Bridget Jones for people who work in advertising
First, a warning. If you work in advertising and let any of your colleagues catch you reading this, they will say "Christ, haven't you read that yet?" This gets very annoying.
Of course, if you work in advertising, and you haven't read this yet, you'll be sick of all your colleagues asking you if you have. In other words, this book gets annoying before you even pick it up.
Once you do pick it up you'll notice that it's written entirely in the form of emails -- no narrator, no dialogue. Just emails. This has the advantage of dividing the book into short chunks.
On the downside, people will keep saying to you "isn't it clever how it's all written in emails", until you point out that Samuel Richardson invented the epistolatory form with Pamela in 1740. Do this in a stern voice and, if you can, raise an eyebrow.
Taking as its subject the day-to-day disasters of a big London ad agency, e is a kind of Bridget Jones for people who ponce about all day and never buy their own lunch. And like Bridget Jones, it's hardly Virginia Woolf.
My main quibble is that it falls between two stools. On the one hand, it's trying to appeal to people who work in advertising, so it's full of in-jokes about what Client Service Directors wear and where they eat lunch. And on the other, it wants to be bought by a wider public, so it doesn't actually attempt to challenge any of the prevailing stereotypes about people who work in advertising. In other words, the Creative Director calls people 'Darling' a lot, eats at the Ivy and suffers from migraines. (In fact, most of the creative directors I know ride motorbikes, drink bitter and wouldn't look out of place on a building site.)
So an entertaining read, with a few laughs. But not a great one. And like Bridget herself, you wouldn't mind spending a weekend in its company. But any longer and you just want to smother it with a pillow.
Carmen with South African Passion
And as the chorus reached its sizzling climax, in the faded elegance of Wilton's Music Hall, hard seats were forgotten - we were transported by the sheer power and exuberance.
This was an extraordinary evening for many reasons. Surrounding us were the best and brightest of South Africa's young singing talent, brought together under the auspices of the Broomhill Opera. We were listening to a Carmen translated/up-dated by funny man Rory Bremnar (who has also translated German opera - now how many people know that?). And we were sitting in the gutted shell of a music hall, its former splendour just traces on the wall, to the East of the Tower of London.
The central performances of Pauline Malefane as Carmen and Luzuko Mahlaba as Don Jose, more than ably supported by the rest of the cast, set-alight the whole theatre - the heat, the tension, the passion, the tragedy permeating the very air we breathed. We were in the middle of the action, quite literally, with performances spilling off the stage into the audience and up into the gallery above us.
This Carmen has taken London by storm, with rave reviews in all the broadsheets, bringing out the usual white, opera-going crowd. Which, while undoubtedly wonderful for the production, is a shame for Broomhill's stated aim of broadening audiences for opera.
In an interview Director, Mark Dornford-May, explained how they had widened audiences in South Africa by laying on buses to bring in people from the poorer neighbourhoods. "We didn't want just white people watching black people perform," he said. Which, unfortunately, seemed to be what was happening on the night I went to see the production in London.
Broomhill (resident at Wilton's) collaborated with the Spier Festival which aims to cultivate and promote South African talent in music and theatre, and many of the singers before us were diamonds first found in the troubled townships. Though maybe not as rough as some have suggested - all of them being now involved in some kind of university study.
If there is one quibble I would have is that they didn't make the setting South African. It would have taken very little adaptation and would have made more sense of the dialogue which was transposed into the African language, Xhosa.
And couldn't we one day have a different ending? There must be a Carmen out there who would have her switchblade at the ready and know how to use it - and Malefane's was a good candidate.
More information about the Spier Festival and Trust: