I stare at the black card in the centre of the table. It reads, 'What would grandma find disturbing, yet oddly charming?' I go through the white cards in my hands and chuckle uncomfortably at the awkward combinations I can make. A few are genuinely funny and hardly offensive: 'Ryan Gosling riding in on a white horse', 'Erectile dysfunction', or 'Passive-Aggressive post-it notes'. Others are too uncannily near the mark to be funny: 'Hospice care', or 'Dying'. And some are quite honestly awful: 'Battlefield amputations', or 'Dead parents'.
We all love a fairytale ending. Especially after that rollercoaster romance à la Mills & Boon, which overcame more obstacles than a Hastings crazy golf course. Cue the wedding bells, blushing brides, pregnancy, toddlers, mortgages, education, outlawed in-laws, family seaside holidays, bringing home the bacon, pipe and slippers, grandchildren, Werthers Originals, retirement, death, merry widowhood and cats. NO! Wrong! We hate fairytale endings because, really, they suck. So says (rather more elaborately) Helen Croydon in her latest book, Screw the Fairytale: A Modern Girl's Guide to Sex and Love. Her view is that fairytales always end when the Prince kisses the Princess, because the rest of the story is so crotch-witheringly dull.
Rochester, aristocrat, courtier, debauchee, atheist, drunk, naval hero, bisexual, father and, for its own purposes, poet, is one of Eng. Lit.’s perennial conundrums. Like Pope’s Sporus, he seems at time ‘a painted child of dirt that stinks and stings,’ at others, to steal the jealous Hilaire Belloc’s sneer at P.G. Wodehouse, ‘English literature’s performing flea’. A fallen angel, perhaps, capering on a shit-smeared pin. He lived fast, died young (like Christ, at 33) and, the bulk of his life having been subject to the on-going attrition of incurable syphilis, his corpse was far from good-looking. If one uses a phrase that conjures up a rock or movie star maudit, then it is apt: in many ways his life seems very modern: in two words, the rebel. The question remains: to what extent was there also a cause.
It is generally acknowledged that romantic women’s fiction subscribes, in the main, to the following truisms: there must be an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending’ and where possible the ‘hero’ should appear to be unobtainable à la Rochester with his mad wife; Edward, a vampire and, of course, Christian with his fucked-up kinkiness
“We're white, we’re westerners, we're girls and we’re rich, of course we're fucking miserable. The standards are just too fucking high for us to be anything else.” Milly Thomas' new play, A First World Problem, is a must-see. Under bright lights and perched on hard-backed, straight-A classroom chairs three young women are poised like eager greyhounds waiting for the rabbit to be released. Each one holds the key to a future in her lap, cased in an innocuous brown envelope. Have they been accepted to Oxbridge, or rejected? And if they've got the go-ahead, are they attractive enough, slim enough, sporty or edgy or rich enough, to succeed there? These are 'first world problems', and lead actress-cum-writer Milly Thomas' eponymous new play is chock-a-block with 'em.
At the start of his book, Mr. Smith poses the questions: “What is the nature of man’s – or rather men’s –intimate and erotic relations with inanimate human forms?”…”When, where and why have human beings – usually but by no means only, men – fallen in love with statues and other inanimate things?”…”What provokes or stirs them to consummate that love erotically and what form does such consummating take?” These are provocative and intriguing questions…
Gazzman’s Down On Abby, by missing a crucial ‘t’ and ‘e’, cheekily creates a porno-parody of a particularly notorious period soap, one of the several jewels in Julian Fellowes’ artistic (and now, of course, baronial) coronet. Except that in Gazzman’s movie, not much happens in the way of snobbery, avarice, pride, intolerance or any other of the many aristocratic vices that Baron Fellowes so lovingly, yet obsessively, dwells upon. Aristos and staff are all far too busy screwing one another. In the nicest way possible.
Channel 4 has had the wisdom to allow Everett total creative control. He conducted his inquiry with delicacy, balance and restraint. There was nothing louche in the way he explored the world of paid sex – in which he has been both consumer and vendor. Instead he used his credentials to elicit the views and commentaries of his respondents with great insight and gentle empathy.
Every generation is accused of believing that it invented sex. In the wake of the Olympic summer, however, you couldn’t catch a tube without catching the eye of the blushing person opposite, precariously balancing Fifty Shades of Grey upon clenched knees. This generation’s late teens and twentysomethings might be forgiven for thinking their own, Jane Austen-style ‘coming out’ ball far racier than anything which had come before.