The critics RADIO; Frankness in Bosnia, luvvieness with Frank

SOME OF YOU may find what follows disturbing. So James Naughtie warned the Today (R4) audience on Monday, and again on Tuesday. What did they do, those who feared disturbance? Change stations, switch off? Those of us who risked it on Tuesday heard how much more searingly disturbed were the sad, soft- spoken Gloucester siblings, children of the Wests. But on Monday disturbance was an absurdly feeble word for what followed: I can't find one strong enough.

Alan Little is in Sarajevo again, where peace and joy are supposedly restored, but where the memory of grotesque suffering can never be eradicated. It was unforgettably distressing. The boy who came home to find his father and brothers blown to bits and tried desperately to reassemble them may never, poor child, be free of the nightmares in which, again and again, he tries to mend his family. And nor, to some extent, will we who heard Little's compassionate, weary witness.

A cliche often used, prophylactically, about that ferocious internecine war is that there were no heroes or villains, that everyone involved was somehow guilty. But Little does not trade in cliches: he prefers the awkward truth, and for him there are at least two heroes. One is Farouk, condemned to a wheelchair by a bullet that split his spine, yet refusing to allow himself to hate anybody, even the man who shot him.

The other is Yasmina, who was a 24-year-old doctor when Little first met her. Since then she has grown old through daily sniper-dodging to perform emergency surgery under fire, and she has had enough. Now she is leaving her city because, she says, her mind is damaged and her trust destroyed. One can only hope that wherever she settles she finds peace. She has earned it.

Little is a seasoned campaigner, beaming strong light on a murky world. Newer to the game is Anne Enright, who presented last week's Four Corners (R4). She had a drink in Senegal and told us about it. The previous day 51 people had been killed not far away, but nobody seemed very bothered, because "this was Africa". Her account of swallowing brackish gin with the only three white people in town - a precise Frenchman, his wary wife and a world-class drunk - was rather better than Somerset Maugham on a good day. She should go far, and keep in touch.

Instead of gin, some people reach for chemical comfort. In Shelf Lives (R4) Nigel Cassidy considered the runaway success of the latest version of bottled sunshine - but, as the song asks, is it pain or is it Prozac? This unsatisfactory mini-documentary failed to answer that and other, more serious questions, like how we distinguish between "good", prescribed drugs and the other sort. And can we be sure of the long-term effects of any of them?

Now for this week's birthday. Frank Sinatra is 80 and Sinatra, A Master at Work (WS) explained why we should care. In a fascinating analysis of his vocal development, Bob Holness described the grim determination and aggressive ambition that drove the gifted young singer to develop his remarkable phrasing and breathing techniques, what Sammy Cahn calls "lyric projectionability". Dozens of snippets of songs illustrated the polishing process until, though you liked him no better, you couldn't help but admire him.

And who do you think this is? "A dignified individual who giggled when he saw his little girl performing in ballet ... a misunderstood man who would get a worried look in his eyes when the bills came through each month". No? Well, it's Frank Sinatra, the Other Side (R2). As described by his son in a 100-per-cent-treacle tribute, the singer was a gentle, home-loving daddy who would smile his delighted welcome when children burst into his bedroom, who liked nothing so much as sitting painting in his lovely home, while Frank Jr enjoyed his "toddling years".

There's a bit of a problem here: Frank Jr was, he recalls, wearing "knee- pants" then; many years later he was taken to the Oscar ceremony wearing his very first pair of long pants. Did anyone ever buy the child sensible clothes? But accuracy comes way behind adulation in this gloriously ghastly schmaltz, which tiptoes airily over dishonesty, infidelity and divorce while a clarinet mournfully massacres Mozart. Listeners should beware: this show runs for six weeks. For now, here is the devoted son with "my own personal message to Dad. I love you buddy, and I'm so proud of the man you are that I might just bust my buttons". Bust away, Frankie, but do it somewhere private.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

    £13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies