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Summer Reading

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 30 Mar 2022, 11:27

So in between art attacks I was reading a lot over the summer. I finished the Tom Rob Smith Trilogy which includes Child 44, The Secret Speech and Agent 6.  I would definitely recommend them. Child 44 was made into a film, I haven’t seen it but my sons didn’t think it was up to much.

One of the local charity shops has a whole room of second hand books so I pick up most of my fiction there quite cheaply. They always get them back when I’ve finished with them, so it’s a win, win all round. I read some ‘womens’ fiction, if you’re allowed to call it that now. Anita Shreve’s, A Change in Altitude and one called Home but I cannot remember who wrote it, Trophy Child by Paula Daly, and The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. You could rattle through them in a day or two and they won’t tax your brain too much. One of the reasons why I don’t particularly like ‘women’s’ fiction is that the central characters are always so bloody weak and drippy. And it’s all a bit ‘Oh no! Gerald is shagging the au pair again, and that’s the third time this week, whatever am I going to do? But I still love him so much!’ It hard to feel much sympathy for the characters when it usually turns out she started shagging Gerald at the Christmas party when his wife was 6 months pregnant. But they’re a cheap read and it’s probably the only way I would ever read them, I wouldn’t spend good money on them. One exception was Sail Away by Celia Imrie. I got this as part of my prize for winning the Haiku competition and really enjoyed it, so this is one I would recommend and will definitely read more of hers.

I’m not a great reader of fiction and prefer autobiography over other genres. But as I worked my way through The Gulag Archipelago, I needed a break now and again, as the brutality was quite harrowing at times and, more so, at present, as we seem to be sleep walking back into totalitarianism. Everyone should read this book, it should be on the Secondary School curriculum. It is an appalling indictment of man’s inhumanity to man and, as I’ve said before, Stalin killed no one, it was the ordinary Russians who ‘followed’ the orders of the tyrant. They estimate 14 million Russians died in World War 2 and 17 million Chinese. They estimate 65 million died under Stalin and Mao, killed by their own, murdered and starved. An appalling lesson from history that everyone should know about, but seems to have been forgotten by our glorious leaders and their minions. Ignore the lessons of history at your peril!

Other good reads were Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. The Geisha who the book was based on was not impressed with Arthur’s interpretation and wrote her own story afterwards.  I have it on the Kindle but haven’t read it yet, but I would still recommend Memoirs.

Other fictions were John Grisham’s The Appeal. I enjoyed this up to a point and it felt very relevant considering it’s themes of political and corporate corruption. There is no happy ending to this one so don’t read it if you’re feeling depressed, it just might tip you over the edge especially with ‘life’, if you could call it that, at present.

On the rest of the reading list was Wilbur Smith’s Blue Horizon, this is book 11 in a whole series about the Courtney family but I haven’t read any of the others. It was a bit of an epic and set in Africa in the early days of colonialism. I did enjoy it and will look out for the others.

John Case’s The Genesis Code was ok. I could see where it was going quite early on, part of the ending didn’t quite gel, but it was ok and worth a read, if you’re not looking for anything too taxing on the brain cells.

Since it was a bit of a Russian summer, I also read Shallow Graves in Siberia by Michael Krupe. This took me back to autobiography. He was a Polish national and this is the story of how he ended up in the gulags and managed to escape both them, and the Jesuits, eventually ending up in Britain. A happy ending for once! I would strongly recommend it. A great read and a reminder of just how amazing the human spirit can be and what we can endure and overcome.

And after all that, and to continue on the Russian theme, I was trawling through some music on Youtube and came across this stunning piece by Tchaikovsky. I’m a big fan of Tchaikovsky but I had never heard of this one, it is called Hymn of the Cherubim. It has to be the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard and it gives me great pleasure to share it with you all today. It shows that even though we can be absolutely appalling to one another, we can also be beautiful and wonderful, and this is a demonstration of what humanity can produce when we are at our absolute best. Food for the soul that speaks to God. Turn out the lights, turn up the volume and let your soul soar to the heavens. Amen!

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Hymn of the Cherubim - YouTube


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Weddin

Art & the artist

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I just finished watching a great show on BBC4 about Russian art from the revolutionary period.  It featured many of the artists that were part of the exhibition, I went to see back in April, in the Royal Academy. 

It was very good, both the exhibition and the show.  Sadly, many of them suffered and died, or were forced into exile during Stalin's reign of terror.  However, their art is now being re-discovered and it proves something that I've come to believe.  No matter how many wars, warmongers and dictators that strut their way through history or how much destruction they cause; in time, it is the work of the artists and artisans that survives and outlives them all. 

Warmongers leave little of value and sadly, we still don't seem to have learned from all the lessons of history, that there are no winners in war.

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Weddin

Royal Academy

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Sunday, 26 Mar 2017, 22:29

I was in England at the weekend and spent Saturday in London at the Royal Academy.  There are two wonderful art exhibitions on at the moment, Russian Revolutionary Art from 1917 - 1932, and America after the Fall; Painting in the 1930's.  I would never have forgiven myself if I had missed them, and I am so glad I made the effort to go.

'Revolution' is a brilliant exhibition featuring some amazing art works which reflect the debates and events of the period alongside Communist propaganda.  It features work by  Vassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich.  I was familiar with Kandinsky's work and although I had never heard of Malevich I've become an instant fan.  His artistic philosophy was that art should express spirituality and he was known for inventing 'Suprematism' in art and I love how he used colour.  Like Kandinsky, he fell out of favour with the powers that be because his art did not express social realities and became disillusioned.  One of his most famous pieces is 'Black Square', an abstract painting representing the 'zero of form'. 

On the propaganda side, some of it was very interesting and quite relevant today, but I also wondered how closely Hitler had watched Stalin's rise to power, as there were strong parallels between the propaganda of Stalin and the methods used by the Nazis to create the nationalistic narrative of a nation on the rise, taking control of their destiny and their country.

The American exhibition isn't as big as the Russian one but it features some famous works too.  Edward Hopper's 'New York Movie' and Grant Woods 'American Gothic' and, of course, many others I didn't know, like Joe Jackson.  His painting drew a lot of interest but I'm not going to tell you anything about it, go and see it for yourself.  I had seen the Russian exhibition advertised first and hummed and haaad a bit about going, but when I saw the American one was running along side of it, then it was a no brainer. 

So, if you are interested in art and/or politics then make the effort and go.  I went the whole way from west Tyrone in N. I.  to see them, so you've no excuse...and I've no money either but sometimes you just have to say 'to hell with poverty!' and go.  It's about the value, not the cost.  But if you really can't make it, then you can check them out here:

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/revolution-russian-art

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