Book Review: “The Sellout” By Paul Beatty

The Sellout

Man Booker Prize Winner 2016

By Paul Beatty

the-sellout

Sometimes you know a book is good when you can’t stop thinking about it because you were so drawn into its world. Sometimes you know a book is good because it made you feel empowered. Sometimes you know a book is good because you really have very little notion what’s going on half the time. That’s how I felt when I was reading The Sellout by Paul Beatty. But in the best way possible.

There are ideas at work in this novel that are constantly clashing and rehashing the world it is creating and the world it is ripping off. This is an attack on American culture and racism and the page is his battlefield and the words are his foot soldiers. And the ideas are packed together so densely as to make resistance futile.

There were times when the sheer ridiculous made me laugh out loud. Other passages would glide over the surface of my consciousness, looking for in but finding none. Most of the time, I felt like I wasn’t, couldn’t “get” the joke. There is so much represented here that is completely alien to me. I have no idea what life is like in the poverty stricken regions of American ghetto towns. (I don’t think watching The Wire counts.) I’m a privileged white women living just down the road from Windsor Castle, for goodness sake. And reading this book doesn’t exactly make me feel ashamed of my ignorance, more curious about what I have unconsciously accepted about race perception in my own culture. The ingrained racism that is everywhere and that most millennials fail to see or understand is both evidence of society trying to move forward by “not seeing colour” and also a complete lack of real world understanding – of course we’re different colours. Equality: a pure idea; really fucking difficult to implement.

“In attempting to restore his community through reintroducing precepts, namely segregation and slavery, that, given his cultural history, have come to define his community despite the supposed unconstitutionality and nonexistence of these concepts, he’s pointed out  a fundamental flaw in how we as Americans claim we see equality. ‘I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, red, green or purple.’ We’ve all said it. Posited as proof of our nonprejudicial ways, but if you painted any of us purple or green, we’d be mad as hell.”

I honestly feel like I have neither the life experience nor the intelligence to understand the incredibly complex and challenging ideas playing out in this novel. I feel like a 5-year-old trying to read To Kill a Mockingbird without the aid of a secondary school teacher to explain what an extended metaphor or a microcosm is. But this is so much more than microcosm and far more complicated.

I know that this book deserves at least your first reading … and my second reading.

“Unmitigated Blackness is essays passing for fiction. It’s the realization that there are no absolutes, except when there are. It’s the acceptance of contradiction not being a sin and a crime but a human frailty like split ends and libertarianism. Unmitigated Blackness is coming to the realization that as fucked up and meaningless as it all is, sometimes it’s the nihilism that makes life worth living.”

And if Beatty wrote this before Trump came to power, just think what he’ll have in the tank next.

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Re“Vamp”ing The Classics: Book Vs. Screen

For anyone who missed it being published on Clamour’s website, here’s the article again (Click here to view on Clamour):

 

Are we too precious about the classics, or is the literary canon being sullied by modern adaptation and blasphemous reinvention?

Is this a question of artistic integrity or snobbery? Or is it nothing so high-flown, and merely a signal for change in social approaches to literature and the arts in general? In an age where the big screen is constantly beating books in the popularity contest, the relationship between these two art forms is changing. Slap a new cover on an old book, with the familiar faces of a recent screen adaptation, and that book will fly off the shelves that before had only been gathering dust.

Two recent examples that have undergone a screen ‘revamp’ are “War & Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, in the much acclaimed BBC adaptation in January of this year, and the Jane Austen inspired “Pride & Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith, released as a feature film in February.

book v screen V1 small

Reworking literature is not a new idea. Satire has always existed, ever since there were people making art, from Ancient Greece to the present day. Satire, parody, homage and pastiche – the oldest forms of criticism or veneration. What, then, makes these two examples of particular interest? What new trend are they evidencing? Continue reading

Book Review: “The Noise of Time” by Julian Barnes

 

The Noise of Time

By Julian Barnes

noise of time book

5-stars

I was already a fan of Julian Barnes before I read this book. But I was familiar with his more overtly humourous titles – “Flaubert’s Parrot” and “A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters”. While this new novel is still unmistakably stamped with Barnes’ wry style, it is of a blacker kind than I had previously encountered.

“The Noise of Time” tells the story of real life Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, during the twists and turns of the Russian Revolution. It is a tale of one man’s struggle, and the problem of artistic freedom versus artistic integrity. You might think – or hope – that the first will bring about the second. If the artist is free to create as he wishes, then surely what he produces will, if he possibly can, be naturally something with integrity. Not so, when the grip of Communism has so thoroughly distorted the nature of what it means to be free.

“Let Power have the words, because words cannot sustain music. Music escapes from words: that is its purpose, and its majesty.”

The distortion of language, of terms like freedom and truth, make the role of musician in our historical protagonist an interesting lens through which to view Russia at that time. Even if words have been betrayed, perhaps there is still hope for music. Perhaps music can be heard above the din of propoganda, and deliver secret messages to those willing to hear. But if Shostakovich’s music could reach worthy ears, would political “truths” and the ghastly practise of Revisionism so dismantle the Russian landscape and its people, that both the man and his music would be drowned out by the noise of time?

And in amongst the big political and cultural questions Continue reading

Cinderella Pantomime Tour – Christmas 2015

A touring pantomime of “Cinderella” around care homes and primary schools. No one could ever say this job was easy.

We played to audiences who were asleep; dementia patients, who heckled vehemently; special needs patients, who grabbed performers mid-song; crying women; cheeky men; bored carers; unhelpful carers; rude carers; delightful carers; enthusiastic carers; over-enthusiastic carers; the most noble people I’ve ever met.

We played to unimpressed pre-teens; precocious 7-year-olds; wannabe drama queens; excited children; shy children; loud children; quiet children; happy teachers; grumpy teachers;  inspiring teachers.

We had some great shows and we had some difficult shows.

Long days, difficult audiences and far too many hours spent in the car with two people I had never met before. This tour had the potential to be absolute hell. But it wasn’t.

My two fellow panto-makers made this tour a joy from start to finish. Our beautiful, honey-voiced Cinderella, Kate Izzard, and my partner in ridiculous panto crime, George Francis, brought this show to life in a way that I couldn’t have expected. No one expects fireworks with this kind of tour. Mediocre is the order of the day. But we put our heart and soul into every show, no matter how strung out we felt. Come rain, shine, or seemingly perpetual darkness, we followed our satnav to destinations unknown, put up our little curtain and jumped in front of it with verve and vigour. We brought joy to hundreds of children and residents.

Bad jokes, smelly costumes, Continue reading

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Silliness with a Hint of Genius

Edinburgh Fringe flashback for you!

Update on this year’s romping coming soon!

Enjoy the Fringe everyone!

Alphabetty Spaghetty

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: a month wherein an entire city is transformed into a performer’s playground.  Any and every free space in which an audience can be squeezed, will be squeezed. Magic, performance art, circus acts, dance, music, theatre, comedy… basically, much like Rule 34, if something exists, there will be somewhere to see it in Edinburgh.

Besides being the biggest arts festival in the world, it is also the festival of needless accessories, vibrant hairstyles and one too many piercings. If you’ve ever tried to spot an arts student on a university campus, you’ll know the kind of fashion choices I mean. It’s the kind of fashion choice that screams “I’m quirky, deal with it! And I don’t care that my interesting accessory is by all counts more of a hindrance to everyday life than it is visually appealing!” (NB: I am in no way exempting myself from this…

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Impolitic

I have a confession to make: I am 21 years old and I have never voted in a general election. Or any election for that matter. I know: throw me in the stocks and pelt me with rotten vegetables. I’m one of them. That’s what many of you will be thinking. That is unless you are, like me, one of millions who have failed to cast a vote in recent years.

Why haven’t I voted? A myriad of reasons (none of which is ever good enough to excuse my continual lethargy), principle of which is this: I do not understand politics. Voting blindly based on who my parents or friends vote for is not something I see as an option. If I’m going to vote, I will do so based on what I believe in.

I can snigger half-heartedly at satirical TV panel shows, because I know that’s what we’re supposed to do. I’ve been trained to laugh at politicians from an early age. I snigger because the basics have been made plain to me: Tories are selfish, upper class twits, Labour don’t know how to look after money and the Lib Dems tried to please everyone and failed. These are the major parties as I have been given to understand them by the likes of Ian Hislop and Frankie Boyle. As for the other parties, hardly any registered on the radar until recently. The Green Party and UKIP, previously stuck in the political paddling pool, are now dipping their toes into the Olympic pool and everyone is uproar about the implications. All this I express with the utmost disassociation: these are not my opinions. This is merely what I have gleaned from my own extremely narrow experience of politics. So I can snigger at a comedian’s jibe because I know that politicians are to be laughed at. That’s what I have been taught and what the majority of popular culture perpetuates.

I have never taken the trouble to understand it and that is my own fault.

But I have made a decision: I am going to change that.

Step one:

Register to Vote

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote (So should all of you, Follow That Link!)

In the lead up to the 2015 UK General Election, I am going to educate myself in the mysterious and confusing ways of politics. I no longer want to be in the condemned section of the pie chart labelled “Non-voters” that seems only to grown. I no longer want to be counted in one of the worst groups of offenders: Young People. My age bracket needs a kick and I’m starting with myself.

Organised Spontaneity…

Organised Spontaneity: The magic of film and theatre. You organise a place and time. You arrive, buy some popcorn, take your seat and wait for something to happen…

It is a sad fact for those who devote their lives to this industry, that the magic is diminished by their very involvement in it. By knowing too much of the process, it becomes difficult to let the magic happen without analysing it.

But then, sometimes, the magic jumps right back in.

*     *     *     *     *

I volunteered to help out on a film set last weekend. For anyone reading this who assumes the words “film set” mean something glamorous and thrilling, let me dispel the illusion: this is rarely the case. Nothing extravagant, no notable names or fancy locations: a small “hipster-ish” bar not far from London Bridge, a small cast and crew, and a few friends helping out, on a cold and windy day in January.

The majority of our time was spent on the small, open roof terrace. With little to protect us from the elements and intrusive noise from the building works close by, it wasn’t the cosiest of settings. It didn’t take long for people to engage in their own personal warm-up routines between takes; what I shall refer to as The Warm-Up Shimmy soon becoming a popular choice among cast and crew alike.

The most anticipated scene to be filmed was the first meeting of two female leads who quickly fall for each other. You might have thought that the casting for these two characters would require some compatibility testing, that they should meet in advance to assure there was a level of natural chemistry before making the final decision to cast the pair. This was not the case.

Until the moment the director said “Action,” neither of these women had seen each other before. Instructed to stand at either end of the set and look at their feet, less than 10 feet from each other, but not allowed to look up.

“Camera rolling”

“Action”

One walks. The other stays still. They collide. They look up. They make eye contact. They smile…

Without rehearsing, without really meaning to, they smile. A perfect moment is created, captured on film and preserved in slow motion.

Organised spontaneity. Making magic.

And, that’s why I love acting.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Silliness with a Hint of Genius

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: a month wherein an entire city is transformed into a performer’s playground.  Any and every free space in which an audience can be squeezed, will be squeezed. Magic, performance art, circus acts, dance, music, theatre, comedy… basically, much like Rule 34, if something exists, there will be somewhere to see it in Edinburgh.

Besides being the biggest arts festival in the world, it is also the festival of needless accessories, vibrant hairstyles and one too many piercings. If you’ve ever tried to spot an arts student on a university campus, you’ll know the kind of fashion choices I mean. It’s the kind of fashion choice that screams “I’m quirky, deal with it! And I don’t care that my interesting accessory is by all counts more of a hindrance to everyday life than it is visually appealing!” (NB: I am in no way exempting myself from this. I love a good hat.) The Fringe represents the height of individualism, collected and concentrated into a few hundred square miles of incredibly uneven ground. Seriously, there are hills everywhere and, by the end of the Fringe, your calves will be toned to perfection.

However, a word of advice: the Fringe is not a holiday, it is an expedition into virgin territory.

  • More often than not, it’s an uphill struggle.playfair sun(These are the Playfair Steps, but I assure you, they do not.)
  • You’ll experience every weather condition known to man.

playfair snow

  • It has its own cuisine and music.
  • It has its own social rules
  • …and wildlife.edfringe blog 1_2 Don’t expect to get time for yourself at the Ed Fringe either. Do expect complete strangers – I might even say “weirdoes” – to wonder up to you and wave a flyer in your face. Everyone needs to rustle up an audience, and you could be it. You will be flyered.  There is no No-Flyer Zone. Don’t resist it, embrace it. Flyerers embody the spirit of the Fringe as much as the performers. And don’t even try to avoid us, or oppose us, for we are many. The methods with which you will be harassed are multifarious, all of them geared in the hope of persuading you to take a flyer:
  1. The Flirt
    • A classic approach for sales and advertising – sex sells. The flirty flyerer will casually sidle up to you as you walk along, act cool and confident and will wait up to 5 minutes before revealing their true intentions.
  2. Hit them with Happy
    • My personal approach to flyering is most akin to this: attempting to be each individual’s Joy Bringer.  This might involve offering a free hug, a compliment, a little song and dance and generally making a fool of yourself as long as it brings a smile to someone’s face.  Some even offer free sweets to seal the deal.
  3. The Pretentious Poser
    • Take an acoustic guitar, a flamboyant costume and strike an excessively sincere pose – a flyer in one hand, your wrinkled brow in the other. This method seemed to gain popularity in the early days of the Fringe, I speculate because it is an approach that appeals to the pretentious, the posy and the lazy (three prominent characteristics of the arts community).
  4. The Nutter (ultimate confidence required)
    • For those who don’t give a flyering fringe… Definitely trying too hard with that pun.
  5. Lost the Will to Leaflet
    • Already been stood out on the Royal Mile every day for over a week, trying to palm off the same bloody pile of flyers that doesn’t seem to get any smaller?  Then this is the method for you. Be lack-lustre, dull, uninspiring and don’t you dare think about picking up a thesaurus.
  6. The Onomatopoeic Opener
    • This is my personal favourite, and a method that successfully captured my attention. Simply present your flyer and, as you do so, make a whimsical yet intriguing noise.  Silliness with a hint of genius – which should be the tagline for the festival.

Talking of taglines:

“Unboring. That’s the word you’ll find splashed over the front cover of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe programme … It’s not actually a word at all, of course. You’ll find it in the Urban Dictionary – ‘a word used by people with no vocabulary’ … Unboring is unsightly, ungrammatical and uninspiring; utterly unworthy of the Edinburgh Fringe.” (Matt Trueman, The Stage, June 26th 2014)

Unboring? No. Exhilarating, yes. Exhausting, yes. Exaggerated? Certainly not.

You should go.

Ps.  Go see my production – A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Two Tired! Shakespeare plus Scooby Doors equals an hour of hilarity you won’t want to miss!

Get tickets by clicking HERE!

Or here… https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/event/483169-a-midsummer-nights-dream-two-tired/

…. Once a flyerer, always a flyerer.