Monday 23 September 2019

My cultural life: author Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble
Margaret Drabble
Bentwood chair
The Friendly Ones
Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot

Dame Margaret Drabble is the author of 18 novels including A Summer Bird-Cage, The Millstone, The Red Queen, and the highly-acclaimed The Pure Gold Baby. She has also written biographies, screenplays and was the editor of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. The question of what constitutes a good death and how we understand it if we have lived well, preoccupies Drabble in her most recent novel, the enthralling The Dark Flood Rises. Margaret will be in conversation with Niall MacMonagle in the Listowel Arms Ballroom on June 1 as part of the Listowel Writers' Week. She will also be appearing at the West Cork Literary Festival in June.

Film: Some Like It Hot

Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot

My favourite movie of all time is Billy Wilder's Some Like it Hot. It has got everything - a dazzlingly witty script, great direction, fine performances from all its stars, and great scenes on a train. I love trains, and I love Chicago. The sequences with Marilyn Monroe (above), Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in the sleeping car are the best ever. Curtis and Lemmon's cross-dressing act is subtle and sublime and strangely uplifting, and their interactions with Monroe are glorious.

Music: L'incoronazione di Poppea

I am not a very musical person, and cannot carry a tune in my head, but for some reason I always recognise and respond to the duet from the end of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, when Nero and Poppea sing Pur ti miro pur ti godo. The voices intertwine so beautifully, and I also relish the notion that these two very bad people are singing such triumphantly beautiful music.

Design: Bentwood chair

Bentwood chair

I love the Bentwood chair (example of the classic design labove. I bought a set of six Bentwood chairs way back in the 1960s, and I am sitting on one of them now. There is something so homely, so friendly, and yet so elegant about a Bentwood chair. I much prefer them to modernist designs.

Artist: Maurice Cockrill

I am a great admirer of the work of Maurice Cockrill (1936-2013). Years ago, I was asked by the magazine Modern Painters to review an exhibition of landscape art, and this introduced me to his oil paintings. I met him a few times, and we travelled together to see his retrospective in Liverpool. His style changed greatly, from representational through impressionist and abstract and geometric, but all have a verve and mystery and richness. One of my favourites is Ariadne's Thread, which has two formal trees, a cloudscape, hills, and a wonderfully vibrant use of red.

Book: The Friendly Ones

The Friendly Ones

I'm currently reading Philip Hensher's new novel, The Friendly Ones, which is set in Sheffield, my birthplace, and takes up some of the themes of his earlier novel, The Northern Clemency. Hensher knows Sheffield well (his family moved there when he was nine) and it is very interesting to see the city through his eyes, some of it very recognisable to me, and some of it very different. He is a surprising writer and sociological observer, and excellent on the madness of family life.

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