Posts Tagged ‘Khatchaturian’

I said I’d report back on the erotic potential of Khachaturian‘s Piano Concerto, claims for which are made by novelist Peter Robinson – or at least by his detective alter ego, Alan Banks – in one of his books.  Nah.  I’ve given it three goes now, but my attention wandered fairly quickly and indeed, allowed the CD to drift onto other material which sounded more interesting, actually, unspecifically.  “Why are you listening to this?” Andrea asked – too much plinking and plunking (more plunking actually) for her and I have to agree – not that I was playing it with any intent.

And I wondered if Simon Armitage‘s poetry was going to be as interesting or as much fun as his book about becoming (coming out to his dad: “Dad, I think I might be a poet”) and actually being a poet.  Now … poetry can be hard work, even the reading of it, and I struggled a bit to find a handle with these later slim volumes, ‘The universal home doctor‘ (Faber, 2002) and ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex versus the Corduroy Kid‘ (Faber, 2006).  Not helped by the latter’s clever sod fatuous opening conspiracy theory nod of an ode on the death of David Kelly (remember WOMDs?) – a setting of official hand-washing instructions.  First skimmed impressions of the collections: “So what?” and “What?” and “Why bother?”  Then the odd decent phrase worming its way in – “jobbing pedestrians” say, and from a different poem, “the soles of your feet on fire in your sensible shoes” or “Oh to be wassailed like the apple tree” – so I put in the work; he has the reputation.  And yes, fine, some pretty good stuff in there, a real variety, of poignant contemplation, wit, love, a certain rage, and wonder.  Encapsulations of personal moments, events, unexpected juxtapositions (never quite surreal), oppositions working at tangents giving meaning, a broadening of context, sometimes vast … I discover a bloke not unlike me, I suspect, noticing stuff.  Still a few duds, mind, I think, but I like the birthday poems (quirky lists, there’s one in each book), the elaborate conceits (like DIY as epic battle), the self-examination.  Did the almost great ‘To the Women of the Merrie England Coffee Houses, Huddersfield‘ really need that line about gay sex in toilets?  A few marred like that.  But the last poem of the second book, ‘The final straw’, a nice touch.  I shall search out and read more.

And on with the aforementioned Peter Robinson project:
Title: Dead right
Number in sequence: 9, published 1997
Themes and settings (beyond Eastvale & the Dales): far right political groups, drug dealing, police & race relations; Leeds again & a nostalgic working trip to Amsterdam
Murderee/s: young fascist Jason Fox
Music: too much to list in full, really, many and varied (but see the quote below); I daresay Abdullah Ibrahim doesn’t get too many mentions in crime novels – the man has taste; book opens with opera-going as source on conflict in his marriage (Bizet’s ‘Pearl fishers’);  couple of live bands (one Oi) & son Brian in a blues band;  murderee’s father a vinyl collector but not a music lover; a stoned romantic memory of ‘Sad eyed lady of the lowlands’; earlier radio memories of Uncle Mac & Brian Matthew.
Distinguishing characteristics: the conflict with his boss’s boss, Jimmy Riddle – fast track, mason – is out in the open; some powerful writing after Banks thumps him. Colleague Susan getting more of the game.
State of marriage/relationship: he’s in denial for most of the book about the collapse of his marriagecolleague Susan getting a touch of the Siobhans for her boss (a la Rebus)
Quotes: “Karaoke.  Banks felt himself shudder at the thought.  the only other words that had a similar effect on him were country-and-western music.  An oxymoron if ever there was one.” (p12, pbk edition)
“Banks stood by the phone for a moment, head in his hands, tears burning in his eyes.  Then he did what any reasonable man would do in his situation.  He cranked Mozart‘s Requiem up as loud as he could bear it and got rat-arse drunk.” (p289)
Any other thoughts: continuing with the team approach to develop the narrative; the re-appearance of Dirty Dick Burgess; Banks trying to cut down on his smoking.  The perils of a writer introducing new technology – a really embarrassing discussion about the internet.  Banks “doing his Columbo impersonation”.


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Back to Banks.  Continuing my chronological journey through the Inspector Alan Banks novels of Peter Robinson (or at least as far as when I started reading him):
Title: Dry bones that dream
Number in sequence: 7, published 1995
Themes and settings: double lives, money laundering, hired muscle, homosexuality, dodgy Caribbean politics & UK realpolitik; there’s a lot of Leeds in this one.
Music: wide-ranging piano music – Dr John, Bach transcriptions, Bill Evans, Satie (to keep him calm); a Thelonius Monk piece “pushed his ears to the limits of endurance”.  Fair bit of obscure name dropping classical. Good looking viola player significant to plot – see also below.
Distinguishing characteristics: I said increasing psychological depth of Banks last time and I say it again.  He drunkenly loses it when confronted by a couple of mild muggers – the violence jointly driven by his guilt at lascivious thoughts of aforementioned viola player and what has happened to her (she’s been badly beaten) because of his carelessness. The plot driven more effectively by alternating chapters of what Banks is doing and what his team – Susan & non-PC bloke – is doing.
State of marriage/relationship: see above (those were serious thoughts).  Attempts to breathe life into his marriage through the claimed erotic power of Khatchaturian‘s ‘Piano Concerto’.  Only a matter of time before big developments here I’d say, but then I’ve read some of the later books anyway. (I’ll maybe report back on the Khatchaturian).
Quotes: “Banks often regretted that humans hadn’t been born with the capacity to close their ears as they did their eyes” – that’s Engelbert Humperdinck on the radio.  “In a period when a fully functioning heart was regarded as a severe disability” – Thatcherism.  And a silly one (not the only one, actually), displaying the perils to the writer of technological change, as Banks boasts, “I’ve got one of those plastic cards, the ones you use to get money at the hole in the wall.”
Any other thoughts: Banks revealed to be 41 and 5’9″ tall, which is taller than you’d have thought given the first couple of books made a running joke of his shortness.  And he’s an Arsenal fan. Still smoking heavily. The re-appearance of the dark side of policing in lager drinking Dirty Dick Burgess.   Books again used as signifiers; Banks himself is into T.S.Eliot, and reading Evelyn Waugh and a Trollope bio.

Tenuous link, but there’s a woman got “Honey bones” in one of songs on the new Jackie Leven album, ‘Gothic road’, and dreams feature in two or three of the songs.  There is much that is familiar here – and I cannot stress enough that this is no bad thing – but in a startling new development there is actually a happy song.  Not that he is ever less than life affirming, at gigs Jackie often tells the legendary Townes Van Zandt story (“Sing us a happy song” someone calls out from the audience … “Dammit, these are the happy songs”) .  And here we have: “I woke up / One fine day /From my poor dream” and we get a bit about the poor dream (walking 40 miles of bad road etc) and then the joyous “I arose / On a beautiful day / I awoke / In a shivering blaze”; it’s enough to make you sing along and smile.  And there’s an instrumental break before the last chorus that is just delightful.  That’s ‘In a shivering blaze’ and there’s other stuff here to raise a wry smile – he quotes, he borrows – or even laugh out loud (the self-deprecating ‘Hotel mini bar’) as well as the usual contemplation of old age, man’s inhumanity etcetera.  Poet, painter and movie maker, all revealed there on just a music CD,  the man is immense (and could, truth be known, probably do with losing a few pounds).  You hear landscapes and inhabit short stories and epics, partake of a sometimes wonder at the world, at ourselves.  He’s a great performer, tremendous writer and whole-hearted singer who’ll do things on the guitar you won’t believe.  If you get a chance to see him – the smaller the venue the better – do not waste it.  

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