Got back from a particularly hard, but rewarding day teaching, and saw that I had some packages. I love getting packages – it’s a bit like Christmas.
Austerity Britain: 1945 – 1951 by David Kynaston. I just finished reading Nick Hornby’s More Baths Less Talking: Notes from the Reading life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself. It’s a collection of his literary articles for the Guardian. He writes about what books he’s bought, and what books he’s read. So he was particularly taken with Austerity Britain, which was about Great Britain, and how the country recovered financially after the devastation of WWII. It goes into how the government responded to high unemployment as well as the hardship the British faced after the war. It’s a huge book – 632 pages – but very readable, so far. Once I finished, I’ll seek out Kynaston’s sequel Family Britain: 1951 – 1957, which I’ll assume goes over the Baby Boom years in the country, that brought about prosperity.
Amrita or To Whom She Will by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Jhabvala is an award-winning screenwriter, known for her work on various Merchant-Ivory films. She’s also a well-known novelist. I always am interested in the Indo-British experience, but so far, most of the books I found by Jhabaval are about Indian folks. Some compare her to Jane Austen because of her use of social critique and humor when writing about families and marriages. This is her first novel, and it’s about two young lovers who are entered in arranged marriages to other people. I read some of her short stories before and found them very easy to read, and she’s got an ear for insightful dialogue, and she’s good at creating some interesting and memorable characters. I’ve ordered up a few of Jhabvala’s books, so hopefully I found another literary “friend” to follow.
Jackie’s Back, directed Robert Townsend. I saw this film on Lifetime years ago – this was a Lifetime original movie, but not one of those awful, woman-as-victim tale where the female protagonist gets raped, beaten, impregnated or killed by someone. Like one of Christopher Guest mockumentaries, Jackie’s Back is a faux documentary starring the always- awesome Jenifer Lewis as Jackie Washington, a has-been pop diva – a pastiche of various pop divas like Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin. Lewis is one of the most underrated actresses around – she’s over the top, but hilarious in everything she’s in. The other cool thing about this movie is the boatload of pop divas and icons that make cameos as themselves: Jackie Collins, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Dolly Parton, Diahann Carroll are just a few starry names. Frasier‘s David Hyde Pierce is a scene-stealer as a deaf music accompanist who pounds on a piano, shouting out a Motownesque soul number, but without any soul. There’s this great original song in the movie, “Yield,” that’s supposed to be Jackie’s big hit – it’s reminiscent of the old Motown hits like “Stop! In the Name of Love” or “I Want You Back.” This is a really funny movie.
Diva and Beauty of the Baroque by Danielle de Niese. I saw Danielle de Niese performing in The Marriage of Figaro at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. I got free tickets because of work – and they were pretty fantastic seats: floor tickets. I was stunned by the lead soprano – she’s stunning, like a young Paula Abdul, but with a gorgeous voice. I read up on her autobiography and learned she had a pretty interesting life – from Australia, she moved to L.A. as a teen, and won singing competitions. I’m not a huge opera buff, but I have soft spot for the divas.
Repossessed/Third World Warrior by Kris Kirstofferson. Kristofferson is known now as an actor – arguably as much, if not more than as a country-rock singer. I like his liberal politics and Third World Warrior is known for hits leftist lyrics. Kristofferson is a great, distinct singer, with a gravely voice. His reputation is slightly higher than his actual talent, but he’s pretty great. The songs tackle issues of the 1980s including Reaganomics, Jesse Jackson, the Iran Contra, the environment, etc.
The Great Cyndi Lauper by Cyndi Lauper. I’m a huge fan of Cyndi Lauper. She’s extremely talented with a huge, booming voice, and a sensitive skill as an artist and songwriter. This 3-CD set is a collection of her greatest hits, but I got it because there are some rare tracks, as well that are hard to find on CD like unreleased b-sides, remixes, album cuts, and soundtrack work.
Ten Feet High by Andrea Corr. The Corrs was a band of Irish siblings who performed together. They were quite successful in the late 1990s. This is a solo album – it didn’t do well, but was well-received by the public. I got it because not only is Corr’s voice pretty, but the production is done by Massive Attack member Nellee Hooper, as well as U2’s Bono and the Edge. I love Hooper’s music – he infuses mainstream pop with trip-hop, dance music, electronic music and moody soul music.