The Knife of Never Letting Go

•Monday, 31 May, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been somewhat slow getting to Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in his trilogy, Chaos Walking. The book has been on my list to read for a little while now and i had been looking out for it in the library – but without success. When we were in Wellington last weekend i spied copies on the shelf at Unity Books and decided i wasn’t going to wait any longer. I remembered the review i’d read which prompted me to enter it on my list had promised much. Not without good reason. I’ve not been disappointed: this is a really gripping and powerful tale.

Ness is a master storyteller. Deservedly award-winning. The narrative moves at an unrelenting pace and we hurtle along almost as breathless as the protagonist, Todd, as he flees and cries out ‘tell me! why aren’t you telling me what i don’t know?’. But pause for explanation is rarely possible for here is yet another, never-wholly-articulated danger to fly from and an uncertain ‘haven’ to seek. Again and again the author does not flinch from presenting the reader with events we would rather had not happened; that seem so unjust yet all too believable. right to the last page. So now i absolutely have to seek out the second volume tomorrow. I just have to know what happens next!

A Single Man

•Friday, 30 April, 2010 • 2 Comments

Tom Ford has created a most beautiful film. That his movie A Single Man should be so attractive to look at is not really to be wondered at since this is a man who knows a thing or two about beauty and style. That as a first time movie director he should make something so good to look at and draw such excellent performances from his actors is perhaps rather more remarkable. As everyone agrees Colin Firth as George achieves one of the finest performances of his career.

Ford has very largely remained true to Christopher Isherwood’s novel in his rendering, apart from one significant and pointed change to George’s motivation for the day the story takes place. In the end i don’t really mind this change since the whole thing is so very well done, but it is a curious change all the same.  And amongst the many things that impress, one that stood out for me, was the increase in colour saturation whenever George was particularly interested or focused on someone or something, and then the fade back to more muted colour as that interest waned. I don’t recall seeing this technique before and it seemed such a clever yet subtle means of conveying George’s inner state. Go see the film; it’s a thing of beauty.


•Wednesday, 31 March, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A couple of weeks back i indulged myself: i bought an iPhone. This is the coolest toy and tool i’ve ever owned.

I knew iPhones were seductively beautiful, like so many of Apple’s products, but it’s also amazingly accomplished. What this hand-sized jewel case can do, with its attendant apps, is astonishing — and great fun!

Charlie Gillett

•Saturday, 27 March, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Few people can have opened so many ears to such a variety of music over the last four decades as Charlie Gillett …” — so opens Richard William’s obituary for Charlie Gillett in the Guardian. Charlie Gillett certainly opened my ears to a much bigger world of music than i had realised existed. I am hugely grateful for his BBC World of Music show and the subsequent delight of listening again and again to music i first heard there. I am considerably saddened to learn of his death just over a week ago.

Gillett’s weekly radio show used to play on Tuesday nights on National Radio after the 11:00 pm news just as i was going to bed. The first arresting sounds i heard there were of the West African musician Daby Balde, and the promise of such new and different sounds kept me returning each week after. [Occasionally the sounds were too different to endure — such as the Kazakhstan wedding “music” — but mostly they were interesting and from time to time demanded pursuit and repetition. Which was where the opportunity to listen again to the show streamed on the internet from the BBC for a week afterwards, along with details of the play-list, was brilliantly useful.]

I shall much miss Charlie’s late night voice, his musical knowledge, and his composed yet enthusiastic love of the sounds and musicians he promoted.

lantern festival

•Monday, 22 March, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Visiting the local lantern festival each year is hugely enjoying. To mark the end of Chinese new year celebrations Christchurch’s Chinese community transforms Victoria Square with lanterns, mixed with live dance and music and stalls, for two nights in March. Once darkness falls the place is lit with enchantment, and perhaps an even greater magic in the hundreds and hundreds of the city’s citizens who come to meet, wander and marvel at the display. The numbers of people who throng to the festival in such good humour provides one of the best affirmations of the things Christchurch does well and make this a pleasing place to live in spite of our city’s smallness.


•Sunday, 14 February, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Next week we were to have seen Rufus Wainwright in concert here in Christchurch. Sadly the recent death of Rufus’ mother has meant the cancellation of his tour in NZ for the present. We do hope we will get to see him perform live somewhere, sometime.

Meanwhile, i bought C a copy of the dvd of Rufus’s concert Milwaukee at Last as a valentine gift. This is excellent. We had heard a radio broadcast of the performance earlier in the summer: seeing him and his band [and his boyfriend], both on- and back-stage is great fun. The concert is a collection of so many of his best songs – and in some brilliant arrangements – that the whole thing is a wonderful treat. We loved watching this.


•Sunday, 31 January, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Requiescat in pace J D Salinger.

To honour the man i’m re-reading The Catcher in the Rye. In spite of its almost sixty years and so inevitably dated teen slang, the novel strikes me still as of youth and now. I guess that comes from Holden — his view of the world, his fears and delights, his directness and his insecurities, his continuous refining of the people he introduces us to. We all go through the rites of passage from child to adult, and the experiences change little, whatever the historical period.

And while Catcher is perhaps the classic in this genre i’m reminded of indebted followers:
Martin Amis’ The Rachel Papers, Brett Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia, William Taylor’s Spider, David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, and films such as The Last Picture Show, Igby Goes Down, and Tadpole, amongst others.

While i’m here, and on, yet again, about books, i have to mention that i’ve just finished Iain Banks’ latest, Transition. As ever with his stories i come to the end and feel hugely bereft. The world Banks conjures in a book and then peoples with fascinating characters living the most interesting of lives is a place i never want to leave — i just want to go on turning the pages and sharing the experience for always. Transition is a splendidly imaginative construct with echoes back to ideas and elements of The Bridge and Complicity. I loved it.

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