The Diary: Maxine Peake: Man Booker prize; Alastair Campbell; The Art Fund; London Review of Books
Friday 05 February 2010
Take a lingering look under the bonnet
The actress Maxine Peake, better known as Veronica from the cult TV series, 'Shameless', is to play the starring role in a film about Anne Lister, an 18th-century Yorkshire landowner who has often been called the first modern lesbian for her openly gay lifestyle (she was called Fred by her lover and "Gentleman Jack" by Halifax residents), and who wrote a secret diary of her X-rated exploits in coded journals that record her daily life, romances, and seductions, which have taken centuries to decode. The film will open the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival at the British Film Institute next month and it will co-star Tina O'Brien, from 'Coronation Street'. 'The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister', will trace her extraordinary life as a prototype modern lesbian, said Brian Robinson, from the BFI, adding, "There was more going on in bonnets and Brontë country than we ever imagined." Around one-sixth of her diary was encrypted and graphically described her lesbian nature and affairs.
Booker of love
Reflecting on how the Man Booker prize has changed in its four-decade-plus history, Ion Trewin, the administrator of the literary prize, said it was much more open to genre writing than it had been some decades ago, and that he could envisage a time when the prize would go to a work of romantic fiction – a genre many see as a fluffy subsidiary of "real" literature. "I'm quite sure that a romantic novel will win the Booker," he said. "Someone will write something so remarkable but it will be called romantic fiction."
The cover image of the former Labour spin doctor-turned-novelist Alastair Campbell's latest book, 'Maya', was changed after he discovered a poster of a model whose face he thought was the embodiment of his protagonist, a famous actor called Maya. "The original design was very different. It had a woman in the distance, looking hounded yet alluring," he said. "But I designed the cover [featuring a blurred close-up of a woman's face] after I had an idea when I saw a photo of a model and I thought 'that's her'."
The art of romance in Britain
When the charity, The Art Fund, gave five art aficionados free reign to choose their favourite romantic work of art on display across the UK, they ran the risk of inviting the most explicit of images (are the Jeff Koons sculptures from his Made in Heaven series still in the country?) to the most inane (kissing couple from St Pancras?). The results were very dignified: the art critic Andrew Graham Dixon chose Titian's 'Bacchus and Ariadne', the artist Grayson Perry went for Jan van Eyck's austere 'The Arnolfini Portait' with a couple who are coolly holding hands; the TV presenter Kirsty Young plumped for Samuel John Peploe's romantic 'Roses', and art critic Matthew Collings went for Gauguin's 'Nevermore', featuring a sleeping naked woman, while the academic Marina Warner chose Poussin's 'Rinaldo and Armida'. The public are now invited to vote online for which romantic painting they like best.
A bit of skulduggery
Speaking at a London Review of Books lecture this week, the British Museum's director, Neil MacGregor, drew his audience's attention to a fake "Aztec" crystal skull that the museum acquired in 1897 that "quickly became a popular object" in the Sixties and Seventies, with many believing it to hold powerful, mystical qualities. Only later did the museum discover that this ancient artefact hailed not from the bosom of Aztec culture but from Tiffany's, which had bought it in the late 19th century.
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