Revolutionary Ride [By Lois Pryce]. Liked this, liked it a lot. It is [currently] No 2 in Amazon’s Non-Fiction lists and No. 1 in Adventure & Travel. She writes well, in fact . . . heresy . . . it is almost as good, might actually be better than the greatest travel book I have ever read, Jupiters Travels [By Ted Simon].
It’s about Lois, obviously, who takes a motorcycle journey from Tabriz in North-west Iran across to Tehran, then down to Yazd, across to Isfahan then down to Shiraz. Then she flies home. A journey I made myself forty-years ago, except I avoided Tehran. And I didn’t attempt it on my own or by motorbike.
Of course, of course it is tremendously interesting to me; I just can’t quite comprehend why it is number one in the Amazon lists. Why is it so interesting to anyone who hasn’t made the same journey? Or, maybe they have: arrogant me, thinking I am unique in having travelled across Persia by road.
I would recommend it though. She makes it so crystal clear why the election three weeks ago last Friday of Hassan Rouhani is of such critical importance to Iranians and why the West should not only support this result but welcome it with open arms and diplomatic relations. She likes Iran; I liked parts of it. She goes to Persepolis and it is deserted, as I found too, except for two middle-aged European bikers on BMW Bling-bikes, on their way home from India. The Shah’s tented village is almost destroyed by weather and maybe vandalism but probably neglect, whereas it was still pristine and under guard back in 1976.
Not sure what to say about it. She goes out of her way to meet and greet Iranians, gets into trouble sometimes for having done so but she does a lot more interacting than I did; gets into people’s homes or is invited to eat with the Manager and his family, when staying at a hotel or guest house. Finds people who will simply stop what they were doing and show her round. She is gregarious and that is what you need. Someone on Amazon suggests she is too harsh on the regime: I definitely disagree with that remark. Ever been, mate?
Is it worse the Saudi? I guess not because she was allowed in. She couldn’t swan around Saudi on a motorcycle, on her own.
In truth, I didn’t care for the Iranians I met. I remember a guy we met at a hotel, I think in Isfahan, a young guy someone who you might trust; someone you might think held the future in his hands, he said he was a Wildlife Manager. Unusual occupation but good, we thought. The hotel it turned out, catered for Middle-east tourists who wanted to ‘hunt’. They ‘hunted’ sheep. The tourists lay on the desert floor and shot sheep grazing what little grass or fodder they were able to find.
But of course, it questions your own cultural underpinnings. We kill sheep. Industrially.
Whatevuh. Anyway, I wasn’t keen on Persians. Wasn’t keen on Turks either and pretty much actively disliked the Pakistanis.
Writing Screenplays that Sell [By Michael Hauge]. I quite liked this actually. Dated  as it is he still has something useful to say plus it has straight 5* reviews on Amazon. On page 280 he comments: The underlying principles of the teachers and books I respect don’t differ that greatly. Bob McKee’s structural approach and Syd Field’s plot points and my emphasis on outer motivation aren’t really contradictory; each is a possible method of laying out the story to create an effective, saleable screenplay.
Myself, I thought Story by Robert McKee was outstanding; I still consult it and to be honest, this isn’t really in the same league.
I have recently completed an on-line screen writing course. I enjoyed the process and have already made a start on converting Riccarton Junction into a TV Series. I am quite excited about it and it appears at the moment anyway, to be going well.
Reckless Daughter [By Barney Hoskins]. I haven’t finished this, I am half-way through. I have put it away for a while, even I can’t digest 300-pages of ‘honesty’ from Joni Mitchell in one session.
Barney Hoskins is a UK-based music journalist who is a big Joni Mitchell fan and knowing that Joni doesn’t give interviews ever, he has instead compiled pretty much every review of every album and many, many of her concert appearances since she first started in 1966. He keeps the quality high and contrary probably to his own personal preferences, does not exclude bad reviews. There is a pretty excoriating one of Mingus by an American journalist called Ben Sidran from Rolling Stone.
What do I think? I hardly ever read non-fiction. I know everything. Well, just about everything I want or need to know. I mean, I was thinking today I wished I had studied Shakespeare when I was younger, when I could have had my mind opened but it’s too late now. I suspect it was Keith Richards’ Life that took me to this but they aren’t in fact comparable. I am a Joni Mitchell music fan but honestly I simply don’t care that she plays 51 instruments or that she and the daughter she gave up for adoption are reconciled. If things improve I shall put up another review.
The Gustav Sonata [By Rose Tremain]. Enid Blyton for adults. This is the key scene:
It was dark, now, in the larder, almost night. Gustav felt sick from the smell of the fermentation and was about to suggest that they should stop, when he noticed one last bottle in a corner of the larder shelf.
He picked up the bottle and saw that it was full of banknotes. He stared at the money. Then he carried the jar to the window, where a rising moon provided a sliver of light. He unscrewed the lid and he and Emilie put their hands in, like children’s hands into a bran tub, and pulled out rolls of fifty franc notes, secured with rubber bands. It was difficult to calculate how much money was there, but they knew it was a lot.
So . . . every problem solved. Bran tub indeed.
I thought it was appalling.