Banned! Approximation of a playlist #56

21 04 2011

Songs banned at one time or another by the BBC (allegedly)

Kodachrome – Paul Simon
Buffalo soldier – Bob Marley and The Wailers
We don’t need this fascist groove thing – Heaven 17
Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie
Atomic – Blondie

God save the Queen – Sex Pistols
Brothers In Arms – Dire Straits
Homosapien – Pete Shelley
Billy Don’t Be A Hero – Paper Lace
Lola – The Kinks
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting – Elton John
Peaches – The Stranglers
Love Is A Battlefield – Pat Benatar
I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats
Let’s Spend The Night Together – The Rolling Stones
Waterloo – ABBA
Light My Fire -The Doors
68 Guns – The Alarm
Killing An Arab – The Cure
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – Julie Covington
Army Dreamers – Kate Bush
Invisible Sun – The Police
Come Again – The Au Pairs
I Want Your Sex (Part II) – George Michael
Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Forever Autumn

14 04 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

From the Observer review in 2010:

It takes place at the turn of the 18th century, in Edo-era Japan. The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) has requisitioned the 120 metre-long artificial island of Dejima, in the bay of Nagasaki, as a trading post. Theirs is the most significant contact Japan has had with the outside world since Portuguese missionaries were expelled by the Tokugawa shogunate, and Christianity eradicated. That closing-off of Japan was described in Shusaku Endo’s masterly and desolate 1966 novel, Silence, and Mitchell’s book – teeming where Endo was bleak – is, in some sense, its successor. Dutch trade on the island is now the one opening Japan has to the outside world – a tiny valve for the exchange of goods and ideas.

Jacob de Zoet is an uptight young Dutch book-keeper, charged with cleaning up the accounts of an operation riddled with corruption as Dutch power fades and English naval power looms. Possessing no navy of its own, Japan is both fanatically insular and increasingly vulnerable. Encountering a beautiful but scarred Japanese midwife who has been granted some limited contact with European medicine, Jacob finds himself in thrall to a love forbidden by tradition, culture, politics and law.

The object of this ginger-haired naive’s hopeless desire, Miss Aibagawa, is bound by the highly stratified social order of Japanese society and then purchased by the abbot of a secretive mountain shrine, where a form of sexual slavery is practised by the monks. A rescue attempt, in the form of a samurai raid on the shrine, briefly makes you suspect the novel is going to turn on a thriller plot but, thrilling as this episode actually is, it rather turns on the murk of politics and the complex allegiances of a feudal society. Miss Aibagawa is no cipher of the mysterious “other”: her own medical gifts prove more useful to her than her would-be rescuers and, as a character, she is at least as fully realised as de Zoet.

With Enlightenment ideas and European corruption washing up to the Japanese coastline, Mitchell creates, in Dejima, a single, dramatic gateway through which to observe the encounter between civilisations from both sides.

Mitchell’s writing is as clear and flowing as ever and the depiction of Japan feels very real indeed. De Zoet is a great character but, as the review indicates, is more than balanced by the representation Miss Aibagawa. The first half of the book is slow paced but then things really do pick up. A hugely impressive piece of work and highly recommended.

I really don’t want to read Kay Burley’s book

7 04 2011

First Ladies by Kay Burley

It isn’t published until May but I think I’ve heard enough already.



According to Steven Fielding “Kay Burley’s book betrays a venerable tradition”. This is probably the kindest thing that is said about it:

Sky News’s Kay Burley probably does not realise it, but her debut novel First Ladies forms part of a once-vibrant tradition within English literature: political women writing about politics.

For the most part writing about politics, as in real life, has been a man’s job. Disraeli and Trollope set the mould. But a few members of what Disraeli would undoubtedly have called “the fairer sex” have made a distinctive overlooked contribution to the canon.

Some will make snide fun of the limitations of Burley’s prose style. Others shall speculate on whom the “suave PM Julian Jenson” and “sexy TV reporter Isla McGovern” might be based. The most culturally and politically significant aspect of Burley’s novel, however, is the sorry place it leaves this once-noble literary tradition.

I like political fiction. I really don’t like the sound of this.

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