Monday, 28 December 2009
Past the solstice, that 'hinge of the year' according to the divine Angela Carter 'when things do not fit together as well as they should', we hover in the twilight zone on the threshold of the New Year. It's a time for spinning fantasies and ghost stories, and by strange paths of picking up whatever book took my fancy - a luxury of this time - I've arrived at Rilke via Joseph Brodsky and Marina Tsvetayeva's 'Novogodnee', her New Year's Eve address to the then recently-deceased Rainer Maria. The enigmatic narratives of Chopin's mazurkas and nocturnes have been haunting me, too, now that I've heard them for the first time as complete sequences, courtesy of Ronald Smith and Garrick Ohlsson.
I've also finally taken the plunge, with some trepidation, into our good friend Anthony Gardner's first published novel, The Rivers of Heaven (jacket appropriately adorned with one of Luke Elwes's paintings), and emerged with magical pictures in my head. With the proviso that I don't have to write about anything here if I have doubts best left unexpressed, I can say wholeheartedly that it's an amazing piece of work. Dangerous and difficult indeed to try and define the journey of a newborn soul, not quite detached from the heavenly rivers; but Gardner pulls it off. There's a passage of poetic prose where the rivers are defined; and the interwoven stories of human interaction, deceit, false hopes and wrong paths taken work well, too. It's always amazing to find traits of a person one simply didn't know, and I blush to say that I recognise very little of the daylight Anthony we normally get to see in this. Awed respect to Mr. Gardner.
I keep coming back to the stories of Carter's Bloody Chamber, gleaning even greater pleasure from reading them aloud to J. I thought the 25th was germane to 'The Company of Wolves': 'Midnight; and the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves' birthday, the door of the solstice stands wide open; let them all sink through'.
Carter's Red Riding Hood, unlike Perrault's and Dore's, shows little fear of her vulpine adversary. I say no more; read it for yourselves. After the elegant vampire and werewolf stories, we're now back at 'The Courtship of Mr Lyon', and I have to say Carter makes a more concentrated job of Belle et la Bete than the fitfully poetic Cocteau film, which we watched between various Birdcages and - crying with laughter and tense with embarrassment - Bruno.
Finally, Entartete Musik brought my favourite film of all time, Fanny and Alexander, back into the foreground of memory. It's too soon to watch the whole thing again, but I was moved and delighted to find Uncle Isak's parable of the desert road on YouTube - a haunting liminal tale narrated by the wondrous Erland Josephson.
From the sublime to the self-indulgent: this is also the time for making lists. I've so far resisted any here, but the Arts Desk asked for our musical highs and lows of the 21st century's first decade. Having had no trouble providing two sets of top 10s, I started the lows and then thought, with a little prompting from the resident good angel, hell, no, why trash a sphere which has a hard enough time winning its place in the sun? And I'm not as funny as Igor in lambasting the bad. So I stuck to the positive and simply lamented several medias' attitude to 'classical music'.