Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power by Robert Dallek: The double biography is a genre that, in the hands of a master, can shed fresh light on the most familiar materials. Alan Bullock’s Hitler and Stalin is the example nonpareil and, more recently, Andrew Roberts has produced splendid volumes on (for example) Napoleon and Wellington. Funnily enough, I attended a lunch in Kissinger’s honour at Andrew’s house recently, as I was ploughing my way through Dallek’s majestic book which shows how the lives of these two very different men were interwoven and shaped the destiny of America in the second half of the twentieth century. Reading of Nixon’s hatred of the social establishment from which he felt so excluded it is hard not to be reminded of Gordon Brown. Does that make Ed Balls a latter-day Kissinger? You decide.
Miss Herbert – Adam Thirlwell. I have only just begun this formidable book by one of our most promising young novelists but it shows every sign of being even more thought-provoking than his astonishing debut, Politics.
Better late than never, I went to see Control, Anton Corbijn’s film about Ian Curtis and Joy Division – and adored it. Sam Riley’s performance as the band’s doomed lead singer is extraordinary and the cinematography – as you expect of Corbijn – captures both the drabness of the band’s social origins and the bleakness of Curtis’s philosophy. But what I liked most about the film was that, at last, it humanised its subject, who, more than almost any dead pop star, has been disfigured in memory as a sort of existentialist mannequin. In fact, as the film makes clear, he was a very young, very confused man with a wife and child, suffering from terrifying epileptic fits, expected to give it his all on stage. Which he did, but at a terrible price. Highly recommended.
Sarah Gavron’s Brick Lane is not out until November 16 but having seen it before I interviewed Monica Ali for last week’s magazine, I urge you to give it a try. A film of delicate brush strokes with a luminous lead performance by Tannishtha Chatterjee as Nazneen, the Bangladeshi girl brought to the East End by an arranged marriage.
This takes me back to one of the first Coffee House arguments. Mary and I disagree about 300, the film of the Frank Miller graphic novel based on Herodotus’s account of Thermopylae. She didn’t much go for it. I did. So there.
Pickpocket: where would art-house fans be without Artificial Eye’s amazing catalogue? It was reading an old interview with Paul Schrader about the influence of Bresson’s masterpiece on Taxi Driver that prompted me to buy it. I’m glad I did.
Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me – first-rate, intelligent New York indie music.
Joy Division – Still (Collector’s Edition) – see above. I buy far too many records after leaving the cinema.
The Ring Cycle – Royal Opera House – see my Diary about attending Cycle 2 in this week’s magazine. A stunning experience.
The First Emperor – British Museum till April 6. I went to see the terracotta army of Quin Shihuangdi for the second time the other day, and I am planning to go back as often as I can. There is so much detail and artistry to be appreciated. In this case, the hyperbolic “once-in-a-lifetime-not-to-be-missed” is definitely spot on.
www.wikinomics.com – a must-click for all webheads, this is the site of the best-selling book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. Great fun for anyone with an interest in why this online lark is really as important as we evangelists keep saying it is.