“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Brain Noodles: Beethoven’s Ninth, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit

I’d always assumed that Beethoven became deaf as an older man but – apologies if this is common knowledge – Beethoven (1770-1827) began to go deaf relatively early in life, in 1801. To put that into perspective, he had just finished his second symphony when he first started to suffer from tinnitus – yet to come were the remaining symphonies, Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5, the Violin Concerto, Waldstein and Appassionata, the Hammerklavier, the Missa Solemnis, the late quartets, and much else. If you’re feeling a little prickly today about what you have or haven’t achieved with your life to date, I don’t recommend listening to the final movement of the Ninth Symphony (and its then radical use of a choral section) and reminding yourself that the man who composed it was stone deaf:
  Beethoven going deaf was a tragedy, of course, although given what he created even whilst entirely deaf, you couldn’t really say it held him back to any great degree – in the grand scheme of music, it’s not as tragic as, say, Schubert dying aged 31. But a certain kind of mind might wonder what God was so busy with around about this time (Schubert died in 1828, the year after Beethoven’s death) that He couldn’t intervene in mortal affairs. Which would lead a certain kind of mind to consider the following possibilities:
(a) There is no God;
(b) God, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, doesn’t really care for music;
(c) God was heedless, careless or jealously vindictive;
(d) God was too busy saving starving orphans; and anyway, if Schubert was really all that, he’d have been smart enough not to contract typhoid fever / syphilis / the bubonic plague (and, viz. deafness, ditto for Beethoven).
  Books-wise, I read PG Wodehouse’s JEEVES AND THE FEUDAL SPIRIT this week, about which there is very little to be said other than if you haven’t read PG Wodehouse yet, drop everything and rush to your nearest bookstore and buy every Wodehouse in sight. Actually, that’s a little previous – I’m a Johnny-come-lately to the Wodehouse world, and so far I’ve only been reading the Wooster novels. For all I know – although I’m inclined to doubt it – the rest of Woodhouse’s considerable output isn’t the most purely pleasurable writing you’re ever likely to read. But, as I say, I doubt it. For the time being, though, if you stick to the Wooster novels, you won’t go far wrong. Unless this - in which a butler admits a guest into the hapless-but-unflappable Bertie Wooster’s presence - is the kind of thing you don’t like:
Seppings flung wide the gates, there was a flash of blonde hair and a whiff of Chanel Number Five and a girl came sailing in, a girl whom I was able to classify at a single glance as a pipterino of the first water.
  Meanwhile, if it’s a good movie you’re thirsting after, you’ll go parched a while yet in this most barren of summers. This week in the Irish Examiner I reviewed Gods of Egypt, The Conjuring 2 and Bang Gang, none of which could be remotely described as the celluloid equivalent of a pipterino of the first water. If you’re still interested, the reviews can be found here

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