Archive for June, 2008

25 Films That Made a Difference

June 23, 2008


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Betty Blue


The Shining


Lawrence of Arabia


Apocalypse Now




The Singing Detective (TV version)




The Man Who Fell to Earth


Pulp Fiction


A Clockwork Orange




Some Like It Hot


Sunset Boulevard

sunset boulevard

Lord of the Rings

lord of the rings

The Wizard of Oz


Gone With the Wind


A History of Violence

history of violence

The Godfather


A Scanner Darkly


Santa Sangre


Mulholland Drive






Mishima: A Life in 4 Chapters

mishima 4 chapters

25 Films That Made a Difference

© R J Dent (2009)


Derek Jarman

June 21, 2008

Derek Jarman (1942-1994)

Derek Jarman (January 31, 1942 – February 19, 1994), writer, artist, set designer, film-maker and gardener, was a modern day Renaissance man – a polymath who has created a formidable and enduring body of work.

His books range from film scripts, screenplays and scenarios, to prose poems, diaries, journals, and even a study of his Dungeness garden in text and photographs.

Here is a list of his books:

Dancing Ledge (journal/autobiography)

A Finger in the Fishes Mouth (poetry)

Modern Nature (/journal/diary)

Smiling In Slow Motion (journal/diary)

The Last of England (aka Kicking the Pricks) (film scenario)

Chroma (prose poem)

Up in the Air (screenplay)

Blue (screenplay)

War Requiem (screenplay)

Caravaggio (screenplay)

Queer Edward II (screenplay)

Wittgenstein (screenplay)

Derek Jarman’s Garden (Illustrated Journal)

At Your Own Risk (Journal/Diary)

Here is a short film of the books of Derek Jarman:



As a film-maker Derek Jarman made challenging, provocative and utterly beautiful films.

Here is a list of his full-length films:

Sebastiane (1976)

Jubilee (1977)

The Tempest (1977)

The Angelic Conversation (1985)

Caravaggio (1986)

The Last of England (1988)

War Requiem (1989)

The Garden (1990)

Edward II (1991)

Wittgenstein (1993)

Blue (1993)

Derek Jarman’s art is striking and powerful, as can be seen from these paintings of his:

He successfully used his visual artistry to set design Ken Russell’s The Devils, Savage Messiah, and The Rake’s Progress.

He also designed his wonderful stone, metal, wood and shingle garden at his cottage in Dungeness.

Derek Jarman campaigned tirelessly for gay rights, and then after being diagnosed with AIDS, he chronicled his illness in three of his books, and spoke out publicly about it in an effort to help others suffering from the same terrible virus.

I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for Derek Jarman. He was a true artist and he did not waver in his course. He took artistic risks and they paid off. He had more talent than most ever have. He worked hard to produce a vast body of work in a variety of media: films, music videos, paintings, drawings, books, and his garden. When others stated how difficult it was to produce, write or direct films in the UK, Derek Jarman went out with cameras, crew and actors and simply made his  films.

His twelfth and final film – and last testament – was Blue, which was released just four months before his death from AIDS-related complications. Such complications had rendered him partially blind by the time the film was released.

Blue consists of a single shot of saturated blue colour filling the screen, as background to a soundtrack where Jarman’s and some of his favourite actors’ narration describes his life and vision.

Blue ends with the words:

In time,

No one will remember our work

Our life will pass like the traces of a cloud

And be scattered like

Mist that is chased by the

Rays of the sun

For our time is the passing of a shadow

And our lives will run like

Sparks through the stubble. I place a delphinium,

Blue, upon your grave

Derek Jarman

© R J Dent (2010)


Growing Up With David Bowie

June 16, 2008


Like a lot of people, I grew up with the music of David Bowie providing a soundtrack for my life. The first song of his I heard was Starman.

Appositely enough, I heard it leaning back on my radio, in the early hours of the morning, not knowing what time it was. Anne Nightingale played it and I loved it immediately. There was something about Bowie’s voice, the catchy melody and the single string guitar solo that combined so compellingly that I became an instant Bowie fan – and have been one ever since.

When a new album came out, I bought it. Ziggy Stardust (1972) was my first Bowie album.


It was followed by Aladdin Sane – still one of my favourite Bowie albums.


This was followed by Station to Station,


Space Oddity,




David Live,


Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps),


and 1: Outside.


When Aladdin Sane came out, I bought it, loving the music – although Watch That Man had been mixed strangely and always sounded muddy to me – and liking Bowie’s eye-patch/pantomime image change.

Pin Ups was okay.


It contained one or two good covers, but I thought Sorrow, the single, was the weakest track.


The next album, the brilliant Diamond Dogs, was excellent, especially Big Brother, When You Rock and Roll With Me, Rebel Rebel and Candidate.


Then came Young Americans. Strangely, I liked Across the Universe the most, and the title track next.

David Live, despite adverse criticism regarding its sound quality, is a wonderful, powerful live album. During this phase of Bowie’s career, I bought Hunky Dory (1971)


and David Bowie.


On the former, my favourite tracks were (and still are): Oh You Pretty Things, Kooks, The Bewlay Brothers, and Queen Bitch, particularly its opening guitar riff.

Then I bought Space Oddity, and thought that the title track was the weakest track on it.


The best track on it is Cygnet Committee, which is one of Bowie’s best songs.


After those came Station to Station, and if there’s a better Bowie album, then I’m not sure which one it is. It rocks. It’s Young Americans 2. It’s so powerful, it’s amazing. Six long tracks, two singles: Golden Years and TVC15, but it’s the title track, Wild is the Wind, Stay and Word on a Wing that make Station to Station so compelling.

And then there was Low and then Heroes


which are parts one and two of the so-called Berlin Trilogy, produced by Tony Visconti and not (according to urban myth) by Eno. Low is excellent, especially the instrumentals. Heroes, the title track, is Bowie’s epic.

The instrumentals on Low and Heroes are excellent too. The only thing that spoils Heroes is the last track, which is in the wrong place. It should be put just before the instrumental tracks. Try it. It improves the album no end.


Lodger wasn’t like Low or Heroes. The songs are good, but I didn’t – and still don’t – understand what it was or what it was trying to do. I like Look Back in Anger, but that’s about it.

Stage was a superb live album,


but Scary Monsters was so amazing that Stage got overshadowed.


Up the Hill Backwards, Ashes to Ashes, the title track and Fashion, are all brilliant.

As the World Falls Down, Underground, Magic Dance, and Within You from Labyrinth (1986) are all excellent,


as is: This Is Not America,




Under Pressure,


When the Wind Blows,


Absolute Beginners, That’s Motivation,


and Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.


Then there’s David Bowie’s flirtation with classical music; his role as the narrator of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf,


And then there’s Let’s Dance.


It’s an amazing Bowie album. The title track, China Girl, Modern Love and Cat People are the best tracks, although the slower version of Cat People from the film soundtrack album is a much better song.

I like Loving the Alien, Blue Jean, Tonight and God Only Knows from Tonight, but it’s not Bowie’s best album.


It’s not his worst either. That dubious honour goes to Never Let Me Down, the Bowie album that let everyone down.


Of its tracks, Bang Bang is okay. Day In Day Out is not as good as everyone says. Never Let Me Down is the one Bowie album to avoid. It’s not good.

The three Tin Machine albums are – contrary to popular opinion – very good.


The first album is great; the second has some great tracks on it, particularly a souped-up cover of Roxy Music’s If There is Something.


The Live Oy Vey Baby is a good live album that showcases a good live band.


It works for me.

Then there was Black Tie White Noise.


It got great reviews and deservedly so. Miracle Goodnight is brilliant, as are I know it’s Gonna Happen Some Day, and the cover of Scott Walker’s Nite Flights.

One of Bowie’s best albums is The Buddha of Suburbia.


A mix of songs and instrumentals, it’s lovely. It was followed by 1: Outside,


another excellent album, with classic tracks such as Heart’s Filthy Lesson and Strangers When We Meet.

Earthling was the next album,


but I only like Little Wonder and The Letter from it.

david bowie

Hours is a soft and gentle album, and the last to feature guitarist Reeves Gabrels.


There are heavy moments on it, none more so than on The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell, a brilliant track.

All Saints is a collection of previously-released instrumentals,


and is a very good album.


Heathen is okay, but apart from a great cover of the Pixie’s Cactus, it’s just Bowie being pretty good, but not amazing.

He’s a bit better on Reality,


It’s not a bad album. Reality is fairly reasonable Bowie, but that’s all.

Finally, a few I’ve missed mentioning are Bowie at the Beeb,


which is an excellent, wonderfully comprehensive live collection from a man at the height of his musical powers. If you’re lucky you’ll get the bonus CD with a fairly recent live performance at the BBC Radio Theatre.


I’ve also skipped Live Santa Monica 72,


Christiana F.


and The Man Who Sold the World, which are all superb.


The title track of The Man Who Sold the World was covered by Nirvana on their excellent Unplugged album.

And then, in 2013, there was The Next Day.


It was Bowie’s 23rd studio album and it got great reviews.

The Stars Are Out Tonight, The Next Day, and Where Are We Now are really good songs. Bowie’s voice is strong. It is a return to form. It is also Bowie’s 24th studio album.

On his 69th birthday, Bowie released a new album, Blackstar.


It is strange, unusual, interesting and experimental. Once more David Bowie had produced an album that would take the world a little time to catch up. Two singles from it were the title track and Lazarus:

Two days later, David Bowie died.

I was hoping David Bowie would bring out more albums as great as Station to Station, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, David Live, Young Americans, Scary Monsters, 1: Outside, The Buddha of Suburbia, Hours, or Blackstar, but sadly, that’s not going to happen.


Okay, that’s my round-up of the music of David Bowie. I grew up with it and I’m still growing up with it and still listening to it. 

Apart from a few possibly interesting posthumous record company cash-ins, I think the most significant of Bowie’s best music has already been recorded and released. David Bowie has contributed hugely to his culture, and his music has made many people happy.

David Bowie
8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016

Written June 17th, 2008/Revised January 11th, 2016.

© R J Dent (2008 & 2016)


Myth by R J Dent

June 16, 2008

‘A cross between An American Werewolf in London and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (Amazon)

R J Dent’s novel, Myth, is a dark, erotic fantasy set on a Greek island.

It tells the story of a couple who hear about the chimera, a strange mythical creature that lives in the hills. They, of course, are sceptical, but also curious. Eventually, curiosity wins out and they set off with a guide, up into the hills to see the chimera for themselves.

Things are not as they seem and the couple end up trapped in the hills. The man, James Barrett, defends himself against an attacker, but becomes susceptible to the suggestion that he is now the mythical beast, having defeated the one that attacked him.

He rejects this idea and instead focuses on caring for Penny, his injured partner. He then tries to get back to the village, only to realise that the whole village have duped him. He then opts for revenge against the village and goes on the rampage, destroying everyone he comes into contact with. He becomes monstrous.

R J Dent says: ‘I won’t give away the ending – but I will say a little about the idea for the story. I wrote Myth because I was interested in the way people change when they’re on holiday – they either go native, become very nationalistic, or else become a wistful hybrid of the two. That was my starting point. I then simply added a Greek myth scenario, using the chimera as the indigenous antagonist.

‘The Greek myth element decided the location, and the rest was simply charting what happened to the couple. I used Pavese’s idea that ‘travelling is a brutality’ – and that was it; I had my novel. All that was needed was an ending – which was made clear to me after I read Robert Graves’ comment that every Greek myth had a regional variation. With that in mind, I gave Myth seven very different regional variations.

‘Writing Myth was a very good experience. I used a great deal of my familiarity with, and love of, various Greek islands, to inform my novel. I used locations, characters, names, etc, that I know well. For the last five years I’ve steeped myself in Greek culture. Some of that is reflected in Myth.’

Myth has received excellent reviews; one reviewer has written that Myth is ‘a cross between An American Werewolf in London and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.’

Myth is available at:



You can also buy Myth from at:

or from at:

Details of R J Dent’s other works (books, stories, poems, essays) are available on:


What Ayn Rand Did For Me

June 15, 2008

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905. She died on March 6, 1982. She was a Russian-born American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is best known for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. She advocated rational individualism and laissez-faire capitalism, and categorically rejected socialism, altruism, and religion. She left Russia and arrived in America where she adopted the name Ayn Rand and became a successful writer.

My first contact with Ayn Rand’s writing was when I found, in a tiny bookshop, a second-hand copy of her novella, Anthem.

I read Anthem and found it wonderful, insightful, inspiring. At the back of the book, there were advertisements for two other books of hers: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Within the year, I’d bought and read The Fountainhead.


The Fountainhead did what books are supposed to do; it changed me. It changed my life, my outlook, my views, my method of thinking. And then I read Atlas Shrugged. It is a powerful and moving story of what happens when the people who really run things go on strike.

It was followed by We The Living. The cover of We The Living (by Nick Gaetano) was one of the most haunting pictures I had seen for a long time.

I won’t give you a plot synopsis, but if you want to read a great novel with an individual versus the state theme, then The Fountainhead is the book for you. After that you could try Anthem, Atlas Shrugged and We The Living. They’re all excellent.

Here’s a short film of Ayn Rand’s fiction and non-fiction I have in my library:

As a writer, I learned a lot from Ayn Rand. I can now see that she’s not a particularly elegant stylist – her prose is quite clunky in places – but she is able to convey some rather large ideas in fairly fast-paced and well-plotted narratives. What Ayn Rand did for me was show me that as a writer I could incorporate philosophical ideas into my stories; that I could anchor them to the plot, to the characters, to the subtext, and the story would gain another layer of meaning.

When my novel Myth was published, I dedicated it to Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, the young Russian woman who dreamed of making her way to America and becoming a successful writer.

In short, Ayn Rand’s influence on me is such that I dedicated my novel, Myth, to the memory of the woman who became Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand’s books are available at:

R J Dent’s books are available at:

What Ayn Rand Did For Me

© R J Dent (2009 & 2015)


25 Books That Made a Difference

June 14, 2008

by R J Dent

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


The Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson


Crash by J G Ballard

Crash ballard

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

naked lunch

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

bloody chamber carter

Patron Saint of Eyeliner by Jeremy Reed

patron saint eyeliner

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

dorian wilde

Justine by Marquis de Sade

sade justine

Ice by Anna Kavan

kavan ice

The Cornelius Chronicles by Michael Moorcock

cornelius chronicles

The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas

the birds vesaas

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

heinlein stranger

Antonin Artaud: Blows and Bombs by Stephen Barber


The Tempest by William Shakespeare


The Book of Revelation by Rupert Thomson


The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury


Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce


Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes


Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire


A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

midsummer shakespeare

The Trial by Franz Kafka


The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll


© R J Dent (2009)


In Praise of Ray Bradbury

June 14, 2008

Ray Bradbury

As a writer, Ray Bradbury showed me how it was done. As a young boy, I loved his short stories – The Pedestrian, Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed, The Fog Horn, The Lake, and The Sound of Thunder in particular. As a teenager I loved his collections that masqueraded as novels, such as The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. As a man I love his novels: Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Death is a Lonely Business, A Graveyard For Lunatics, and most recently, Farewell Summer.

However, I admire Ray Bradbury for more than just his writing talent. I admire him for having the courage to live as a writer, to spend his time writing, writing, writing – and not really bothering about anything else. I also admire him because he abandoned formal education and educated himself in the library – and then became a very successful writer.

As a writer he was prolific – novels, short stories, essays, poems, plays, film scripts and teleplays. He has written many of each. As a person, he was a living legend.

Ray Bradbury was born in 1920, He died today (5/6/12) aged 91. Until today, he was still writing and still enjoying his life. He said in a recent interview that it was his love of writing that kept him young.

Here is a bibliography:


(1950) The Martian Chronicles

(1953) Fahrenheit 451

(1957) Dandelion Wine

(1962) Something Wicked This Way Comes

(1972) The Halloween Tree

(1985) Death Is a Lonely Business

(1990) A Graveyard for Lunatics

(1992) Green Shadows, White Whale

(2001) From the Dust Returned

(2004) Let’s All Kill Constance

(2006) Farewell Summer

Short Story Collections:

(1947) Dark Carnival

(1951) The Illustrated Man

(1953) The Golden Apples of the Sun

(1955) The October Country

(1959) A Medicine for Melancholy

(1959) The Day It Rained Forever

(1962) The Small Assassin

(1964) The Machineries of Joy

(1969) I Sing The Body Electric

(1976) Long After Midnight

(1980) One Timeless Spring

(1983) Dinosaur Tales

(1984) A Memory of Murder

(1988) The Toynbee Convector

(1996) Quicker Than The Eye

(1997) Driving Blind

(2002) One More for the Road

(2004) The Cat’s Pyjamas

(2007) Now and Forever: Somewhere a Band is Playing & Leviathan ’99

(2007) Summer Morning, Summer Night

(2009) We’ll Always Have Paris

Through each new book, I grew up with Ray Bradbury. He has a place in my heart and in my mind that no other writer has. He is the most important person to me in terms of literary influence; possibly more important than J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, William S. Burroughs, Anna Kavan, or even Ayn Rand, who was so important to me that I dedicated my first novel, Myth, to her. Here is a short film of the Ray Bradbury books that I have in my library:

There is a wonderful piece of film in which Ray Bradbury talks to university students about writing. It is witty and informative – and at times very profound. It is worth watching for Bradbury’s insights into writing. Here it is:


In Memory of Towcester Bookshop

June 9, 2008

Bookshops are important to writers. Towcester Bookshop was important to me. For five years it provided me with new and second-hand books, most of which I still have. It also provided a lot more.

Towcester Bookshop no longer exists. Its proprietors, Peter and Janet Gooding closed the shop a few years ago and retired to Wales. However, for a while, they and their shop became my lifeline to a world of poetry, drama, novels, short stories, essays, translations, screenplays, biographies and other types of non-fiction.

Initially I would go in, browse through the second-hand books, and usually find something interesting or challenging to read. Then I started chatting to Peter during the less busy times. Then, as my reading became more refined, I started ordering and buying new books. I followed my instincts, but I also quizzed Peter on various aspects of literature. He knew his stuff. He gave good advice and I bought some wonderful books.

I still have my first ever copies of Les Fleurs du Mal, Naked Lunch, Crash, The Bloody Chamber, The Fountainhead, A Clockwork Orange, A Rebours, Ice, Howl, On The Road, A Farewell to Arms, The Catcher in the Rye, Ulysses, The Cantos, The Waste Land, The Tempest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Stranger In A Strange Land, Frankenstein, The Beckett Trilogy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Betty Blue, The Birds, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, The Shining, Justine, The Ice Palace, The Singing Detective, Waiting For Godot, The Annotated Lolita, The Annotated Alice, The Chrysalids, Brave New World, The Name of the Rose, Gravity’s Rainbow, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Crime and Punishment, The Trial, The Cement Garden, The Magus, Crow, Amerika, Ariel, as well as the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, Arthur Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Robert Lowell, Ezra Pound, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, and Jeremy Reed.

Towcester Bookshop was a place where I defined my identity through my reading; reading which obviously informed and informs my writing. The books I read then – and sometimes re-read – are still very significant. The words of each of those books are etched into my psyche, and I try my best to reach the heights of those books in my own writing.

Every writer needs their own Towcester Bookshop – a place to develop a personal taste in writing, literature, or whatever, in order to define a personal writing style. Thanks to Peter and Janet, I had access to what seemed like my very own Towcester Bookshop for several years – and I consider myself very fortunate to have had that.

© R J Dent (2009)