Posts tagged ‘Robert Evans’

January 2, 2013

top books of 2012

Some for work; some for fun; most not published in 2012, merely read by me in that year.


The Last Party by John Harris. Britpop was the dominant music movement of my mid-teens, and I never got into it at all. This came out ten years ago and even by then Britpop already seemed like a relic, an oxbow lake off the river of popular music. It’s well worth reading just to make yourself feel relieved that the 90s are well behind us, and to giggle at the self-importance of Justine Frischmann, whose musical legacy is, as far as I can tell, the theme to Trigger Happy TV.

How Music Works by David Byrne. It’s uneven, but when it is good, it is very good. I particularly enjoyed the chapters about the mechanics of how music works, eg how the different types of venue influenced the form.
Also I can’t remember the last book I had which had been manufacturered to this standard: thick pages, padded cover, even the Canongate business card had three different coloured layers. I wasn’t aware these things mattered until they did.

The Castrato and His Wife by Helen Berry. Worshipped by society but not accepted. Fetishised by women but forbidden to marry them. Irreversably physically altered as children for a slim chance of musical superstardom. Being a castrato was no picnic, right guys? And as this book demonstrates, it was also considerably more complicated and interesting than just having your nuts removed so you kept singing like Bieber forever.

Mid-20th century fiction about pairs of unhappy sisters:

Thanks, I’ll take two: Easter Parade by Richard Yates, and Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker.

Self-serving memoirs:

The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans. Sure, Evans is a tool, but he’s a very entertaining tool when he’s describing his short sharp rise to Hollywood success followed by the long, bumpy decline. Evans is anxious to set the record straight – most of that was not his fault, OK? When your ego is the size of a planet and it gets bruised, you have a LOT of beef; wealthy, coke-fuelled Hollywood beef is the best beef.

Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir by Cyndi Lauper with Jancee Dunn. Somebody has even more scores to settle than Robert Evans. All the people who over the decades have overridden Lauper, or forced her to ignore her instincts, or are Madonna – up yours! Oh, and by the way, Lady Gaga and all you other outlandish pop stars of now – CYNDI DID IT THIRTY YEARS AGO AND BETTER.
When she’s not moaning, or being amusingly bitchy, Lauper gives a vibrant account of the New York scene in the 70s and 80s, following a rough childhood (and adulthood, frankly). With indomitable spirit throughout, she remains a fresh lunatic even now she’s pushing 60.

Not self-serving not-exactly-memoirs:

It’s Not Me, It’s You! by Jon Richardson. I don’t think many writers could make this work, but Richardson is intelligent, funny and painfully observant enough to do so. The book evolved out of this 2010 Guardian article; it goes into near-molecular detail of a fairly ordinary day, the humdrum providing a backdrop to relentless self-flagellation, epic loneliness and minute obsession.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. I know it’s technically fiction, a ‘thinly veiled’ memoir, but Ephron herself makes it plain how very thin the veil is. The bitter disintegration of a marriage was rarely so wrily depicted.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Shortly before Christmas I visited Savannah, Georgia and this is THE Savannah book so I took it with me. Then I was too embarrassed to read it in public in Savannah because I hate to acknowledge how predictable I am like all the other tourists. Anyway: murder mystery, courtroom drama, drag queens and the history of town planning make an irresistable combination, no wonder everyone went so crazy for this book.

Your suggestions for books I should read this year are very welcome. If you’re looking for more titles, here are my top books of 2011.

May 16, 2012

Watercolour is too damn watery

The order of a spectrum of pigment pans; the disorder of the paint splatters; the neat tin with fold-out palette: this sight is pleasing to me.

A less pleasing sight is what I am capable of painting with it.

Here’s the galling thing: I was better at watercolour when I was nine. (I was better at most things when I was nine. Peaked too early.) My school art teacher taught us the main watercolour techniques with a classic newbie watercolour exercise: making us paint pictures of a tree on a hilltop, next to a piece of broken fence. Somewhere my parents have a stack of my pictures of trees next to broken fences, and I dare say Monet’s mum got a bit sick of looking at his poplar paintings too.

Anon, I grew up, and put away such childish things. I didn’t paint much again till my mid-twenties, whereupon I was on a far more cartoonish streak painting in acrylics – I will try to dig out some pictures of these sometime.

Anyway, for some reason, after some twenty years not missing them, I chose to use watercolour to paint my brother’s Edinburgh poster last year. It didn’t turn out terribly well, albeit with mitigating circumstances as I mentioned, and it reminded me that actually I quite hate watercolour. How are you supposed to exert control over something that is so damned runny? How are you supposed to love a medium that won’t let you cover up your mistakes? An even bigger problem for me is reversing the mindset I got into through acrylic and oils, with which you add light; watercolour is all about taking away light, which necessitates too much forward planning for my tastes.

But I can’t put away the watercolours quite yet, in case I just hate them because I’m crap at using them. Hatred is bred of fear. I MUST BEAT MY WATERCOLOUR FEAR.

With postcards.


Watch out, friends! If you invite me over for a meal, three days afterwards you’ll probably be assaulted by a practice watercolour postcard depicting something that cropped up during our discourse.

For Catherine, who cooked us Sunday lunch, the swan above. After we ate, she took us for a walk along the canal, and waited patiently whilst my husband spent an inordinate amount of time trying to take Instagram pictures of swans grooming themselves.

Then we were fed supper by Racton and Eleanor, who wound up with:


I can’t remember why Robert Evans came up in conversation, but the caption is from our friend Amy’s bravura recreation of The Kid Stays In The Picture. If she ever decides to go professional with the after-dinner speaking in the manner of 1970s Hollywood producers, I’ll let you know, because it would definitely be worth the fee.