Saturday, 16 February 2019

Robert Doisneau and Music at Cité de la Musique, Paris

Kentucky Club, 1959

The Gypsies of Montreuil, 1950

Eartha Kitt, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 1950

Juliette Gréco, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 1947

Maurice Baquet in Chamonix, 1957
Maurice Baquet in Chamonix

Antony, the Sunday Bugler, 1947

Singer Renaud in the suburbs in 1988

Les Rita Mitsouko at Parc de la Villette, 1988

Pierre Schaeffer, 1961

The Exhibition

To unveil the musical dimension of the photographer's imagination and work: here is the ambition of this original journey, which brings together more than two hundred photographs.

"In my ideal school of photography, there would be a bouquet teacher and a music teacher. We would not train virtuosos of the violin, but we would explain the role of the music which gives a light on the past civilizations, complementary training very necessary. "

Born in 1912 in the Paris suburbs, Robert Doisneau learned at the age of 15 the profession of engraver lithographer at the Estienne school and entered the world of work by drawing pharmaceutical labels. After discovering the world of artistic creation at André Vigneau as a young operator, four years in the advertising department of Renault factories allow him to gain the coveted status of independent photographer.

If the war puts a sudden stop to his projects, the euphoria of the following years ensures its success. He accumulates images, stubbornly circulating "where there is nothing to see", privileging the stealthy moments, the tiny happiness illuminated by the sun's rays on the bitumen of the cities.

When he died in 1994, he left behind some 450,000 negatives that tell his time with a tender amusement, which should not hide the depth of reflection, the real insolence in the face of power and authority, and the irreducible spirit of independence.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Wednesday night's set lists at The Habit, York

Set 1: -
Romancing Tonight
Love Song

Set 2: -
Mother's Lament
I Don't Want To Talk About It

Ron was away visiting relatives darn sarf.

It was another quiet-ish February night in The Habit, but there were enough players to keep things going. Duo Leo (guitar and harmonica) and Kat (violin) entertained us with The Kingston Trio's Tom Dooley, the folk standard Shady Grove and Woody Guthrie's Greenback Dollar; they brought the house down! Two lads from north of the border took it in turns to sing, the first, Bob Dylan's The Man In Me and the second, George Harrison's Something. For my first set I chose some self-penned tunes suitable for a pre-Valentine's Day performance. As usual, a few players got to go around again towards the end of the evening and I was called upon to close out the show.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Gordon Banks RIP

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Gordon Banks obituary
Supremely agile World Cup-winning England goalkeeper responsible for ‘the greatest save ever made’

Brian Glanville
The Guardian
Tue 12 Feb 2019

Gordon Banks, who has died aged 81, was the best goalkeeper England have ever had and is widely regarded as one of the finest to have played for any side in any era. A World Cup winner in 1966, he also appeared in the 1970 World Cup finals, where, against Brazil, he was responsible for what is often cited as “the greatest save ever made” – a supremely agile effort from a close-range header by Pelé.

The scene of Banks’s famous save was Guadalajara in Mexico, where England were playing Brazil in the group stage. Jairzinho, the fast and powerful Brazilian outside-right, crossed the ball after beating the England left-back, Terry Cooper.
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Pelé, Brazil’s most lauded player, met the ball with a downward, bouncing header, and was already shouting “Goal!” when Banks miraculously hurled himself across his goal, reached the ball with a flailing right arm, and turned it over his crossbar.

“As soon as I got my hand to it, I thought it was going in the top corner,” recalled Banks later. “But after I’d landed on the hard floor, I looked up and saw the ball bounce behind the net and that’s when I said to myself: ‘Banksy, you lucky prat’.” For his part, Pelé was always slightly miffed, in an amused way, that Banks’s save remained such a talking point for so many years afterwards. “I have scored more than a thousand goals in my life and the thing people always talk to me about is the one I didn’t score,” he said.

How far might England have gone in that World Cup had Banks been able to play at Léon in the quarter-final against West Germany? Another image emerges: the morning of that match, the lawn in front of the motel where the England team were staying. A pale, unhappy Banks is being helped across the grass on the arm of the England team’s doctor, Neil Phillips. Suffering from food poisoning, Banks was unable to play, and England arguably would have won had he done so. His deputy, Peter Bonetti, was manifestly short of match practice and had a disastrous day. England lost 3-2 and were eliminated.

In later years Banks wondered why it should have been him and no other member of the England squad who contracted a bug. They all, as he said, had eaten exactly the same food. Dark tales have been told of how it may have happened, but the source of the poisoning has never been properly explained.

In the 1966 World Cup, when all England’s games were at Wembley, Banks had played a major part in his country’s success. He kept three clean sheets in the group stage and another against Argentina in the quarter-final, and was only prevented from making it five shut-outs in a row by Eusébio, who thumped home a penalty for Portugal in the semi-final.

Two goals went past him during the final against West Germany, but he had a highly successful tournament, and his understudies, Ron Springett and Bonetti, never got a look in. Such was his unassailable position as the world’s top keeper that he was declared Fifa’s Goalkeeper of the Year not only in 1966, but in each of the next five years.

Born in Sheffield, one of four children of Thomas, a bookmaker, and Nellie, Gordon was at first a coal-bagger and then a hod carrier after he left Tinsley County secondary modern school in 1952. Strongly built at 6ft 1in and weighing more than 13 stone, he had shown great promise as a goalkeeper with local sides, as well as for Sheffield Schoolboys, but had somehow escaped the notice of the big local clubs, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday.

Chesterfield, then well known as a home of gifted keepers, would profit, signing him on and giving him his debut in the 1958-59 season. He played another 22 league games in his only season with the club before Leicester City snapped him up.
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For Leicester he would appear in 293 league games and play a crucial role in their reaching the FA Cup finals of 1961 and 1963, both of which were lost, respectively to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. In 1964 he helped his side to their first major competition win – a League Cup final victory against Stoke City.

By April 1967, however, Leicester had uncovered another fine goalkeeper in the locally born Peter Shilton, and felt able to sell Banks to Stoke for £52,500. At the age of 34 he featured in Stoke’s 1972 League Cup final win against Chelsea – still the club’s only major honour – and in the same season he was voted Player of the Year in England. It appeared as if Banks, by now appointed OBE, had many years left at the top, and he was looking forward to wearing the keeper’s jersey for England in the qualifying campaign for the 1974 World Cup.

But in October 1972, as he drove home from a session on the treatment table at Stoke’s Victoria Ground, Banks overtook a lorry and collided with a vehicle coming the other way. He suffered serious head injuries and was blinded in his right eye. Although he eventually made a good recovery, Banks could no longer catch a ball properly, and the accident put an end to his top-flight career. In all he had appeared 73 times for England since making his debut at Wembley in 1963 against Brazil, keeping a clean sheet in 35 international matches. He had also made 510 league appearances in all competitions for his three club sides.

Stoke subsequently gave Banks a coaching job with their youth team, and after some time on the training ground he discovered that his one good eye was gradually beginning to compensate for the loss of sight in the other. In 1977, nearly five years after the accident, he made a comeback in the then fashionable North American Soccer League with Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Banks helped Fort Lauderdale to win the title in his first season there – conceding only 29 goals in 26 games – and was voted the league’s goalkeeper of the season. He was joined in Florida by George Best the following year, and played another 11 games in the 1978 season before retiring.

After a largely unhappy year in 1979-80 as manager at non-league Telford United, Banks left frontline football to become a successful after-dinner speaker. He also spent more than 30 years on the pools panel, adjudicating on results when large numbers of football matches were postponed, and he was president of Stoke City from 2000 until his death.

In 2008 Pelé unveiled a statue of Banks outside Stoke’s new Britannia Stadium, showing him making his famous 1970 World Cup save.

Banks is survived by his wife, Ursula, whom he met while on national service in Germany in 1955, and by their three children, Robert, Wendy and Julia.

• Gordon Banks, footballer, born 30 December 1937; died 12 February 2019

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman: Willy Loman on stage

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Brian Dennehy as Willy Loman

Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is a great tragedy of an ordinary man, and all over the world people identify with Willy Loman.

Christopher Bigsby hears from four great actors - Dustin Hoffman, Warren Mitchell, Brian Dennehy and Alun Armstrong - about playing the role.

John Malkovich and Marjorie Yates, who played Biff and Linda, and the directors Michael Rudman, David Thacker and Bob Falls, recall working with the author on the Radio 4 2006 dramatisation - and in recordings made in the year before he died, Arthur Miller reflects on the Everyman he created.

Producer: Julian May.

First broadcast on Radio 4 in 2006.

Listen now, while you can:

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Wednesday night's set lists at The Habit, York

Ron Elderly*: -
He'll Have To Go
Need Your Love So Bad
Wild Horses

Da Elderly: -
One Of These Days

The Elderly Brothers*: -
Love Hurts
Mailman Bring Me No More Blues
Out Of Time
You Really Got A Hold On Me

* with accompaniment from harmonica virtuoso Tim Williams

It was another one of those nights where The Habit was empty at 8:30 but packed for most of the evening thereafter. A visiting troubadour from Wisconsin had everyone singing along with a tune from The Jungle Book; very apt for a man-mountain of a guy, he sang The Bear Necessities. There were plenty of players.....eventually, it looked like it might be 10 songs each at 9pm! The after-show unplugged jam turned into a CSNY fest with 3 players joining in the fun. Another very late finish.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Albert Finney RIP

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Albert Finney obituary
Actor hailed as the new Olivier but who preferred playing working-class heroes to classical roles

Michael Coveney
The Guardian
Fri 8 Feb 2019

One of the new-style working-class heroes and shooting stars of the 1960s, the actor Albert Finney, who has died aged 82, enjoyed a rich and varied career that never quite fulfilled its early promise. Like Richard Burton before him and Kenneth Branagh after him, he was expected to become the new Laurence Olivier, the leader of his profession, on stage and on screen.

That this never quite happened was no fault of Finney’s. He worked intensely in two periods at the National Theatre, was an active film producer as well as occasional director, and remained a glowering, formidable presence in the movies long after he had been nominated five times for an Oscar (without ever winning). Although a stalwart company member – Peter Hall paid heartfelt tribute to his leadership and to his acting at the National – he led his life, personal and professional, at his own tempo.

From middle age onwards – and he was only 47 when he gave one of those Oscar-nominated performances, the fruity old actor defying the blitz, Donald Wolfit-style, in Peter Yates’s The Dresser, written by Ronald Harwood – he assumed a physical bulk and serenity that bespoke a life of ease, far from the madding crowd, in good restaurants and on Irish racecourses. He never courted publicity.

His unusual, cherubic face, slightly puffy and jowly, but with high cheekbones, the face of an unmarked boxer, was always a reminder of his sensational breakthrough in two signature British films, Karel Reisz’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) – his line as the Nottingham bruiser Arthur Seaton, “What I want is a good time; the rest is all propaganda”, could serve as a professional epitaph – and Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones (1963), a lubricious historical romp that imparted a metaphorical mood of the swinging 60s.

Finney was the new roaring boy of that high-spirited, colourful decade – cheeky, northern and working-class. Born in Salford, he was the son of Albert Finney Sr, a bookmaker, and his wife, Alice (nee Hobson); as it happens, also born that day was another Lancastrian “new wave” actor, Glenda Jackson.

Young Albert attended Tootal Drive primary school and Salford grammar. He flunked his exams but played leading roles in 15 school plays and went south to London and Rada, where he was in a class that included Peter O’Toole, Tom Courtenay, Frank Finlay, John Stride and Brian Bedford. While still a student, as Troilus in a modern play, he was spotted by Kenneth Tynan – the best-known critic of the day – who proclaimed a “smouldering young Spencer Tracy ... who will soon disturb the dreams of Messrs Burton and Scofield”. And so it proved. His rise was instant and meteoric. He played Brutus, Hamlet, Henry V and Macbeth at the Birmingham Rep, and in 1956 made his London debut in the Old Vic’s production of Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra. In 1958 he played opposite Charles Laughton in Jane Arden’s The Party at the Arts theatre.

He followed Laughton to Stratford, joining a stellar company under the direction of Glen Byam Shaw, and played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Laughton was Bottom) and Cassio with Paul Robeson as Othello and Peggy Ashcroft as Desdemona. He also understudied (and went on for, to sensational effect) Olivier as Coriolanus.

But Finney was a modern actor not really destined for classical eminence. Much more his style was the insolence and daydreaming of Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall at the Cambridge theatre, though the role on film went to Tom Courtenay. At the Royal Court he took the lead roles in a satirical musical, The Lily White Boys, directed by Lindsay Anderson, and in John Osborne’s vitriolic, tumultuous Luther (the latter in the West End, later on Broadway); he made his film debut opposite Olivier in The Entertainer in 1960.

A pattern of oscillation between theatre and cinema was soon established, as he bookended his first major stint at the National, in the great Olivier company, with screen appearances in Reisz’s 1964 remake of Emlyn Williams’s psychological thriller Night Must Fall and Stanley Donen’s delightful study of a disintegrating relationship, scripted by Frederic Raphael in flash back and fast forward, Two For the Road (1967). Finney’s leading lady in the latter, Audrey Hepburn, was not the first nor last of his amorous work-and-pleasure intrigues.

His NT appearances in 1965 and 1966 were as a strutting Don Pedro in Franco Zeffirelli’s Sicilian take on Much Ado About Nothing (with Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens), the lead in John Arden’s Armstrong’s Last Goodnight, a great double of the candescent upstart Jean in Strindberg’s Miss Julie and the outrageous Harold Gorringe in Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy, topped off with the double-dealing, split-personality Chandebise in Jacques Charon’s definitive production of Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear.

Then he was off again, having founded Memorial films in 1965 with his great friend and fellow actor Michael Medwin, directing and starring in Charlie Bubbles (1968), written by his fellow Salfordian Shelagh Delaney (author of A Taste of Honey) and featuring Billie Whitelaw and Liza Minnelli. He co-produced Lindsay Anderson’s savage public school satire If … (1968), bankrolled Mike Leigh’s first feature film, Bleak Moments (1971), and gave Stephen Frears his movie-directing debut on Gumshoe, a brilliant homage to film noir as well as a good story (written by Neville Smith) about a bingo caller (Finney) in a trenchcoat with delusions of being Humphrey Bogart. He even had time to disguise himself totally as a wispily senile Scrooge in Ronald Neame’s 1970 film, with Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley and Edith Evans as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

An invitation to return to the Royal Court as an associate director (1972-75) resulted in one of his blistering stage performances, opposite Rachel Roberts, in EA Whitehead’s Alpha Beta. He directed Brian Friel’s The Freedom of the City and a revival of Joe Orton’s Loot, and appeared in David Storey’s Cromwell and Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape.

The reminiscing Krapp unspooled his old Grundig on a double bill with Billie Whitelaw’s hectic jabbering in Not I, and Finney confided in Whitelaw his lack of rapport with the playwright: “You know the way I work, I take all the different paints out of the cupboard, I mix the colours together. If they’re not right, I shove them all back and take out a new lot.” Whitelaw advised him to dispose of all the colours and retain the white, black and grey.

He was much happier unbuttoning in Peter Nichols’s sharp West End comedy Chez Nous and embodying Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot in Sidney Lumet’s star-laden Murder on the Orient Express (1974). But he returned to the National under Peter Hall during the difficult transition period from the Old Vic to the South Bank.

Over six years from 1974, as striking technicians and unconvinced critics lined up to try to scupper the new building, Finney ploughed on as a bullish, tormented Hamlet, a lascivious Horner in The Country Wife, the perfect arriviste Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard and a disappointing Macbeth. The centrepiece was his heroic, muscular and glistening Tamburlaine in Peter Hall’s 1976 defiant staging of Marlowe’s two-part mighty epic, twirling an axe to deadly effect.

This performance marked Finney’s grandest, if not necessarily finest, hour on stage; he appeared briefly at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, in 1977 to deliver beautifully modulated performances as Uncle Vanya and an ultra-credible woman-slaying Gary Essendine in Noël Coward’s Present Laughter. Another long absence from the theatre ended with a stunning performance as a roguish Chicago hoodlum in Lyle Kessler’s Orphans at the Hampstead theatre in 1986 (and a movie version a year later) and another great turn as a Catholic priest, held hostage and deprived of his faith, in Harwood’s JJ Farr at the Phoenix theatre.

Finney was now nearly a grand old man, but without the seigneurial distinction of either Olivier or Gielgud. He was delightful and dewy-eyed, eventually, as a bald Daddy Warbucks in John Huston’s film of Annie (1982), but truly magnificent as the alcoholic British consul – “a drunk act to end all drunk acts” said one critic – in Huston’s Under the Volcano (1984), adapted from the novel by Malcolm Lowry.

That performance should have won the Oscar, perhaps, but he remained a near-miss nominee, as he had done in The Dresser (1983). On stage, the beautiful, bolshie boy had settled into ruminative, but always interesting, late middle age, notably in Harwood’s ingeniously structured Another Time (1989), in which he played a bankrupt Jewish commercial traveller and, in the second act, his own musician son, 35 years later; another Harwood play, Reflected Glory (1992), allowed him to let rip as a breezy Mancunian restaurateur confronted with a critical family play written by his own playwright brother (though it was slightly unsettling to see Finney, the brave new Turk, siding with Harwood’s contempt for “modish” contemporary theatre manners).

His last stage appearance reunited him in 1996 with his old friend Courtenay in Yasmina Reza’s Art, at Wyndham’s, a play about friendship being threatened by the purchase of a white painting for a lot of money. Courtenay was the art-loving dermatologist, Finney hilarious and exasperated as an astronautical engineer appalled by the purchase.

Harwood scripted a new film version of Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version (1994), directed by Mike Figgis, but Finney was probably as unwise to assume Michael Redgrave’s mantle as the unloved classics teacher as he was to play the Ralph Richardson role of Henry James’s Dr Austin Sloper in Agnieszka Holland’s Washington Square (1997), a remake of William Wyler’s far superior The Heiress.

Finney, it seemed, was selecting his movie scripts for their surprise and eclectic qualities, rather than any urgency about fulfilling his destiny as a great actor. But he was much racier on film than on stage. He honed his gangster act as a dodgy politician in the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing (1990), bumbled irascibly as a retired track official in Matthew Warchus’s Simpatico (1999), an underrated version of a difficult Sam Shepard play, and added a touch of class (and a wayward American accent) as the small-town lawyer in Steven Soderbergh’s crusading Erin Brockovich (2000), opposite a rejuvenated, tremendous Julia Roberts, which brought his fifth and last Oscar nomination.

His best, and now often elegiac, performances materialised sporadically on television: as Maurice Allington in The Green Man (1991), adapted from a Kingsley Amis novel; as Reggie in A Rather English Marriage (1998), alongside Courtenay; and as Churchill in The Gathering Storm (2002), written by Hugh Whitemore, with Vanessa Redgrave as his wife.

In Hollywood, he clocked in for Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and the third in a superb trilogy adapted from Robert Ludlum’s spy action thrillers, starring Matt Damon, Paul Greengrass’s The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). His last movie credits came in The Bourne Legacy and the Bond film Skyfall (both 2012).

Finney, always known as Albie, was rumoured to have declined both a CBE and a knighthood. In 1957 he married the actor Jane Wenham; they had a son, Simon, and divorced in 1961. His marriage to the French actor Anouk Aimée in 1970 ended in divorce eight years later. He then had a long relationship with the actor Diana Quick – the pair were for a while feared missing up the Amazon. In 2006 he married Pene Delmage, who survives him, along with Simon.

Albert Finney, actor, born 9 May 1936; died 7 February 2019

Friday, 8 February 2019

Dead Poets Society #90 W. H. Auden: The More Loving One

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The More Loving One by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be, 
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am 
Of stars that do not give a damn, 
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die, 
I should learn to look at an empty sky 
And feel its total dark sublime, 
Though this might take me a little time.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Matt Salinger: "When it's ready, we're going to share it."

Photograph: Ali Smith/The Guardian

Matt Salinger: ‘My father was writing for 50 years without publishing. That’s a lot of material’
In JD Salinger’s centenary year, his son opens up about life with the Catcher in the Rye author – and for the first time, confirms there are unpublished works to come

Lidija Haas
The Guardian
Fri 1 Feb 2019

Among all the dispute and conjecture that has surrounded the life of JD Salinger, one mystery remains especially puzzling. What did he produce after ceasing to publish his writing in 1965, and will it ever be read? It seemed possible that more work would come to light after Salinger’s death in 2010. In 2013 a documentary and accompanying book claimed, among other things, to describe the contents of five new Salinger books that would be forthcoming by 2020 at the latest, yet here we are at his centenary and there has been no sign.

I ask Salinger’s son Matt about the rumours of new material when we meet for breakfast near his home in Connecticut, and he doesn’t mince words. “They’re total trash,” he says. “The specific bullet-point dramatic quote-unquote reveals that have been made are utter bullshit. They have little to no bearing on reality.” He has been reluctant, until now, to talk about his father at all. “I’ve gotten away with not having this kind of conversation for 58 years,” he says. Still, he is ready, now, to confirm that other writing does exist. His father “teemed with ideas and thoughts, and he’d be driving the car and he’d pull over to write something and laugh to himself – sometimes he’d read it to me, sometimes he wouldn’t – and next to every chair he had a notebook.” He assures me that “most all of what he wrote will at some point be shared with the people that love reading his stuff”. When I ask why that moment hasn’t yet arrived, he is disarmingly direct. “It’s not ready. He wanted me to pull it together, and because of the scope of the job, he knew it would take a long time. This was somebody who was writing for 50 years without publishing, so that’s a lot of material. So there’s not a reluctance or a protectiveness: when it’s ready, we’re going to share it.”

Tall and striking, with an air of warmth and amusement that belies his evident doubts about talking to me at all, Matt Salinger is an actor – probably best known for playing Captain America in the 1990 film – and a producer of movies and theatre, most notably Pamela Gien’s The Syringa Tree, which he “put my whole self into for a decade”, producing an international hit. What becomes clear is that he has been immersed in his father’s material for years – pages typed on Underwood and Royal typewriters, as well as what Salinger called “his squibs, or his fragments” on ordinary paper cut into eighths: “a lot of handwritten, very small notes”. When he began work in 2011, Matt never expected it would take eight years. He feels “fortunate”, he says. “Reading this stuff for the first time” has been “an emotional thing”, like having an ongoing dialogue with his father. “A lot of my friends at this age, their parents are dying or have died and they’re just gone, you know. And my father’s not gone. He hasn’t died for me.” Often he will “just have to stop what I am doing”, struck by something “that I recognise that for the right reader, whether it’s millions or hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands or three or one, it could just be the one right reader that needs to read that. I feel the pressure to get this done, more than he did.”

When I ask how much longer it will take, Matt replies: “We’re definitely talking years,” though, he hopes, fewer than 10. “When his widow and I were first gauging what needed to be done after he died, I knew that I wouldn’t be producing any films or theatre for a while and I knew that I would only be doing enough acting to keep my family’s health insurance.” Often people will approach Matt in public, at a ski resort or bike repair shop – “it’s always my credit card that does me in!” – with “a cri de coeur”, pleading to know if or when more work will appear. One older woman said she didn’t want to die without having read what more there is. “If that’s not pressure …” he says. “I don’t take any of this lightly.” He adds, “I don’t owe an apology, I don’t think, but your readers should know that we’re going as fast as we freaking can.”

Of the rumours that have spread, Matt laughs that “anyone that understood my father at all would find the idea hysterically funny that he would write a book about his first brief marriage. It’s so far beyond the realm of plausibility.” He’s unwilling, at this point, to reveal anything specific, though it’s clear that there will be more about the Glass family, who inhabit many of his best published stories. He says there’s “no linear evolution” in the later work: “It becomes clear that he was after different game.” Matt believes the new work “will definitely disappoint people that he wouldn’t care about, but for real readers … I think it will be tremendously well received by those people and they will be affected in the way every reader hopes to be affected when they open a book. Not changed, necessarily, but something rubs off that can lead to change.”

Matt was born in 1960 and immortalised a year later in the dedication to Franny and Zooey (Salinger writes that he offered the book up to the New Yorker’s editor, William Shawn, “as nearly as possible in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean”). By the time Matt came along, the second child of his father’s second marriage, in 1955, to Claire Douglas, Salinger had already published most of the work on which his monumental reputation rests. After the perennial bestseller The Catcher in the Rye (1951) came For Esmé – with Love and Squalor, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters (the last three mostly consist of stories that appeared in the New Yorker from the late 1940s to 1950s), and then that final New Yorker story, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” in June 1965.

As a child, Matt didn’t hear much about his father’s work. “We were more likely to talk about the Dartmouth football team, or what are we going to do when I pick you up on Wednesday.” He speaks of the respect his father had for children: “He did see the world as something that will just work on fucking you up, if allowed to. He had a real belief and even reverence for the innate intelligence and beauty of kids before they’re homogenised.” Matt’s sister, Margaret, who is four years older than him, offered in her 2000 memoir Dream Catcher a much darker portrait of their parents and childhood, which Matt refuted in print as “gothic tales”. (These days he keeps her informed about plans for the centenary and says: “I only wish her happiness.”) JD Salinger’s first marriage, to a German woman just after the second world war, lasted less than a year. After his divorce from Matt and Margaret’s mother in the 1960s, he eventually married Colleen O’Neill, who now has joint charge of his literary trust with Matt.

That means being on the first line of defence, “fighting lawsuits and tilting at windmills”, fending off what Salinger called “wanters” (I can’t quite tell if the “relentless” Harvey Weinstein, who was “after me forever” to get a film of Catcher off the ground, counts as one of these), and hindering, for instance, the republication of several early stories that Salinger did not want collected. (His father’s feeling about those stories, which were “youthful exercises, part of his process, his development as an artist,” seemed to Matt to be akin to “when you’re having a bad night and you’re trying to go to sleep and you think of things and you just have that wince, ‘Did I really say that?’ or ‘Did I really do that?’ …. There was also more ego in those, he called himself a showoff when he was young.”) Matt has been “keeping up that vigilance. And it’s not a sporting exercise, I don’t do it lightly, it’s no fun. I do it because my father would have done it and out of love for him, and out of love and protectiveness for his work and his books.” He has made himself an expert in international copyright law, and speaks with energy about “European countries where their law came more from Hegel than from Locke.” In the cottage industry of Salinger quasi-biography, he identifies a “weird sort of inverse relationship,” in which “the better somebody knew my father, the less likely they were going to be to talk to anybody. And there was really no middle ground, you either knew him really well and intimately or you just knew him completely casually.” He himself is painstakingly precise in what he says about his father or the work, often second-guessing a word or phrase, reiterating that his father would probably hate what he’s saying and how he’s saying it, or deciding, mid-way through a seemingly harmless sentence, not to finish it. All Salinger’s files, which in his lifetime were kept in a pair of safes in his house – “and thank God they were”, Matt remembers, because otherwise everything would have been lost when Salinger’s house burned down during the 1990s – are now in a high-security storage facility.

Salinger’s desire for privacy, of course, only increased the feverish interest of the press, and his son kept track of the shift in words habitually used to describe him as the decades passed, “seeing when the word recluse started being used. And then that morphed in the common vernacular among journalists to ‘famous recluse’, and then it became ‘infamous recluse’. In the last 10 years, it became ‘notorious recluse’, and if you really think about that word, it’s damning, it has all kinds of psychological overtones, and it’s dishonest, and like so much that’s written, it says more about the person who’s writing it than it does about the subject.” There was nothing sinister or mysterious, Matt insists, in his father’s wish to live and write in private. “He just decided that the best thing for his writing was not to have a lot of interactions with people, literary types in particular. He didn’t want to be playing in those poker games, he wanted to, as he would encourage every would-be writer to do, you know, stew in your own juices.” Salinger gives a vivid, impromptu impression of his father, on the phone, clearing his throat: “Sorry Matt, God, I haven’t used my voice in three days.” Time alone was simply “what he needed for his work, and his work was everything to him”. The rest, Matt says, “is just noise and mythologising and pathologising and people’s own neurosis”.

At one point he shows me a copy of one of the small, handwritten notes that he came across recently, as “an offering or a gesture” to Salinger’s readers. “Anyone that loved his writing and thinks they cared for him in a certain way might have been alarmed or concerned at so much of what’s been written,” he thinks, and he wants them to get “a glimpse” at how Salinger was feeling late in life. The piece, “like a haiku in a way”, describes a moment of unexpected and “still, not disquieting” happiness while resting, having been up working at the typewriter since six that morning: “and, through the window by the bed he saw that snow was falling without rush but copiously into the grayness, the December unsunniness of the late afternoon, and it was suddenly, bliss, sheer bliss, to be alive and watching and about to fall asleep, nearing sleep. Bliss. Thank you, God!”

He is currently deciding what should be included in an exhibition at the New York Public Library in October – “talk about things that go against my nature!” – that will have some manuscripts, photographs, objects, letters. But, he promises: “We’re never going to be merchandising anything. There’s never going to be a Salinger vodka.” Going through some of the hundred or so letters his father wrote him, “often funny as hell”, dating from the early 1970s to 2009, he offers to read some to me. A letter from 1976 links an interpretation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with the TV journalist Dan Rather’s soppy coverage of Nixon’s resignation and with a tennis match between Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong, whom he sees as “like some Star Trek girl from outer space ... Too peace-loving, too placid to be effective against any of the hustlers from Earth.” He writes:

“There’s probably no limit to the extremes of infantile and Zoo-like behavior adults will take to, or revert to, if they’re in a group (which means any number of people in excess of two – and on some occasions two’s a mob, especially if there’s booze around), and if the organised shit-throwing is given the permissive, O.K. general heading of Fun & Games, or if it’s vaguely categorized as Letting Off a Little Steam Once in a While Never Hurt Anybody, Mac. Oh, groups at large give me the willies, Da. Group enthusiasm, of any kind, either for cheering or lynching, makes me very uneasy …”

Elsewhere he expresses delight in catching one of Matt’s appearances on TV (he praised his honesty and brilliance, “right in the middle of all that SHIT!!”). Other letters are very emotionally direct. Going through “all those old papers and letters yesterday made me all the more aware how happy and relieved I am to be living in the present, not the past. I can’t say I cared much for the War or military school or my childhood. These Cornish years with you and Peggy and this house and you and the fields and my notebooks and work and you and Lili and Schotland and Nice Doggie and Rosie and you and Sri. R. and the Nuremberg Egg and our trips to London and Lake Placid and Dublin and Montreal and Andover – these years have been what I would call my real life.”

The preparation of his father’s writing is, Matt feels, the most meaningful work he could be doing. “You’re only given one life. Most of the movies that I produced were crap.” He also assures readers that “when my father said that everything he has to say is in his fiction, believe it – it’s there. I think when more of his writing is made accessible, he covers everything that the discerning reader would care about. My job is to help that happen as soon as it can, and stay out of the way.” He adds: “Whatever I have to offer up on his behalf, I’ll certainly do with more belief and faith and love than I offered that lima bean to whoever it was. And hope.”

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Leonardo da Vinci: Drawings from the Royal Collection - at a museum near you!

Detail from Head of the Madonna, by Leonardo da Vinci. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing review – the superhuman hits you like a thunderbolt
Museums across the UK
These drawings from the Royal Collection – dispersed around Britain – are like pure, clear windows on to the extraordinary mind of this enigmatic and visionary genius

Jonathan Jones
The Guardian
Thu 31 Jan 2019

It was in Cardiff that I finally cracked the Da Vinci Code. For years I’ve been searching for the clues that would explain this weird and wonderful genius. I’ve visited the Tuscan hill town Vinci, where an illegitimate boy called Leonardo was born in 1452, and Amboise in the Loire Valley, where he died on 2 May 1519, looking for traces of his secret self. Yet it was on an icy afternoon in the Welsh capital that I finally found the killer clue to a real Leonardo da Vinci mystery: his sex life.

Leonardo’s inky fingerprint has been found – it’s just barely visible with the naked eye – on his drawing The Cardiovascular System and Principal Organs of a Woman, done c.1509-10, yet this is not the revelation. This big, bold graphic dissection of a female body is a window on Leonardo’s emotions. He has drawn a female nude then transposed against her rounded breasts a complex machinery of tubes and pumps, bags and balloons. Her uterus looks like an alien creature. As an image of the female form it isn’t exactly intimate, let alone lustful. At the National Museum Wales, you can look straight from this to a far more sensual portrayal of the human body that he drew in about 1504: a scintillating study of a naked man from behind. Leonardo’s muscular model stands at attention, showing us his curly locks and rippling back. His hands seem to visibly shake with contained energy. His stance is potent. Leonardo uses red chalk to give this nude a carnal warmth: its softness lets him delicately model every bulge and recess of taut skin. The man’s buttocks are ripe ovals of perfection.
The cardiovascular system and principal organs of a woman; and Study of a male nude from behind, by Leonardo da Vinci. Composite: Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

These drawings shown together truly seem to decode something about the Renaissance artist, scientist, engineer and inventor who died 500 years ago this year. To celebrate Leonardo’s half-millennium, the Royal Collection, which owns the world’s most eye-popping hoard of his graphic works, has scattered traces of his true self across the UK: 12 museums in 12 cities have each got a piece of him. Perhaps, if you could somehow see all the shows, you would know everything there is to know about Leonardo. He would come to life and talk.

And there is so much to explain. Looking from Leonardo’s loving, lingering male nude to his vision of what is clearly, for him, the alien entity of womanhood, it’s hard not to share Sigmund Freud’s analysis in his book on him that this Renaissance man loved other men.

And yet, before you can humanise Leonardo you have to acknowledge the superhuman in him. It hits like a thunderbolt in Bristol Museum and Art Gallery’s gorgeous show of drawings sharply lit against dark blue walls. Every drawing in this exhibition is more than five centuries old. And these medieval masterpieces are incredibly well preserved. Each nuance of chalk, ink and colour wash seems to have been frozen forever. This is one reason why, I believe, you can get much closer to Leonardo in his drawings than in his paintings. His paintings have been restored and repainted over the centuries, or fallen to bits, like The Last Supper. But these sketches are pristine. They are not by his assistants. They are pure clear windows on his mind, many with his notes in his reversed handwriting interspersed among the images.
A Storm Over a Valley. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

In his drawing of A Storm Over a Valley he uses red chalk again, this time to create what feels more like a modelling of the atmosphere than a mere landscape sketch. Rolling banks of cloud billow above a mountain valley, releasing heavy cascades of rain on the settlements below. But what’s spooky is the point of view. Leonardo seems to be looking down on the little human world of churches and farms from far, far above.

Perhaps he’s standing on a mountaintop – he did explore the Alps. Yet there are other landscapes by him that also seem to be seen from the sky. Famously, he tried to make a flying machine. This drawing shows flight is central to his way of thinking about the world: he literally wanted to rise above it all.

For Leonardo was not at ease in human society. Why would he be? In one drawing in the Cardiff exhibition he portrays a thuggish face, a huge, fleshy head on a thick neck. In another work, in Bristol, he delineates a savage battle. They are both instances of his bleak feelings about the brutality and violence of our species. Other masterpieces show how, near the end of his life, he became obsessed with deluges tearing the world apart, smashing a mountain, destroying an army like ants under the swirling power of the elements.

His curiosity is so insistent, like that of a staring child. Or maybe a serial killer, meticulously drawing the bones of the dead. No one had ever before looked at human anatomy as Leonardo does in drawings based on his own dissections. He finds within us a mysterious architecture. The interior of the heart is laced with fan vaulting like a gothic cathedral. Our bodies are labyrinths of tunnels and cavities, spheres and tree branches.
The world from above … A Map of the Valdichiana, c.1503-04. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust/PA

That magic weave of fragile organic stuff links all nature. In his portrait of a woman looking downward, a design for his late painting The Virgin and St Anne, she sports a richly textured lacy headdress. The ruffled silk looks like a jellyfish sac he’s seen washed up on shore: the Virgin is wearing a marine organism in her hair. In a map of the river Arno in Tuscany the blue tendrils of the river look like tentacles, roots, or veins in a human body.

The more of these drawings you see the more startling and real Leonardo becomes. But so does his jaundiced view of our species. We’re just part of a bigger picture. Human organs and the Earth, microcosm and macrocosm, all mirror each other. Perhaps that’s why the art of Leonardo leaves you so enraptured. I felt as if I could see my own skeleton and those of Cardiff passersby as I popped into Greggs for a vegan sausage roll. Come to think of it, Leonardo would have approved. He was a vegetarian. If everything is one interwoven fabric, he thought, who are we to act like lords of creation?

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing runs 1 February-6 May in in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland. Then at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 24 May – 13 October.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Wednesday night's set lists at The Habit, York

Ron Ron kicking off his set with Just My Imagination

Ron Elderly: -
Just My Imagination
Try A Little Tenderness

Da Elderly: -
Flying On The Ground Is Wrong
You've Got A Friend

The Elderly Brothers: -
Let It Be Me
When Will I Be Loved
Then I Kissed Her
I Saw Her Standing There

On a bitterly cold night in York, The Habit was unexpectedly busy. We had a good turnout of players too, including a couple who, once regulars, returned after a long absence. Having listened to the Buffalo Springfield's first album on the train, I dug out an old song which also featured as a cover on the first Scoundrels album. A little bit of FNB history for all you devotees out there!

And a quick reminder that The Elderly Brothers will be playing The Habit on Saturday 9th Feb 9pm - midnight. Be there or be square 😊

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing at Two Temple Place, London - review

Portrait of John Ruskin, attributed to Charles Fairfax Murray

John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing review - oddball or visionary?
Two Temple Place, London
The influential critic, social reformer and troubled genius profoundly changed British culture. In his 200th anniversary year, can this exhibition help us see him clearly?

Jonathan Jones
The Guardian
Thu 24 Jan 2019

Art critic, geologist, botanist, Alpinist, architectural theorist and social reformer – maybe even revolutionary – John Ruskin gazes with troubled intensity from a watercolour portrait that dates from when he was on the verge of losing his mind. Half his face is in shadow, the other in mountain sunlight. His blue-green eyes stare almost too intently. There’s something wrong behind them. The following year, over Christmas 1876 in his beloved Venice, Ruskin would start to hallucinate. Breakdowns would follow and he eventually withdrew from the world, cared for at home on a healthy inheritance from his wine merchant father, until his death in 1900.

Ruskin’s manic portrait, attributed to Charles Fairfax Murray but quite possibly the critic’s own work, fits well into the late-Victorian interior of Two Temple Place, laden with rich wooden carvings, panelling and stained glass. Or does it? It’s safe to say its architect was influenced by Ruskin’s gothic vision of architecture. Yet it’s an equally safe guess that Ruskin would have loathed it, for this neo-Tudor fantasy was created for the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor. In his book The Stones of Venice, the bible of the gothic revival, Ruskin denounces the very opulence and selfishness this building represents. Medieval gothic, for him, is an art of communal togetherness, created by a morally superior age that respected honest work and condemned capitalist usury.
Study of Spray of Dead Oak Leaves, 1879, by John Ruskin Photograph: Hazel Drummond/Collection of the Guild of St George/Museums Sheffield

And there, in a nutshell, is the reason for today’s Ruskin revival. In the late 20th century, Ruskin was considered a bit of a joke. Even now, his name for many people evokes a sexually repressed Victorian oddball. Even the curators of this loving homage can’t resist telling us how working-class audiences laughed at his “megaphone” lecturing voice and quirky bird imitations. Yet as the deepest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s drags on and Victorian critics of the cash nexus, from Karl Marx to William Morris, are taken seriously once more, Ruskin’s social radicalism looks urgent again. He was ahead of them all. In 1860, he horrified readers of the Cornhill magazine with a series of articles that denounced free-market economics. The myth of a grasping homo economicus, he argued, is a fundamental misconception of human nature. Marx’s Das Kapital would not appear until seven years later.

At the heart of this celebration of Ruskin’s 200th anniversary – he was born in 1819, the same year as Queen Victoria – is a telling story of his generous, ardent spirit. In 1875, Ruskin created a museum for the people of Sheffield. The north remembers: this show has been created by Sheffield’s museums together with the Ruskinian Guild of St George. Art, Ruskin believed, was for everyone. And everyone needs it. The industrial working class deserved not just bread but beauty. The most beautiful thing in this exhibition, however, is not a work of art. It’s the collection of minerals Ruskin presented to his people’s museum. These gorgeous rocks set this exhibition alight with their strong colours and brilliant crystal facets: purple amethyst, snow-white quartz, bubbling haematite.

Opal stones … ‘These gorgeous rocks set this exhibition alight with their strong colours and brilliant crystal facets’ Photograph: Hazel Drummond/Collection of the Guild of St George/Museums Sheffield

He created his little museum in a former cottage in Walkley, between Sheffield and its surrounding countryside, to draw working folk out of the smoky town to explore nature. For Ruskin, the natural world was sacred. To be in it was to be enraptured, transformed, redeemed. His responses to the natural are on display in his drawings and watercolours of glaciers and mossy riverbanks, wildflowers and a bright blue peacock feather. His eye for nature can be enthralling, especially when he homes in on strange gothic patterns and textures. His Study of Moss, Fern and Wood-Sorrel, Upon a Rocky River Bank is a mesmerising portrayal of green life entwined in the ancient scars and turbulent strata of a steep rocky mass.

Here is another way Ruskin suddenly looks contemporary again. There are new images of nature among the Victorian drawings, including a chilling digital analysis of the changing forms of Alpine glaciers by Dan Holdsworth. Ruskin knew nothing of global warming, but his passionate belief in the preciousness of nature comes through in his awestruck Turneresque watercolour of Vevey in the Alps, with its sapphire, immemorial mountains.

Study of Moss, Fern and Wood -Sorrel, upon a Rocky River Bank, 1875-79. Photograph: Hazel Drummond/© Collection of the Guild of St George / Museums Sheffield

What the show can’t fully reveal, because it is hidden by the precision of his drawings, is the tragedy of Ruskin’s passion for nature. Brought up as an evangelical Christian, shaped by the glories of art and nature he saw on childhood trips in Europe, his vocation as a young man was to teach his contemporaries to see the divinely created beauty of the world. “I have to prove to them ... that the truth of nature is part of the truth of God,” he wrote. As those lovely rocks in this exhibition show, geology was at the heart of his theocratic scientific vision. Yet geology in the 19th century was the very science that was demolishing god, fossil by fossil. By 1851, he could hear the geologists’ hammers chipping away his faith: “…those dreadful Hammers! I hear the clink of them at the end of every cadence of the Bible verses.”

Ruskin’s scientific honesty devastated his Christian belief and that may have helped to destroy his reason. His calm drawings disguise a turbulence that was tearing him apart. His socialism, too, emerged in the later part of his life. In the Victorian hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful, the social order is seen as divinely appointed. But if there’s no God, Ruskin saw, why should the poor wait at the rich man’s gate?

This exhibition is a timely reminder of the tortured genius of the most complex and gifted art critic who ever lived – although it shows how inadequate any label is for this lofty soul.

• John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing is at Two Temple Place, London, from 26 January until 22 April.

John Ruskin
The Power of Seeing

26th January 2019 – 22nd April 2019

Artist, art critic, educator, social thinker and true polymath, John Ruskin (1819-1900) devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge. To mark the bicentenary of his birth, a new exhibition produced by Two Temple Place, Museums Sheffield and the Guild of St George, will celebrate the legacy and enduring relevance of Ruskin’s ideas and vision. John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing will bring together over 190 paintings, drawings, daguerreotypes, metal work, and plaster casts to illustrate how Ruskin’s attitude to aesthetic beauty shaped his radical views on culture and society.

The exhibition will showcase significant objects from Sheffield’s Guild of St George Ruskin Collection whilst also drawing on the rich collections of both regional and national public museums and galleries, including, The Ashmolean; Calderdale Museums; The Fitzwilliam; Gallery Oldham; The Ruskin Library, Lancaster; Leeds Museums and Art Gallery; Tate; Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village and the William Morris Gallery. Newly commissioned works including site-specific installations by Timorous Beasties and Grizedale Arts, a new moving image piece by Dan Holdsworth and contributions from artists Hannah Downing and Emilie Taylor will also feature, exploring Ruskin’s contemporary legacy.

The exhibition is curated by Louise Pullen, Ruskin Curator at Museums Sheffield, with the support of Alison Morton, Exhibition & Displays Curator, Museums Sheffield. Author and journalist, Michael Glover has provided further interpretation and insight.

John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing will be complemented by a further exhibition continuing the bicentenary celebrations at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield from 29 May – 15 September 2019.

Ruskin To-Day is a gathering of the many people, places and enterprises devoted to Ruskin and his work. For more on all the activity planned around the world for 2019, go to

The exhibition is supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Sheffield Town Trust and James Neill Trust Fund.