Sunday, 25 September 2016

                                                                                        

Ken Loach's new film - can you believe, he's still making films at 80? - is a heartbreaking indictment of the callousness of the benefits system. Sadly, it's a film that probably won't be seen by the people who ought to see it. Daniel is a decent, ordinary man trying to claim benefits after a serious heart attack but deemed fit to work by dopey young women, sorry, that's 'healthcare professionals', ticking boxes in a call-centre.  Daniel is computer-illiterate but the system is 'online by default'; he's a man who is 'pencil by default.' There are dozens of free previews across the country over the next week or so as they try to drum up word of mouth for this film - just google it - but I do hope that there's a three-line whip screening for all the MPs and Orwellian bureaucrats who should be made to see it. There's a review here. And as a portrayal of frustrated middle-age, it's far more powerful than this bland, heart-warming bilge - unanimously loathed by my book group  - that has also been turned into a film. 

Highlight of my week has been a gloriously sunny day in Kew Gardens. If there's a literary festival happening a 10-minute bus ride from home, then it would be a shame not to be there - and in between enjoying the autumn colours, a visit to the Georgian kitchen (but sadly no time for Kew Palace), and a far too hasty visit to this exhibition of exquisite Japanese flower paintings - worth at least an hour that I didn't have - I fitted in two fascinating talks: Helen Rappaport, on the Russian revolution (that talk was  held in Museum No 1, which sounded suitably Soviet!) and Artemis Cooper, on Elizabeth Jane Howard. I've ordered both books from the library. (I know, you're supposed to buy them but who wants to carry hard-backs around Kew Gardens ... although I saw many intrepid ladies lugging heavy book bags.) EJH is clearly having her moment. I noticed someone in Waterstone's this morning buying The Long View - recommended by Artemis Cooper as her best. It must be 30-odd years since I read it, so that's on my autumn bookpile, too. And The Cazalets is being adapted for television which is something to look forward to. 



I remember listening to EJH at an Elizabeth Taylor event a few years ago, shortly before she died and shortly after the publication of Nicola Beauman's very good biography of Taylor. EJH was terribly scathing about biographers who went 'digging around like journalists' ... although quite what they're supposed to do instead, heaven knows - commune by seance? So I was amused when Artemis Cooper said that she seemed more than happy to be interviewed on several occasions herself - but then I guess that being the subject of a biography is the ultimate corroboration of being an Important Novelist.

12 comments:

galant said...

Oh, the Cazalet Chronicles are wonderful - perhaps not the 5th and final one, when EJ Howard was nearing the end of her life, but the first four are crackers, and really act as something of a social statement for those middle years of the 20th century, especially the war and immediate post-war years. I'd no idea they were being filmed for television - I remember the 1990s series (I think it was the 1990s) which was excellent and I think Huge Bonneville was in that, and Ursula Howells as the Duchy.
Margaret P

mary said...

No, the last one wasn't quite up to scratch, I agree, Margaret. I've never been able to track down the original series online; not on YouTube - and I'd love to see it again, so I was delighted when I heard they were remaking it. Expect it will be a while coming! I remember going wild after Casting Off when another book wasn't forthcoming - for 19 years? Artemis Cooper said it's based on EJH's own childhood/family - and that Louise, Clary and Polly are all aspects of herself (including the abusive father). There was rather a posh lady in the audience, well into her 80s, who said that it was so bang on socially that as she read she could 'hear' the voices of her own family, long dead.

Toffeeapple said...

The Cazalets on TV? Boohoo, I don't one, but that is something that I should love to see. I enjoyed the books enormously, followed by 'Slipstream', her memoir.

Toffeeapple said...

That should read 'I don't own one', sorry.

Ann said...

I really like and enjoy your blog Mary and should comment more often. I was also at the Helen Rappaport talk having heard her speak before and having read some of her other books I was keen to listen to her again. I also thought this was reason enough to buy her book at the event and not order it from the library as I would normally do! I was also going straight home ...

mary said...

I wish I'd known, Ann! It was a very good talk, and the man interviewing her was good, too - I didn't catch his name. I've read Ekatinerburg and keep meaning to read the one about the sisters. Hasn't she created an interesting life for herself? I was a grammar school girl, too - maybe I'm just a late starter!
So glad you're enjoying the blog.

There's always iPlayer, Toffeeapple - but no doubt there'll be a DVD.

Sue said...

I had already read loads of EJH, but not the Cazalet Chronicles until this summer when I was marooned up in the Lake District for weeks on end and went through the lot. Loved, loved, loved them - though perhaps no 5 could have benefitted from being written 18 years earlier...and, it's true she lifted whole chunks of her life as told in Slipstream, but so what? I heard bits of the AC biography last week and am reading it all now.You're right about EJH having a moment - all the staff in Waterstones were very keen on the biography, too.

mary said...

They're a perfect holiday read, aren't they, Sue? I bought the first few volumes at the airport - and didn't move off the sun-lounger for the first few week of my holiday, I was so engrossed. I still haven't read Slipstream. There's another talk coming up by Artemis Cooper at Daunt Books, if that's within reach.

Ann said...

I had the same conversation with a woman outside the museum after the talk (about the interesting life she's made for herself and grammar school education) - funny if it was you I was speaking to!

mary said...

Oh, I wonder if it was! I'd have been thrilled if someone came up and said they read the blog. And I do remember chatting for a few minutes on the way out, then I scuttled off for a cup of tea!

Lucille said...

Just missed you again! I saw the Japanese Botanicals yesterday. There was a large contingent of beautifully dressed Japanese ladies there ahead of a private event at 4pm. One of them set off an alarm. It caused a great flurry of consternation and embarrassment. I was somewhat distracted by this but loved the few things I could take in. I always get lost in multi roomed exhibitions and was already tired by the time I got there so didn't make the best of it. And the lighting is always to low. Either that or my eye sight is worsening.

Lucille said...

'too'. My typing is worsening too.