A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


The Who have released their first new music since, I think, their tracks on the Pete Townshend Iron Man record (an adaptation of the book that became the excellent animated film, The Iron Giant). Two new tracks, "Real Good Looking Boy" and "Old Red Wine," were tacked on a new greatest hits, Then & Now: 1964-2004, and are just Pete and Roger Daltrey. These were done following the last tour, so after John Entwistle had already passed. "Old Red Wine," in fact, is purported to be about him.

Now, stop for a second and consider the Herculean task that lies before these two guys recording together and attaching them to a run of their best singles. How could this possibly be successful? Can that magic, the chemistry, be recaptured? Even if their number hadn?t been reduced by half over the years, could the chemistry be regained?

The answer is probably "no," and so it would be easy to dismiss the two songs as plain bad, and not the "eh, 's all right," as is more likely the case. Neither is anything special, but they are also probably no worse than anything on Face Dances. "Pretty Good Looking Boy" is the least Whoeriffic. It's marred by a misguided incorporation of "Can't Help Falling In Love" and a piano that is obviously electronic, and thus cheap sounding. Overall, it never really takes off, and falls short of recapturing Townshend's youth-as-outsider themes he reaches for in the lyrics.

"Old Red Wine" fares better, and it's mainly down to the final section where something actually happnes. Pete starts pounding his guitar, and the song barrels toward its end. The tempo and the string section hearken back to Who's Next, though, honestly, more of a cover of the style of Who's Next than anything comparable in songcraft.

Which is a far more negative review in the end than I started out with. Interesting.

My favorite song right now is actually the Pet Shop Boys b-side "I Didn't Get Where I Am Today:(from the new "Flamboyant" single). The lyrics are a fun play on pop cliches, reclaiming them as truism, and the whole thing is hung on a Johnny Marr guitar hook that sounds a hell of a lot like "Last Train To Clarksville." Too perfect.

The book I've most recently conquered, and fell completely heels over head for, was Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. I became interested in the Mitford Sisters through an Auteurs song of that name that came out on Das Capital last year. I discovered Chynna Clugston-Major was a fan, and she gave me a bio of the girls for Christmas. I decided to read Nancy's book beforehand since I wanted a well-rounded view of what's called the Mitford Industry, but also wanted to enter the fiction fresh.

And wow! My socks are off. Knocked right through my shoes.

Mitford writes like a gossipy Fitzgerald, whispering her secrets into your ear, inviting you into the secret clubhouse (the Hons Cupboard, as it were). The prose is adorned in all the right places, and done so without unnecessary trimmings; what decoration is there is so natural, you barely notice the way it wraps around you. Adopting the identity of a distant cousin, she digs through her family's eccentricities and romances and focuses on one sister, Linda, the sensitive and strange one, as she explores the affairs of her heart. Linda holds her resolve in life, even when the world is falling apart with the onset of WWII and her childhood companions grow up.

I find in modern fiction we are often presented with the beautiful and mysterious female and asked to accept that she is beautiful and mysterious without ever being convinced through her portrayal that this is true, as if others being in love with her is enough to make us be in love with her (Jen De Guzman, herself beautiful and mysterious, touches on this in noting in her live journal that Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a successful version of said character type). I think that was a downfall of the film version of The Virgin Suicides, and is also common in comics (My Faith In Frankie, Liberty Meadows, and Private Beach spring to mind). Mitford has no such problem. She shares Linda with us in such loving detail, we can?t help but be smitten by her (and I admit to a little crush on the narrator, Fanny, as well--but then, I also always liked Nick Carraway).

This is actually a particular strength of Mitford's. Her characters are all a little left of center, and portrayals of the tantrum-prone Uncle Matthew or the gastric-obsessed Davey could have easily been cruel. Instead, she presents them genially, and it's hard not to adore all of them for their craziness. In other hands, they would all be caricatures and possibly very shallow. Only the narrator's mother, the Bolter, and Linda's husbands end up being dislikeable, and that's because we're supposed to not like them. The writer's emotions are in the proper place, and she understands how to guide her readers there.

So, I'm a complete Mitford convert. The bio is next for me, and my Pursuit of Love came coupled with Love In A Cold Climate. I have already added a couple of Jessica Mitford's books to my wish list, as well.

Oh, and does anyone know if these girls at all inspired Margaret Atwood in writing The Blind Assassin? There are some neat parallels, including falling in love with a commie!

Current Soundtrack: King Adora, Who Do You Love?

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

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