Monday, August 03, 2009

Recent Encounters

"Endpoint and other poems" by John Updike: Still writing in the midst of his final illness with the void beckoning. Now that's grace under pressure.

"Be with me words, a little longer; you
have given me my quitclaim in the sun

"Katyn" directed by Andrzej Wajda: You forget how powerful cinema can be until you encounter a classic like this. Wajda's father was one of the Polish officer class and intelligentia slaughtered by the Russians in Katyn in 1939. Stalin's aim was to destroy any future dissent in a country he intended to occupy. Its attention to period detail and its slow build up to the horrific and inevitable climax made riveting viewing. It also made you aware of how lucky our generation has been in avoiding death, destruction and dislocation.

"Geoff in Venice, Death in Varanasi" by Geoff Dyer: Smart arse, witty, and sexy. The first half takes the piss out of the creatures who attend the Venice Bienalle, lots of drinking, adventurous sex and hilarious put downs of contemporary artists. Gilbert and George are described as "an affable pair of pricks" whose work is as "weary as some harmless sin". There are also some reflections on Turner in Venice and Tinteretto. The second half takes us to the ghats of Varanasi and reflections on death. Nice balance.

"But Beautiful" by Geoff Dyer: A real curiosity this and worth seeking out even if you are not a jazz buff. It's a set of fictional imaginings of the decline and fall of a number of jazz giants. It brings you into the interior world of Lester Young, Charlie Mingus, and the truly eccentric Thelonious Monk amongst others. You are also taken on the road with Duke Ellington and along the way you get a primer on the weird and wonderful world of jazz.