Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For the first time this autumn a real chill in the evening air. The endless ads on television for motor cars have given way to endless ads on kids’ stuff, toys, dolls, games. Guess what, Christmas must be near. What, already? The ads come at such a rate of knots and at such a pitch it’s impossible to remember the games anyway, only ones you already know like Cluedo and Monopoly.
I was just thinking, if Wayne is so busy making waves, training on the pitch, actually playing in games, what time does he have left to write four (or even two) more books? The answer of course is he doesn’t. What the publishers have lashed out their millions on, like his various sponsors, is his name, an image. And talking literature, name, and image, Jane Austen whose writing has always been praised as virtually perfection itself has been downgraded with the revelation by an Oxford professor, Kathryn Sutherland, who has been studying her originals manuscripts, that her writing was actually rather awful, bad grammar and bad spelling, and her books were edited and polished up by a male editor, evidently a man named William Gifford. Oh, dear! Feminists are not going to like that.
I’m often taken by surprise by the books we have that I know nothing about or don’t remember having and can’t even imagine where they came from. Some of them of course are chic-lit, romance, and best-selling misery memoirs left by holiday makers and they’re beginning to take up quite a bit of shelf room. Question – do we get rid of them or leave them for other holiday makers to read? One of the unknown books brought recently to light, this one from the bookshelf in my bedroom, is the autobiography of the Russian actor Nikolai Cherkasov (Notes Of A Soviet Actor) a fascinating document. Cherkasov’s most famous role was without doubt that of Prince Alexander Nevsky in the film by Eisenstein. “I want to tell my reader about the creative work of the Soviet actor and acquaint him with all the aspects of our art. I want to tell him how complicated the path and show him how much of an actor’s art depends on his knowledge of life.”
Then Ray, our last guest, came down one morning all chuckles to say he had found on the guest bedroom shelves a copy of “Lord Cucumber” and “The Boy Hairdresser” by Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell, and this was certainly a book I had no recollection of ever having bought. So I immediately set about reading it. “Lord Cucumber” written in 1954, is a delightful and funny Ronald Firbank come Mills & Boon pastiche full of camp humour and is certainly chuckle making.
‘Oh, Richard,’ she said, ‘it seems that I have waited all my life for this moment. Now that I’m in your arms I feel I’ve really come home.’
Half swooning with the force of his emotions, he suddenly grasped at her hand…’
Come to think of it, if she’s in his arms, how come he can suddenly grasp her hand? Oh, never mind. That is simply nitpicking.
‘Above them the sun spread a glittering crown of light, woven into intertwisted strands of glistening gold which cast prismatic reflections upon them. A circle of mystery, widening into rings of glory.’
Jane Austen never wrote lines like that
“The Boy Hairdresser” written two years later is a very different kettle of fish, a much more straightforward and darker work.
Neither book was published in their lifetime.
Interestingly I see the copyright reads “by the estate of John Kingsley Orton (deceased) professionally known as Joe Orton.”
What happened to Halliwell?

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