Luther (2010-2015)

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English television at its best. Idris Elba as the leading man. Ruth Wilson as the delectable psycho killer bitch Alice Morgan. What more would you need to recommend this piece of television history?

Nothing really, but for me it’s all about the sub-text.

You can never be sure that others see what you see. You can’t even be sure that what you see is what the creators intended. But it’s all there regardless. Once it’s released, the mise-en-scène and dialogue don’t undo and recreate themselves in some alternate fashion.

What I see is that Luther and Alice are the same person. Split personality. Two halves of a whole. Yin and Yang. Call it what you will.

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Tinkering with conscience

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To propose that John le Carré’s zenith was the 1974 novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I have to retrace my steps through his body of work, and my own historical connection to it. Why bother? Because my bedside reading for a couple of weeks now has been a journey of discovery and re-discovery as I make my way through his collected works. And because I realise more clearly now why Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy always seemed so memorable.

In reading some novels for the first time, I realised that my memory is faulty, according le Carré greater status as an influence on me than is merited. It’s really only three novels I was fond of over time: The Spy Who Came in Form the Cold (1963), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), and Smiley’s People (1979). I didn’t know the earlier Call for the Dead (1961) or A Murder of Quality (1962) until much more recently; they are fine novels in their own right, but not quite as significant.

The Looking Glass War (1965) struck me as bland and aimless years ago, and still does today. I didn’t read A Small Town in Germany (1968) until last week, and though I found it engaging, I thought the agonising about rehabilitated Nazis running West Germany for the Allies was affected, and the accent on a British betrayal of Jews to the unreconstructedly brutish Germans was far too self-righteous to sit well. Though I suppose it might have gone over well at the time, especially as an expression of le Carré’s class-based angst, being increasingly guilt-riddled as they were for the failure of Britain to be a more fitting home for liberal freedoms and its heroes.

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