Monday, 4 March 2002

Granta 71

Listening to:

Mozart, Vesperae solennes de confessore, K339.

Just read:

Granta 71: shrinks (contents)

This issue of the magazine had some good bits in it, but didn’t make much of an impact on me. The first story, by Elliott Perlman, went on for ever and never seemed to work its way to having any point. The all-knowing narrator figure quickly became a royal pain in the arse. I didn’t think much of the rest of the fiction in this issue, but at least it was all over reasonably quickly. Maybe I'll grant Paul Auster’s little story an honorable mention: it was appealingly weird and brief.

The non-fiction was better. Ian Parker's Obedience was all about the famous experiments in the early 1960s where normal Americans readily inflicted painful electric shocks on another when told to do so. The researcher who performed the experiments was Stanley Milgram. The article describes the background to his experiments, and also discusses some of the controversy that almost immediately ensued, and which arguably wrecked Milgram's career. Very interesting.

There were also a couple of non-fiction personal accounts of stressful human situations. One was by Justine Picardie about not coping with her sister's death to cancer, and the other was Tim Parks about his schizophrenic brother-in-law. (The latter may have been fiction, but it certainly read like a true-life account.) Both were quite compelling in a “twitch the front curtains” kind of way.

Now reading:

Philip Knightley, Australia: biography of a nation. Incidentally, I now have 36 unfinished books on the List.