Saturday 30 September 2023

'Graham Norton Show' last night. What a treat!

I do quite like Graham Norton, but as his show (new series starting yesterday) is always on telly at way past my bedtime, I only follow it up, if at all, by watching excerpts of any particular names who get my attention, and that's quite rare as most weeks I can't be bothered. But I tuned in to catch-up this morning because I'd read that one particular person was appearing. 

I've had the 'hots' for a certain actor ever since he first started appearing in films some 20 years ago - and it's (shhhhhhhhh!) Stephen Graham! I don't know why he presses my buttons but he sure does - and it's so intense that he gives me head to toe tingles, and more than ever when he smiles. Mind you, at his 50 years, I'm more than old enough myself to be his dad, so it'll have to remain yet another unfulfillable fantasy. However, he was darned good on the sofa last night talking easily, amongst other things, about a new TV serial 'Boiling Point' set mostly in the  kitchens of a rather chi-chi restaurant, in which he is part of an ensemble cast including, incidentally, his real-life wife. I've got to give it a wee peep, at least.

So, with Stephen G. as an 'appetiser', I've just watched the entire 50 minutes of this Graham Norton Show, the first time I've done so in years!
Other guests last night included comedian/actor David Mitchell  - no, not his namesake, author of the stunning 'Cloud Atlas'. This David M. is one I've also liked for even more decades than Stephen G., though emphatically not in the same way! He wears his considerable intellect very lightly, never arrogantly. He appeared last night because he's just had his book come out which is a warts-and-all telling (particularly the former) of England's (and later, Britain's) monarchs right way back from the start, which sounds very engrossing and entertaining - even likely amusing, given the passage of time since.
I always like to go through his ever-so-readable periodic contributions in the Sunday 'Observer'. There are so many topically significant articles from a number of contributors in that newspaper that I regretfully have to skim-read some of them, but David's features are invariably a real joy to read in full, articles which need to be given the time and effort  they absolutely deserve. 

Then there was also a new name to me, Mawaan Rizwan, who just has a new, apparently surreal-ish comedy starting called 'Juice' in which he plays one half of a gay couple. I'll be giving that a look-in too. It's the first I've heard of this guy but, my goodness, he looks one hell of a head-turner - beard 'n all! He sure is easy on both the eye and ear, and good fun with it! I've just looked up his details and find he's 31, so if I'm not quite a cradle-snatcher for him (beard notwithstanding!) I'm certainly advanced enough to be his gramps!

Then there was the divine goddess herself (trumpets please!) .......'KYLIE'!, shortly to take up a season performing in Las Vegas. She didn't sing at all this time, just easily and relaxed-ly answering Graham's questions and joining in all the conversations. She actually never has to sing. For me, and many others I've no doubt, her just being there is more than sufficient. Lovely stuff!

The show closed with this year's U.K. Eurovision singer, Mae Muller (who'd finished second from last! - which she didn't deserve) singing her new release, a number which to me appealed on this my only hearing - so far. 

A most fine show, this. Must try and keep up with more of the series. Even if any are just half as enjoyable as this one was, it'll be grand.

Thursday 14 September 2023

World-renowned 'classic' writers whom I've never 'got'.

 Although there are more than three, there is a certain highly prominent trio of widely famed authors of the past, each of whom disconcertingly enjoys a most significant reputation and a large and ultra-serious band of defenders, admirers and disciples. I've tried repeatedly to understand why it is that I've never been able to get into them, yet the reason still evades me. While attempting to read and become engrossed by their novels my mind wanders away so far that I'm very soon merely reading pages upon pages of words which fail to penetrate my consciousness at all, until I'm suddenly aware of the futility of the exercise.  

1. Rudyard Kipling

I cannot comprehend why this man is so revered - above all for his children's stories, which I find dense and obscure - and boy oh boy, how I've tried! Even his most famous of all, 'The Jungle Book' (both 'Jungle Books' actually), I find indigestible, completely lacking the welcome lightness of touch which Disney brought to his cartoon (helped, of course by some awfully good songs). 

I've identical feelings towards all the 'Just So' stories. Right now I'm currently ploughing through 'Stalky & Co' and what a joyless slog it is! It's my very first attempt at this one, though I have read the aforementioned novels at least twice each. Apparently 'Stalky' is about a misbehaving group of (public)schoolboys getting up to various japes often involving their teachers or other members of the public as victims. It seems one is supposed to be entertained, even amused, by their antics but I'm finding it so hard to follow that it's leaving me cold and unmoved. But got to persevere, even though when I'm through I simply know now that I'll hardly recall any of it.

I've also read the entirety of the man's poetry, all 800+ pages of it. I have to say that most of it is rather more accessible than his stories, but that's probably because they are largely in more digestible, mostly shortish lumps.  (Btw: Some years ago a BBC national poll revealed that his poem 'If' was voted here as being the best regarded poem of all in the English language - and I wouldn't disagree that it at least is pretty good). 

2. Joseph Conrad

Have to confess that it's quite a few years since I last tried to assail this, for me, highly problematic writer - among whose works are 'Nostromo' ,'Lord Jim' and, his most celebrated of all, 'Heart of Darkness'. I'm not even sure that I managed to get right through any of them, his style of writing being maddeningly circuitous. A lot of admiration towards him is engendered by the fact that English was only his second language (after Polish) so it's undoubtedly some sort of achievement, though for me therein lies the problem. I could never get onto his 'wavelength'. If his thoughts were lucid, and I can't argue that they weren't, then to my mind they didn't translate successfully into the written word. He's definitely another author who gets my mind wandering off to unrelated, more captivating, subjects - though I would like to have another bash at 'Hearts of Darkness' before it's too late.

3. Sir Walter Scott

I get the impression, perhaps mistakenly, that this writer is particularly well regarded by non-English readers, presumably translated into whatever language is appropriate - though how translations cope with his terribly tiresome phonetic attempts at mimicking the Scottish accents through odd, unfamiliar spellings I just don't know, a technique which, whoever the writer or the accent replicated, slows one's reading down disastrously till, I at least, want to say "Oh, stuff it! I can do without this tortuous effort to work out what they mean!" 'Ivanhoe', 'Rob Roy' and 'Kidnapped' are some of his works I've tried to rise to, but I think it's only the last of these I managed to get to the end of - and that with one huge sigh of relief - and then craving for something requiring less effort to read. Mind you, like for Kipling, some of Scott's poems aren't at all bad - so long as it's not those in which he's trying to ape the Scottish accent in writing.

I could mention more writers - P.G.Wodehouse is just another who goes right over my head despite his being so adulated by many of far greater intelligence than I can boast, although he's considered by many to be the ultimate 'light-hearted' and 'gentlemanly' writer in English - but I've got to stop somewhere.

Oh, and I'm aware that I've not mentioned any female writers, though shamefully, it did take me some time to acclimatise myself to Jane Austen. Now she's no longer a 'problem' writer, thank goodness.

But never say never! If I'd written this post, say, 50 years ago, my top three 'unreadables' would quite likely have been Henry James, Thomas Hardy and............yes, even Dickens himself. However, through persistence, I gradually came to love each if them in turn. In fact all three would now doubtlessly feature in my Top 10 favourite writers of all. So one can change if one really wills it.  I merely want to experience those same admirations which other people feel, otherwise I sense missing out on something of significant worth.

Do you have any particularly 'difficult' writers? I'd love to hear some names.