This month's review write-up comes to you courtesy of David A, who is never short of fantasy:
“My dad’s got the fattest prick she’s ever seen and when he ....puts it up her ass it pops out as clean as a whistle”. The group pondered this sentence and we were left wondering what it was about this cock heavy book that so inspired AC to choose it. “Don’t you see” said Milly “these cocks and blow jobs aren’t to turn us on, they’re to show us how anaesthetised he is on heroin”. Watching AC grinding her thighs together with saliva dribbling down her lip, I was left unconvinced.
I glanced around at the other girls and could see it was having a contagious effect. Ian was looking very uncomfortable. I was keen to turn the conversation to something more appropriate. “What did the title “Horse Latitudes” mean? The group stared at me a moment, clearly anaesthetised. After what felt like an age, Michelle answered “well horse is another word for heroin”. Thank god, I had just recovered the situation. “And latitudes are the metaphorical scars” pointed out AC. “I thought it reflected his mind drifting, in the same way that it read like a stream of consciousness” enthused Mary.
We were assembled in the convivial surroundings of Michelle’s lovely flat, enjoying the sunshine on her South facing terrace, sipping our white wine; ostensibly part of the chattering classes but in fact something quite different. Mention must be made of Michelle’s curry chicken: it was sublime.
But did we like the book? A book printed by a small publishing house about a man’s experience of drugs and prison. The consensus was a resounding “Yes”! We all appreciated the photos of his art. For me a book with pictures is like a book without long words; it appeals to my other side. His paintings moreover were a sign that he had overcome his addiction; as Mary said, they had become his redemption. That’s not to say it was without its faults. Michelle wanted to know why he had become an addict and there was all round frustration that he kept on falling off the drug wagon. Whilst we all liked the photos, our resident publisher Milly Harris pointed out you couldn’t publish a book with these photos; it simply wouldn’t make money. When it comes to literature, Milly knows her stuff. In fact the book reminded her of “Chocolate Orange”. We all nodded in agreement, not quite sure of the book but it certainly sounded familiar.
All this intellectual talk was taking its toll and I could see the girls were becoming bored and were so to speak, drying up. Someone perked up enthusiastically “why do male prostitutes get sucked off as opposed to sucking off? Surely the punter would want it the other way round”. The floodgates opened and they all started talking enthusiastically, much like a field of cows when a studly bull rocks up. Ian started looking anxiously at the door. Oh God, it was happening again. “The exhibition” I cried, “the exhibition, what about the exhibition?” Aware that you can at any moment get kicked out of The Kensal Review for not being intellectual enough, minds reluctantly focused on the subject at hand. Ian mopped his brow; another narrow escape.
The art in question was by Moyra Davey at the Camden Arts Centre. The gallery described her as working “across photography, film and writing to create intimate, flâneur-like visual essays.... towards the overlooked discards and detritus of daily life”. As I walked around with Mary, my art companion, I saw plenty of detritus and pondered why we chose to see this exhibition? Lara who wasn’t feeling well and not her normal self confessed she too found it “uninspiring”.
Ian asked “why mail her art to the gallery”? Depending on your orientation, you either thought this was a novel, interesting way to present your work or just a gimmicky piece of exhibitionism. But some of us did really like it, especially Juliet and AC. As I reflected on the exhibition, I recalled some photos of naked women from the 1980’s. Photos with a lot of hairy muff. And then like a lightning bolt, it hit me in the head. Our founder’s swing swings in both directions with a healthy, flexible approach to life. That was it, the choice of exhibition made perfect sense after all.
My social media cynicism was severely challenged at 8pm last Tuesday, when the first person to walk through the door of the Paradise for Kensal Review's inaugural Social Book Week event, was none other than Annie Pollet, the god-daughter of Elizabeth Smart, who had written By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (our book for the month) over half a century ago.
"But... But how... wha? How did you hear about this?"
"Oh Juliet put something on Instagram this morning," said Annie, "so I thought I just have to come see this."
Not a bad start to our little public gathering, I thought. Not bad at all. Not only had we raised £400 for The Reading Agency, but we had managed to recruit a relative of the author. While Annie and Juliet chewed the fat about how Annie's father, also a poet, had been bezzy mates with George Barker, the rest of the recruits trickled in. Some shy, some enthusiastic, others raring to go. Everyone was asked to slap a Post-It on the wall with their opinion, or a thought on the book. Queue Bruce: Incomprehensible Gobbledeegook. Or AC: Reminded me of that time when I was a teenager and wrote a desperate poem to the hot guy who worked behind the bar in P1... Raw. But I got laid.
The chairs, arranged in a circle to encourage an intimate and inclusive discussion, appeared a little "Hello my name is and I've been sober for twelve days..." but it seemed to work. After Ian's fantastically eloquent explanation about why he chose this book, the floor was opened to the public and views and thoughts came thick and fast. One memorable line was Adam's exclamation, "But all relationships are unsuccessful!" Or Anneka, who expressed, "It's adolescent, but I'll always be thankful for the line 'like being stuck in a phonebox with Diogenes." Blank stares. Who was Diogenes again?
It was certainly a marmite book, with some haters (mainly Bruce and Adam and perhaps Dave, although one is still not sure whether he actually read it) and some lovers (Sidsel, AC, Juliet, Flora...). Yet all rejoiced at the fact that some moments in the book were so perfectly encapsulated - for example the section when they first meet and every touch, even accidental, is an imminent sexual eruption of such magnitude that one's memory is cast back to youthful days of big love and emotion ("It only ever lasts three months that bit, came a shout from the circle. Trust me I'm married!"), or the bit when Elizabeth is locked in a hotel room, pregnant, waiting to hear from George. Despair has crept into every breathing moment of her life, it has even permeated her sleep.
During the short break, when our Boodles British Gin &T's and Red Stripe beers were refilled, The Indie Book Show interviewed a few Kensal Review members and also some Social Book Week recruits about reading habits and book group action. Once in a circle again, we didn't hold back. Kate visibly shook on her chair thinking about the lovers on the forest bed in California. The result "I'm booking a weekend away with my husband." Upon listening to the group speak, others were inspired to read the book again, in one go, and see whether it made any more sense to them a second or third time round. "You'll need a few cups of tea said Kate, and maybe a couple of biscuits."
The new group dynamic meant there were less accidentally-on-purpose tangents into the sexual lives of Kensal Review members, and a more concentrated effort to really dissect the book. My favourite perhaps was Juliet's friend, who had read it a total of 15 times as a teenager and at one point said, "Don't you think you're all taking it a bit too literally?" So you mean there wasn't actually a cat scrambling in the cave of her sex? I completely get what she meant. Made us sit up and listen. Reassess. Rejig. Reconnect.
In an aside to me during the break, Sidsel said, "She's thinking, fuck you (parents), and you (border police) and you (landlords) and you (society). She's totally Rock and Roll." Couldn't have said it better myself.
Thanks again to Juliet for organising the event. Thanks also to the Paradise By Way of Kensal Green for hosting us, and thanks to everyone who attended.
This month's guest edit comes to you courtesy of Ian Mc
There’s not a lot left to be said of Candide that has not already been said more eloquently, particularly on In Our Time, or in this Guardian article by one of Kensal Reviews much-loved authors Julian Barnes. Nevertheless, we had a go at it. We all thought Melvyn’s mob had it right on In Our Time -- oh for a polytheistic world where all evil is simply blamed on the pesky bad gods! Actually we didn’t think that. Dave and Bruce tended to read it straight, as a rollicking laugh-out-loud yarn, whereas a few of us read it more as a reminder that the world was and continues to be a relentlessly horrid place. Michelle found this weighed heavy, too much hell and aggro and not enough El Dorado. It’s a testament to the book’s quality that such a bleak message is palatable at all, and that it continues to resonate a couple of hundred years on. Bruce read out bits and we fell about laughing, which says a lot about the charm of Voltaire, and Bruce. I had suggested the book as a counterpoint to last month’s patronisingly didactic Power of Now. I wanted a book that yielded its meanings less obviously and less repetitiously. Then suddenly I was confused and unsure of Voltaire’s point, hoist by my own bally petard. I was rescued by Milly when I asked, why did they travel and why, then, did they rest? She found the perfect bookmarked response: “our labour preserves us from three great evils – weariness, vice, and want”. I wanted more pie and wine.
Unusually, the non-book choice – Martino Gamper at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery -- seemed to generate more chat. The thing about more pie and wine is that it tends to blunt the already meagre intellect a bit, so my attempts to articulate a coherent thesis on the contemporary intersection of design and art aesthetics, the progressive consumer fetishism of late capitalism, and the transmogrification of mundane mass production into art through the lens of a gallery context, was somewhat disordered. I think I bellowed something about Peter York when actually I meant Stephen Bayley. Disconcertingly, in the cold light of day, I still have nothing consistent or appealing to say on this topic. Luckily everyone else did. There was a lot of discussion (positive, admiring) of the shelving, and way the installations had been put together. Pebbles from a beach can be the most pleasing of possessions. These seem odd but increasingly prevalent little shows, these reflective, ‘conversations’ of exhibitions, but they seem to have an appeal in the dialogue they start with the viewer.
For some reason our artistic attention was then diverted to Mimosa Pale’s thought-provoking 2007 mobile female monument, ‘The Vagina Bike’. The Kensal Review is Candide-like in its adventuring across the entire arts map, and never let it be said we rest from searching out new frontiers. All that is very well, but let us cultivate our (lady) garden.
Everything was pregnant. The air of suspense, while we waited until Dave, aka Samsara finally unleashed stories of padded rooms and picture-flailing at the Osho Ashram in Puna (but not without his teddy); the massive feeling of "hey where is everyone? i thought we said we'd make an effort to attend"; and of course the beautifully svelte, doelike creature of elegance that was Hannah, who not only cooked a double quiche whammy, but also provided buttered smashed spuds and some incredible cheesy whatsits, that I think are not officially a food-stuff but very edible to pregnant ladies, and those inclined to a spot of culinary curiosity.
Safe to say we absolutely could not start our cultural deliberations until Dave had unpacked every last detail of his spiritual visit, where he donned white and maroon robes, saw fellow contestants dance naked (I think his favourite part), and attempted to regress to his inner child with the use of a teddy. Whilst he had spent a solid week there trying to look back, the topic of the day for this month's Kensal Review was very much to look in. It's not about back or forward. Eckhart Tolle, no spoilers here, is all about the NOW.
Ian, who I had feared would rip the book into shreds and eat it in frenzied morsels of despair at its self-helpedness, actually took solace from a few sections and appreciated its timely arrival into his life. Several Reviewers who had read it upon its first publication, were baffled, disappointed and only moderately impressed upon second reading. Meanwhile, I was locked in for 70 odd pages and then struggled with the vertiginous repetition of ideas, which were always the same but slightly different so you weren't sure whether Tolle was actually breaking new ground or just hammering it in for those slow on the uptake. In case you didn't get it. It's about now. You know. Just feeling it. Now. Not later, not yesterday. Just kind of like Now. You know? Do you want a chai latte with that thought or shall I try and look for that squiggle he gives on my keyboard, because I want you all to contemplate.
Mary, meanwhile, was so struck by the book, it made her stay in Cornwall, picking up heart-shaped pebbles with Duggles. Most fascinating perhaps was Milly's knowledgeable insight into the state of publishing today. Self-help books, she maintained just wouldn't be set up like this now. There would be more break-outs, more boxes, more visuals and often a round up at the end of each chapter. Despite Tolle's flawed writing skills, which were at best a lesser amalgamation of greater spiritual texts and at worst repetitive drivel dressed as sacredness (where was Milly, the editor of all editors, when we needed her most?), the book managed to give us all a little something to think about. Or not think about, as it were.
Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy. Wow what a breath of fresh air. Interactive, yes, please do touch, look high, look low, feel emotional, think big thoughts. It was all elegantly packed into a series of rooms, which we are used to seeing splattered with art work, either during the Summer Exhibition, where no wall space is left, or during Hockney retrospective, where you can't see the walls for people. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, not least Annie, who bowled around Pezo von Ellrichhausen's wooden tower and its ascent/descent paths like she owned the place, waving and saying "Hallo" to everyone. She picked up some straws in Djebedo Francis Kere's installation and crunched on the pebbles in
Li Xiaodong's structure. Whereas it's normally a ball-ache to go to a museum with a toddler, who only wants to walk and touch, it was an absolute eye-opener this time as Annie unashamedly expressed what we all felt inside. Pure fascination, curiosity and exaltation. It was great to get so much from just a few pieces of work. Mary felt it was all about the void and realised she needed more void in her home. Meanwhile, I've moved my office into my bedroom, as well as my washing, as my manny has moved into the attic. Ain't much voidness going on here. But it's ok folks, cos am in the NOW.
This month's review comes courtesy of Michelle:
The two pieces of art under contemplation for new year Kensal Review were as different as the dank grey of the winter night journey that took us East, and the warm jewell tones that awaited us chez Bruce at the other end.
Hunched under charcoal skies, icy drizzle rained down on us all as we made our way. The winter pall of washed out colour in coats and faces on the gingerline was not too far from the palette of the Selfish Giant, and both the film and the journey forced us up close and personal in the face of all humanity whether we liked it or not.
Three of us travelled together on the rush hour train, standing still while ‘Life’ swarmed around us- the pissed disheveled alcoholic, eyes half closed with drink, filthy, swaying, stinking but wanting to join our conversation. Next, the tall guy so big he blocked out the light and backed us into the wall as he planted his plates almost on our toes.
By the same token, Selfish Giant was right up in our faces with the Bradford poverty line. Front row seats to a bleak tale and the beauty therein. The poetry in the stillness of the camera pans. The challenge in the juxtaposition of the horses and the pylons. And best of all the spirit of human life that thrived within the barren interiors and landscape. This was the redemptive spirit in a desolate setting that called to mind Ken Loach’s Kes. There were tears and great pathos for our antihero Arbor, who won our hearts with his loyalty to his friend and fierce protection of his Mother.
The genre of gritty social realism and the emotions it elicits was then the pivot for a discussion on Benefits Street and The Undatables. Is this type of programming exploitation and voyeurism at its worst - the vulnerable Them and the powerful Us - or does it in fact close the gap because we are all human beings and as familiarity with the characters grows, don’t we have more in common than not...
And so to the gem-like sparkle of Jeeves and the Wedding Bells and the delights of Brucie’s penthouse. What a joy to step into this vibrant space humming with colour and creativity, the spirit of jazz almost singing out loud from the soul of Leah’s clever fabric touches. And so the summer sun rises on a cricket pitch in the glorious english countryside. Nearly a century since the first mention of Bertie Wooster made an appearance in print, Wedding Bells continues to spread the joy of this daper duo, and the book certainly struck a happy note with the gang - a perfect follow through from meeting the distinguished author himself at the wonderful Browns Hotel soiree as guests of Wodehouse’s step great Granddaughter no less.
True to the role reversal opening of the novel, the beginning of our evening found the chaps industrious in the kitchen while we women retired en masse to the soft furnishings in the living room, wine in hand. As we shared our experiences over delicious pasta and salad supper, it transpired that for some new to the Wodehouse genre, the book took a while to get into, though others had wolfed the whole thing down in one day. In particular, much pleasure was found in passages proclaiming Bertie’s feelings for Georgiana Meadowes and the overall feeling was of an easy-to-read bit of fun escapism. We all seemed of one voice in congratulating Sebastian on the light touch that ran consistently through the book and learned that keeping it light had not been without its challenges for the author.
The discussion turned to why - why recreate a posthumous book to add to the existing collection of 11 Jeeves and Wooster’s adventures? The answer was, to bring the riches of Jeeves and Wooster to another generation, as Sebastian has a large following who may be persuaded to pick up the book where otherwise they would probably not bother.
The last question of the night was a debate on homage... if somebody said 'do you want to come and see the Rolling Stones cover band - they’re really really really good' .... you probably wouldn’t go. Why? Because however good they are, they’re only ever a two dimensional, watery imitation of the real thing, a reduction of the magic somehow. Ah, but this is different. This is Arctic Monkeys sing The Stones - one successful artist to another - a different proposition altogether. And with that, kisses flew, coats went on and we stepped back out into the grey, this time infused with a KR ready-brek glow that coloured our journeys all the way home.
This month's guest edit comes courtesy of Dave or "Nihata" (Dave's Osho name and Sanskrit for lost/removed)....
There was something special about this month’s get together. Gone were the usual grime and dirt that clung to our sleeves. Here the air was pure, the cars reassuringly expensive, in the distance an audible rah. On walking in, Lara confessed to me: I feel so comfortable, so at ease, the sort of calm that washes over me after Marc has given me an expensive present. I knew what she meant and smiled knowingly. Bruce standing alongside looked very bemused, struggling to compute. How could he understand? Bless him. For this was not Kensal; we were in Chelsea. As I looked at our assembled members I noted the appreciative nods, the genteelness hanging in the air. It had taken three long years but at last, The Kensal Review had arrived! Make no mistake, this was not Fulham.
In keeping with our surroundings, our host tonight spared no expense. On arrival, red wine from France and Pino Grigio from a cold white box were immediately lavished upon us. We marvelled at something called “Guacamole”, made by nothing less than his own fair hands and served with interesting corn crisps, reputedly of Mexican origin. And then he produced this pot with chicken in it and carrots and leaks and celery and potatoes and seasoning. And we ate it. All around you could hear noisy belches and eager slurps as soup flowed down our throats and onto the floor. Bruce did an enormous fart and we knew he was happy.
The time was now ripe to open our minds and discuss our book: Dear Life by Alice Munro. Michelle kicked off: there was no characterisation; the men so ineffectual and what a grey, depressing world the author inhabits. AC continued I just can’t get into short stories; I need more time to get lost in the plot. Juliet felt similar: I was so looking for a novel, I only realised in the middle of chapter two it was another story. An inability to get into the stories was a common lament. But it wasn’t all doom. Mary enjoyed the way each story seemed to contain a life event that would have been impossible to forget, a sort of defining moment. For Ian, the stories resonated with Camus and someone else with a Greek sounding name beginning with F, but who I can’t identify.
Our intellectual juices were bubbling nicely as we plunged into “Only In England”, photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr. In contrast to the book we were all agreed, this was a resounding success. The photos showed an eccentricity that was quintessentially English. You had a sense they were recording for posterity images of a disappearing world, one full of humour and social cohesion. As Mary memorably remarked: It made me wonder, where have all the real people gone?
The evening was drawing to a close; the end of another chapter. As I bade my friends good night, I reflected on my future. For me, it meant turning my back on the group and heading towards better things. I was going to Pune. To Osho, my saviour. Life has been cruel but it now all makes sense. The key is surrender, let go. First your mind and then your money. Osho is very clear on this. No surrender, no entry. I have duly transferred my entire trust fund to him and it feels wonderful. Free of bondage, I can now breathe. You don't yet know it but your lives too are empty and barren. I can help you. I will help you. But you must let go. Don't think. Listen with both ears and don’t question. I will return and when I do I will deliver you. Think of me as your shepherd and you a bunch of sheep.
Bless you, my flock.
This month touching guest edit by Ian aka Macca, aka, the dude:
To continue a theme, “we have no time to stand and stare…” pertains to my inveterate hurrying past St Paul’s Cathedral during my 25 years in London. It is said of people visiting the Louvre that they go to say they’ve seen the Mona Lisa, rather than to look at her. Many of us have seen St. Paul’s but how many have looked?
Then we were all in some way astonished, having stood and stared. Brancusi said ‘architecture is inhabited sculpture’ and St. Paul’s is high art on a huge scale, with an unassailable, imperious history. AC was moved to tears by the Henry Moore nestled in its interior. We found St. Paul’s, considered, is a breathtaking and emotional place, while its magnificence is taken for granted and regarded with indifference by its ubiquity, like ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ or a tea-towel of the Taj Mahal.
If you could unhear music to reclaim the thrilling first hearing of a magnificent record, what a treat this would be! For my part, I wanted a time machine to take me back to Christmas Day 1711 to see St. Paul’s just completed but uncluttered by the modern London, in a flat and rickety City that amplifies its scale and splendour. I suggested a short public sculpture walk around the area, finishing in Postman’s Park, a stone’s throw away. There could hardly be a greater contrast between the park and the cathedral, but Postman’s Park is equally capable of wringing emotion from the visitor – the plaques of everyday, ephemeral Victorian bravery and tragedy a time machine of sorts, for the imaginative.
The Kensal Review went all Fahrenheit 451 this month and banned books, so our second cultural artifact was cinematic – Bergman’s ‘Wild Strawberries’. One of the few consolations of an unemployed life in the North in the 1980s was staying up all night watching seasons of dazzling films, shoved insolently into post-midnight BBC2 schedules. Truffaut, Welles, Wilder, Clouzot, Polanski, Godard, Fellini, Bergman, Lean, and endless other wonders were barely, indifferently announced, but now that was an education.
Looking at ‘Wild Strawberries’ again 25 years later, it hasn’t aged at all (unlike something like, say, Dialobiques which now seems to me to belong to an ancient (although still wonderful) cinema). Smultronstället still exuded power and intelligence, with enough subtlety that we quizzed each other about sub-plots, symbol, meaning throughout but especially at the rather touching ending. Like Dylan said, ‘Don’t Look Back’. But in this case, do. The only elements, in retrospect, that now seem naïve are the teenage hitchhikers – so lacking in cynicism or self-conscious cool in Bergman’s world. They would be unrecognizable and vulnerable among London’s collected young diaspora, congregating around St Paul’s steps today.
This has all left me quite nostalgic. These years in London have seen mutations, a metamorphosis, buildings dwarf St Paul’s, and life and death rattle along with no time to reflect as Bergman’s Professor Isak Borg does on his journey. There are many things that remain, and many things that are lost. No time to see, no time to see, a poor life this is.
This month's guest edit, by the absolute better late than never, Milly-most-notes:
For Bruce and his mum…
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?--
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
It was a welcome return to Kensal Review after our summer break, friends together again and stories shared over Mary’s delicious food.
The two subjects of our September review prompted lively discussion. Most of which I failed to catch over the vociferous conversation.
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin has been hailed as a modern classic. All writers must read it, says Zadie Smith. Stevie Nicks has written poetry about it.
Many hadn’t strayed into the world of fantasy fiction before but rather enjoyed the visit. Hannah and Lara loved it, Ian loved it too. It reminded him of Chandler, his use of aphorism, his characterization. Hannah thought it was a real page-turner but hard to get into as the language was a hurdle but once she was in, it was tense, frightening and evocative. AC noted that the detailed descriptions suspended her disbelief; the reader inhabits the world and questions nothing. Of course there is a Wall, huge direwolves and dragon eggs.
Dave loved the telly and commented how very faithful the adaptation was. Bruce was keen to read more.
How does a writer create such a vivid, detailed world, peopled by characters that we eagerly follow across thousands of pages? We didn’t know, we marvelled at the skill. And such skill. Here’s something clever:
The opposite of such a construct is Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man. This is not just theatre, this is experience:
‘Travel beyond the veil of secrecy
Unlock New Experiences
Contribute to a unique cause
Join us on our journey…’
Much is left up to the audience on this ‘journey’; there is no character development, intricate plotting or linear story telling. It’s visceral, sensorial, anonymous, involving.
More involving for some than others. Dave had the most interactive experience of us all. Pulled into a room by one of the actors, the drowned man shared a story with Dave about a boy who went to heaven. Another actor tempted him to follow a piece of string and was rewarded by a shocking bright light shinning on the corpse of a dead horse. Even with a mask on, Dave makes an impression.
AC interacted with the props, searching for clues to tell her what the fuck this was about, so much so that she was told off by the shadows. Mary said she enjoyed the experience of chaos. Ian enjoyed the challenging performance and how it messed with theatrical convention; the fourth wall didn’t exist – there were no walls. Actually there were walls, I walked into a few it was so bloody dark.
Dave was frustrated that no storyline was completed and I have to agree. I didn’t see a storyline start either. Nor did Juliet.
Love it or loath it, Punch Drunk challenges the notion of theatre and performance art. One reviewer commented,
‘Shows like this make me proud to be a Londoner. We are a city at the forefront of originality and creativity. Leave your preconceptions at the door, don the mask, step right in and be drowned in the power and beauty of performance art.’
Game of Thrones saturates the reader with detail. The Drowned Man bleaches out detail with its claustrophobic darkness, white noise, dry ice and luminous masks.
Did The Drowned Man touch us? What did we learn? I learned I don’t like having a sweaty nose and I do like good story telling; it doesn’t even have to have a beginning, middle and end. It just needs to resonate, to move me more than mere physical discomfort. I could get the same emotional experience from a tube breakdown in a tunnel. For free.
The most magical part of our evening, and perhaps our KR so far, was our final act: the new poetry spot. This really did move and connect us in joy and friendship. Self-consciousness was put aside, it was time to recite. Selected poems included:
Leisure by WH Davies
Meeting at Midnight by Robert Browning
Mrs Darwin by Carol Ann Duffy
To His Coy Mistress by Anthony Marvel
[Note to editor: did I miss any??]
It’s been a tricky month for some, tragic for others. I’ll miss our next review, so I’d like to offer the poem I wanted to read here. In my dark times, it always brings a little comfort.
On Change of Weather
And were it for thy profit, to obtain
All sunshine? No vicissitude of rain?
Think'st thou that thy laborious plough requires
Not winter frosts as well as summer fires?
There must be both: sometimes these hearts of ours
Must have the sweet, the seasonable showers
Of tears; sometimes the frost of chill despair
Makes our desired sunshine seem more fair;
Weathers that most oppose the flesh and blood
Are such as help to make our harvest good.
We may not choose, great God: it is thy task;
We know not what to have, nor how to ask.
Francis Quarles (1592-1644).
Kensal Review has become more than an evening of cultural chat, more than just a simple reading group because it doesn’t really matter what we review, so long as we review it together. Aren’t we lucky?
This month's guest edit comes to you from Hannah Banana:
A little over-excited by the unseasonable weather and the smells issuing from Milly’s oven, we gathered round, nibbling chorizo and olives, to discuss art and a novel. Participation in this month’s culture was poor: only AC, Mary and Ian had seen the show. And no-one had finished the book: Hannah hadn’t started and Milly got as far as the epilogue through a set of headphones.
First, to the Wellcome. “It questions the whole concept of art,” said Mary, sounding like a regular on The Culture Show. Is art meant to be seen? asked Ian. And what constitutes art? “Dedication and hard work,” we all agreed. AC seemed to have got the most out of it. “It was definitely one of the more fascinating shows of recent years,” she said. The rest of us couldn’t agree or disagree.
To Bulgakov. “There were too many names,” lamented David. “It jumped around too much,” said Ian. “I needed the context,” said Milly. “I really wanted to finish it,” added Mary. Excuses, excuses. It’s hard to discuss a novel that no-one’s read, but we did our best. Milly cut to the chase. “Why was the devil the good guy?”
Most talk centred on what the book actually meant. A commentary on Stalinism, said Ian. “But it had to be clandestine.” The trouble with clandestine is that if it’s too subtle, only a few people will actually get it. “It was making a satirical point,” said Ian, again. To sum up: we all agreed we’d like to read a book about the novel.
Talk turned to next year’s RA show, and whether we should enter as a group; 70s blockbusters; Rafa cyclewear; Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson. For September, Milly sold us on Game of Thrones – “I’ve been gorging myself on it”; Ian (I think) put forward Punchdrunk; and Hannah suggested we pick a poem and read it out. Happy summers all!