Saturday, July 17, 2010

My hero / Charles Schulz

Charles Schulz

My hero Charles Schulz 

by Jenny Colgan

'He combined artistic talent, a huge sense of being the underdog, a wry, bittersweet sense of humour, and an extraordinary work ethic' 

Jenny Colgan
Saturday 17 July 2010 00.04 BST

Charl Schulz first noticed there was something unusual about his son Charles when he noticed him, aged two, drawing everything he passed with his finger in the condensation of the trolleybus window. Some gifts you're just born with. Charles "Sparky" Schulz combined artistic talent, a huge sense of being the underdog (which he retained well into his first $100m), a wry, bittersweet sense of humour, and an extraordinary work ethic.
Like many others I was raised on Peanuts and adored it. I grew up on Lucy never letting Charlie Brown get a kick of that ball; on kite-eating trees; Great Pumpkins; horrible summer camps; and dogs who get a lot of publishing rejection letters (a concept with which I was to become familiar). It gave me a vision of America – as pleasant and convivial, but with sharp undercurrents – that I am convinced remains accurate.
I didn't know then that Schulz had, in the face of threats and criticism, quietly integrated Charlie Brown's black friend Franklin into school. I didn't know he was one of the first people to mark VE Day (Snoopy always has a root beer with his army friend, Bill). I didn't even appreciate Schulz's mastery of line until much later – just look at his beautifully articulated raindrops. But I knew it was brilliant.
There was only onheir comic strips that day.
His work is touching, funny and sad. Like many overachievers, Schulz lost a parent early – his mother, just as he received his call-up papers; he was 17. She was from a stern Scandinavian family with whom he never felt at home and rarely saw in later life. In fact, he took just one thing from his European roots: the Norwegian term of endearment his mother used for him as a child – Snupie Charles Schulz. When he died in 2000, more than 100 cartoonists paid tribute to him in t


Friday, July 16, 2010

Joss Stone to star in James Bond computer game

Joss Stone
A digital version of Stone will star as the femme fatale Nicole Hunter in James Bond 007: Blood Stone, the agent's new video game.
Speaking at the game's London launch, Stone said: ''I'm the first Bond girl from the West Country - instead of Martini in my glass I'm drinking cider and nobody will ever know.
And the singer pointed out: ''I'm the first Bond girl with a nose ring.''
The Brit Award-winning artist has also penned an original song for the game with Eurythmics star Dave Stewart - swapping her R&B sound for something more ''Shirley Bassey'', she said.
''Oh my God, Shirley Bassey rocks and nobody will ever get to there,'' Stone said.
''She's really powerful but there's no ad-libbing or warbling because it wasn't needed. I was just inspired by her and I tried to sing it in a really straight, powerful way.
''But I haven't really got a big voice like Christina Aguilera or somebody, it's trickery, I'm just loud and I can fake it a little bit.''
Stone said she played her Bond girl a ''bit like a posh version of Paris Hilton''.
The game is not her first acting role. She has previously played ''the ugliest woman in Europe'' - Anne of Cleaves - in BBC2's The Tudors, so a Bond girl was an ''ego boost''.
''I would love, love, love to be Bond's girl in the next film,'' she said.
''Obviously that would never happen, but I would love to do more acting, it's basically dressing up and making pretend, it's what little kids do, it's a right laugh.''
She was disappointed she did not meet Daniel Craig - who stars as the voice of 007 in the new game, as he does on screen - as she finds him ''incredibly hot''.
Blood Stone also features the voice of Dame Judi Dench as M and GoldenEye screenwriter Bruce Feirstein wrote the storyline for the game.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone will be in shops this Christmas for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.





Saturday, July 10, 2010

My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd

Beryl Bainbridge, photographed for the Guardian by Eamonn McCabe

My hero: Beryl Bainbridge 

by Michael Holroyd Rankin

'Beryl was sensitive and vulnerable, but usually concealed this under a cloak of eccentricity. Her novels show us a dangerous world seen through the eyes of a supreme comedian'

Michael Holroy
Saturday 10 July 2010


got to know Beryl Bainbridge during a writers' tour of north-east England – not that Beryl gave any sign of knowing where we were (though it was obviously not London, she admitted, or Liverpool). What interested her were her fellow writers. Before the train had reached its destination she knew everything about us, it seemed, and what she did not know she invented. By the end of our tour – one of mingled tragedy and farce – I had fallen for her and so had we all. It was as if we had been released from a commonplace world and become characters in her early novels.

I used to see her fairly regularly at her house in London, squeezing my way past the enormous water buffalo that guarded her in the narrow passage just inside the front door. All her friends, I think, were quite thin. The rooms in her house were like sets for a gothic melodrama and suggested some terrible atrocity which had recently taken place, the evidence of which she had not had time to hide. But Beryl herself, sitting calmly at the centre of this sinister confusion, was a picture of the innocent at home.
In addition to her family, she had a few dashing escorts whom she called her "fiancés" and who were bold enough to keep pace with her drinking at literary parties. She would occasionally invite us all to Duckworth, her publisher. Once she asked me to give her some advice, having become worried at the number of books she was selling – too many, she complained. Her contracts were unusual, giving her a smaller percentage of royalties the more she sold.
Beryl was sensitive and vulnerable, but usually concealed this under a cloak of eccentricity. Her novels, particularly those with an autobiographical source, show us a dangerous world seen through the eyes of a supreme comedian. They are full of bizarre happenings overtaking ordinary people, and though hilarious they tend to end unhappily. She was a true original and her novels were essential reading for me. They still are.







Friday, July 9, 2010

Digested classics / Possession by AS Byatt


Possession by AS Byatt

Vintage Classics, £7.99

John Crace
Fri 9 Jul 2010

oland Michell gave his credentials; part-time research assistant to Professor Blackadder, who had been editing the Complete Works of the Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash since 1951. In return, the librarian handed over one of Ash's volumes and Roland retreated to one of the dustier recesses of the London Library. On opening the book, he found two sheets of paper.

Dear Madam, Since our unexpected conversation at Crabb's breakfast table, I have thought of little else but English myth and dull literary allusion, of interest to no one but writers who take themselves far too seriously. We must speak again.
Very interesting, thought Roland. It cannot be Miss Byatt to whom Ash addressed this correspondence, for though the sentiments may fit, post-modernism was not a trait associated with Byatt and other Victorians. He placed the letters in his jacket pocket and went home.
"Did you have another boring day?" inquired the nondescript Val of her equally nondescript partner. To have called them lovers would have spoken of a depth of emotion not to be found in this book.
"Indeed I did," Roland replied. "And you?"
"Oh yes. Working for a solicitor is most satisfactorily dreary."

"It is perhaps unfortunate that all of us present day characters should have been made into two-dimensional academic stereotypes," said Professor Blackadder as Roland entered his office.
"That would certainly explain why no one ever mentions you have the same name as Rowan Atkinson's character in the television comedy series," Roland answered.
"Good Lord," AS Byatt exclaimed. "What's a television?"
Roland knew it was incumbent on him to inform the professor of his find, yet he chose to keep it to himself, electing instead to seek out the more superficial help of Fergus Wolf, the blond departmental Love God.
"Um, I was wondering if you could give me a hand," enquired Roland. "It seems that Ash may have met a woman at one of Crabb's salons. It can only have been the little-known poet, Christabel La Motte. Do you know anything about her?"

"Not a lot. Except I shagged Maud Bailey, the only academic specialising on her work, at a Lacanian conference on Feminist Semiotics in Victorian Poetry. She was a bit of a goer – ooh er, know what I mean. Everyone thought she was a lezzer, just like Christabel."

Deep in the temperature-controlled vault of the Randolph Henry Ash Centre at the University of American Caricature, Professor Martin Cropper let out an evil laugh. "Mwa-ha-ha. By hook or by crook, I shall own every Ash artefact come what may."
Roland knocked gently on the door of the Women's Studies department at Lincoln University. "Come in to my garden," said Maud, tucking her blonde hair into a head scarf in case she may be thought attractive. "So what do you think of Christabel's poetry?"
"At the risk of simplyfing the scansion / It reads a bit like Emily Dickinson," said Roland.
"Bravo," cried AS Byatt from afar, admiring her own genius.
"Excellent," said Maud. "Now it so happens I am conveniently distantly related to the La Mottes, so perhaps you might accompany me to Seal Court, where Christabel lived out her final years in solitude. Though I doubt we shall gain access, as the present owners, Sir George and Lady Joan Bailey are extremely unfriendly."
"Thank you for preventing my wheelchair from o'er turning," said Lady Joan. "However can I repay you?"
"You could let us have a rummage around for some correspondence," replied Roland. "But where to start looking?"
"Remember the lines from Mesulina," Maud exclaimed. "'For those who come searching, long after I'm dead / I've hidden the letters under the bed.'" They raced upstairs. There they were; a host of golden epistles!
My dear, The fire of Prometheus blazes deep within me, Your friend Randolph.
My dear, It is quite awkward what with my house mate, Blanche Glover, and all that, Your friend Christabel.
My dear, Hyperion's blessings fall on Albion / As my poems drone on and on / Pray read my epic Swammerdam / And let me pierce your bearded clam, Your ardent friend, Randolph.
My dear, The wonders of your verse /Would be greater if more terse. But I'll meet you anyway, Love Christabel.
My dear, I don't know why you suddenly want all your letters back and for me to contact you no more, but I shall do as you say, Yours RH Ash.
"Gosh," gasped Maud. "Scholars will have to rethink the history of Victorian Romantic poetry. It appears Ash was not devotedly uxorious to his wife Ellen and that Christabel may not have been a lesbian feminist icon.
"See the parallels in Ash's and Christabel's poems. In Ash, we find: 'Like ancient varnish runs deep / In darkest dales of tangled bushes and in Christabel, An ash I take into my mouth / As soon as I am north of Louth'. Ash did not go alone unto Yorkshire as we thought! This is why Blanche committed suicide! Perhaps we will turn up some more documents if we look hard.
"Count on it," smiled AS Byatt, "for I cannot resist showing off my ventriloquist talents."
The Journal of RH Ash. By Apollo's swollen Penisneid! Awoke to find Christabel's blood on my thighs. Perhaps Blanche does not have a dildo after all. Now Christabel has fled, wither I know not.
The Secret Diary of Ellen Ash, aged 43 and three-quarters. Randolph has come back from Yorkshire. He went with that bint but I'm not going to say another word as he's come back without her.
The Even More Secret diary of Sabine, aged 17 and two-thirds. Zut alors, ma cousine Anglaise Christabel 'as cerm to stay wiz us. She is vair obviously pregnant. Mais non! She has disparue and come back wizout ze bebe.
"It is so exciting to be on this literary trail with you," said Maud, "especially as you aren't interested in the grubby sex thing."
"Good God, no," exclaimed Roland. "Literary marginalia are far more stimulating."
"But if you fancied a bunk-up, you could have one."
"As long as we can still read poetry to one another."
"There's no time for that. AS Byatt has wasted so much time showing off her erudition, we're going to have wrap the book up in an 80-page Harry Potter romp."
Roland returned to his flat to see Val. "I'm sorry it didn't work out with you," he said, "I've been a bit Possessed."
"Don't worry," Val replied. "I've hooked up with a solicitor who coincidentally just happens to be handling the gripping issue of who keeps the letters. Hurry, there's not a moment to lose. Mortimer Cropper is plotting to illegally exhume Ash's body and retrieve the missing items Ellen placed in her coffin."
"Mwa-ha-ha, soon everything will be mine," cried Cropper, as a gothic storm broke and a yew tree pinned him to the ground.
"Not so fast," said Maud, Roland, Blackadder, Val and the Coincidental Solicitor, as they discovered a last letter from Christabel that Ellen had concealed. "I kept the baby and she's being brought up by my sis. Don't worry she's not being made to read your ghastly poetry, love and kisses C."
"So you are a direct descendant of Christabel, Maud," everyone gasped. "Then the letters are legally yours."
"Thrice darn it," snarled Cropper.
"Gosh," said Roland, "I've been offered a new job. Which is quite nice. Perhaps we should do the sex thing a bit more."
Randolph Ash rolled in his grave. "For what it's worth, I did know about my daughter, but Christabel never got my message. Hey ho, some events vanish without trace." But by then, no one was listening so no one would ever know.