The notion of the ‘books that built me’ is compelling for any passionately bookish person, but add an admired writer and a cocktail into the mix, as Mrs Trefusis has done, and you have a winning formula for an evening of literary delights. Continuing the unabating indulgence in Miller-mania, I attended The Books That Built Me: with Andy Miller who Mrs Trefusis described as the ‘the perfect author for this event’. My trepidation at the splendour of the venue (Cafe Royal) and my slight sheepishness at donning heels to listen to bookchat were soon quelled by the easy and engaging manner of Andy Miller and Mrs Trefusis, talking like old friends, comparing notes on past favourites, and at one point agreeing to disagree about the tone of a passage in À rebours. With his generosity of spirit, Andy Miller won over the room as he gave out his own copy of each of his selected books, but alas, the audience’s generosity only begrudgingly extended to complying with a collective cry of assertion (says she, fondly recalling the glory of those chants at Bookseller Crow). This third facet of the public Andy Miller (the first; performative: the second; artful) proved the pleasure, and surprising rarity, of hearing an opinion not just well articulated, but delivered with utter conviction and (mostly) with humility. The bit without humility? A confession about wanting to be right, and taking on (and taking down) Julian Barnes on his interpretation of Larkin – bloody brilliant. My last word: go and buy his book for the most sublime blend of comedy and artistry.
I was incredibly fortunate to stumble upon an exhibition of photography at Williams Art in Cambridge (attached to Hot Numbers). The exhibition involves the photographic work of two artists, and it considers the relationship between nature and the built environment. The photographs presented command attention, and I found myself sucked into the world of them – the horizons, the details, the sense of time held precariously in abeyance. The ability to quiet the mind is a rare, and currently elusive, gift – but Richard Fraser’s photographs seem to provide a living, breathing space for contemplation and peace. I was so moved, I bought two prints, and I don’t doubt that I’ll look to them, tirelessly, as a source of nourishment. There’s a reception tonight, Wednesday 6th August, to mark the occasion of the exhibition. Go, if you can: you won’t regret it!
Saw two excellent films this month. The first, Donnie Brasco, is apparently based on a true story of an FBI agent who goes so undercover with the Mafia that when his deceit is revealed, his criminal buddies don’t believe it. It’s a young and very talented Depp and an ever watchable Pacino. The second, brought about by U Cinema and the courageous efforts of Lisa Heledd Jones, was Next Goal Wins, charting the progress of the American Samoan team from their historical 31-0 defeat at Australia’s hands to their Brazil 2014 world cup qualification campaign. The people that the film allows us to meet are extraordinary, and the window it provides on a culture that embraces a third gender as intrinsic to its values and heritage is humbling and awesome.
Continuing to etch more marks on the Booker bedpost, I conquered Something To Answer For by P. H. Newby (1969, first prize winner) and I finally finished The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004) after many years of trying. I topped that with Keith Roberts’ dystopian novel Molly Zero, which is probably only the second novel I’ve read in the second person (the first was only written in second person in part). Three doesn’t seem like a great tale for a month, but I have started some beasts from the List of Betterment.
This month’s crowd funding was a pledge of a £1 a week to support a vital role at Arts Emergency, whose mission it is to serve those who are marginalised and neglected under the current administration and economic climate, to expound the virtues of an arts education and to shout loudly about access to an arts education being a right, not a privilege. They do some mighty fine work, and I’m signed up as a mentor, so hope to be able to support an young person myself and repay the attention and belief I received when I was young.
Next month holds Boyhood, two bookclub discussions involving a lot of cock, more Booker progress, Barbara Kruger, Moomins and Why Books Matter. Exciting!