So long, Mr. Cohen

So long, Mr Cohen – I guess we won’t see you in these parts ever again but you made several thousand baby boomers (and a few bright young things) deeply happy last Wednesday night.

The first LP I ever bought was Songs of Leonard Cohen from the Philips Record Club. Its mysterious lyrics suited my teenage angst as I lay in my bedroom, listening over and over.  I’ve followed your work over the years and I fell in love again on seeing the I’m your man DVD.

I was lucky enough to see you on Wednesday night. Mr. Cohen you are now 76 but your are still the man. You are a poet and songwriter extraordinaire. You are the one with the golden voice, man of spirit but of the world.

You gave your all and we weren’t disappointed. Standouts for me were So long, Marianne – pared back, as it was back then, and the inimitable A thousand kisses deep – so achingly beautiful.

You sang The Anthem – Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in,  with partner Sharon.  I wanted to hear more of her deep, sonorous voice.

Your musicians were impeccable too, as you said.  I would have liked to have seen you in the Town Hall so I could see your face, not just on the big screen, but you can’t be too greedy.

After three  standing ovations, you said you shouldn’t keep us up as it was a school night and you skipped out. What I wanted to ask was why you found New Zealand so mysterious…

If you missed the man in concert,  enjoy the his latest dvd,  Songs from the road or the earlier,  Live in London.

My Swedish challenge leaves me cold

I am one of only 6 people in the world who doesn’t adore The girl with the dragon tattoo.

I wanted to find out why there is  all this fuss about  Stieg Larsson  – what makes him so compelling?  The appeal of mysteries has always been a mystery to me – the closest I’ve come is  Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series and the wonderful Secret History. So I made  Swedish mystery my 5 book challenge with a small deviation to Swedish fiction.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is  a clunky mix of corporate politics, sexual violence, neo-Nazis,  IT and curiously old  fashioned Biblical blood and gore.  Even the relationship between the computer savy and deeply disturbed Goth, Lisbeth, and the gruff, man-alone Blomkvist doesn’t warm me.

I suppose it is all about plot and that compelling quest for whodunnit but I really don’t care because there was no character development of the culprit.  Perhaps I’m too faint hearted for all that gruesome sexual violence but it doesn’t make it any better that it is Larsson’s way of exposing misogyny. The revenge is just as repulsive and voyeuristic.   I have no desire to read the other two.

Henning Mankell is the other doyen of Swedish fiction so I dipped my icy toes into Italian shoes though I cheated a bit as it is not strictly Mystery.  Unlike, Larsson he can write – I liked this well crafted book.  It is also disturbing and mysterious but  so much more. The taciturn and flawed Welin has a dark past  which comes back to haunt him.  The women are strong, the landscape white –  you can feel that strong sense of place.  I was chilled to the bone as  Welin breaks the ice to take his daily swim of penance in the frozen sea of his archipelago but at at least there seemed to be blood flowing in his veins.

I’m reading more Mankell and  Shadow by Karin Alvtegen and look forward to the winner of the CWA’s International Dagger Award,  Swede Johan Theorin with his book Darkest Room.   I seem to be avoiding frost bite so far.

If you are already up for the Swedish challenge, explore some more authors from our  If you like Scandanavian crime booklist.

You’ve gotta love Lyle Lovett

I was surprised to hear Lyle Lovett was  in town – well, Wellingtown.

I saw him interviewed by a rather fawning and harried Mike Hosking and then again on Saturday Morning with Kim Hill by a more illuminating Mark Cubey.  What a treat and what a sweet and wise Southern gentleman.

I always liked his music, not that I am a huge country fan, but it is music that defies labelling.  Its everything from hillbilly through folk to rock ‘n roll but he is always true to his country roots.  Its simple stuff but with that distinctive plaintive voice and his keen sense of irony and humour.  I would have liked to ask him why he wrote that crazy song, “Fat babies have no pride”.  Why can’t I stop singing it when I see a fat baby – just to myself of course…

I love his short back and sides curly mop top and long chiselled face. He hasn’t changed his cool style since he started out in the 80s. Lyle is a man who feels undressed without his cowboy boots and his stetson.   He breeds and shows horses as well.  Brought up in Klein, Texas on his daddy’s farm where they grew vegetables for a living – he lives there still – now enveloped by the suburbs.

Ironically his marriage to Julia Roberts probably brought him to the attention of the international scene.  When asked about his marriage, he said he didn’t mind in the least being asked but he wouldn’t say a word about it.

He has appeared in a number of movies and TV shows, notably Robert Altman’s The Player, Short Cuts and Pret-a-Porter and was asked to be a barman in Crazy Heart but unfortunately couldn’t make it.

Anyway, I have been listening to his latest cd, Natural Forces, and it doesn’t disappoint.   It’s nice to know some things never change.  Did anyone catch his show?

Warning – Spoiler Alert

Legend of a suicideMost reviews of David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide have a warning – do not read a detailed plot summary until after you have read the book. It will spoil the impact of this incredibly powerful story. So I won’t let you in on the secrets of the plot but let me tell you, this is the best thing I have read in a long time.

David Vann, an assistant professor of creative writing at Stanford University, visited NZ recently to promote his book and talk to Kim Hill. He talked about the suicide of his father when he was barely a teen. Based on this relationship with this hopeless Dad, Vann mixes memoir and fiction to exact a stunning but “not so sweet” revenge. It is absolutely mind-blowing and compelling. Lionel Shriver was thinking of suing David Vann for several hours of lost sleep. “I defy you to put this book down,” she says.

Even when you put it down, it haunts you like a vivid dream. The raw beauty of the wilderness, the wry commentary on American middle class families, but, all pervading, is the flawed relationship between father and son. “A father, after all, is a lot for a thing to be,” says Vann. Read it at your peril – it is deeply disturbing, funny, and utterly beautiful. I’d be interested in what you think about it.

Read The Shape of Things by Bill Ralston in the Listener if you are puzzled but only after reading the book.  If you really can’t get your head around it think of it not as a straight narrative but more like a sandwich of short semi- autobiographical stories with a novella in the middle.  But then I like being puzzled…

All the beautiful people

The ultimate in scrumptious tittle-tattle and glamour photography, The World in Vogue: People Parties and Places could grace your coffee table for a short time at least. It has just hit the shelves at the Library.

There are 300 delicious photos of the most celebrated actors, artists, models and literati who have appeared in Vogue, snapped by the likes of Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz.

I love the photos of the Gothic themed wedding of Dita Von Teese and Marilyn Manson. See the high priestess of glam and high drama in her Vivienne Westwood gown,”created from seventeen metres of Swiss silk faille in a dazzling shot violet, draped to swirl and eddy around her hand-span waist and milky bosom”. Such gorgeousness knows no bounds.

Vita’s beautiful riding hat can also be seen in Hats an Anthology by Stephen Jones.

You could even read it for the articles with Truman Capote as a feature writer. Or then again you just might like to ogle the “canine bride (who) wore a veil by designer Ruem Acra.”

What do you think of our compulsive obsessions about the beautiful people in the high end magazines of Vogue and Vanity Fair right down to all those tabloids at the low end?