is one, and Shostakovich perhaps. A recognisable style is presumably formed when a musician is compelled to reproduce their mental rhythms. Such a musician was Basil Kirchin. I had heard his music a very long […]

The Mad Miss Bacon

The idea that William Shakespeare did not write his own plays was not a new one by the time Delia Bacon seized upon it. The first doubt had been cast in 1771 when one Herbert Laurence issued a book accusing the Bard of plagiarism and deer-stealing. This was roughly a century and a half after […]

On Asking The Wrong Questions

I work in genre. I’m not terribly interested in multi-generational family sagas or angsty on-off romances in Paris and Prague. I quite like existential crises in novels but anything with children leaves me cold (although there are plenty of exceptions). I greatly respect Kate Atkinson but can see her readers nodding their heads in recognition […]

Alice, Sweet Alice

To the Victoria & Albert museum for their highly praised ‘Alice in Wonderland’ exhibition, I decide that if anyone can do it the V&A can. These days it is a money-making concern with more rapacious officers than the East India Company, but they put on a great show. A confession; it is not a favourite […]

Missed In Translation Part 2

‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (passim) from Pushkin Press in the UK, has been translated clearly and concisely to echo its original German by a US translator, and I had to keep stepping over what were for me jarring Americanisms – ‘gotten’, train station’, ‘she wrote me’, etc – minor inconveniences when set against […]

Missed In Translation Part 1

What do Korean gangsters have to do with Madame Bovary? Their stories change according to who translates them into English. Translator Lydia Davis points out that she doesn’t have to enjoy what she’s translating; she does not care for Madame Bovary as a book or a character, but concentrates on accurately reflecting the author’s prose […]