So says author and bookseller Rick Gekoski. Money quote:
“That’s not writing, that’s wanking,” he said censoriously. “Finish it, and get on with something else!”
Hong Kong-based Dutch academic Frank Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine details how Mao Tse-Tung’s Great Leap Forward led to the deaths of, Dikötter estimates, 45 million people. It has won the Samuel Johnson prize and sounds like a great book. One of the judges, biographer (Lawrence, Yeats, Nora Joyce) Brenda Maddox said of it, “This book changed my life – I think differently about the 20th century than I did before. Why didn’t I know about this?” To which one can only reply, “Yes, why didn’t you?” Everybody else did.
On Sunday 26 June the 2011 Aldeburgh Festival ended. Daily Telegraph reviewer Ivan Hewett writes that the Saturday concert by the London Sinfonietta was “totally intoxicating” but:
Just as thrilling was the performance in the [City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra] concert of Stravinsky’s Variations, composed in 1964 when the composer was 82. In this electric performance conducted by Oliver Knussen, the music’s splintered sound felt like pure thought in motion. As did the brand-new double concerto Conversations from the 102-year-old Elliott Carter, in which percussionist Colin Currie and pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard tossed musical shapes at each other like netball players.
That’s right, a major work by an 82-year-old and a brand-new concerto from a 102-year-old composer. Still with us.