Culture Vulture Schmulture – L

In a feature shamelessly “inspired” by The Times‘s Culture Vulture, British Expat brings you the above titled (subtitled “Things you should own, if they’re the sort of thing you might like…”)

This “week” we move on, in conformist fashion, to “L”. No shortage of ideas for this one, so you may be forgiven for wondering why it’s taken me so long to submit it. I have no valid excuse and am far too indolent to make anything amusing up. As far as something you might quite like to think about maybe thinking about liking is concerned, I could suggest a fair few worthy cultural-ish entities – L.A. Confidential is a pretty fine movie, and it’s got Kevin Spacey in it, so it must be good. Life Is Beautiful is a lovely wartime tragi-comedy and well worth (at least) seeing, with Roberto Benigni the first foreign-language winner of the Best Actor Oscar since god knows when. Legend – the best of Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin 2 are both, um, good.

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Last Orders by Graham Swift is a novel as much about friendship, loyalties and courage as War And Peace is about Russia. Winner of the Booker Prize in 1996, before the accolade was tarnished by its celebration of Ian McEwan’s 1998 winner Amsterdam (Swift himself has also been awarded the Guardian Fiction Award, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger – not an entirely unimpressive portfolio), it would be hard to praise too highly. Sorry, I’ve been distracted by ******** Christmas music coming from down the hallway (can I say “********” on this reputable site?); if Alison wasn’t so lovely I’d go down there and do one. I don’t really like Christmas music at the best of times, especially when it’s three weeks away. Stuff and nonsense.

Anyways. In with anger, out with love and all ’at hippy trash. If I could afford salt I’d count to ten and throw some (at Alison? – though bearing in mind I’ve forgotten how to count to ten, I shouldn’t think she’ll be too scared of me!). Last Orders is the story of a group of friends travelling to the coast to carry out their late friend’s final wish. Though all the “action”, such as it is, takes place in the course of just one day, I found it surprisingly easy to immerse myself in the narrative. The fact that each character gets their say increases the growing tensions between characters whose opinions and perceptions differ quite so greatly. That the 1996 Picador publication’s front cover is the last two fingers of a pint has not swayed me in the slightest. Hmmm. The endearing habit Swift has of quoting song lyrics is, perhaps a touch obviously, endearing and the page-turning nature that he so patently does not share with Jonathan Swift, presumably no relation (Gulliver’s Travels is my least favourite book by a long chalk), makes it short work.

To conclude, in the words of the estimable Bart Simpson – “On the Simpson scale of books, one to ten, one being the lowest, ten the highest, I give this book a nine.” – It’ll make sense to anyone who spends half their life watching The Simpsons. Y’know, the one where…

Next Time: “M”. Something beginning with “M” that is, not Dame Judi Dench.

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About Atoz

(aka Dave Stock:) the first person in the world to write to, and probably the last to send in his biog. After a few useful one-off contributions, Atoz started his irregular A to Z of cultural icons. At the time of writing this, he's up to "O" - but there's still no sign of the biog. (Update - he still hadn't sent it in by the time he'd reached "Z"!)

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