Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A line in ink

Further to my post about The 13 Clocks, I was elated to discover that Chris Beetles' gallery was having a Ronald Searle exhibition this week. I had planned to visit them anyway for the concluding week of their Mervyn Peake exhibition, so the overlapping week gave me a terrific twofer. I banged on the gallery door at 11am this morning, while they were frantically preparing for the Searle exhibition launch, and had a leisurely walk around while Bondi sat out in Ryder Street as a one-dog exhibition. While chatting with one of the gallery staff about the idiosyncratic ink-styles of Peake and Searle, I discovered we had a mutual admiration for Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books. Peake and Jansson are but two of a number of author-illustrators most active in the second half of the 20th century who illustrated a volume of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.
I saw that at least one of the pictures demonstrated a typical Gea-Tchy hummingbird posture.

We wandered via Harold Moore Records up to Covent Garden for strong flat-whites on the bench outside Monmouth Coffee Company. I only visit there every 1-2 months now, but some of the regulars at that store still remember Bondi.

My reading levels have been on the low side with all the travelling etc of late. While I was in Australia, I finally got around to reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead after having had the paperback sitting in the back of the car for nearly 18 months. I can see I have about 40% of protagonist Howard Roark in me, tempered by 60% soft-toys and a litre of UHT milk of human kindness. Despite its faults, the 700+pp turn quickly and I actually found my eyes a little moist at one point 2/3 or so in, curiously underlined by Johnny Cash's I Won't Back Down playing in the background at Vargabar. Stephan Elliott had encouraged me to read it after we'd discussed our various battles over creative control of projects in Hollywood and Redmond respectively.

A more subtle novel is Andrew Crumey's Mr Mee. There are three interwoven narratives encompassing a Proustian scholar, contemporaries of Rousseau, and an endearing old Scottish bookworm stumbling innocently through internet pornography in his endeavours to research some old texts. You could almost skip the chapters dealing with his literary predecessors, sometimes laced with slightly leaden philosophical exposition to concentrate on Mr Mee's trips down to Dixon's to get his computer serviced, but then you'd miss out on the puzzlebox of fiction blurring with reality. So if you enjoy some Umberto Eco or Julian Barnes spiced up with some very funny set-ups, go for it, otherwise take heed of an Amazon reviewer who wrote:
Amazon recommended this book for me, but I don't know what I did to anger them. Some of this story is told from the perspective of a 90 plus year old, Mr. Mee, who speaks with complete ignorance about the world wide web, and a woman a jogger he meets on the street who he is afraid is injuring herself because her breasts move so violently as she runs. Maybe the character is having a good time, but I can't imagine any reader could be. Buy this book only if you are incapable of getting annoyed.

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