Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Considering Marlowe's reputation, Doctor Faustus is shockingly poor. It makes you appreciate Shakespeare when one reads an exact contemporary writing plays in a similar style on similar subjects but who produces work so flat, so lacking in poetry, so shallow and melodramatic and, - apart from the summoning of the devils - with so little sense of theatre.

The character of Faustus is only skin-deep: his motivations aren't clear and there is little sense of the enormity of his decision nor any plausible motivation. That is only revealed when he sells his soul and embarks on a career as a cheap con-man and juvenile practical joker. You'd think something so momentous would be undertaken to enjoy the glories of the world, but Faustus seems content to tease the Pope and steal his dinner, do conjuring tricks for the Emperor and scam someone who wants to buy a horse.

In Shakespeare's hands, Faustus would have been a doomed hero, diverted from greatness by ambition (like Macbeth), with a tortured soul and sullied magnificence. Marlowe's Faustus is nothing more than a colossal twat.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Review: The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music, 1972-1993

The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music, 1972-1993 The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music, 1972-1993 by Nick Kent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Of course I remember Nick Kent. In the sense that I remember all those self-declared savants of the my youth: Paul Morley, Lester Bangs, Charles Shaar Murray, Paul du Noyer, Julie Burchill and of course Nick Kent. But I seldom remember which was which except Gary Bushell (because he was occasionally funny but more usually a complete tool) and Geoff Barton (because he alone championed my then-beloved heavy metal and wrote the highly misleading sleeve notes to my first Deep Purple album, which destroyed his credibility for me the moment I found out).

And what I realise now about Nick Kent is that he's not that good a writer. Not terrible, but largely unremarkable. As a young journalist he sat at the knee of the genius Lester Bangs, but all he seems to have learned was how to write at great length. These stories are almost novella-length, padded out with lengthy quotes but largely devoid of sparkling writing, apart from the occasional flourish. The word that springs to mind is 'workmanlike'. We have long narratives but little insight or poetic imagery to bring the music to life; nor much sympathy for the subjects under discussion.

So these tales are moderately interesting if you care about the subjects (though his cursory treatment of a then-disturbed Roky Erickson is frustratingly shallow and unsympathetic). He wants to tell stories, but he never shows much enthusiasm for his subject, which makes the exercise generally disappointing.

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