Fiction & Biography

Pl lOlOCHAl’i llC) l SSAY ANNIE LEIBOVITZ American Music

(Jonathan Cape S‘~'i:')r 0...

RL Burnside captured by Leibovitz’s thoughtful camera

Throw in some incidental words from the likes of Beck, Patti Smith and Mos Def and others and you’ve got an impressively hefty tome.

Leibovitz’s view of American music is a homely,

She may have had Whoopi Goldberg in a bath of milk, covered Steve Martin in paint and hung John Cleese upside down from a tree but quirky celeb snaps are only the tip of the creative iceberg when it comes to the expansive photographic talents of Annie Leibovitz. As principle photographer at Rolling Stone magazine between 1970 and 1983, Leibovitz was central in progressing the whole concept of music photography. She went from there to become the centre of the visual identity of Vanity Fair by shooting hundreds of their covers; most notably its now legendary fold-out that collect together the superstars of the hour.

For American Music, Leibovitz returned to her musical photography roots and, in doing so, traced back the origins, in part, of America’s own sonic heritage. A mammoth four-year long project ensued, which took her back and forth traversing her homeland from the big cities to the Delta swamps and the most remote corners of the country to shoot new subjects as well as drawing on her extensive back catalogue.

rootsy, even traditional one. Even when the bling of hip hop or the rasp of metal come into her crosshairs - Eminem, Mary J Blige, System of a Down and Trent Reznor are all pictured here - she very much captures the human rather than the superhuman. She also makes a point in most cases of capturing her subjects in their natural habitat: on stage, backstage or at home, giving the shots added intimacy. Be it bluesman RL Burnside on his living room couch strumming his guitar with sons and grandkids looking on; the late Johnny Cash perched on the porch with daughter Rosanne; or DJ Shadow holed up in his home studio amid a sea of vinyl, cables and boxes, it gives us a peek into a hitherto unexplored world of the artist.

Leibovitz thoughtfully communicates both the power and energy of music. It’s in the faces of BB King, John Fruiscante, Bob Dylan or the Mt Moriah Missionary Baptist Church Choir: there’s drama, passion and energy seeping out of the frame. A sprawling but breathtaking collection. (Mark Robertson)

AME ?%l(3,\i\. SAGA ALAN PARKER The Sucker’s Kiss 'Sceptr'e S‘ ‘i (3.93% O.

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A paper-thin story of passion and pickpockets

104 THE LIST ' -. .V‘ ' -,

The v-rord ‘eclectic' is one that critics apply witn hapha/ard glee to any filmmaker they can't guite pin down generically. But in the case of Alan Parker whose screen work over the

last 130 years has lll(2ill(l(3(l a l)l'()ll|l)lll()li~

era gangster musical peopled hy cream pie hurling Juveniles. a peep hehind the scenes at New York's Performing Arts High School. and a lively Jaunt through the rise and fall of a Duhlin soul outfit it's lllll)( ssrhle to dream up a more fitting description.

So it comes as little surprise to find the insatiahly curious Parker charting three decades ill the life of an Irish A'nerican pickpocket. What is halfling. however. is that the picaresgue journey of ‘l'nornas Moran. whicl‘. takes in some of 90th century America's most tiirnirtttious episodes Irritiliidirtg the l‘ll'fSl World V‘lar'. pr'oiiipition and the depressionr. should have occasioned such. a tedious and. ultimately. irritating hook.

lhe .'l‘.£ll". problem here is Parker's

protagonist. meant to represent a kind of uncritical. Zelig-like observer of these turbulent times. In fact. Tommy is your archetypal Orrish rake. not had exactly. Just a hit of a one With a slightly off-kilter moral compass who loves his old mammy. Yawn. To further compound matters. the invidious characters Tommy encounters as he Zigzags across the burgeoning US railroad system ~ most prominently a Chinese gangster and a pair of blind female rohhers -— are so sketchin drawn they make Bugsy Malone appear as fully fleshed as Othello.

Parker's novel is finally tipped over the edge into oiit-and-out dullness by its rigidly linear narrative. which includes some fairly pedestrian descriptions of the llootchy Kootchy era excesses. and a papei‘thin love story in WlilCll the angelic Effie offers lornrny the chance to redeem himself. It makes you long for l—"at Sam's Brand Slam Speakeasy. and a cream pie-drenched Jodie Foster. sAllan l-iadclillei

Classic novels revisited. This issue: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose

Published 20 years ago.

What’s the story Umberto Eco’s intellectual murder mystery was the essential (and largely unread) literary purchase of the early 19805. Set in 1327, the yarn opens with former inquisitor Brother William of Baskerville arriving at a Franciscan Abbey to investigate charges of heresy. accompanied by the narrator, Baskerville‘s faithful novice assistant Adso. As their inquiries get under way. monks start dying in mysterious circumstances. Baskerville’s investigations lead him over the course of a week to deduce that the key to solving the murders lurks among the hallowed shelves of the abbey's vast library. where the evasive Franciscans toil to preserve the great medieval works of science. theology and literature.

What the critics said How's this for an endorsement? The estimable organ Newsweek said of Eco's book: ‘Like the labyrinthine library at its heart, this brilliant novel has many cunning passages and secret chambers . . . fascinating . . . ingenious . . . dazzling.‘

Key moment Among the novel's slow pace and numerous obscure literary and historical references, including entire passages written in Latin. there are some beautifully rendered episodes. most memorably the scene in which the tormented Adso is seduced in the abbey kitchens by a young peasant girl.

Postscript Eco’s novel was partly inspired by Borges' short story ‘The Library of Babel' in which a labyrinthine library and its contents are equated with the richness. contradictions, beauties and horrors of life itself.

First line test ‘Naturally a manuscript.‘ (Allan Radcliffe)

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