This month's guest edit comes courtesy of Michelle:What a carve up there was as Kensal Review got their knives into Jonathan Coe’s book. Following on from last month’s Thatcher theme the Review opened with all eyes on the picture Hannah brought with her of a young Mrs T’s fixed grin, as we pondered what Henry Winshaw had ever seen in her.
It all began with Juliet, who introduced the book via secret santa to David. She first read it years ago, and as time went by, was often reminded of the Winshaws each being killed in ways evoking the horror of the way they lived their lives. As the KR Crew wondered whether you really would have sleepy fumbling first-time sex straight after seeing a pair of severed arms stuffed into the pockets of a pool table, Ian’s jumper went up over his mouth in an effort to contain himself as long as possible until he could no longer hold back from sharing his complete hatred of the book. From the interminable 90 page prologue, to protracted tube journey descriptions that offer no added value, to the one dimensional characters of the Winshaw family that serve no other purpose than to manifest one particular hideous aspect of Thatcher’s ’80’s Britain - there was much to say on the failings of Mr Coe.
Milly aptly described the book as clunky and everybody had bits they hated - the weak conceit of the chocolate bar eating, the dream sequences, the dull repetition of Shirley Eaton’s bedroom scene left us bored. We noted that one of Coe’s themes brought an echo of our text of a year ago, when this time in 2011 Paul Auster’s Invisible set out the theme of an author (Auster/Coe) writing about an aspiring writer (Adam/Michael). Once again our book’s protagonist is a floundering writer - described through the eyes of an apparently successful talented one - although the KR crew were left scratching their heads as to why Coe’s book has been so celebrated in its time and heralded a classic since.
Redeeming features? Bruce pointed out there was historic value in a written record of the horrors of the 1980s packaged up in one place for posterity. I thought Hannah made an excellent point about the well written detective Findlay Onyx, who I enjoyed, and at the same time we noted the poignant reminder of how recently homosexuality was decriminalised. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in England and Wales since 1967, Scotland 1981 and Northern Ireland 1982. Wow. I did have one paragraph that ended well for me. Michael and his neighbour Fiona are getting to know each other and she’s telling him about the first marriage of her manic-depressive born-again Christian ex husband. “.. he and his wife had both been devout evangelicals for a while. They had these two kids and then she had an incredible job giving birth to the next one. The upshot was that she lost her religion - with a vengeance - and walked out on him, taking these three daughters with her. Faith, Hope and Brenda.” But black comedy, farce, satire - whatever you want to call it - not a book KR Review will be recommending to friends and family. First there was Oprah’s Book Club, then there was Richard and Judy: now there’s the KR Crew recommendations coming to Queens Park Books / Lutyens and Rubinstein near you!
As an aside, I’ve found myself buying our KR books on Amazon - shall we have a pact to try and buy from independant bookshops? Just a thought. Returning to Bawarchi and into a brief diversion that took us back in time to 18 year-old AC sat in her bra and knickers on a foreign sofa translating voiceovers for hardcore German horse porn, via Hannah’s passionate dream about climaxing with Michael Fassbender while he shoved a cone of vanilla ice cream in her mouth at the peak of their pleasure, culminating with pregnant women’s ability to spontaneously climax with no help from their partner, what is pornhub and how do they come up with porn categorisations and that for the avoidance of doubt - David does not like S&M. And so to A Bigger Picture.
Following Lucien Freud’s death this year, 74 year old David Hockney is being feted as Britain’s greatest living painter. We were offered more than 150 works at the Royal Academy to inform our view: the first circular room was enchanting for some, someone loved getting lost in the Grand Canyon, ipads didn’t wow everybody, rooms didn’t always allow the distance from canvas we wanted to do the pictures justice, which seemed strange since he painted much of the work specifically to be hung in that space, he certainly was prolific as his volumes of densely filled sketch pads showed the notion of Hawthorn Action Week made us smile, colours reminiscent of Van Gogh, general agreement that the sermon on the mount themed room didn’t work in context of the exhibition, but maybe that’s what happens when you ask someone to fill a huge space - they end up rummaging around in the back of the cupboard and give you what they’ve got. Sermon on the mount aside, overall the curation seemed to hang together pretty well for most. As the gallery environment is as much part of the experience as the paintings, it happened that sharing the paintings with a packed crowd was a pleasure to some and a huge irritation to others. I liked the sound of Bruce’s 10.30 night session after a glass or two.
As relative silence descended while we ate our complimentary chocolates that came with the bill, Milly neatly followed last month’s glimpse at her memoires when she shared Thatchers and staircases tale, with a story of catching Freud’s fancy at the florist and once again the Review draw to a close. It’s been fun kids - until next time when maybe we will find out what Lara, David and Freud all have in common.