Recent necrology, January 2011

Necrology – a list of notable people who have died recently

Milton Babbitt, 1916-2011
American composer, particularly noted for his serial and electronic music
John Barry, 1933-2011
Five-time Oscar-winning composer for such films as Out of Africa and Born Free who was best known for his James Bond scoresbook cover
Vincent Cronin, 1924-2011
Son of AJ Cronin who wrote acclaimed historical biographies and books about the Renaissance
Joe Gores, 1937-2011
Hard-boiled crime-writer considered the heir to Dashiell Hammett who drew on his own experience as a P.I.
Don Grady, 1929-2011
New Zealand journalist and author
John Gross, 1935-2011
Literary critic, anthologist and man of letters once described as ‘the best-read man in Britain’
John Hinchcliffe, 1949-2011
Weaver, ceramicist and printmaker whose creations expressed his love of colour and dynamic pattern
Dick King-Smith, 1922-2011
Farmer, budgerigar breeder and children’s author who wrote the story behind the film ‘Babe’
Margaret Price, 1941-2011
Soprano who excelled in Mozart, Strauss and Verdi and whose voice could melt the hardest heart
Gerry Rafferty, 1947-2011
Scottish singer-songwriter
Peter Spink, 1926-2011
Priest who took his ministry behind the Iron Curtain and later encouraged new forms of spirituality
Anthony Terence Quincey Stewart, 1929-2010
Belfast-born historian who reluctantly became a leading intellectual voice during the Troubles
Peter Yates, 1929-2011
British director behind the first – and still the best – car chase in film, the epic 10-minute pursuit in Bullitt
Susannah York, 1939-2011
Actress who epitomised the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and excelled in some of the classic films of the era

What the Dickens?

Cover The seventh of February marks the 199th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. I know because it’s also my birthday, and somehow this has always been a source of irrational pride. Yes it’s silly to feel reflected glory due to a random coincidence of birth dates but I’ve loved his books since my first Deans & Son edition of Oliver Twist terrified me with that murderer and dog-beater Bill Sikes (the dog beating seemed worse than the murder somehow and Bill’s death haunted me for years).

The 200th anniversary in 2012 will be huge for Dickensians around the world, but 2011 is a big year for the locals as the 105th International Dickens Fellowship conference will be held in Christchurch. It’s the first time in 105 years that the conference has been held in New Zealand.  The conference goes from Thursday 14 to Tuesday 19 April.

The Fellowship’s aims are “to knit together in a common bond of friendship, lovers of that great master of humour and pathos, Charles Dickens; to promote the knowledge and appreciation of his works; to spread the love of humanity, which is the keynote of all his works”, and there has been a branch in Christchurch since 1931.

Every year the Christchurch branch chooses a book,  some minor works and some journalism to study (this year the book is Nicholas Nickleby). They meet once a month and they produce a newsletter – Dickens Down Under.  Christchurch City Libraries has copies of the newsletter as well as holding the Fellowship’s archives from 1931 to 2001.

Happy birthday Charles Dickens; capable of being studied at school without becoming loathed for ever more, source of endless films and television series and creator of some of the most memorable characters, names and expressions in literature.

Hard as it is to choose, my favourite book is Great Expectations; adaptation for film or television Bleak House featuring Gillian Anderson as Lady Deadlock; favourite female  character Miss Havisham (largely for her fashion sense). Steerforth wins favourite male, a judgement shared  by Nancy Mitford‘s Radlett sisters. Favourite name, Uriah Heep; expression “Judy, shake me up a little“.

What are yours?