Bits and pieces: Culture June 16, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
First up for the week and day that is in it, some might be interested in a reading from Joyce and cheese and wine at the National Print Museum in Beggars Bush, it’s behind the Labour History building on the right hand side. It’s a great spot in and of itsel but this event is day long (and costs a fiver in). The reading will only be about 10 minutes long today and is at 2pm.
There was mention of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy recently, that being the original BBC version. It’s actually a weird experience watching it, as if one had been thrust down a time tunnel. The first few episodes are interesting in a late 1970s sort of a way, but then, episode 3 arrives and we make it all the way to the centre of British intelligence. Now, even allowing for artistic/literary license and constrained budgeting during that time there’s something jaw-dropping about the depictions of security, or even of equipment, in the programme. Primitive is the word that springs to mind. No personal computers, no real security (albeit the depiction of that may be way off beam), limited communications above and beyond ordinary telephones. And the skyline and built environment in exterior shots is of a London starkly at odds with the architectural trends of the past three decades.
How the the recent film treats this is of real interest – because for the film this assumes something of the level of a construct, whereas the original programme was filmed in that environment.
Most of us have probably never heard of Thomas Kinkade, a US painter who died in April. But a recent Slate Culture gabfest dealt with him. His stuff has to be seen to be believed. It’s amazing – though, well I’ll let people make up their own minds as to why – and it’s difficult not to feel that some of the time he spent in Ralph Bakshi’s animation studio had a greater effect than might be expected (albeit not in a good way or, one suspects, in a way Bakshi would have liked), but this… this is an interesting cultural collision.
Speaking of thrillers… Welsh thriller writer Craig Thomas died last April after a short illness. He’s probably best known for Cold War uber thriller Firefox, later filmed and starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. Thing about Thomas was that, unlike Deighton or Le Carre, he was never even slightly equivocal about Communism. Not that it was entirely un-nuanced, just he knew which side he was on and it wasn’t the one under the Red flag.
Rereading one or two a few years ago it was notable how of its time it was in terms of technology – which in a way returns to the points about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy made above, and yet how little that mattered. He’d vanished off the radar some years back after a few books in the late 1990s which sought to work in a post-Cold War world with varying degrees of success. It’s interesting how few genuinely good political thrillers are written these days. The end of the Cold War stripped that away entirely and for all the heroic, and not so heroic, attempts to find substitutes (China! Terrorists! China and Terrorists!) nothing has quite filled the gap.
Speaking of which I was listening to BBC Radio 4 the other day and an interview with Lionel Shriver, author of We Have to Speak about Kevin. Her latest book is about terrorism, and waxed she did at length about how in the 1990s she was unable to get it published and how books on terrorism didn’t get published before 9/11. Well perhaps true of literary fiction, but as noted above, the fall of USSR and Warsaw Pact brought a scurrying around for a different antagonist. But what was so striking in the interview was the sense of how constrained the definition of fiction was.
Though just thinking of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, telling that that’s been revisited. I wonder what the dynamic underlying that is.
And here’s two links from Slate, a fine piece by astronomer and science populariser Phil Plait of the excellent Bad Astronomy blog on the issue of science education which will, perhaps, resonate for a fair few of us. And this which will bring a pang of nostalgia to at least some of us.