The Diary: Leos Janacek; Edward Hall; Simon Kernick; Phillip Pullman

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The Independent Culture

Too much monkey business

When the late Czech composer, Leos Janacek, visited Britain, he apparently decided to take a trip to London Zoo in an effort to wind down, but took such musical inspiration from the "monkey sounds" he heard in the zoo's simian quarter, called Monkey Hill, that he hurried home and put their yelps – what he preferred to call their "speech melodies" – to music. A source at the South Bank Centre tells me that the results are pretty impressive, and not at all abrasive on the ear: Janacek "visited the Zoo, which proved to be an absolute treasure trove for his collection of melodic curves. He stayed over half an hour, noting down the cries of joy, sorrow, of the various monkeys, and a further 20 minutes at the seals' pond, watching a walrus who kept crawling on to a rock and jumping into the water". The resultant composition will be performed by the Emerson String Quartet during a three-day series of all-Bohemian music from 2 March.

Hall in the family

Edward Hall, son of theatre director Peter Hall, is to take over as the artistic director of London's Hampstead Theatre. The theatre's publicity department say this is not a fact he is seeking to highlight. But few would dare charge him with nepotism. For one, the entire family appears talented. Hall's daughter, Rebecca, made a brilliant debut in Woody Allen's film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", and Edward has not just proved himself in the theatre but is also a dab hand at directing films, and TV shows such as 'Spooks'.

A crime it's gone

Simon Kernick, the crime writer, bemoaned the loss of Richard and Judy's book club which had, a few years ago, led to sales of his novel, 'Relentless', quintupling after being picked as a summer read in 2007. He said it had also led him to slightly more obscure books, as it had so many others, For instance, Khaled Hosseini's 'The Kite Runner', which "I might never otherwise have found on my own." Sales of 'Relentless' shot up to 350,000 and into the bestseller lists, after receiving the Richard and Judy mark of approval.

Curiouser and curiouser...

Imagine my curiosity when I found a large, briefcase-sized "parcel" on my desk, tightly wrapped by Disney packaging tape. I hadn't ordered anything from Disney, I thought, as colleagues crowded round to see what lay inside. It turned out to be a giant fake book of 'Alice in Wonderland', which at first appeared like a beautiful collector's item. When opened, it had another fake book inside. After tearing through four Russian doll-like versions of these pointless boxes, Disney presented their gift – a computer USB stick that would, according to a note, "unveil the many secrets that await you". Tucked away, there was a press release amid this immense waste of paper, which told me all about the latest film by Tim Burton. The fashion desk received the same parcel – the most soul-destroying piece of post I have received in years.

Dread-letter days for Canongate

Canongate is receiving a steady stream of 'hate mail' at its Edinburgh offices, three months before the publication of Philip Pullman's fictive take on the life of Jesus, 'The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ', which will be published for Easter. What many appear to have forgotten is that Pullman writes stories, and is not seeking to revise the Bible. Nevertheless, the letters are coming in. Still, at least things are not as bad as when 'sackloads' of protest letters landed on Canongate's doormat in 1998 after the publication of 'The Gospels' with lively prefaces by Nick Cave, Blake Morrison, AN Wilson and Richard Holloway. These will be re-published alongside Pullman's book. It may be a busy time for the postie.

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