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Things I do when Eileen’s away

November 13, 2009

Not a lot as it happens, other than turn up the volume, and catch up with DVDs I might not watch if she was home. Her overnight trip to South Shields yesterday gave me a chance to view Perfect Square, a live REM concert recorded in Germany in 2003.

On the old-fashioned website I did an occasional review section, until I became handicapped by my reluctance to slag anything off. It’s my belief that anyone who sits down to do anything creative is giving of their absolute best. Only the individuals know if that’s true, but I’m usually prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. I told an audience in Toronto that I don’t read reviews of my own work. That’s true, because the good ones are bad for my ego, and the others are bad for my blood pressure, but it’s also the case that I have a problem with the whole industry. Every review you read in a newspaper, or worse on Amazon where any idiot can post his prejudices, is no more than that reader’s opinion of the work, and trust me, his or hers is irrelevant, set aside your own.

On that same Toronto platform I found myself discussing a quote by Saul Bellow which contained the phrase ‘an undeniably good book’. The theme puzzled all five of my fellow panelists as much as it did me, but what I found more remarkable was the notion that a Nobel prizewinner could write or say something so fundamentally stupid. Quality or its absence is entirely subjective; a book, a piece of music, a work of art, each one is what you make of it, personally.

All of that brings me back to REM and Perfect Square. In my eyes and to my ears it’s the best piece of recorded work that one of my favourite bands has ever done, and much as I missed my lovely wife last night I’d like to thank her and her friend Bet for giving me the opportunity to enjoy it on my big screen telly with my big sound system, as it’s meant to be played. She’s back now; I think I’ll go and play it again, to see if I can convert her.

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