Here's a snapshot of some things that have been infiltrating my consciousness recently (going back two months or so, didn't get around to posting)

John Cowper Powys: "Wolf Solent" - Quite a slow read but I got there in the end. Not much really happens, the characters aren't so believeable, and he is too liberal with his exclamation marks. On the other hand, there are some sublime & original passages describing internal moods either vague & cosmic, or exact & familiar - these drew me in initially, and my stubborness didn't let me abandon the book.
Dostoyevsky: "The Idiot" - read aloud to Rachel, though I've read it several times before. Not sure why it's such a repeat visit with me. Maybe it's partly the brilliant opening page/chapter/first quarter of the novel. Maybe it's because I didn't entirely understand it before. Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, which I'm not.
Aldous Huxley: "Crome Yellow" - another read aloud, a bit of a foil to The Idiot. Not much happens in this one, but there's a lot of talking. Posh and arty people pontificating in the '20s - quite entertaining.
Andre Gide: "The Vatican Cellars" - An old one from 1913, humourous and gripping - a bit of philosophical interest too, with the infamous (?) character Lafcadio who perpetuates a supposedly unpremeditated, disinterested crime.
Milan Kundera: "The Joke" - I finished the Gide on holiday, and found "The Joke" in a charity shop, which piece of serendipity introduced me to this brilliant Czech novel from the 60's. It's the only book mentioned here I would unreservedly recommend.

Richard Brettell: "Modern Art 1851-1929" - Worth it just for the less familiar Polish, Finnish, Czech, Canadian artists included in the examples. I like the notion that most modernist abstract art tends to be trasnational or even cosmic and universal, rather than national in its aim. Is it true? Perhaps if you cut out specific representation then you get left with some sort of common denomonator, whether it be transcendental, banal, or somewhere in the middle.
Richard Cork: "A Bitter Truth: Avant-garde Art and the Great War" - this is an amazing art book. How did artists respond before, during and after World War I - utterly essential for the Otto Dix, George Grosz, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer pictures, and that's just for starters. A refreshing amount of ouvre that isn't full blown painting too, such as lithographs, crayon sketches, etching, pen & ink, woodcut. I would love to get hold of 20th Century art history based around these media as a new-look alternative to the usual history of painting. There must be one somewhere?
Hugh Honour & John Fleming: "A World History of Art" - ok this book is huge, and I might return it to Bromley Library before I even get through the Greeks. I find much in early art that is relevant to me, including cave paintings. Great art is great art even if it hails from the mists before civilization c.25000 BC. One of the earliest images in my life was a print from the c.16000 Lascaux cave bison paintings encircling my waste-paper bin, so maybe that's why I respond so readily.

I veer from being vehemently anti-television, to acquiring a slavish viewing-habit, like getting hooked on Friends, or not wanting to miss a session of University Challenge. At the moment we are still enjoying the novelty of owning a Digi-box that gets us Freeview, so I would say I am even less discerning at the moment. Watching repeats of Father Ted, The Avengers, - and yes, even The Crystal Maze with the irreverent Richard O'Brien. That last one from the early 90's seemed fairly pointless viewing the first time around!
The Avengers - has a cool stylish knowing surreality that I like, but after each mystery has been enigmatically solved by the protagonists, it's just same time next week, and we go round and round in quirky cult entertainment circles. A bit like most tv then and now...is it a drug, or a drag. Often set on location in lush home counties England - gives it a nice touch to see Steed and Emma Peel trundling down a forgotten dusty country road in their vintage auto.
Life on Mars - second series recently finished. Drama about a police detective who goes back to the good old bad old Mancunian 70s via a coma following a car accident. It's a tv treat - gripping, funny, thoughtful, original programme making.
Mock the Week - topical satire and stand-up improv, bristling with talented so and so's. Some of the more callous input can make your hackles rise and bring out the heckling spirit.
Futurama - visually mesmerising, very funny, richly packed & quite endearing. I enjoy it more than the Simpsons these days.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - cold war espionage drama with Alec Guiness as the inscrutable but twinkling Smiley engaged in rooting out a mole, originally aired in the 80's. Much confused, until we missed an episode, then strangely it started making more sense. Very well thespioned.

Alice, dir. Svankmajer - DVD. Fantastic take on Alice in Wonderland via the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer's best surreal stopframe style. What I'd like to know is where he got all his marvellous assorted bric-a-brac that gets the magic transforming touch in his animations. I love the visceral, tainted, chipped, unpolished, non-sleek look of Svankmajer's world - very different from the commercial gloss of a typical Disney.
Man with a Movie Camera, dir. Vertov - The original Russian title is "Chelovek's Kino-apparatom". Playful documentary of urban life in 1929 Soviet Union. A critic's favourite, and an absolute joy. The filmer filming the filmer is a glorious tongue-in-cheek moment of exuberance spilling over. DVD.
Volver, dir Almodovar - Our most recent outing to the cinema was to see the latest by one of our regular favourite directors Pedro Almodovar. He's on top form, so is his cast, it's a warm and witty film, with original twists of mystery. The Spanish title translates as The Return.
Fight Club - This lived up to the masterpiece-hype, and at the very least was compelling and never boring. It's tough confrontational stuff, but intelligent with it - maybe a difficult film to actually like.

Where on earth do I start? What's been keening my ears of interest lately?
Murcof, Mum, Jaga Jazzist, & A Silver Mt Zion are all artists that I find richly creative but also fairly-to-very chilled and relaxing. What a great combination!
In a bewildering maze of proliferating laptop composers, the Mexican artist Murcof (Fernando Corona) has singled my ears out with just that extra thoughtful, magical touch that makes me sit up. Various layers of blippy beats and snatches of melodic motifs weave their spell without sounding too cluttered and rushed, but also avoid being too static and repetitious. His debut, Martes, samples particles of contemporary classical works in an envigoratingly subtle way. Or is that a subtly envirgorating way.
Jake Thackeray - "Jake in a Box". Witty and charming songwriting with a plain-speaking, pomposity-puncturing attitude, sung in a unique voice which is sort of Noel Coward with a Yorkshire accent. A taste that I have finally acquired, though at times he borders on being too quaint and coy.
I was intrigued by a long experimental track by solo artist Kimmo Pohjonen - a Finnish accordion player who uses a combination of his instrument, effects, and voice to create a fascinating journey of sound. I wonder if interest will be sustained for a whole album - well maybe.
And, as is often the case, I have been grooving to some Fela Kuti tracks. "O D O O" is an especially infectious one.


Exhibition of David Smith sculptures at the Tate Modern, January. I already had much admiration for his Picasso/Gonzalez influenced abstract welding, and this was certainly strengthened by attending the Tate Mod show. Almost too much Smith at once really, since I'd like to live with one of these per month or so. And the bigger, later pieces need to be al fresco, rather than crowded together in a room. You could still apprecaite their presence and power though.

Another snapshot, sooner or later.