Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2002, ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett is set during a birthday party for Japanese businessman Katsumi Hosokawa held in his honour at the vice-president’s mansion in an unnamed South American country. While entertainment is provided by renowned American opera singer Roxane Coss, the property is suddenly stormed by terrorists who had originally planned to kidnap the president. However, in his absence, they end up holding dozens of guests under house arrest for several months. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Music
‘The Noise of Time’ by Julian Barnes is a fictional account of the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the most famous Russian composers of the twentieth century. The novel focuses on three key points in his life at twelve-year intervals. In the first part, Shostakovich is waiting by a lift shaft expecting the secret police to take him away and interrogate him at The Big House during the height of the purges in 1936. In the second part, he travels to the United States to deliver a speech on behalf of the Soviet Union in 1948. In the final part set in 1960, he is asked to become a party member under Khrushchev. Continue reading
A couple of years ago, I really enjoyed reading Tracey Thorn’s memoir Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Became a Popstar about her career as a solo singer and one half of Everything But The Girl. Earlier this year, I went to see her in conversation with Xan Brooks about her latest book ‘Naked At the Albert Hall: The Inside Story of Singing’ at the Hay Festival. Rather than a second instalment of her memoir, it is a collection of Thorn’s more general thoughts and observations about singing which didn’t fit into the narrative of ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’.
On Saturday, my final day at the Hay Festival, I went to see Helen Macdonald deliver the Samuel Johnson Prize lecture at the Tata tent about ‘H is for Hawk‘ which has won both the Costa Book of the Year and Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction awards. ‘H is for Hawk’ was one of my favourite non-fiction books of 2014 and was the first memoir to win the Samuel Johnson Prize since its launch in 1999. The book comprises of three strands: Macdonald’s experiences of grief following the death of her father in 2007, her attempt to train a goshawk called Mabel and a biography of T. H. White. Her lecture focused on the former two aspects rather than T. H. White’s story. You can watch a clip of the event here where Macdonald describes meeting Mabel for the first time.
Even though I love music, I rarely seek out autobiographies or biographies about musicians. In fact, I don’t think I have read any books even vaguely related to music since starting this blog over eighteen months ago. However, I love love LOVE Tracey Thorn and was very excited to get hold of a copy of her memoir ‘Bedsit Disco Queen: How I grew up and tried to be a popstar’ at the library this week. If her writing was half as eloquent and understated as her songwriting, then I knew I would be in for a treat. Continue reading
The Mercury Prize (sorry, Barclaycard Mercury Prize) nominations are out. Here is the shortlist for this year’s prize:Richard Hawley: Standing At The Sky’s Edge Plan B: Ill Manors Alt-J: An Awesome Wave Django Django: Django Django The Maccabees: Given To The Wild Jessie Ware: Devotion Ben Howard: Every Kingdom Michael Kiwanuka: Home Again Lianne La Havas: Is Your Love Big Enough? Field Music: Plumb Roller Trio: Roller Trio Sam Lee: Ground Of Its Own
Admittedly, all of these records sound good at any time of year but they always remind me of the summer time 🙂
1) Weezer: The Blue Album (1994)
Teenage boy angst at its glorious best. Garage rock is synonymous with summertime in my mind. I played this record to death when I was fourteen when I wanted Rivers Cuomo to marry me (actually, I still do). I could easily have chosen ‘The Green Album’ for this list as well but the Blue Album is more consistent and has definitely stood the test of time eighteen years after it was first released. Geeks of the world, unite.
2) Best Coast: Crazy For You (2010)
Teenage girl angst at its glorious best. Everything about Best Coast from the band’s name, the cover of their debut album and all twelve tracks ooze California sun. Nostalgic, lazy and sunny, there aren’t exactly any major variations between each 2 minute song but why fix something when it ain’t broke?