With Nails: The Film Diaries of Richard E Grant

Well, I’m glad I’m not an actor. All that waiting around, repetition and long periods between gigs. Plus the mercurial emotions – remember being at school and wondering when you’d be picked for a sports team? I guess it’s like that. Grant occasionally writes in ALL CAPS when he is excited or depressed, or angry or grief-stricken, and sometimes it occurs very often.

My husband and I recently rewatched Withnail & I after 129360almost finishing his film autobiography. The film was just as funny as I remembered it. What I didn’t know on first seeing it was that a lot of Withnail & I is based on Bruce Robinson’s own life after acting college. Grant looks terrible in the film with good reason (not just because the character he played was a young despairing out of work alcoholic actor). Grant doesn’t drink or smoke so when he had to get roaring drunk for the ‘chemical memory’ he got ill. He was also grieving the loss of a child Who wouldn’t look terrible in those circumstances? After Withnail, he starred in lots of Hollywood films, including some bombs (Hudson Hawke was Bruce Willis’s baby and supposed to be a Bond spoof but really, can you make a parody of a parody?) so there is a lot of Hollywood tales.

There is a lot of name dropping but it has to happen, given the nature of this autobio), so some sections were rather slow for me (because I’m not a Hollywood nut). But what is lovely is that he writes that he hates being separated from his wife and child for long periods of time and how happy he is when they come to visit.

Grant is a good writer and witty – some parts are very funny and others .. But that is real life isn’t it?

 

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My Antonia – Willa Cather

I started and finished this novel, which I downloaded onto my Kindle, during our holiday in Japan. I started reading a collection of traditional Japanese tales first but found Cather 17150too irresistible to ignore. This is the final in the Great Plains series and I haven’t read the first two, but I think this can be read as a stand alone as the others feature different characters (I think). Life as an immigrant in a harsh environment is tough and many faced discrimination at the same time. Cather describes this clearly and with compassion, but also writes about the joys and fun times that were had. I didn’t feel the fascination about Antonia as the male narrator did – and I did think that Cather didn’t quite get the male first person right as she did with the other male characters that the narrater interacted with. Something just didn’t go right there. My favourite character was the Swedish woman Lena Lingard. She worked for the life she wanted and realised that she had to give up some things to achieve that. With Antonia though, I didn’t really get her as a character. Perhaps Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda needed more work? What could have been done to make them work better? I don’t know. But Cather certainly knew how to portray the tough life that the pioneers had. This hasn’t put me off reading more Cather though! I loved A Lost Lady and want to read more.

Four Agatha Christies

I had some health issues recently and was in hospital. My husband brought me Aggies to read. I inherited a whole collection of them from my Gran and a Great Aunt – all published in the 40s-50s and 70s. The are so comforting and immersive, and totally 282871addictive! I first read Miss Marple’s Final Cases, a collection of short stories – the first Marple I’ve read. Marple is really adorable and really knows how to read people. In this collection there are 2 stories that are not Marples but are horror/thrillers. Boy, am I glad I didn’t read that story about the doll at night! The next one I read was a US edition called Poirot 816054.jpgLoses a Client – the UK edition is titled Dumb Witness. My favourite character was Bob the dog. Wuff! In this novel, Hastings pairs up with his friend Poirot and it is all told from his perspective. This was the first Poirot I had read in years and it was great fun! Aggie kept me guessing to the end and I didn’t see the denouement coming. Hastings and Poirot are such a good pair – they bounce off each other. And I do think Aggie writes male characters so well. My husband and I had a talk about rooms in houses. Although people live in houses that were built during the 30s and 40s (and even older), people don’t use the rooms like they do in Aggies. We no longer have sitting rooms or parlours. The next one I read was Murder at the Gallop – a movie tie-in – the UK title is After the Funeral. This is set post-war so rationing was still going on and servants were becoming out-moded. If you read a few Aggies in a row, you really see social change happening (and some reoccurring themes). In this one, Poirot comes in later on the scene after his friend Entwhistle, a solicitor, becomes concerned about the demise of an old friend, the funeral which he and family members had just attended. Once again, Aggie had me guessing right until the end 16066312._UX175_.jpg– and I didn’t see the end coming at all! The last one I read was Three Act Tragedy and again Poirot is not the major player. This is the first one I’ve read which features the character Sattersthwaite. Before I read some reviews and found out he was a reoccurring character in other novels with another called Quinn, I suspected that he was the culprit because of the focus on how he enjoys being a bystander and watching events unfold. He is elderly and enjoyed theatre and perhaps he was bored and wanted to create a drama of his own and watch it play out? Christie also wrote plays and enjoyed the theatre and this is her clever use of the theatre as a setting. Poirot provides the illumination – haha! I was beginning to think another character was the culprit but when the final reasonings were unveiled, I did a – eh? But then he could have killed the desired one!

Two detectives: Wallander & Maigret

I read Pietr the Latvian straight after Faceless Killers, with a interruption to the former while I was on holiday in Japan. I realised after starting Pietr that both these novels are the first in series; the first Wallander and the first Maigret. Wallander is a more developed character in Faceless Killers where Maigret is just forming, but both are great detective stories! Simenon really knew how to tell a gripping story in as little prose as necessary – it is basically a snapshot in time about the undoing and understanding of an international con artist. Faceless Killers is a more substantial police procedural that also delves into the private troubles of Kurt Wallander – divorce imminent, only child (now a young adult) missing, bad diet leading to bad health. Mankell tricks the reader in an interesting way … but I won’t go into further details!

I devoured both these novels and in both instances, I had read later novels in the series rather than starting with the first. There are uncomfortable moments in both novels but then, if we don’t pause to think about human foibles and extremities of behaviour, when will we?

Fishing the River of Time – Tony Taylor

24722132This is a wonderful meandering memoir of fly fishing, salmon, the importance of wilderness, environmental follies and meeting a grandson for the first time. 80 yr old Taylor flies to Vancouver Island in British Colombia from Sydney to meet his grandson to introduce him to his passion of fly fishing. While he waits for grandson and son to appear, he thinks back to his first sojourn by Lake Conichiwan. I learnt about how both countries are grounded on massive granite basoliths yet, while one country had an abundance of nature, the other did not. Why? Well, Canada is the land of the Great Lakes and Australia is … not. Why such an abundance of nature on a naturally acid rock? Interesting and educational musings while fishing. I also learnt that hooking a fish through the mouth doesn’t hurt it as the mouth is cartilage … I must say I was relieved to learn that. But there was one thing that bugged me … Why write about the guilt of long distance flying when he was blithely driving about in a car quite often without any thought about the environmental impact?

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