Posted by: docdenbow | December 7, 2013

Good Books, Bad Books & Jazz

I read, quite a lot. Books, blogs, newspaper websites, general stuff on the internet. Yeah, I read a lot I suppose. I’ve come to the conclusion that I read more than the average bear Boo Boo, to paraphrase Yogi. I read for pleasure and books are there to enrich the mind, educate, enlighten and help you to understand the human condition and life. That’s all very well and good, but nearly everything that I read is what I’d call popular and doesn’t enrich, enlighten or educate. These books may elicit a chuckle or two, and yes they do provide light relief, but those kind of books are all that I’ve been reading. No weighty tomes for me.

Music is similar as far as I’m concerned. I have a massive collection of music. I know you expect me to brag that I’ve got classical, jazz, pop, folk, rock, hard rock and heavy metal. Well I have, so there. I have The Complete Mozart Symphonies – Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields / Neville Marriner at one end of the spectrum and Black Sabbath and Metallica at the other. When it comes to music I have somewhat catholic taste. I mean the Pope’s album of Slayer cover versions was sensational.

Moving swiftly on…….

Whilst I love my virtual trash fiction and rock music, I do think that from time to time that I need to branch out a little and open my eyes, mind and ears to things I don’t normally encounter. In terms of my reading this habit of reading what I consider lightweight virtual rubbish changed in the last couple of weeks when I re read some of my JFK assassination books to get some some ideas for my marathon “Who Killed JFK?” post on this ‘ere blog. Rubbish they may, lightweight these books are not – neither actually nor metaphorically. Whilst reading these, I plonked myself down on the sofa in538694_10151492341325262_737940261_23656087_1953025359_n the conservatory and read page upon page accompanied only by the occasional  gentle snores of our little dog Daisy such was the concentration that I required. Heavy reading done and monster blog post completed (it took up far too much of my time) I began to wonder what to read.

I decided to pick something a little bit odd for me. I also resolved that no matter how bad the book was that I was going to finish it. I chose “Fall Out”  Janet Street-Porter’s autobiography of the 70s, and after about fifteen pages my promise to finish whatever book I chose was being tested to the limit. I really should have read the Amazon reviews before I started as it is nothing more than a name dropper’s almanac and a list of the men she shagged. This is truly a book of epically shit proportions and even if you’re her number one fan, leave it well alone. Oh yes, she complains throughout that she was ostracized because of her accent – listen honey it’s never been about your accent it’s been all about your inability to speak until you had some remedial dental work.

JSPTotally disillusioned with reading anything other than populist stuff after a close encounter with JSP I wondered what to read next. It would require some thought. I have access to a load of books and can get good advice as to good reading matter, so I decided to ask for help in making a decision. The good advice I would take from my sister who has taught A Level English for nearly 30 years. She is aware of my aspirations to write and thinks that some of the stuff I have sent to her shows potential. Now this isn’t her being polite as I know, and she has confirmed this, if she thought is was crap then she would say so. I wrote a monologue, an old lady just talking about her sons and her batty friend. It’s meant to be performed and not read. My sister says it needs polishing and that I need to learn how to write it as a screenplay complete with stage directions. For me, that’s not easy but is definitely worth pursuing. What she did point out was that what I had written was derivative of Alan Bennett’s “Talking Heads” series, but that was necessarily a bad thing. She sent me a couple of YouTube links and urged me to read some Alan Bennett to look at the way he writes when he’s away from performance pieces. With this in mind I got hold of “The Lady In The Van” and “The Uncommon Reader.”

As I said I have aspirations to write. Now my sister says, to be able to write you must read and read a lot. I think my problem has been I read a lot. A lot of crap. I need to spread my wings a little when it comes to reading if I ever hope to be be able to write characters that can live and breathe on paper for others rather than just in my head. Anyway, rather than chunter on about writing ambitions that I may have, I’m just going to shut up. One day I may have something to share, who knows?

Anyway, back to the two Alan Bennett novellas, or short stories or whatever, I have never read anything like them in my life. To be honest I had always had Alan Bennett booked down as a weirdo. Not an eccentric, just plain weird. I was dimly aware that he’d done some things and that he was feted as a genius and appearances on arts programmes and The South Bank Show reaffirmed to the great unwashed that he is a genius. Mind you had a programme about Bennett turned up in the past, I’d probably have turned the TV over to watch Dog The Bounty Hunter with a cynical yawn.

To get back on track these novellas are great. The writing seemingly effortless and the style captivating and enchanting. Of the two I preferred  “The Lady In The Van” where Mr Bennett casts himself as a participant in this (true?) little story. Well worth a read is that one. Reading these two books I had a soundtrack not of a snoring terrier, but of music. Finding something that is a suitable accompaniment to reading is, for me, not that easy. Obviously Metallica, Motorhead and bands like that are a no no, but other albums that are “wordy” also seem to intrude on my privacy whilst I read. After a quick search through my disorganized CD racks I found what I was looking for. Two CDs by the Scottish jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith, “The Sound Of Love” and the another “Misty Morning And No Time.” I’m no expert on jazz, but to my ears Tommy is out of the top drawer and makes a lie of the widely held belief that it’s only Americans who can play jazz. The two CDs I’m talking about here are both on the Linn label audio geeks, so the sound is excellent.

So there you are, one crap book by JSP, two brilliant novellas by Alan Bennett and two fine jazz CDs by Tommy Smith.

I’ll educate myself yet,

Ciao For Now,



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