A Year Of Cinema: My 52 Favourite Films

Au hasard Balthazar
A regular feature of Grace & Steel, the podcast I cohost with Kevin Steel, is A Year of Cinema, wherein I discuss one of my 52 favourite films, one for each week of the year. And each week Mr Steel excerpts the movie talk from the podcast and creates a YouTube video for it. They are really quite well done.

What follows below is the complete list of 52 films in chronological order (with its Sight & Sound ranking, if applicable). Titles in bold are those which have been discussed and include links to their videos.

To ensure greater variety, each director is restricted to a single film. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I broke this rule once.

To be clear, my knowledge of cinema is hardly encyclopedic. And so this is not a list of the “best” films, merely those I like best. Ask me again in a few years, and this list could be rather different.

1927 Sunrise, FW Murnau (Sight & Sound #5)
1931 M, Fritz Lang (Sight & Sound #56)
1937 Make Way For Tomorrow, Leo McCarey
1941 Sullivan’s Travels, Preston Sturges
1943 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Michael Powell (Sight & Sound #93)
1944 Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder
1945 Dead of Night, Cavalcanti, Crichton, Dearden, Hamer
1949 Kind Hearts and Coronets, Robert Hamer (Sight & Sound #=171)
1949 Twelve O’Clock High, Henry King
1952 Ikiru, Akira Kurosawa (Sight & Sound #127)
1955 The Night of the Hunter, Charles Laughton (Sight & Sound #63)
1955 Ordet, Carl Theodor Dreyer (Sight & Sound #24)
1956 Bob le flambeur, Jean-Pierre Melville
1956 The Searchers, John Ford (Sight & Sound #7)
1957 Sweet Smell of Success, Alexander Mackendrick (Sight & Sound #=171)
1958 Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock (Sight & Sound #1)
1960 The Virgin Spring, Ingmar Bergman
1966 Au hasard Balthazar, Robert Bresson (Sight & Sound #16)
1966 The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo
1966 Blowup, Michelangelo Antonioni (Sight & Sound #144)
1966 Seconds, John Frankenheimer
1970 Deep End, Jerzy Skolimowski
1971 A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick (Sight & Sound #=235)
1971 Dirty Harry, Don Siegel
1971 Straw Dogs, Sam Peckinpah
1973 The Day of the Jackal, Fred Zinnemann
1973 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Joseph Sargent
1975 Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick (Sight & Sound #59)
1978 Pagliacci, Franco Zeffirelli
1979 Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, Werner Herzog
1981 The Aviator’s Wife, Éric Rohmer
1981 Excalibur, John Boorman
1983 Star 80, Bob Fosse
1984 Repo Man, Alex Cox
1985 After Hours, Martin Scorsese
1985 Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Paul Schrader
1986 Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources, Claude Berri
1987 RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven
1987 Withnail and I, Bruce Robinson
1988 Midnight Run, Martin Brest
1989 The ’Burbs, Joe Dante
1993 Tombstone, George Cosmatos
1994 Barcelona, Whit Stillman
1994 Red, Krzysztof Kieślowski (Sight & Sound #=235)
1999 Election, Alexander Payne
2000 Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe
2000 State and Main, David Mamet
2006 The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry
2010 Let Me In, Matt Reeves
2010 Senna, Asif Kapadia
2010 The Trip, Michael Winterbottom
2010 True Grit, Coen Brothers

Stupid Or Malicious?

Fun fact: This curriculum was godfathered by a convicted pedophile

Fun fact: This curriculum was godfathered by a convicted pedophile












The National Post editorial board is concerned that some Ontario parents are getting ideas above their station with regard to that province’s proposed new sexual-education curriculum. It alleges that the “nearly 8,000” of them that have congregated on Facebook are ignorant and hysterical.

Their concerns about the new curriculum, to be introduced in September, range from legitimate disagreements over values to feverish anxieties caused by outright misinformation. There are indeed some aspects of the new curriculum that won’t go over well with parents trying to raise their children according to traditional or religious teachings. The suggestion that individuals might self-identify as one of six genders—a notion introduced in Grade 8—is one example….

Then there are the supposed components of the curriculum that can’t actually be found in any of the document’s 244 pages. They include the notion that “male and female genders are presented as insufficient,” as purported by certain pamphlets and flyers being circulated by “Save Our Children” parents.

These suggestions, needless to say, are utterly false, and have been confirmed as such by Education Minister Liz Sandals. But that doesn’t seem to matter to some Ontario parents, who have opted to get their information from Facebook posts and pamphlets rather than from the document itself.

Does the editorial board of the National Post read its op-eds before they are published? Do its members know how to read or count? Paragraph 3 accuses the “Save Our Children” parents of having made an “utterly false” suggestion, as detailed in Paragraph 2. Specifically, “the notion that ‘male and female genders are presented as insufficient.’” Paragraph 1 concedes that the new curriculum includes “the suggestion that individuals might self-identify as one of six genders.”

Let’s do the math. Male plus female equals two genders. Positing that six genders are required to express the full complexity of human sexuality does indeed support the contention that the Ontario government has concluded that “Male and female genders are insufficient.” Because six is bigger than two.

So is the editorial board of the National Post stupid or malicious? Soon I may have to reveal some of the things in my file on this revolting newspaper.

All You Need Is Lurve

Mike Nichols probably thought he was rather clever setting one of Closer’s climaxes to the strains of Così fan tutte. Nichols probably never stopped to think that drawing attention to the genius of others is rather stupid when one is engaged in making rubbish.

Così fan tutte is about two men sharing two women. So is Closer. That’s all they have in common. No, wait. I’m being too generous here. Così is about men and women. Closer is about four handsome yet tortured manikins shrieking “I love you” to one another in a simulacrum of London that resembles nothing so much as Notting Hill without the gritty realism. Greenery yallery, Tate Modern Gallery. Plus, Julia Roberts says “fuck” a lot. Continue reading

No Ordinary Joe

The Clash, 1977: No hippies here

The Clash, 1977: No hippies here

Joe Strummer dead at 50. It’s customary at these moments to express shock, but anyone who ever saw the Clash wondered how he made it to 30. Watching him howl into the microphone and pummel his Telecaster, one expected that vein throbbing in his temple to explode and his limbs to fly off in every direction.

Strummer performed as if his life depended on it, but then most of the punkers did. Why then did so many of the others seem callow, even laughable? Attitude will take you a long way but not all the way. It helps to have talent, and Strummer had lots. He was one of the great masters of the 45 RPM single. Nobody did fast, loud, simple and short better than he. I realize I’m indulging in the customary rock crit diminishment of Mick Jones, but the Clash always worked best when Jones was Strummer’s preening foil. Jones was seriously lacking in judgment. “Stay Free”? What a simpering sentiment. (As everyone pointed out at the time, it was the perfect soundtrack for its feminine hygiene homonym. And it’s not too late; “London Calling” has been pimped to sell Jaguars.)

The Clash’s eponymous first album (UK edition) is a serious contender for the most exciting record ever made. Strummer never made a better album than this; not surprising, since he became trapped in a political prison of his own making and never really developed as a songwriter.

The Telegraph obituary declares that Strummer “became the punk movement’s voice of anti-Thatcherism.” This is a serious historical error. Margaret Thatcher did not become Prime Minister until May 1979; by then punk was exhausted. English punk rock was a protest against the Britain of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and the slow-motion nightmare of national collapse that characterized the period. Johnny Rotten sneering “No future for you” was no pose when national repossession by the IMF was a distinct possibility.

Such bollocks is talked about punk rock now. It was thoroughly apolitical at first; only later did it become ideological. Mick Jones would probably not like to be reminded that his group immediately prior to the Clash was called the London SS. As it included Keith Levene (later of the Clash and Public Image and subject of “Deny”), however, it seems safe to conclude it did not proselytize neo-Nazism.

Few are willing to remember this now, but at the time flirtation with Nazi iconography was a commonplace. To give just five examples, the Dictators, the Blue Öyster Cult and the Ramones—bands with Jewish members, management and record company CEOs—all did so. Siouxsie Sue and Sid Vicious wore swastikas. It wasn’t all play-acting, either. The National Front enjoyed significant popularity in urban Britain in the mid-1970s and quite a few bands, Sham 69 in particular, enjoyed significant patronage from NF supporters.

Britain was sleepwalking into chaos. The comparison to Weimer Germany became a cliché. Even as the Pistols sang of “Anarchy in the UK,” everyone longed for order—of one sort or another. Also forgotten is that Thatcherism had its punk-rock supporters as well. Paul Weller made known his intention of voting Conservative in the next election”—a gaffe for which he as spent the rest of his life grovelling.

According to the Telegraph obit:

Billy Bragg, the singer and songwriter who followed in their political footsteps, said last night that the Clash had given punk its “political edge.”

“Were it not for the Clash, punk would have been just a sneer, a safety pin and a pair of bondage trousers,” he wrote in an appreciation posted on the BBC website.

This is true and revisionist at the same time. The Clash’s look, engineered by manager and Malcolm McLaren acolyte Bernie Rhodes, was critical to their success. Who was the enemy? Wankers like Yes, with their 80-minute concept-album “suites.” (Rick Wakeman made a famous intervention to get the Pistols off his label, A&M.) How did Yes dress? Like a bunch of faggot hippies. So how did the Clash dress? Sharp, tough and male. Long hair, for so long de rigeur, became the ultimate faux pas. Rhodes was not above flirting with political ambiguity as well. Paul Simonon sports a Union Jack on the first Clash album; then as now, this flag was (mis)understood as the unacceptable symbol of British racialism.

The serious British music press was, as they say, shocked and appalled by the inchoate irruption that was punk rock. I remember well Tony Parsons (now the beloved lad novelist) sneering of Magazine’s “Shot By Both Sides” that Howard Devoto should “get down on his knees” in gratitude for all that socialism had done for him. One also remembers his then-wife Julie Burchill (now the beloved spent volcano of the Guardian) sneering that the Pistols’ “Bodies” was just the sort of anti-abortion tirade that one could only expect from a Catholic Irishman like Johnny Rotten ( Lydon).

They were Trotskyite to a man and woman, these angry young journos, and they bent punk rock to their agenda, at the cost of its charisma. Thus it lost its power as a unifying force. Later, of course, Mrs T would become a unifying anti-force; the punching bag they could always smack for easy applause, even as they all became rich, even as she accomplished what the Labour Party never could—destroying the class system.

The Clash knuckled under. The punk movement became a mere adjunct of the Socialist Workers Party. They touted Rock Against Racism, Rock Against Sexism, rock against every ism except Boringism. “Political correctness” became a catchphrase. You could never be ideologically pure enough.

As I discovered to my bemusement. I knew most of Vancouver’s punkers of the late ’70s and early ’80s. One night after some gig I found myself at a party in some dive face to face with Gerry Useless ( Hannah), bass player and political commissar of the Subhumans, a band still remembered fondly in these parts. Like DOA, they traded in Mannerist Marxism but were rather more earnest. I was disgusted by Mr Useless’ ignorant attitudinizing and let him have it with both barrels. I was fiendishly subtle. I delivered a wholly false but passionate and closely reasoned diatribe against “left-wing Communism, an infantile disorder.” Mr Useless was quite shaken. When I was done, he asked, “Who are you?” (It helps if you picture me wearing a bespoke suit, which was my style at the time. I enjoyed the tension.) “Just a Leninist,” I replied brusquely, turned and walked away.) The Subhumans broke up, and the next I heard of Gerry Useless he had been arrested. He had foresworn music for a group called Direct Action—the infamous Squamish Five. No poseurs they; they bombed porno video stores and a BC Hydro substation in Vancouver and a weapons-system plant in Ontario. Useless was sentenced to 10 years. Sorry guy, it was just a drunken prank; I never figured you’d take me seriously.

Joe Strummer was as obvious a nom de punque as Joan Jett, of course, but we never realized it; we were all rather earnest then. He was a diplomat’s son and attended the City of London Freemen School. He died in Somerset, a Telegraph reader. The apple never falls far from the tree, I suppose. I wonder how much of a Red he ever was. Anyone who’s ever seen Rude Boy will remember the scene where Ray Gange catches Strummer in a Red Brigade shirt and insinuates he’s a communist. “They shoot Communists,” Strummer responds, but he seems as unpersuaded as Gange (and the audience) is.

Strummer was later to record the deathless classic Sandinista!, and isn’t it a good thing that conservatives aren’t rock and rollers? Can you imagine having to live down the shame of once having owned an album called Violetta! or UNITA!? Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

So farewell then, Joe Strummer. I’m not going to hold your politics against you. I prefer to remember you as you were in 1977—one of the greats. Rest in peace.

Kevin Michael Grace, 3.51 a.m., December 24, 2002

Poetry Corner

Le vin du solitaire

Le regard singulier d’une femme galante
Qui se glisse vers nous comme le rayon blanc
Que la lune onduleuse envoie au lac tremblant,
Quand elle y veut baigner sa beauté nonchalante;

Le dernier sac d’écus dans les doigts d’un joueur;
Un baiser libertin de la maigre Adeline;
Les sons d’une musique énervante et câline,
Semblable au cri lointain de l’humaine douleur,

Tout cela ne vaut pas, ô bouteille profonde,
Les baumes pénétrants que ta panse féconde
Garde au coeur altéré du poète pieux;

Tu lui verses l’espoir, la jeunesse et la vie,
– Et l’orgueil, ce trésor de toute gueuserie,
Qui nous rend triomphants et semblables aux Dieux!

— Charles Baudelaire

7.55 p.m., November 30, 2002

3,487 And Counting

Oxford gives four meanings for “whatever.”

1. in any way or manner
2. at any rate
3. in any case
4. to resume, (anyway, as I was saying)

Have you noticed the change in the meaning of No. 4? “Anyway” has become much like “whatever.” Not the “whatever” of that’s crazy but the “whatever” of that’s enough of that, you. Snide and imperious. The way young people speak! I’m surprised every conversation doesn’t end with a knife to the gut.

Anyway, my brief moment in the sun is over. Visitors from VDARE and Lew Rockwell brought me more traffic than at any time since my début. Unfortunately, Lew linked to me on Thanksgiving, which—as I learned when I arrived in San Diego on Thanksgiving Day, 1993, to find everything shut—is a more important holiday for Americans than Christmas. And the day after…well. My daily average is up to 99, but I’m not going to threaten three figures today. Too busy at the big box sales to give me a click, are you? Apparently.

Obiter dicta: Last night I had reached 99 visits by 11.25 p.m. Would I reach 100? Would I check my stats again and again and again to find out? (Pitiful, quavering voice): Yes…I would. Visitor No. 100 came in with three minutes and 46 seconds to spare. Thank you, gov.uk!

Statistical analysis reveals that many of my visitors come to me from government networks. I understand this is true for most websites. Every so often Pierre Bourque publishes a list of his tip-top visitors, and I was always impressed that so many of the addresses had “gc” in them. How very influential he must be, I had thought.

My wholly typical reaction to this disproportionate interest from bureaucrats was paranoid. It didn’t help when, reporting a story about biometric ID cards this cycle, I had cause to call the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to request an interview with the Privacy Commissioner himself. Not 10 minutes later, a computer from that office had signed on to The Ambler. The next day, the commissioner’s flack called me back to impart the sad news that Mr. George Radwanski would be unavailable to speak to me. Coincidence, I’m sure, but I bet this wouldn’t have happened if my cousin, Mr. John Grace, still had Radwanski’s job.

Statistical analysis also reveals that about half of my visitors are from outside Canada. Most are from America, but others are from everywhere and anywhere. I have fans in Japan, New Zealand and Russian East Asia. I find this terribly exciting and romantic. This morning I even had a visitor from KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines.

Ah, Holland! Here is my segue—or “bridge,” as we hacks call it—to Air Miles. This is a Dutch company whose card is good only in Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. Now there’s a singular group of countries for you. Every time you buy something from a merchant that subscribes to the Air Miles system, you get points. Typically, 1 point for every $15 or $20 spent. It’s called Air Miles because cardholders normally exchange their points for free flights, although you can exchange them for various other things.

(The primary purpose of Air Miles and other reward cards is to encourage spending at particular stores. Its secondary purpose is to build a consumer profile of cardholders. I understand that some are angered by the loss of privacy entailed thereby. But it is a voluntary loss, and I don’t really care that some corporate database knows I like Grissol crackers, Knorr soups, Benson & Hedges cigarettes and Coca-Cola. I’m not that paranoid.)

I’d been an Air Miles member since 9/96, but I’d got nothing out of it. Trouble was, the only Air Miles sponsor I patronized regularly was Safeway. (I also have an Air Miles credit card.) So after almost six years of use, I’d managed to collect a paltry 2,200 points. Then I felt a sudden hankering for air travel. It became imperative to collect as many Air Miles as fast as possible. I made as many purchases on my credit card as was feasible, and did almost all my grocery shopping at Safeway, but it still wasn’t doing me much good. If $1,000 spent equals 50 Air Miles (100 if bought by credit card at Safeway), and I spend less than $2,000 a month on non-rent purchases…well, you can do the math.

Then I cracked the code. It’s all in the promotions. Rather like the Safeway Club card. Safeway groceries are rather dear if you buy just anything. So you buy as many items as possible offered at the Club-card discounted price. In any given week, Safeway offers a couple dozen products that yield bonus Air Miles. Ridgways isn’t your usual cup of tea? Well, if they offer 5 bonus miles a box, you switch. If you get 100 bonus miles for buying eight boxes of Post breakfast cereal and 100 miles for eight 10-pouch boxes of Tang “fruit flavoured drink” and 100 miles for eight boxes of Stoned Wheat Thins and 100 miles for eight packages of Chips Ahoy! cookies…well, you stock up. If you get 10 times the miles for shopping on a certain Tuesday, that’s what you do. And if you get emailed a coupon for 200 bonus miles if you spend $250, you make sure you spend that much.

In this manner, I managed to amass a prodigious amount of Air Miles in a few short months. Then, as I was tantalizingly close to my goal, I found I had nowhere to fly to. How sad, how sad.

What shall I do with my bounty of Air Miles? I feel a sudden hankering for a diamond necklace.

Bling! Bling! As the hiphoppers like to say.

6.05 p.m., November 29, 2002

Everything I Do, I Do For UU

Except now I’m thinking, maybe it’s really attbi. But that would mean Pacific Time. My mind is reeling. Pay no mind; my mind was reeling before. Sleep deprivation will have that effect. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you ended up.

So the production cycle is over, as you might have guessed. “Production cycle” sounds like a process that involves extrusion. Not a million miles from the truth.

I should be in bed, but instead, I’m sitting at my keyboard blogging to you. Or as they say in Pacific Time, bloggin’ atcha.

I see Christopher Hitchens is all over Slate these days. Where does he find the time? Yesterday’s lesson: instructing Americans in the meaning of “anti-Americanism.” I don’t understand why you Americans tolerate some bloody foreigner coming to your country and telling you your business. Seems to me America got along tolerably well before little Christopher Robin showed up.

You even let Canadians get away with this. Take that David Frum. Did you know he’s Canadian? Seemed a bit rich when he lectured Pat Buchanan, Tom Fleming, Sam Francis, et al., about what American conservatism was all about. He also lectures us Canadians as well. I know why we take it. We haven’t any self-respect. What’s your excuse? Toxic hospitality? Frum is a Canadian to the Canadians (in the National Post) and an American to the Americans. Nice work if you can get it.

I remember seeing Chris in a documentary about the death of the Princess of Wales. He was sitting on a bench, barracking away as the flood tide of mourners swelled about him, when one of the bereaved told him to put a sock in it and show a little respect. How dare you tell me what I may say in my country was this British bulldog’s response. I thought this rather magnificent at the time. Later I began to have doubts. My country? Which country might that be, Chris? Aren’t you an American now? Perhaps Chris regards Americanism as a universal, spiritual allegiance.

Let’s see

The United States of America is not just a state or a country but a nation—the only such country, in fact—supposedly founded on a set of principles and ideas. The documents and proclamations preceded the nation-state.

Our old friend the “proposition nation.” You could say the same thing about the Soviet Union, you know. The Russian Revolution was more than just a change of regime. I wonder where Chris thinks Americans came from? Did they fall from the sky after July 4, 1776? There are other proposition nations, Chris admits, but his is best “because the United States is based on pluralism as regards faith, political allegiance, or ethnicity.” This is a recent and tendentious version of Americanism, but I’ll let that pass.

Turns out Chris is a pluralist but not excessively so, especially as regards faith and political allegiance. For who is his model anti-American? Step forward Pat Robertson:

who appeared on the television in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 atrocity and declared that the mass murder in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania was a divine punishment for a society that indulged secularism, pornography, and homosexual conduct. Here is a man who quite evidently dislikes his own society and sympathizes, not all that covertly, with those who would use violence and fanaticism to destroy it. He dislikes this society, furthermore, for the very things that it tends to advertise about itself, namely permissiveness and variety. If this is not “anti-American” then the term is truly meaningless.

I suppose it could be anti-Americanism, but it could also be religious faith. It is also possible that God did punish America, as Robertson believes. I am not a mystic, so I have no pretensions to expertise in this matter. It’s probably best to forego such pronouncements, unless your name is Isaiah or St John the Divine. It is also possible that Robertson is genuinely saddened by the results of what he considers God’s wrath. I make no claim to understanding Pat Robertson, so I shall remain silent. But where is your permissiveness, Chris? Is this is indeed America’s calling card, why can’t it—or you, since you claim to be American—tolerate Pat Robertson? He certainly makes a contribution to American variety, if nothing else.

Here’s why:

I would go a step further and say that racism and theological bigotry are “anti-American” as nearly as possible by definition, since these things are condemned or outlawed—after a bit of a struggle, admittedly—in the amendments to the Constitution if not in the document itself.

A giant leap, I’d say. Are these condemnations in some secret codicil to the Constitution, Chris? I had laboured under the misapprehension the Constitution restrained government. But then I’m not an American like you. I’m sure you know best.

I have the sneaking suspicion that Chris believes that anti-theological bigotry means a literal belief in the God of the Bible. Seems to me the Orthodox Jews are pretty “theologically bigoted.” Oh yeah, I forgot. You can tell us not only what Americanism really means but what Judaism really means too. Better late than never, eh? Some guys have all the luck.

9.00 p.m., November 28, 2002

Ridiculous To Sublime

My curiosity whetted by Michael of the 2Blowhards, I read Simon Callow’s review of Garry O’Connor’s biography of Alec Guinness. Michael is correct; Callow is a “really good writer.” He’s also a fine actor, of course.

Perhaps it’s a snobbish suspicion of people called Garry, but I decided not to trust Callow’s judgment and seek other opinions. After reading Helen Osborne’s review in the Sunday Telegraph, I’ve decided I shan’t be reading O’Connor anytime soon. (Prejudice does have its uses.)

Osborne declares:

This is not so much a biography as a 400-page bluster, and often brutal with it. ‘I have absolutely no doubt that for some time in his life, and possibly even all of it, Alec had love affairs with men.’ Apart from our old friend Anonymous the evidence is scant and shoddy.

She dismisses O’Connor as “a measly mastodon grubbing about in the swamp”:

There are flimsy hints of a preference for what O’Connor describes as “the rough trade,” and he pounces like a sniffer dog on anyone Sir Alec regarded as “a very dear friend of mine” or “one of my closest friends.” When Guinness joined [Sir John] Gielgud’s company in 1937 it was awash, apparently, with rent boys. “There is no reason to believe that Alec did not behave like the others.” Equally, there is no reason to believe he did…

Some of his findings are preposterous: “During his schooldays he expressed little or no awakening of sexual feeling or attraction to girls.” As Guinness was 86 when he died in 2000, there can’t be too many school chums around to confirm this…

It is crass and impertinent to imply that Guinness’s conversion to Catholicism—”so high profile,” sneers O’Connor, “that if it had happened today I should not have been surprised to see it featured in Hello!“—was a placebo against his “demons”. The so-called proof for this is a remark made 43 years after the event: “I have one regret…that I didn’t take the decision to become a Catholic in my early twenties. That would have sorted out a lot of my life and sweetened it.”

O’Connor even speculates that Guinness’s wife Merula was a lesbian. The evidence? Only one child was born of their union. What a vile man Garry must be.

We live in an age in which sex is everything and God nothing, in which “sexual orientation”–whatever that might mean–becomes sociology, ideology, even theology. So I am happy to report that another biography of Guinness is to be published, next year by Piers Paul Read. Read is not only a Catholic and a man of discernment; he is in my opinion one of the finest living novelists. (Although he remains best known, on this continent at least, for Alive, his miraculous account of the Andes plane crash survivors.)

Unfortunately, Read came along at a time when the middle-class decided to abandon serious novels, so he has taken up what might be called eschatological thrillers. But then so did Graham Greene—and Dostoyevsky. Try Read’s A Married Man, the truest account of married life I have ever read. Or The Upstart, a savage account of class resentment. Or, more recently, A Patriot in Berlin, a hugely exciting and unsettling account of the unintended consequences of the end of the Cold War.

And until Read’s bio is out, why not read Sir Alec in his own words? You won’t be sorry. Blessings In Disguise, My Name Escapes Me and A Positively Final Appearance are all sublime. What a good man he was.

Kevin Michael Grace, 5.11 p.m., November 26, 2002 [Link]

Pleased To Meet You

Now that my review of three monographs on Canadian immigration has been published on Peter Brimelow’s mighty VDARE, I fully expect to be positively inundated with traffic.

Most of you that got here via the link at the bottom of the VDARE piece will be first-time visitors, so it is fitting I should introduce myself. Or re-introduce myself, as it turns out. You will find a rather baroque introduction here, but this is the short version:

I’m a Canadian journalist seeking a wider audience. I write about Canada here but also about the United States (where I once lived and worked), Britain (I’m half-British by birth and mostly British by inclination) and everything else under the Sun. (Which, as old Ambler hands will recall, is the source of all life on Earth.)

I’ve written a great deal about Canada’s preposterous immigration policy for my primary employer; you can find a representative example here. And you can find my earlier review of Daniel Stoffman’s excellent book here.

Take a look ’round. Put your feet up. Set a spell. Y’all come back now, heah? (But stay away from that Black Box; it’s maudlin in there.)

3.06 p.m., November 26, 2002