The fantastic Brendon Books in Taunton bring out a literary and cultural magazine called Lamp Magazine. For the last page, they invite someone to tell readers about their favourite book, piece of art, piece of music or performance… and this month’s issue has me waxing enthusiastic about mine. What fun!
The song you’d choose to nurse a broken heart is not the same as the one that you’d blast out on your way to a party. When you’re feeling blue, only the blues will do. But when you’re feeling sparkly, The Pointer Sisters will hit the spot. Sometimes you need a book that stretches the synapses: at others, you want one that lets them sag like a comfy old jumper.
When asked to share my favourites with Lamp readers, my first thought was that I cannot choose without first choosing the mood that they’re the favourites for.
So, weighing in at the heavy end of the bookshelf is Moby Dick, a cornucopia of anatomical, botanical, nautical and historical asides giftwrapped in some of the most deliciously chewy sentences the language has ever been sculpted into. But when I want a frothy amuse bouche rather than a four-course sit-down dinner, I reread (and reread and reread) Winifred Watson’s delightful 1938 novel Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – memorably described as “closer to a Fred Astaire film than anything else.”
I’m a fickle art lover, and I tend to be swayed by the last thing I’ve seen: in this case Barbara Hepworth’s stunning retrospective at the Tate Britain. For solidity and the joys of three-dimensional world, no one does it quite like Hepworth (I only just managed to stop myself from stroking or crawling inside her sculptures), but for an art of abstract ideas, I love Anish Kapoor, particularly his ‘sky mirrors’, culminating in the magnificent mercury blob of ‘Cloud Gate’ in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Music is, of all four categories, the one most dictated by mood. So my mood-music of choice is as follows. For grand emotional sweep, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, preferably the 1970 recording by Kyung-Wha Chung with the London Symphony Orchestra and danced around to with Isadora Duncanesque abandon in the living room while nobody’s home. But if I want something more lowdown and funky than high and mighty, my playlist is likely to feature Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music White Boy, Jungle Boogie by Kool and the Gang and topped off with some early Jackson Five, Blame it on the Boogie for sure.
As for film, can I just say ‘Pixar’? It’s a bit of a cheat, I know, but that way I get Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Up, Ratatouille and Inside Out all in one fell swoop. Bliss.