Friday, May 24, 2019
Sex, Spider-Man and the hubris of being a writer
Sarah Bruni, Adelle Waldman, Alissa Nutting and Periel Aschenbrand talk about writing in very few words
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Why are we so obsessed with young, successful people like Sally Rooney?
The author’s achievements are considerable – but it’s her talent that matters, not her age
Monday 14 January 2019
hen 27-year-old novelist Sally Rooney became the youngest-ever winner of the Costa Book Prize last week, it was to deafening cheers of critical acclaim that have characterised her brief career. Rooney has already been heralded as “the first great millennial novelist”, and a “Salinger for the Snapchat generation”. And these Snapchatting millennials have since been overwhelming booksellers in the rush to read their author, prompting shops to advertise that they still have copies of her novel, Normal People, in stock. Yet, for all her obvious talent, the fanfare around Rooney’s award made this millennial’s heart sink slightly.
The slightly frenzied reaction to Rooney seems to be symptomatic of the way we now greet achievements by young people. Last year, another 27-year-old author, Daisy Johnson, became the youngest person to be shortlisted for the Man Booker prize for her debut novel, Everything Under. Likewise, some of 17-year-old Autumn de Forest’s expressionist paintings have been valued at $7m (£5.5m), poet Ocean Vuong was only 28 when he won the TS Eliot prizefor his debut collection in 2017, and Christopher Paolini published the first of his bestselling Inheritance series when he was in his teens. It seems we increasingly celebrate youthfulness as a marker of success in and of itself; Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 list began in 2017. This year’s cohort includes 11-year-old designer Kheris Rogers and seven-year-old “activist” Havana Chapman-Edwards.
Rooney, Johnson and their contemporaries’ acclaim might be well-deserved, but our obsession with publicising youthful achievement has consequences. Anne Helen Petersen’s article on millennial burnout went viral last week for its critique of how the precarious economic environment has led to what she describes as “errand paralysis” in millennials; the pressures to succeed at work and in our personal lives – perhaps with stories of 20-something geniuses at the backs of our minds – leave us unable to undertake even the simplest of tasks.
|‘Poet Ocean Vuong was only 28 when he won the TS Eliot prize for his debut collection in 2017.’ Photograph: Adrian Pope|
The moral of these examples is out of kilter with the times, and hugely inspiring. It’s not “if you’re lucky enough you’ll be born brilliant”, but “keep plugging away and you’ll eventually find the success you deserve”.
The effects of the fetishisation of youth aren’t just felt by onlookers. For the prodigies themselves, the blaze of publicity isn’t always benign. The traumas of child stars such as Michael Jackson have been well documented, but last year we were reminded of Lauryn Hill, whose critically acclaimed debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was released 20 years earlier, when she was 23. It was her only solo album. And after the enormous success of his debut in 1987 at 25 years old, Terence Trent D’Arby claimed recently he has been left with PTSD .
I’m not saying we should discourage youthful achievement – but perhaps we ought not to capitalise on it so aggressively when it occurs. The “race to success” is not always worth winning. We should listen to Rose Wylie: “It shouldn’t be about age or gender or anything, it should just be about the quality” – of the work, the life lived, the quieter moments.
• Ammar Kalia is a Guardian journalist and holder of a Scott Trust bursary
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Sex and the open stacks
By Kathy Wilson
Ah, the public library circa 1982. The workhorse institution of the community, a perpetually underfunded repository of stuffy reference books, underpaid librarians, used book sales, tax forms, broken microfiche readers -- and pornography.
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Friday, December 30, 2011
My first meeting with Brian was during the 1960s, when as art director of Woman’s Mirror, I commissioned him to illustrate a ten-part serial for the magazine. During the past year we have renewed our acquaintanceship becoming friends, and realizing that we have much history in common.
Educated at St Olave’s Grammar School, which then stood at the foot of London’s Tower Bridge, Brian spent much of his final year life drawing and painting at the Sir John Cass College of Art, less than a mile away on the other side of the river. He was offered a place at the Slade School of Art, but because of family circumstances he went to work in an advertising agency.
Quickly learning that most of its artwork was commissioned from two London artists’ agents, he joined one of them as a ‘gofer’. Artist Partners exposed him to sixty world-class artists and photographers and their work. He owes much to the help that many of them gave him.
|Brian Sanders, a veteran of the golden era of magazine illustration, with his “Mad Men” drawing.|
March 10, 2013
In the five seasons that “Mad Men” has been on television that celebrated series set in the art-directed world of 1960s advertising has never marketed itself the way a ’60s ad man most certainly would have: by calling in a hotshot illustrator to do the job.
Monday, May 20, 2019
|Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol outside the Mary Boone Gallery, New York, 3 May 1984.|
Photograph: The Andy Warhol Foundation
Andy Warhol's friendship with Jean-Michel Basquiat revealed in 400 unseen photos
Book offers ‘voyeuristic glimpse’ into the two artists’ lives with hundreds of Warhol’s images and diary entries
Monday 20 May 2019
A“voyeuristic” glimpse into the world of two of the late 20th century’s greatest artists is to be revealed in a book that finally brings to light some of the 130,000 photographs that Andy Warholtook to document every aspect of his life.
More than 32 years after Warhol’s death, hundreds of his photographs are set to reveal the minutiae of his friendship with fellow artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, capturing many moments together – whether partying, getting their nails painted, or even, for Basquiat, while in the depths of depression facing suicidal thoughts.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Is Arya Death? The questions we need answered in Game of Throne
The saga comes to a close in what promises to be an epic finale. But who will kill Daenerys, will Bran warg again – and are the White Walkers gone for good?
Warning: this article contains spoilers.
Many of the big season eight questions have already been answered, like how the White Walkers are defeated, how Cersei bites the dust, and whether or not the showrunners knew where they were going all along. After a, shall we say, divisive penultimate episode, we are left with a deeply twisted happily-ever-after – the exiled ‘rightful’ queen Daenerys has claimed the throne, ready to rid Westeros of tyrants. Unfortunately, she blew everything up in the process. Where does that leave us for the finale? Here are the questions that still need to be answered.
Friday, May 17, 2019
by Alice Munro
Fifty years ago, Grace and Avie were waiting at the university gates, in the freezing cold. A bus would come eventually, and take them north, through the dark, thinly populated countryside, to their homes. Forty miles to go for Avie, maybe twice that for Grace. They were carrying large books with solemn titles: “The Medieval World,” “Montcalm and Wolfe,” “The Jesuit Relations.”
This was mostly to establish themselves as serious students, which they were. But once they got home they would probably not have time for such things. They were both farm girls, who knew how to scrub floors and milk cows. Their labor as soon as they entered the house—or the barn—belonged to their families.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
I took this photograph of Nina Bawden’s copy of the first edition of her novel “The Birds on the Trees”, sitting on the green velvet armchair in her quiet study at the back of the old terrace where she lives next to the canal in Islington. Several weeks ago, I wrote a pen portrait of Nina Bawden to celebrate her nomination for The Lost Booker Prize of 1970 and now I am delighted to report that she has been shortlisted for the award, which will be decided by an online public vote closing at the end of this month.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
A Home at the End of the World (2004)
21 Jul 2004
In Cleveland, 1967, cute-as-can-be Bobby Morrow (Andrew Chalmers as a nine-year-old) comes to self-consciousness with the help of his brother Carlton (Ryan Donowho). Or maybe more precisely, he comes to realize the world is a wildly beautiful and unpredictable place. Here he as likely to view his first sex scene (via Carlton's unlocked door: "It's just love, man, it's nothing to fear") as to have his mind expanded (via Carlton's LSD) or his heart broken (via an unexpected and quite brutal death). Wide-eyed and apparently cherubic (his favorite grave marker in the local cemetery is the angel), the child absorbs his lessons serenely, a proverbial blank screen onto which you're invited to project your own desires.
Unfortunately, Bobby's vagueness tends to be more tiresome than inspiring. This despite the fact that, after a few scenes as a 15-year-old (played by Erik Smith), he grows up to be Colin Farrell, whose full frontal has already-famously been cut from the finished film ("Too distracting" is the filmmakers' reported rationale). And, aside from this bit of promotional detail, A Home at the End of the World, written by Michael (The Hours) Cunningham from his novel, is doesn't have so much to frame its central character. The movie doesn't quite translate the book's lyrical internal monologues to embodied characters. Bobby's naïveté grants him a blithe ignorance of anything outside his narrow existence, everyone around him admires, resents, adores, resent and lusts after him, usually all at once. As complicated and intriguing as such a range of responses might sound, A Home at the End of the World, directed by Michael Mayer, doesn't provide much in the way of motivation for any of them. Why do all Bobby's acquaintances (okay, three characters) fall all over themselves to be in love with him?
Sunday, May 12, 2019
The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs review – a skilful dance between timesJames Joyce’s daughter struggles to align her relationships with her gift for movement
Sunday 12 June 2016
Dancing, declares Lucia, is “the most important thing in my life” and she has a great gift for it, evoking the euphoria of performing before a rapturous audience. Dancing was her “lifebelt”, but when distracted from her vocation, manacled to her father as his muse and fatally attracted to his protege Samuel Beckett, she starts sinking.
Here is a powerful portrait of a young woman yearning to be an artist, whose passion for life – and rage at being unable to fulfil her talent – burns from the pages.
The Joyce Girl is published by Impress
Saturday, May 11, 2019
Colm Tóibín on testicular cancer: ‘It all started with my balls’
Step by painful step, the novelist has written about his diagnosis, agony and treatment
Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 14:15
A good writer loves a good intro. Colm Tóibín begins his story: “It all started with my balls.” What follows is an account of being diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer, in an 8,500-word article just published in the London Review of Books.
Tóibín writes clearly and dispassionately, with detail, gently humorous self-deprecation and frequent literary references, about his experience.
It starts lightly. He initially thought his testicular pain was caused by heavy keys in his pocket; after some internet research he self-diagnosed it as a hydrocele, or harmless swelling, which didn’t worry him . “Had I been sure how to pronounce it, I might even have started to boast about it.”
Thursday, May 9, 2019
“It isn’t a good thing to have the money concentrated all in the one family, the way you do in a place like this,” Mr. Carlton said. “I mean, for a girl like my daughter Corrie here. For example, I mean, like her. It isn’t good. Nobody on the same level.”
Corrie was right across the table, looking their guest in the eye. She seemed to think this was funny.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
|Man in night|
by Maria Karalyos
Strangers in the night
The only women he feels happy with are prostitutes. But the price he's paying is higher than he knows
Sunday 15 February 2004
I am 40 and have never had a long-term serious relationship with a woman. The relationships I have had have been very mixed - those in which I met the women socially and got to know them as friends initially were a lot more successful than those I met through personal ads in newspapers.
I find myself going to clubs and just standing there all night, not having the nerve to talk to women. I have resorted to prostitutes and sex phone lines to try to get some sexual closeness without having to make the effort to get to know people. I went to a counsellor, but I ended up not telling her when I continued to use the sex lines and internet sex sites. I know the answer lies in me beginning to be more positive about myself and not being frightened to fail. I hope to ask my doctor to recommend me for more counselling. I just wonder if there are many men in my position, and what you might suggest.You're lucky I'm not single any more, or you'd be in for a savaging. I don't want to burst your bubble, but guys like you are 10 a penny in the dog-eat-dog world of the dating singleton - afraid of intimacy, incapable of commitment, unable to view women as real people, only able to see sex as a conquest and never as an essential part of a blossoming relationship. You ask me if there are many men in your position; you better believe it. Though why that would be of any comfort to you is a trifle disconcerting. There are plenty of men out there, publicly jubilant that they've managed to stay emotionally unattached for so long, but in the privacy of their homes surfing internet chat rooms and porn sites while cradling their Pot Noodles and wondering why their lives feel empty and lonely.
I'm not tarring you entirely with the same brush. Instead, I suspect there's just a light undercoat of that form of dysfunction, making it hard to distinguish between you and the truly hopeless cases. You have attempted to seek help, even if you decided to lie to your counsellor. You are not alone in that course of action either. Generally speaking, the human desire to be liked far exceeds the human desire to be understood. Hence the reason people spend fortunes in therapy trying to get their shrink on their side. I had a friend once who used to tie herself up in knots conjuring up interesting things to say to her therapist in order to keep him amused for the full hour and avoiding what she described as 'awful silences'. She wasn't at all impressed with my suggestion that the silences were there to provide time for contemplation. Anyway, you didn't help your counsellor and, in turn, she was unable to help you.
It's clear from your letter that you're aware of your shortcomings. Now you just need to stop acting like an idiot when it comes to your behaviour towards women. You're a smart guy, you know that the road to fulfilment doesn't lie in prostitutes and phone sex lines. Your current behaviour is committing you to a lifestyle where intimacy and real emotional contact are both absent. I'm sure you are aware that this is not the route to happiness or a fulfilling (and, indeed, less costly) sex life. You don't sound like the sort of man who is insensitive or misguided enough to let that happen.
This may be a step too far for you, but have you thought about giving up sex, let's say for six months? So far, it doesn't seem to be getting you anywhere you really want to go. You talk about a fear of failure, but if you're not out for a result then you can't fail, can you? By backing out of the business of seduction for a while you may find the process of getting to know the opposite sex takes on less onerous dimensions. Try communicating without focusing on an end goal and you might actually find you can form relationships (I mean friendly relationships) without failure as an option.
It's time for a radical rethink of your approach to womankind. You are being shortchanged if all you're using us for is sex. We're perfectly capable of putting on a good show in the sack, but we can also be amusing, loving, caring friends. Often, you don't even need to take your pants off to enjoy those latter delights. You are deluding yourself if you think you are achieving sexual closeness with strangers - that's just your basic, rudimentary sex. Getting to know people doesn't require that much effort. All it takes is a readjustment of your priorities and a little bit of Dutch courage.
I suspect you're in for a pleasant surprise.