Every weekend in the Arts Section of the Financial Times there is a special column named “Lunch with the FT” which, more than a regular interview, is an informal conversation between its editors and a relevant author, business man, artist or any person with an interesting public life. Depending on the topic, an editor for one of the newspaper sections hosts the lunch describing the restaurant and the food and at the end even the details of the bill are published. This style offers a glimpse of the taste of the guests regarding food and the way they treats a lunch interview, since some are relaxed, others serious or discrete, etc.
The list of guest is impressive including the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei, Economics Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugmann, former head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet, Hair Mogul Vidal Sassoon and actors Isabella Rosselini, Dustin Hoffman to name a few.
The lunch with the famous writer Ian McEwan is full of interesting insights of his work and life, including a difficult childhood and family problems. The article talks about McEwan’s work that involves 13 novels including Atonement which was adapted into a film that wins an Oscar.
A recurrent theme in McEwan’s novels is an unexpected event or an accident that changes radically the life of its characters, particularly in Saturday (2006) and Enduring Love (1997). His writings can also be full of black humor with complex personal relationships such as a twist in love affairs as is shown in his novella Amsterdam (1999).
His books also have political content like the environment, the war in Iraq as well as terrorism. Like many other British writers, in the interview he revels his fascination with spies even if “he never wanted to become one”. The latest novel one soon to be published Sweet Tooth is about MI5. The article mentions part of his research for his novels about spies, for which he talked to the famous spy writer John le Carré who he admires for reflecting “the human condition seen through the prism of office politics”,
As a reference, Joseph Conrad, another famous English writer, was also fascinated with these themes of spy and terrorism with his famous novels “The Secret Agent” (1907) and “Under the Western Eyes” (1911).
His new novel Sweet Tooth released in 2012 is well written but I expected more from McEwan.
A book on encounters and conversations, that can be useful to inspire stories and plots. Craig Brown is a columnist for the British magazine Private Eye, with a well-researched collection of conversations between famous characters. Craig Brown gathered these sometime bizarre meetings, expected or unexpected, from different sources. This book even includes an incident of Adolf Hitler being hit by a US student testing his new car in Germany before World War II. There is also an account of a 2-hour visit that Rudyard Kipling made to Mark Twain when the former was still a young follower of the latter whereas years later Twain became an admirer of Kipling. The book is filled with gossips, funny stories and interesting conversations between iconic names including artists, composers, filmmakers and architects, etc. Craig Brown tells us that “Everything in this book is documented…Nothing is invented. When accounts of the same meeting differ, as they almost always do, I have sided with the most likely.
Craig Brown. Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings. Simon & Schuster. 2012
Also reviewed by Michiko Kakutani. New York Times, August 2012.
The author is the 2006 Literature Nobel Prize winner. In his 8th novel The Museum Innocence Pamuk explores life in Istanbul during the 70s and 80s with particular details from the perspective of the son of a wealthy industrialist. The book vividly portraits the social and moral conflicts of a society, even being ruled by a secular system that broke with Islamic law, which was torn between rigid traditions and the desire to emulate the West. Pamuk emphasizes these tensions through love and pre-marital sex. The book focuses on an obsessive relationship full of pains and difficulties, which for the western readers today might not be easy to understand. His descriptions of spaces including homes, streets and restaurants, as well as feelings of love, shame, greed, hope and despair in situations such as parties and outings full of credible conversations with the most diverse topics ranging from filmmaking to business with lots of social gossips. All these made this book a psychological trip to the mind of an addict lover, as well as a guide to Turkey’s capital.
Related article: Memory Lane by Maya Jaggi, published in The Financial Times, is more of a review of the physical museum with the same name of the novel which was founded by Pamuk in a townhouse in Istanbul’s antiques district to host the objects described in the novel which are associated with its main characters.
Learning and Sharing
“All these are readers, and their gestures, their craft, the pleasure, the responsibility and the power they derive from reading, are common with mine. I am not alone.” Alberto Manguel, The History of Reading
Like millions in our time, one of my daily routines is to read online newspapers, magazines and books, as well as to watch clips with events and interviews. I read the headlines from a selection of international news sites that I consider having a global reach and good sources of the stories that they broadcast, followed by scanning through the financial and political pages.
I also pay special attention to the cultural sections where I look for new books, including literature, film and theater reviews as well as art news. This routine helps me to be current in those fields that allow me to understand what is happening there while expanding my knowledge about the world and the human nature, and enriching my learning experience.
Like any other forms of curatorial activities, my selection is subjective and based on my experiences partly due to the time that I have dedicated to read on-line since its early stages involving the first Mosaic browser back in 1994. I am aware that in this era everyone can be “a reader” and “a writer”. Yet with my participation, I still hope that the notes and links of my personal selection posted in this site can be useful for those who, like me, believe in permanent learning.
Since English is not my mother tongue, I apologize for the sometimes misuse of this beautiful language which allows to communicate with a broader audience.