Thursday, October 19, 2006

song of the week: made up lovesong #43

Every so often, a bunch of things will collide in my head at the same time and cement themselves inseparately together. Around two years ago Bob Dylan’s Idiot Wind, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Curtis Hanson’s truly wonderful Wonder Boys became accidentally but happily stuck together for ever more, making each one better than it was originally because of their associations with the others. I won’t bore you with the details, but mention of any one sparks off such a precise set of emotions, pinpoints a particular afternoon in a particular point in my life and succeeds in charting the gap between then and now so acutely that it makes me feel more of a person.

Last Saturday night presented me with an equally beautiful and surprising collision. I had just finished watching Pawel Pawlikowski’s ‘My Summer of Love’. The script and performances are flawless, but not in that dull, earnest, conservative way of, say, L.A. Confidential (another very good Curtis Hanson) but in a gloriously chemical way, where they become more than the sum of their parts. And never has the English countryside looked so exotic than through the eyes of the film's Polish director - I only wish it existed in reality. My Summer of Love is funny - very funny - bittersweet, sad and blissful, and like Wonder Boys, has taken an unexpected residency in my top ten favourite films.

Alongside this, having lost Wuthering Heights the day before, I had headed to the library on Saturday morning and, for reasons I quite can’t work out, borrowed Julie Burchill’s Sugar Rush. A well observed story of teenage infatuation with a very astute, yet affectionate look at the relationships and power games between girls, it stars two of the most successfully drawn characters I have ever met. So move over Margaret Atwood – I’ve never really thought you were all that anyway.

I wasn’t that far through Sugar Rush and I was already feeling rather cheated that my piece of salacious, disposable trash was turning out to be a work of brilliance. How can a teen book, transformed into cringey Tatu-inspired soft porn for middle-aged men in the late night slot on Channel 4 be so good? How can any book that name checks Samantha Mumba, Jerry Springer, Craig David and Reese Witherspoon within the first four pages be a work of understated genius?

I was half way into a glass of wine when Kim and Maria ‘Sugar’ Sweet had bunked off chemistry to play the arcades on Brighton Pier. Our heroine, Kim, was trying desperately, and failing, to beat up her friend in a game of Tekken, when she realised that her feelings for Maria may not be limited to friendship. And then it happened.

Turned down low on my stereo came a little playground keyboard riff, mobile phone beepings, and a weird slowed down sample like a fairground carousel, coming to a halt, fresh from Brighton Pier... and then Alex Lloyd of The Guillemots sang:

I love you through sparks and shining dragons, I do,
now there's poetry, in an empty coke can.
I love you through sparks and shining dragons, I do,
now there's majesty, in a burnt out caravan.

You got me off the paper round, just sprang out of the air,
the best things come from nowhere, I love you, I don't think you care.

Yeah, I know, it’s cheesey, and a bit dumb, and rather overdone, but so is falling in love when you’re fifteen.

My Summer of Love, Sugar Rush and The Guillemot’s jubilant Made Up Lovesong #43 manage to evoke the dizziness and excitement of first love so instinctively that you feel drunk on love enjoying them. But while all three pretend to be about the object of love – this single amazing person who flies into your life, dismantling all that was there before and building a shiny new home for you and them for everandeverandeverandever etc – they are really about how first love is seeing yourself transformed, and is as much about how you perceive yourself magically changed by the influence of another person, as it is about how you feel about them.

I think one of the reasons love is such an addictive buzz is not just because you've met someone wonderful, but because it poses the possibility that you might actually be lovable. And even if the other person doesn’t love you back quite as hard as you’d like, you still feel more than you are - because you must be somebody great and romantic, bold and tragic, superhuman and majestic to feel this much.


At 22 October, 2006 22:32 , Blogger paddington said...

Sorry, this is probably not the most intelligent or relevant question to ask about your post, but do you really not think much of the English countryside? Do you not think it has a certain exoticism - or exoticisms plural, given the huge variety of landscapes on such a small island? Looking from the top of Great Gable, down through the criss-crossed stone walls of Wasdale, over the no-man's land of the Cumbrian coast to the Irish Sea and the Isle of Man and the always-misty Solway Firth - I don't think there's anywhere in the world that can quite match that...

At 23 October, 2006 20:18 , Blogger darling vicarage said...

I find the countryside sightly tedious, probably because my mother romanticised it into this gloopy syrup during our caravaning holidays. I enjoy the idea of the countryside and wish I could love it as much in practice, but I itch and squirm too much. I've always preferred power stations, shopping centres and railway stations to get my kicks. I have rarely sat in a place of unadultered natural beauty and felt nothing besides total alienation. But sit me in a revolving restaurant above a smoggy city and I could weep.


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