Notebook

One of the difficulties that confronts the novelist is how to describe the appearance of his characters. The most natural way is of course the formal catalogue, the height, the complexion, the shape of the face, the size of the nose… I do not believe that the reader gets any clear impression. The older novelists were very precise in their enumeration of their characters’ physical parts, and yet if any reader could see in the flesh the person the author has thus elaborately described I do not believe he would recognise him. I think we seldom form any exact image in our minds as a result of all those words. We have a clear and precise picture of what the great characters of fiction looked like only when an illustrator like Phiz with Mr Pickwick or Tenniel with Alice has forced his own visualisation upon us.

Somerset Maugham, “A Writer’s Notebook”.

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Evangelicals

Looking for converts at the Notting Hill Carnival.

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Notebook

The Back Lot was a noisy, gaudy example of what most people seem to imagine all Hollywood is after dark. But except for an occasional celebrated face, it might have been any night spot in any American city. It was a montage of hot music, drunken laughter, loud wisecracks and hostesses like lollypops in red, green and yellow wrappers. The music took the old sweet melodies and twisted them like hairpins. It was a symphony strictly from hunger, to which everybody beat their feet in a frenzy of despair, trying to forget luck that was either too good or too bad, festered ambitions or hollow success. It made me realize again how true jazz music was, how it echoed everything that was churning inside us, all the crazy longings raw and writhing.

Budd Schulberg, “What Makes Sammy Run?”

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France & the burkini

“The creation of the burkini is, in fact, an advance for pious Muslim women.” Arun With A View provides a useful overview on secularism vs swimsuit.

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Revelry ahead

Getting ready for the Notting Hill Carnival. Outside a pub in Ladbroke Grove this afternoon.

carnival notting hill elgin

PS: Cycling around this afternoon, I was struck by how many businesses were being boarded up. (Is it really as many as nine out of ten?) Not an encouraging sign. For the first time in many years,  I’ll be in the neighbourhood  during the Bank Holiday weekend, so I’m curious to see how it all pans out.

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Notebook

Even within Harlem and away from white bigotry, Leslie faced marked prejudice against West Indians among American blacks. They were seen as tireless hustlers after everyone else’s jobs; as would-be entrepreneurs up to every sort of trick. Moreover, because they had no direct experience of slavery, which had been abolished in America only fifty years earlier, they often riled the American blacks by adopting superior attitudes; by playing cricket, waving the Union Jack and displaying fervent loyalty to the British. In Harlem, they were particularly associated with insurrection and crime. It was often said that a revolutionary always turned out to be an over-educated West Indian out of work.

Charlotte Breese, “Hutch”.

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Final lap of the Olympics

He appeared at the opening ceremony in Rio, so I’m assuming he won’t be in tonight’s closing show too. But who needs an excuse to play some Gilberto Gil?  This is my favourite version of “Expresso 2222”, performed live with a little help from his son, Bem. From the superb album, “BandaDois”.

If there’s one piece of music that captures my feelings about the Games coming to an end, it’s a song co-written by Vinicius de Moraes, who also, of course, gave us “The Girl From Ipanema”. Yes, sadly, our carnival is over. I posted this video a year or so ago. I could watch it over and over again. (Translation here.)

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The man who stopped remembering

In today’s Times, my review of “Patient H.M”,  Luke Dittrich’s book about the strange life of Henry Molaison:

He remains a ghost in the end. The only photograph of the adult Henry Molaison to appear in this ambitious, impassioned but frustrating book is the one printed on the cover. The face is mostly concealed, a reflection of the fact that, while Molaison has been described as the most important research subject in the history of neuroscience, the medical authorities — determined to protect his privacy — kept his identity a secret. It was only on his death in 2008 that the public discovered who Patient HM was.

The American journalist Luke Dittrich had been trying to meet him for some time, but didn’t succeed in piercing the barrier erected by staff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Henry spent part of each year being tested. An epileptic who had been subjected to a recklessly invasive brain operation by a surgeon in Connecticut in 1953, when he was 27, Molaison had spent most of his adult life as an amnesiac with a 30-second memory. Incapable of generating new long-term memories, he was an intelligent man condemned to live in an eternal present, performing menial jobs, watching TV and living in a fog of blurred names and faces. Later in life, he was not even sure if his mother was still alive.

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Trifecta

Now that’s what you call a publishing triple-whammy: Hitler, golf and the Olympics, all in one book.

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Outsider

I should have paid more attention. Until this morning, I had no idea that the economics editor of the Guardian was in the anti-EU camp:

When I voted for Brexit on 23 June, I did so for three reasons: because the European Union is a failed project; because Europe is moving in an increasingly free-market direction; and because I wanted to shake up the status quo. It would take an extremely deep and prolonged recession to make me regret my choice. That prospect seems even more remote than it did eight weeks ago.

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