I’m never sure how I feel about famous people who write books. Please understand – I’m not talking about famous (or infamous) authors (Archer, Thompson), but about people who are ALREADY famous for some reason, and who then go and write a book as well. It’s a bit like Model-slash-Actors:  they’ve already gotten to be really good at something (even if it’s just draping themselves over things in an alluring manner), and are earning buckets of money for doing so. How is it then fair that they also get to have a go at being good at something else – draping themselves all over the big screen as well?

I’m sure this is the main reason that I myself am not a successful writer – there’s only so much success to go around, and if SOME people are hogging it all, then it stands to reason there’s not enough left for the rest of us.

Not only that, but frequently the end result of hogging ALL the limelight turns out to be pants. I’m not naming names here (Minogue, MadonnaMcCartney, Gervais), but as often as not these are the books that regularly appear on our Worst Of lists, AND that are the subject of such gloriously tetchy columns as this one from a few years ago in the Guardian.

Having had my wee grumble, I’d now like to backpedal and say that the reason I started this rant is that I have just finished reading Dawn French’s recent novel, and have found it to indeed be A Tiny Bit Marvellous. Funny and sweet and a bit dark and all about families and children and relationships and growing up, it’s not the most amazing novel I’ve read this year, but I really enjoyed it and I’d certainly recommend it to my friends.  So clearly it’s not ALL celebs who should be banned from branching out.  And here’s the problem, of course – how do we know who should and who shouldn’t be let loose with a ream of paper and a word-processor?

coverBeing in an advanced stage of pregnancy, the issue of an appropriate name for the unborn child is becoming pressing.

The selection of a name for offspring is fraught with pitfalls and necessitates vigorous negotiating between the parents-to-be over individual favourites. The shooting down of each other’s top picks without a qualm can leave the list of suitable names somewhat depleted. Then there is the issue of whether the name can be shortened, lengthened, nicknamed … not to mention what unintended recognition the initials might provide. During discussions before our first child was born, I was keen on Ingrid Ruby as an option as a girl’s name – however the full initials resulted in I.R.A … hmmm, perhaps not.

As you know, the rich and famous often label their children with weird and wonderful handles – Daisy Boo, Bronx Mowgli and Princess Tiaamii to name but a few – and of course Harper Seven is the latest progeny named by famous parents to create worldwide comment and speculation.

The weight of this task can not be underestimated – as the appellation will be laden on the small person for years to come. I’m sure you can all think of a most unusual or downright weird name you’ve mocked in the past. I can still remember the full four names of an unfortunate at my high school – she featured in the yearly magazine in categories such as ‘person with the longest name’ or ‘oddest name’ for the full five years.

Fortunately, to help with this momentous task the library has baby name books aplenty to pore through and hopefully be inspired by. Though maybe I should begin by reading What not to name your baby first…

Do you have a favourite name of all time or one you particularly despise?

Sport? Never interested. Shakespeare? Sometimes interested. Celebrities? Always interested. So a book about sport, with a plot based on a Shakespeare play and featuring a couple very similar to David and Victoria Beckham put me in something of a quandary.

On the one hand books about sport make me feel faint with boredom. On the other hand a book where Posh and Becks-like characters fall victim to several of the deadly sins has got to have something going for it.

And so it proved with Exposure, a Young Adult book with something for everyone. Mal Peet writes about soccer well enough to make it exciting to someone who regards not following sport as something of a badge of honour and he’s no slouch at building suspense in a part of the story that’s concerned with political corruption and homeless children. He can even handle romance – the doomed love story of Otello and Desmeralda is believable, romantic and sad without being soppy.

I’m so impressed I’m going to check out his other books - this could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Peet’s a definite must see at this month’s <a title="Mal Peet, appearing at this year's Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

Hounded by authorities because of taxes, left-leaning politics and a liking for young ladies, the once adored comic Charlie Chaplin split the United States in 1952.  On his last day in the country, he finally consented to his portrait being taken by the noted fashion photographer Richard Avedon. Avedon had been keen to take Chaplin’s photo for many years, but the actor continually declined.  After a full day’s shooting, Chaplin gave Avedon the perfect, spontaneous photo. Head down, fingers aside his head like devil horns, he grins at the camera. It’s an unforgettable image, both humourous and political. Chaplin’s goodbye to the States is one of the most memorable in Performance, a new collection of Avedon portraits.  The subjects are all leading performance artists, and while you may recognise the names, many of these images have never been published before.  Avedon had an ability to really capture the vitality of his subjects, and these photographs all possess a charming lack of inhibition. 

The Avedon book has really fancy packaging and will look great laying on your coffee table for a couple of weeks. Indeed, big, glossy photography books abound at the moment. The other one I’m poring over is Vanity Fair the portraits : a century of iconic images.  Vanity Fair has a well established reputation as a stylish chronicle of society, so this celebration of their most famous sitters was always going to be good.  Considerable thought has gone into the  juxtaposition of  the images and the result makes leafing through the pages more thought provoking. I especially liked the placing of covergirl Kate Moss, gorgeous in a Marlene Dietrich style tuxedo, facing a page with a photo of La Dietrich herself.

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