Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sean McSweeney at the Taylor Gallery

Sean McSweeney's opening in the Taylor last Thursday was a bellwether for the state of the art market. This was a new show by one of our most popular and respected contemporary artists. It was a strong show with a very reasonably priced selection of works on canvas and paper. Up to recently he would always sell out - except for the occasional very large piece. All these works were quite small and very accessible with more colour than is often the case with McSweeney. A total of eight sold on the opening night. Not bad. There was a comparatively poor turnout, certainly compared to Brian Henderson's show there earlier in the month. But Henderson sold only one piece on the opening night - so you could say the market is becoming very discerning.

McSweeney himself was in attendance - a most affable man is our rural Rothko. He went out of his way to greet anyone and everyone. There was no preserving a cool distance from the hoi polloi. We all repaired to Buswell's afterwards for a few pints.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kingdom Come Again

The All-Ireland Football Final was a sad debacle if you were a Cork man. Actually it was a sad debacle if you weren't a Kerry man. Here's the bottom line: Cork froze, their big names did not perform; Kerry rose to the occasion as experienced teams inevitably do, their big names performed, and they got their tactics dead right (stop Cork playing, swarming defence, even Cooper back). It wasn't pretty. Tadgh Kennelly, feted by our craven sporting press, committed one of the most cynical, dangerous and mean-spirited fouls I've seen in a long time - in a notoriously foul-laden mean-spirited sport. He did it smack dab in front of the referee at the very start of the match and got away with it. And Nicholas Murphy, the recipient of the elbow in the face, was not the same man for the rest of the match. But this incident encapsulated why Cork lost. Kerry were darker, harder, better organised and cooler in the heat of battle. Cork will come back next year, wiser and wider (read cynical and mean-spirited) as they say down there.

Monday, September 14, 2009

William Boyd in Trinity

Went to hear William Boyd speak in Trinity last Saturday - fresh from reading his excellent latest novel - Ordinary Thunderstorms. He seemed the most amiable of coves, devoid of the kind of literary preciousness I detected in Colum McCann recently. He read an extract from his new novel and then answered questions from his meagre audience. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, which probably impacted the numbers. He spoke about his writing process (two years research, one year writing)and wasn't shy about sharing his opinion of certain sacred cows. He's not a fan of Virginia Woolf it seems and he wouldn't take Jeff Koons too seriously. He was very entertaining on the subject of Nate Tate: An American Artist - his hoax biography of an Abstract Expressionist. He enlisted such worthies as Gore Vidal, John Richardson (Picasso's biographer) and David Bowie in his plot and fooled most of the New York art establishment until the British press broke the story.

He also told us that a film was being made of Any Human Heart. I noticed Stephen Rea in the audience so maybe there's a connection.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Shine a Light

What a sad dispiriting movie this was. It basically showed the Rolling Stones cavorting in front of Bill Clinton and a bunch of celebrities for one of Clinton's charities. All well and good but hardly rock and roll. The audience looked like extras from Sex and City: plastic, overdressed, and lifeless - mostly well-groomed women of a certain age. And the music was a pallid echo of its former gutsy self. Jagger looked like a dizzy queen sashaying down the King's Road and Keith Richard was a gurning parody of his former cool self. Only Ron Wood was convincing - especially when he played pedal steel guitar on Faraway Eyes, one of the few bright spots on a dull night. The Stones have turned into an unconvincing tribute band to themselves. And Martin Scorsese, the creator of the wonderful Last Waltz has produced a real turkey, and not a wild one either.

Ordinary Thunderstorms

Just finished Ordinary Thunderstorms, William Boyd's latest novel. What a pleasure it is to read a good uncomplicated story, with an interesting cast of characters, and a fine sense of place. And one free from literary pretension and arty faffing about.

William Boyd can be relied upon for all this of course, we got it with Any Human Heart and Restless also. This story revolves around Adam Kindred's fall from grace through a chance meeting in London. It takes him from the cossetted world of hotels and credit cards and effortless living into a feral underworld of violence, dirt and hunger. Along the way we meet psychopathic hit men, corrupt pharmaceutical executives, and a randy police woman. We are also shown the London of council estates, begging and sleeping rough. It's a cautionary tale about how one slip can throw us back into the gutter. A tale for our times then.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Tipp Undunne

I'm not sure what happened in the last 20 minutes of today's All-Ireland Hurling Final because I took the dog for a walk after Bennie Dunne was sent off and Henry Sheflin equalised with the subsequent free. I knew the tide had turned and Kilkenny would win - somehow, and I just didn't want to be around to see it. It was the ultimate irony that Tipp should have a man sent off after suffering the attentions of the thuggish agglomeration that is the Kilkenny backline for the previous 50 minutes. Dunne deserved to be sent off. He was practising the lost art of doubling on the ball but mistimed it completely and almost decapitated Tommy Walsh. It was a careless rather than a malevolent act. It came when Tipp were dominating but had fatally missed two easy goal chances and it turned the match. People will say that this was a gallant performance by Tipp and that their day will come. Bollocks, today their day came and they blew it. Dunne would be better emigrating to Australia now with all his close relations for he will endure daily recriminations from parish and county for the rest of his life.

CODA: Having watched the portion of the match I missed I still think the sending off was the turning point. It gave Kilkenny more space and more importantly more hope in a match that seemed to be slipping away from them. The penalty was a mistake by the ref but Kilkenny were making inroads at that stage - the tide had turned. After the penalty Tipp were deflated and beaten.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Moby Dick

I often find classics disappointing and either wade through them dutifully or plain give up. I remember failing miserably to finish the Brothers Karamazov because I kept getting confused about who was who - those Russian patronyms and everyone having multiple names. Anyway after enjoying In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbright, about the sinking of the whaling ship Essex by a giant sperm whale, I decided to check out Moby Dick - which Melville based partly on the Essex incident. And what a treat it was. I suppose I had expected something portentous and doom-laden, with Ahab a tragic existential figure. Instead you find that a lot of the book takes the piss out of him as do his unfortunate crew. There's a droll tone to the whole escapade - even the tragic conclusion seems but a merry jape. And the language, despite the many archaicisms, zips along like the whaling boat attached to Moby Dick. There's a modern feel to the way the author refers to his creation. At one stage we're told to pay attention as this is the most important chapter in the book. On another occasion he tells us that we should believe his story because of the real-life precedents that he can recount - these include the Essex's misadventure. The book is very good on the characters on board (Starbuck and Stubb), the logistics of whaling, the hierarchies of dining, and there's even a prolonged meditation on crow's nests (the lookout kind). The opening section on land is a bit tedious but once you climb on board the Pequod it's plain sailing. Buy it. Try it. You'll really like it.