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Saturday, 08 December 2007


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In films, I could imagine West Side Story surviving, My Fair Lady, Cabaret. Lawrence of A, Bridge over the River K, Life of B? If the work of that boring, formulaic catch-penny journalist Dickens can survive, all sorts of possibilities exist. Though Dickens hasn't reached 200 years yet, and I'd have to exempt The Tale of Two Cities from my sneer. Mind you, I agree with Murray's thrust - it's been a poor half century for The Arts. In fact, it's been a pretty poor last hundred years. Why has cinema never produced a giant of the Shakespeare/Rembrandt/Mozart/Beethoven class? Popular music must have contenders: the music of various people from Scott Joplin to the Beatles. The jazz of the 20s and 30s sounds wonderful to me, and Gershwin's music will surely be played for a long time, especially with his brother's lyrics being witty and singable. The thing with recent "High Culture" that I wonder about is whether its sterility is accidental, or is much of it consciously fraudulent. It's not just Art: what about the preposterous rubbish that was Freudianism or the dreadful fake science of the endless parade of health scares or of Global Warming?

I don't think many classics would have passed this sort of test back in their own day: think of Dr Johnson on "Tristram Shandy" or Ben Jonson on Shakespeare.

Anyway, off the top of my head: Hitchock, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, Beckett, Ted Hughes, Messiaen.

Gary Glitter, Terry & June, Jack Vettriano, Russ Abbott.............the list is endless

A film I missed - The Jungle Book. That gives me the excuse to note that its wonderful "If I could be like you" sounds awfully like the Muggsy Spanier cornet solo on the Spanier/Bechet 1940 recording of "That's a Plenty". Araldite, eh? Or do I mean erudite?

Further: we went to a Buster Keaton festival in the 70s - the films had survived for 50 years very well. How about the Astaire/Rogers movies? That man could walk a tune.

Catch-22, Perfume, Slaughterhouse Five, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Midnight's Children, Money, The Human Stain, Lolita and Pnin and A Confederacy of Dunces, off the top of my head, even at this time in the morning. And that's just novels.

As for songs, pshaw, what's the point? I'd say Pearls before swine, if I thought I would be heard above the aggressive oinking. I notice your man doesn't mention cinema amongst the neglected arts, too.

Serious for a nano-second here, but isn't all this to do with when a particular individual stops taking notice of what's going on around them? I for example, contend that there has been virtually no great rock'n'roll music made since about 1997, simply for that reason. It's all very subjective and relies on whether an individual regards something like rock music as an artform. Mr Murray simply doesn't and his 1950 cut-off is a telling one.

Gentlemen, this rather throwaway post has got me, and you, by the look of it, thinking and a bit later this evening I will write another, hopefully more thoughtful, post on the subject. Meantime, in response to your comments ...

'DM', sometimes reading you comments is rather like looking in the mirror - quite frightening really. Some of your films would be my films but, as I will explain later, I don't think films count. I, too, am amazed at the lasting popularity of Mr. Dickens, a writer of soppy, not to say, soaking sentimentality. Alas, jazz and the Gershwins are precluded by date, remember, it's post-1950 that Murray stipulates.

Larry, I would disagree with you on Shakespeare. I think there was a growing body of people who recognised the worth of his work, including, I would say, Ben Jonson, and it was this knowledge that drove Heminge and Condell 7 years after his death to gather together what they could of his plays and publish them in the First Folio. Alas, I must disqualify your film candidates (see forthcoming post above). I can only hope and pray that Beckett, a monumental bore, will only be remembered in the future by the immortal lines, "Samuel who ...?"

'Ill Man', you are what used to be known by every cod-cockney character in those old Ealing Films as "a proper caution". Anyway, you made me laugh, but I lost the smile and went red with embarrassment on Jack Vettriano's name because I really do like his work.

'DM', lost in haze of nostalgia, once again forgot the time limit to this exercise.

'Ratty', I'm not sure how many of your titles refer to the books or the films of the books. If the former, then I am ill-qualified to pass comment, novels being, as I have written before, for girly-men. I am happy to be convinced but somehow I doubt that a comic strip cartoon will last the course - so, oink, oink! Should you doubt me, ask yourself how many times you have ever laughed at one of Shakespeare's clowns? Humour has the shortest of shelf-lives.

Finally, 'Ill Man', being serious for a moment, attempts to convince us that rock 'n' roll might last for ever. 'E' for Effort, 'Ill Man'!

There will now be a short break when I will return with a new post on the subject, up above.

Dearieme - leaving aside Global Warming and psychoanalysis, are you really suggesting that the last century has been scientifically sterile? Because if so, that has to be one of the most spectacularly ignorant opinions I've ever heard expressed.

And David, might I venture to suggest that someone who doesn't read novels might not be best placed to judge whether any good ones have been written recently? The answer is that many have.

As for songs, well you oldies might squirm at the idea, but pop/rock/electronic music isn't going anywhere. It's popularity is only growing and spreading. So certainly, people will be listening to the descendants of the many and varied styles of music currently available. Given that, it seems likely that some will be interested in the early history of their favourite musical genres, which will lead them to revisit music of the last 50 years in which so many new styles of music have had their genesis.

To my knowledge, five out of those ten books have been made into films. I have no idea where you're going with the comic books, I certainly didn't mention them.

Sorry, 'Ratty', I wasn't sure to what you were referring when you wrote "pearls before swine", that is, were you intimating that I am a pig (an opinion shared by the little 'Memsahib'), or, whether it was some band or group, or whatever, that you were proposing for immortality. So I 'Googled' it and discovered a comic strip. Sorry, if I misunderstood.

'Teabag' (so as not to confuse you with the other 'Larry'), I already confessed my ignorance on novels, so there's no need for you to belabour the point. I excuse myself, OK? Actually, given that people still read Thackeray, I am hopeful (but read my gloomy caveat in the post above) that people will continue to read his modern equivalent, Tom Wolfe, the only contemporary novelist with whom I am familiar. Incidentally, there appears to be a contradiction in the first two sentences of your final paragraph, possibly due to your over-excitement from watching one of those 'slice 'n' dice' movies that you adore so much and which make your views on what passes for modern culture so interesting!

Well, I was talking about music, and "Pearls Before Swine" was addressed to Charles Murray. I've always understood it as an unflattering way of saying that a person does not possess the faculties to critically assess something.

Right, well that's that cleared up but, just for interest, can you provide, say, one song written after 1950 that will last for 200 years?

Well, I've always been rather partial to Eleanor Rigby, but the obvious example would be a dirge like Flower Of Scotland, which has been adopted as an anthem.

Honestly, I think you're taking this curmudgeon-rejecting-modernity schtick a bit far here.

"are you really suggesting that the last century has been scientifically sterile?" No. Don't be silly.

I do realise that printing a song lyric bereft of its music is not really fair, but I'm going to do it in order to prove the necessity of applying Murray's final acid test to any offering: "Seriously?"

"Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from ?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong ?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near.
Look at him working. Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?"

No one could pretend that it is a great work of art but it has a haunting melody that once heard is never forgotten, and the lyric is evocative, so perhaps 'Ratty' is on to something here. Also, in support of his proposition, my Google search for the lyric informed me that in the last 12 months it has been searched for 46,551 times!

So, "seriously?"; yes, I think it just might.

Wasn't really trying to convince anyone that Rock'n'Roll would last forever, just using it as an example to back up my main point, which you partially endorse in your post above. As you say, it's about what the critic likes, but it also has a lot to do with when someone closes off to contemporary influences and backs into their little bunker with the artifacts they prize most. We all do it. Out of interest, how old is Murray?

Anything perfomed by Elvis Presley. Really.

He's still revered by many today, some forty or fifty years after his prime. Another 200 years wouldn't surprise me at all.

In fact I think Murray has it precisely, utterly, 100% wrong. I can't think of a single work of art that *won't* have at least one or two fans in 200 year's time.

The problem, 'Ill Man', is that we do indeed back into our personal bunkers with the things we cherish partly because of the impossibility of convincing younger generations of their worth - as you will discover when you attempt to pass on your enthusiasm for, say, Little Richard, only to be met by a chorus of, "Oh, Dad, boring, boring ...!" Murray is around 64 years of age.

Same message for you, too, 'NIB', I'm afraid. SoD (Son of Duff) groans and yawns everytime I put on some Sinatra or MJQ - and don't you dare ask who the MJQ are! As for your final comment I can only say that I fervently pray that every winner of the Turner prize for art is utterly forgotten in the next 20 years, never mind 200.

Little Richard? I'm not that ruddy old!!

I take your point though. ;)

"I'm not that ruddy old!!"

I am!

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