A Heritage of Trumpets – Clive James
Today I read a Clive James poem titled ‘A Heritage of Trumpets’. Like most of his poems it is written in tight rhymed verse, standing emphatically against the dominate formlessness of contemporary poetry. I really liked this poem. I think it is about jazz, and at one point he says, “The lawlessness, the skipping lilt of it”. I assume it is from his new collection, Injury Time, but I am not sure. The bookshop I go to didn’t have it in yet, so the lady at the desk had to order it for me.
Clive James is probably going to die soon, and when he does Australia will lose the greatest writers it has ever had. Look out for me around campus, staring blankly into space. I’ll be very upset.
Harry Peter Sanderson
Various Recipes Found Online
I spend small pockets of spare time researching recipes for future cooking endeavours. When I do follow them, I read the listed steps on my phone, which is inconvenient because the screen keeps turning off and my phone gets marked with sauce and spices (often turmeric). Yesterday, my phone turned off mid-recipe and I had to continue without it while it charged (balanced hopefully on top of the coffee maker), fortunately past measuring ingredients and wading through temperamental cooking times. I placed a pan on high heat when the recipe asked for medium, and as I poured boiled potatoes in I watched them turn dusty and grey (and burnt) when they were supposed to be yellow. Recipes online do not have the same allure as a cookbook. There are rarely anecdotal stories (these are the main reason I read cookbooks), you do not get the feeling someone has compiled the recipes with purpose and bound them, and there are also no pages caked in flour (this is a reason to use a cookbook, because flour on your phone cannot be nostalgic).
Money for Jam – Daniel Pettiward
When I picked up this dusty, coverless book from the now defunct Serendipity Books (40 years, rip) I had not expected to laugh as much as I did. Daniel Pettiward writes a satirical advice book on how to make it big as a comedic illustrator, without ever having to demonstrate talent, effort, or wit. The subjects of the ‘cartoon’ and the ‘joke’ are deconstructed to absurdity, written by Pettiward in a long-winded, ironic tone that mirrors his drab contemporaries. I am unfamiliar with the context in which he wrote this book (1940-50s Britain), and am ignorant of the cartoonists he satirises and snipes, but the examples shown are so effortlessly pompous and hilariously unhumourous, that I feel he predates the anticomedy movement by decades. Money for Jam manages to be biting, meta and self-aware without smugness – silly but educational in showing what not to do. I would recommend to fans of Kurt Vonnegut and Scott Mcleod’s Understanding Comics – and to any writer or artist who wonders with hopelessness, ‘how do I make this funny?’
The Noise of Time – Julian Barnes
Ostensibly a portrait of the Russian composer Shostakovich, The Noise of Time is a lament to lives silenced by the bureaucratic machines in Stalin’s Russia. The truth of this tragic narrative is questionable and largely at odds with how Shostakovich lived his (apolitical) life. It is certainly easier to do as Barnes has done, and imagine a tortured soul fighting against an oppressive regime, than to try and accept a blinkered artist who was more concerned with getting his own music performed than with resisting the political reality he lived in. For those seeking a better understanding of Shostakovich, try listening to his symphonies and string quartets. Both the music and the book are worth indulging in.
This article first appeared in print volume 88 edition 6 BLUE