Thursday, 20 January 2011

Kevin Macdonald's Life in One Day

A conversation I had with the outstanding Scottish film director Kevin Macdonald for The List magazine, in respect of Macdonald's new movie Life in One Day, is now online here.
One of the glories of Macdonald's work is that he can tell compelling stories that reach out to wide audiences without compromising the discerning, questing intelligence that informs his choices of what he does. For instance, he's not only an Oscar-winning documentary maker but also co-editor of a definitive source-book on documentary history, Imagining Reality. And though Life in One Day would seem as up-to-the-second and box-fresh as a documentary could be due to its association with and use of all the speed and facility that digital cameras and YouTube have to hand... still, Macdonald can speak easily of drawing inspiration from Humphrey Jennings' Listen to Britain and Nikita Mikhalkov's Anna From 6 to 18.
And then you look aside from the intimate marvels of Life in One Day to the mud and muscle and glorious scale of Macdonald's upcoming feature film The Eagle... This is quite some career in cinema taking shape, you'd have to say.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Possessions of Doctor Forrest: A cover! And a comradely mention

Over at Amazon my new novel is now properly attired for its upcoming debut on June 2 2011. Meanwhile the excellent Australian novelist and critic James Bradley, author of The Resurrectionist and a co-oarsman of mine on the Faber fiction list, was kind enough to mention Doctor Forrest in his picks from the prospects for 2011 (and also to cite Crusaders as 'one of the more striking debuts of 2008').

Return of the Bookhugger!

My so-called 'regular column' is back, as trailered, and another one will follow hard upon at some point this month, inspired by Jonathan Powell's excellent The New Machiavelli.
Just to elaborate on a point left hanging in the column, to do with batting technique. If my admiration for Kim Hughes and his style at the crease had carried over analogously to the England First XI of the time c. late 1970s-early 1980s, then my hero ought to have been David Gower, similarly blond of curl and insouciantly ready to show off his range of shots. And yet Gower always looked a bit too enamoured of himself, not even terribly bothered when dismissed. He seemed to think he was taken care of in this world, and sure enough he was proven right.
No, the man for me was Nottinghamshire's Derek Randall, whose international career was as supported by his fielding brilliance just as Mike Brearley's was by his captaining skills. Randall was a batsman of fidgety and erratic brilliance, a cheerful/'daft' fellow by repute (as in the photo, doffing his cap to Dennis Lillee after a bouncer - a trick Kim Hughes might have tried.) But Randall was also somewhat neurotic in habits and superstitions, always likely to drive his fans into anxieties of their own. He seemed to play entirely on instinct and confidence. When these were there, runs flowed. When absent... well, his feet could be leaden at the crease, and he was out leg-before without score probably more often than any other England batsman in history.
I'll remember and cherish him always, though, as below:

Hammered at the tills, from dawn to dusk

Having lately moved my fiction into the realm of the supernatural I suppose I ought to be more comfortable abiding in a place of darkness and desolation... And yet a shadow looms that I fear may engulf me - good God, all of us! And that is the rise in the general level of prices of goods and services, and the consequent erosion in the purchasing power of our money. Yes, inflation.
FT Alphaville brought me the grim, grim news today:
According to the Office for National Statistics, air transport, rising petrol, diesel, gas and food prices were the most significant drivers to the increase in annual inflation between November and December.
Transport: prices, overall, rose by 3.6 per cent, the largest ever monthly increase on record... fuels and lubricants where prices rose by 2.8 per cent, the largest increase for a November to December period since 1996...
Housing and household services: prices, overall, rose by 1.4 per cent, the largest ever increase for a November to December period. The largest upward effect came from gas where average bills rose due to some of the major energy suppliers increasing their tariffs in December 2010...

Food and non-alcoholic beverages: prices, overall, rose by 1.6 per cent, the largest rise for a November to December period on record. The upward effects within this category were widespread with the most significant coming from fruit and vegetables...
Obviously the trick is not to panic - stay under your own roof (if said roof you can afford), eat less healthy stuff and try to cook it with a naked flame, while drinking strong lager, which remains reassuringly inexpensive. Sleep with the candle lit, and maybe that will keep the wolf from the door...
Iain Martin of the WSJ, as often, frames it well: "The politics of this are thus highly dangerous for ministers. They are trapped, between an independent central bank that focused too much on narrow inflation targeting in the boom years and now says it doesn’t matter because higher inflation is just a blip, overextended debt-laden consumers who want interest rates low to keep their show on the road, and hard-pressed savers (many of them older, and likely to vote) who are being fleeced..."