In My Own Time
I tend to alternate, more or less, between fiction and non-fiction, with an increasing affection for what might loosely be termed graphic novels. My interest in science was re-awakened by Michael Brooks's Free Radicals, in which the traditional view of scientists as clinical, rational beings is turned on its head. After visiting Australia, I was captivated by Kate Grenville's vivid and disturbing account of the colonisation of a wild and beautiful land in The Secret River. I was pleased to see Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch on the Man Booker shortlist. It is a kaleidoscopic novel on an epic scale.
My formative years were spent listening to Dylan, Van Morrison, Clapton and Peter Green, so I am naturally attracted to anything with its roots in American soul, blues or country. I've always admired the work of Ry Cooder (pictured below), and his latest album, Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, sees him at the top of his game. Another favourite was the late John Martyn, a man whose personality was once described as a mixture of "grace and danger", which became the title of one of his best albums.
Discovering the films of the Marx Brothers in my late teens was like discovering comedy gold, and I still find them as funny today as when they were made in the 1930s. More recently I have enjoyed the work of another set of brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, whose comedy is much more subtle but no less effective, and the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. As an advocate of moving image education, I have particular affection for short animated films, such as the beautiful Father and Daughter by Michael Dudok De Wit. Find it on YouTube.