Death Letter, Hot Water

We are into day 5 of enforced Victorian living- come and film us Channel 4. Our boiler stopped working on Sunday- no central heating or hot water all day. It is not easy to fill a bath with the kettle and a few pans. The boilerman came on Monday and said our expander unit had popped causing the system to trip out. He’s ordered a new one but no sign of it yet. We have two portable radiators and an electric fan heater Mrs Swiss had when I first met her (and it wasn’t new then). On Sunday night we bathed at friends. Boilerman did a temporary fix for us, emptying the kitchen radiator to act as an expander unit. This has, since Monday evening, provided intermittent heat and some hot water. Some as in not enough. I got those faulty boiler blues.

Son House’s blues song Death Letter plays in the film of On The Road and hearing it on the big screen last week reminded me of its power and beauty. Two clips for you…

This one, undated, but I’m guessing 1950s (?)

And this one from 1970…

And without wanting to come across as one of those authenticity blues bores, they just go to show that lights, staging, films and projections, heck, even having a guitar that’s in tune, are all a little superfluous at times.

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On The Road Again

I went to see On The Road the day before yesterday, on my own in the afternoon. I dunno if this is the best way to go to the cinema or just a bit sad. The day before I took the 9 year old daughter to see Ice Age 4. I think On The Road shaded it. I enjoyed it, despite what the critics have said. It is a tad overlong and there is a coffee table element to the jazz and the clothes and the good looking cast and there is also a little truth in the reviews that said watching people drink, take drugs and have sex is pretty boring but even so I thought it was a good effort and better than I’d been led to believe. The film looks good, the scenery frequently stunning, the period details spot on, the cinematography beautiful. Sam Riley is good as Sal Paradise, the eternal observer looking for stuff to write about and on a search for kicks, but I half expected him to turn into Ian Curtis at any moment and start doing the jerky dance. Tom Sturridge (Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg) steals most of the scenes he’s in despite some clunky scripting and the female leads of Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst are excellent. Mostly though, for a film based on a book that has narrative but no real plot, no three act formula, no twist, no denouement, none of the things that ‘make’ a film, I thought it worked. It was watchable, funny, absorbing in parts, and to me (no film critic admittedly) Walter Salles made a decent job of a book long considered unfilmable.

Ice Age 4 tells the continuing story of three animated prehistoric friends- a sabre toothed tiger called Diego,a woolly mammoth called Manny and a sloth called Sid. The continents are drifting apart leading to all kinds of japes and capers, plus there’s a crew of animal pirates and a teenage mammoth called Peaches learning about friendship.

Friday Afternoon In The Universe

The Only People For Me Are The Mad Ones

I first read On The Road in the summer of 1989, aged 19. I loved it. It didn’t get me hitch-hiking across North America but I went on to read loads of other Kerouac novels, biographies, and then onwards into Burroughs, Ginsberg and the rest. Kerouac’s work is full of contradictions- some of it is almost unreadable (Dr Sax say), some of it just has to be read for the writing rather than any sense of narrative. He famously typed On The Road in a three week Benzadrine fuelled binge on a non-stop roll of paper. It had to be widely edited to make any narrative sense. For all the wanderlust and adventures and search for kicks, he spent his life with the apron strings to his mother firmly uncut. He tried to balance the booze, partying and excitement with a spiritual quest, settling for Buddhism and his own version of Zen. When fame hit him, ten years after writing the book, he soon found he couldn’t cope. Held up by the hippies as the King of the Beats he criticised, even loathed, the 60s counter culture and died an alcoholic in front of the TV in Florida. But the sense of freedom in his best writing, the lyrical nature of the verse, the attempt to ‘write jazz’, the trip to Mexico in On The Road, The Dharma Bums, parts of Desolation Angels, are all beautiful and romantic and inspiring.

Long considered unfilmable, Walter Salles, has had a go at it (starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen). The trailer below looks right but you just can’t tell from a trailer how good a film is going to be. It got mixed reviews at Cannes in the summer. I’m kind of looking forward to it when it gets released this December.

Kerouac recorded several albums, sometimes reading his work alone, sometimes reading it accompanied by jazz musicians.

Jack Kerouac Reading On The Road