books, reviews, upcoming

Book Preview: Greatest Hits – Laura Barnett

Written by the author of The Versions of  Us, Laura Barnett, Greatest Hits is the story of Cass Wheeler a rock star in the form of a Joni Mitchell or Stevie Nicks. Her career has been in decline for a while and she spends her days mourning a tragic loss tucked away on her secluded farm. 
Her record label wants to release a greatest hits collection and this sparks Cass on a mission of memory – of her parents, her former band, and her past. 

Interspersed between the chapters of Cass’ life are her songs, actually written by singer-songwriter Kathryn Hughes especially for the book. 

Interestingly the two writers will be releasing an album of these songs to coincide with the book’s release in June this year. 

I really liked this book, it has great emotional writing and I found Cass very intriguing. At times there were very sad moments and I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little – really good writing hooks your feelings like nothing else. 

The book isn’t out until June 15th, which gives you loads of time to put it on your wishlist. 

feminism, ramblings, thoughts

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…

Last week my dad announced he’s a feminist. He then rattled on for half an hour and didn’t let any women (me, mum) speak.

Last night we watched Bones, a show I quite enjoy, in which a men’s rights activist is murdered. A ‘meninist’. The sort of person who truly believes that ‘every job taken by a woman is a qualified white man out of work’.

Women still earn less than men for doing the same work, women of colour even more so, despite it being illegal here in the UK. Women still shoulder the vast majority of housework, chores, cooking and childcare. More women work part-time, and not necessarily because they want to.

I also watched Confirmation this week, a drama based on real events and real people, with Kerry Washington playing Anita Hill as Olivia Pope with bad suits. Hill testified against US supreme court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas in a hearing about his alleged sexual misconduct. No other women were permitted to testify. She was vilified in the press, he became a member of the supreme court.

Was the all male senate panel’s attitude towards her because she was a woman, because she was black, because she spoke up? Thomas tried to make it about race (he was African-American, as was Hill), but they didn’t buy it.

Would a man’s word have carried more weight, would his testimony been so easy to dismiss?

This week Beyonce released Lemonade, one of the themes of which seems to be infidelity. Now she hasn’t explicitly said it’s about her marriage, but the internet is alight with people trying to find out who Jay-Z cheated on her with.

But where’s the backlash against him? If he did sleep with someone other than his wife behind her back (as opposed to in an open marriage) then why aren’t people criticising him? Is it just easier to blame a woman, after all she betrayed the sisterhood, he’s just a man. And that’s what men do.

I read a recent interview with Monica Lewinsky, who had a brief affair with Bill Clinton in the 90s, he stayed president, she was humiliated and found it hard to keep her life on track. Now she runs an anti-bullying initiative, he’s supporting his wife’s White House run, but Lewinsky is still treated to vindictive comments but the married man many years her senior is just good ol’ Bill.

And you wonder why it’s hard to be a woman.

adventures, life, music, reviews, theatre

Amanda Palmer at Union Chapel

I love music, I believe the right song at the right time can change your entire perspective. As someone with partial hearing loss (it’s genetic and will get worse) I try to make the most of the music I can still hear.

Tonight I went to Union Chapel in Islington, a beautiful church that also hosts concerts, to see Amanda Palmer perform on her last tour before she becomes someone’s mother (she’s 6 months pregnant).

I saw Amanda there about 4 or 5 years ago and that was amazing, tonight was even better. The acoustics and ambience of the building add a certain something to the proceedings.

Amanda’s shows don’t feel like a gig, more like An Evening With , as she introduces acts and brings her friend on stage to sing with her.

Kicking off proceedings is the joyful noise of London band Perhaps Contraption – a combination of a brass band with a punk aesthetic. They are tremendous fun.

Then comedian Andrew O’Neill comes on and does some very funny one liners, reads out some hilarious rejection letters and introduces Amanda.

She stands in the pulpit and sings ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ unaccompanied, it is beautiful.

Then she descends to the piano to kick things off with ‘Astronaut’ and ‘Ampersand’ from her ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer?’ album.

She talks about the previous night’s show – webcast live to Patreon subscribers, soon to be free to stream to everyone. She tells us tonight will be better as she can relax more. She takes requests from the audience, I ask for ‘I Google You’, but sadly there isn’t enough time to do them all. She performs some of them with her ukelele.

She reads a random extract from her book ‘The Art of Asking’, selected by an audience member, she talks about writing and her infamous Kickstarter.

Her special guest is drag performer and cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat, who is magnificent, funny, clever, joyous.

Then she brings her friend Whitney on and they do a Garfunkel and Oates song about how smug pregnant women are and a few Ask Amanda questions.

Then they do a Dresden Dolls classic – Delilah – I think I last heard her do this with Georgia from Bitter Ruin, it’s a great song.

There’s time for a Ben Folds cover and a riotous Leeds United featuring Perhaps Contraption, before the standing ovation.

The encore is a Kimya Dawson song and Ukelele Anthem.

Normally she stays and signs anything you like, but she’s pregnant, her feet are swollen and she hasn’t been off stage to pee once.

So, as this is technically a book tour, there’s a signing tomorrow evening in Waterstones.

I think it’s the relationship she has with her fans, old and new, that makes her shows feel more intimate, she’s joking and waving, knowing we’ll sing along, that we’re in on it, whatever it is.

I leave buzzing, music always seems to bring me alive a little more.

We walk to Kings Cross, down Pentonville Road, past the park where clown Joseph Grimaldi’s grave is sited, the evening faded and the wind picking up, talking about the show, about ideas it’s given us – things we’re mulling over.

The way you should be, electric from the crowd, from the rhythm. Not bad for a Tuesday.