celticman's blog

Emile Zola (1876 [2003]) The Drinking Den, Penguin Classics, translated by Robin Buss.

I tackled Emile Zola’s The Drinking Den before, but gave up after reading the first couple of chapters. I stuck with it this time and finished all thirteen chapters. It wasn’t like War and Peace , where when I finished it I expected a librarian (in pre-Covid times) to rush up and pin a medal to my tracky top. Nor was it like Zola’s Germinal or The Earth which I ripped through. When I turned the final page I felt a sense of relief. Job done, but...

Saved by a Stranger, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Presenter Anita Rani and Director Toby Trackman.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vlpr/saved-by-a-stranger-series-1-1-karl-and-emina https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vszb/saved-by-a-stranger-series-1-2-marc-and-peter The format for this serious is simple, and it’s in the title. People who have been caught up in some traumatic, life-changing event, and some stranger has stepped in to help them. I’m sure I watched the last series, but can’t remember if I did. It’s a feel-good...

Andrew O’Hagan (2015) The Illuminations.

I didn’t know Andrew O’Hagan had Scottish roots and writes about Scotland. That puts him in the fast-lane of must-read books. The plot for The Illuminations is simple. Anne, aged 82, is losing her marbles. She’s in a sheltered-housing complex in Saltcoats. Her neighbour Maureen, aged 68, keeps an eye out for her. They’re friends, but even Jackie, the warden admits there’s only so much they can do. They’ve taped off Anne’s cooker so she can’t use...

Charles Egan (2017) Cold Is the Dawn

When people talk about literary merit, I wander away to the pub to have a pint. Since the pubs are closed, and I get smashed by a snifter of poitin , or indeed three pints, perhaps slightly more (when I’m watching Celtic) I’ll hang about. Literary merit is just a fancy way of asking if you liked the book. I don’t finish books I don’t like. Cold Is the Dawn is 427 pages. So you do the maths of how much I liked it. If like me, you have a...

Marita Conlon-McKenna (1990 [2017]) Under the Hawthorn Tree.

I’ve been reading about the Irish Famine 1845-51. I’m in the privileged position of never knowing life-threatening hunger. Under the Hawthorn Tree is a children’s book and international bestseller set in 1845—200 000 copies sold in Ireland alone. A book of 150 pages, its simple sentences and style meant I could digest the book in one sitting. I’m looking for markers that make it a success where other fail, something I could make use of. The...

False Confessions, Amazon Prime, 2020, director Katrine Philip.

Watch False Confessions | Prime Video (amazon.co.uk) What makes this interesting is we see footage of people who have been accused of heinous crimes—they were later proved to be innocent. We see, for example, police officers interviewing Lorenzo Montoya. He was fourteen-years-old when he walked into the police station 10 th January 2000. He was convicted of the murder of Emily Johnson, a 29-year-old teacher at Skinner Middle School, and...

The Men Who Stare at Goats, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, screenplay by Peter Straughan, adapted from a book by Jon Ronson, and directed by Grant Heslov.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00xhf50/the-men-who-stare-at-goats In many ways this is George Clooney’s creation. He’s listed as one of the producers. Producers are the guys (and it is usually men) who get the money together to make a movie. Because he’s George Clooney he can do that kind of thing. Other people will fling money at him, because it’s a no-lose situation, a film starring George Clooney is bound to make money, and if it’s...

Superhuman: The Invisible Made Visible (2020), written and directed by Caroline Cory

Writing a review is straightforward. Beginning, middle and end. Often in the shape of a triangle or baggy diamond—if you get too wordy—before you reach your conclusion. You become an expert in your field with a certain gravitas. The problem here is I can think two (or more things) at once. Cognitive dissonance is a way of life for Catholics, with virgin births, saints, angels and demons, and life ever after. Heaven and hell is up for grabs,...

Storyville, Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island: Garenne, Produced and Directed by Camilla Hall.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000t86z/storyville-dark-secrets-of-a-trillion-dollar-island-garenne ‘The Island of Jersey is a self-governing possession of the British Crown separate from the UK with its own laws, financial rules and Parliament.’ Some of its most influential figures are appointed by the Queen. When secrets from its past surfaced in 2007 they revealed deep distrust and division between those now running the island, proud...

I Care a Lot, (2020) Amazon, Written by J Blakeson and Directed by J Blakeson

I Care a Lot, (2020) Amazon, Written by J Blakeson and Directed by J Blakeson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGyYcHch-ZE Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) doesn’t lose and she sees two types of people in the world, ‘sharks and prey’. Her prey is old people, and she’s worked out a lucrative gig. She files paper in court and gains court-sanctioned conservatorship. Mostly that applies to older people with dementia that can’t feed themselves or look...

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