Tag Archives: John Mortimer

Retail (And Reading) Therapy

When an unpleasant task must be performed, or an unpleasant journey must be undertaken my thoughts turn to retail therapy.  This seems to be a trait common to many members of my benighted generation.

Unlike, I suspect, many members of my benighted generation, my idea of really good, truly satisfying and utterly enriching retail therapy occurs only when I’m on my knees (careful…) sifting through piles of books in op-shops. Continue reading


Sympathy For The Devil

Of all fictitious characters, Lucifer is my absolute favourite.  He’s not as prominent in those two particularly well known fictions, the Old and the New Testaments, as I feel he ought to be, but Milton supplied the deficiency in Paradise Lost, and since then it’s been hard to keep the guy down.

I think my favourite representation of Satan on celluloid is brought to us by Al Pacino:

Continue reading

Under Milk Wood, A Play For Voices

I was fourteen, I think, when I first read Under Milk Wood, and I’m still reading it.  In some sense I never stop.  It showed me that the English language could be a musical instrument, and that English printed on a page could be considered as a kind of notation.  That’s not quite a this-is-the-book-that-changed-my-life revelation (don’t you hate the question ‘Which book changed your life’ by the way?), but it certainly changed the way I read.  It was the book that changed all other books.

It’s very hard to give a synopsis of Under Milk Wood.  Is it the story of a community full to bursting with people who are themselves to blame for their frustrated lives?

No.  It can’t be: that would be too simplistic.  This, I think, is better: Under Milk Wood, a Play for Voices, is a dream designed to remind you how painful waking up can be.

I own two copies of Milk Wood: the Adeline edition is the one I grew up with (and I still think it’s the best version of the text), and I have a fetching purple hardback printed by The Folio Society.  The Folio edition is a joy to behold, but there are a few very strange editorial decisions that distort one or two passages.  I’ve owned three Adeline editions in the past decade or so.  My first fell to bits, and they’ll never find the body of the prick who stole the second.  I’m a bit funny about this book.  There was a time, too, when I was devoted to the BBC recording of it (Richard Burton reading the parts of the two anonymous narrators) but while I still have a lot of time for it, I know Milk Wood so well by now that it sounds better in my head. Continue reading