Mark Damazer’s diary: Why Springsteen is still the Boss, talking Booker and my struggles with Covid

Any taste at all that is neither sawdust nor disgustingly bitter has become a great luxury. 

I have never been much smitten reading the electoral views of music stars or business sages. The little vignettes are largely guff – and not to be confused with the insights of celebrities who use their experience to make us understand something better: Marcus Rashford on childhood food poverty or Raheem Sterling on racism in football, among others.

But every now and then a grade-A celeb nails politics. Before the US election, Bruce Springsteen popped up on Channel 4 News, and said of President Trump:

He’s such a flagrant, toxic narcissist that he wants to take down the entire democratic system with him if he goes. He simply has no sense of decency or responsibility. The words he uses have been an attack on the entire democratic process. He will make as big a mess as he can.

Give Springsteen an honorary knighthood for services to punditry (there are other reasons if you need them).


Prized conversations

The Booker Prize ceremony that took place before ­Christmas (I am chair of the Booker Prize Foundation – the charity that oversees the prizes) included a pre-recorded ­message about reading, fiction and the Booker from Barack Obama. We knew that he had enjoyed reading several ­previous ­winners, such as Bernardine Evaristo who co-won the prize in 2019, and that he had read Yann ­Martel’s Life of Pi aloud to his children in the White House.

I have suggested to the executive team and my fellow trustees that in the interests of impartiality we should take the plunge and offer President Trump a chance to contribute to next year’s Booker ceremony. I will write him an invitation. But as Spring-steen said – Trump is not a reflective person, so I think it’s a low-risk strategy.

  What Utah’s poet laureate thought of Amanda Gorman’s poem

The Booker’s recent English language winners have the added virtue of being brilliant talkers. The conversation between Evaristo and the 2020 winner Douglas Stuart at the Southbank Centre, London, broadcast via Zoom, was the best literary discussion I have encountered. There was the inevitable biographical stuff which forms so much – too much – of public discussion about novels. But they went miles further when talking about the style, tone and craft of Stuart’s winner, Shuggie Bain, adding some oral magic to the Booker enterprise.


Primal sound

We’ve been boldly defying lockdown ­orthodoxy by trying to ration box sets in favour of old films. The plan was subverted by the French series The Bureau, coming in at a mere 50 marvellous episodes, but we are down to the last 700 or so of the New York Times’s “Top 1,000 Movies”, compiled 20 years ago.

One thing that’s emerged very clearly from ten months of viewing is just how technically primitive film sound was for so long. Well into the Eighties everyone appears to be talking from the same place on location or set. It’s much easier to adjust for the relative lack of visual sophistication in old movies than the clunky sound.

Although we think …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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