October 2013

* starter for ten

"No one knows what to say in the loser's locker room."
(Muhammad Ali)


Starter For Ten is the story of Brian Jackson, only son of a single mum from Southend. Brian is exceptionally proud of his O-level results. His greatest anxiety in life is that he will never achieve anything as good again. It is difficult to make priggishness endearing. (Brian loves Kate Bush; how hard does Nicholls need to make this for himself?)

It is 1985, and Brian is in his first year at university. Brian's ambition has always been to appear on University Challenge. Now he has the chance, if he doesn't get sidetracked by the effort to choose between his rich and beautiful teammate Alice and the politically furious, smart, sarcastic Glaswegian, Rebecca.

The novel's intentions sometimes felt a little shaky. Brian gets invited to stay with Alice and her liberal, vegetarian parents, which leads to a meat-eating encounter with her naked mother in the middle of the night. As farce, as satire on liberal parenting, this works very well.

But these characters are not real; they're comic types.

Nicholls seems to be aiming for a certain psychological realism; he wants us to get inside Brian's head, to watch him work out that there are different varieties of cleverness, and realise that his own may be rather limited. But if the boy is going to spend his life surrounded by ciphers, he scarcely needs to make all this effort to acquire emotional intelligence.

Nick Hornby had something to tell us about being a fan, O'Farrell wrote about the madness of the activist.

Brian Jackson's obsession is general knowledge, which is just not very interesting, because it's so random. The psychological depth has to be explored some other way.

I'm slightly exhausted by that strain of literature that says: 'Men, aren't they useless?!' No, actually, they're not; they're complex and fascinating, like women. So, this is good fun, amusing.
(Geraldine Bedell, the Guardian)



"Here's the important thing-it's not mean. Its characters are sort of sweet and lovable. As I swim through the summer tide of vulgarity, I find that's what I'm looking for: Movies that at least feel affection for their characters. Raunchy is OK. Cruel is not."
(Roger Ebert, on American Pie)

"I wasn't at all prepared for the avalanche of criticism that overwhelmed me. You would have thought I had murdered someone, and perhaps I had. It was a very sad business to be made to feel that my success depended solely, or at least in large part, on a head of hair."
(Mary Pickford)

"To pace about, looking to obtain status, looking to attain importance - I can think of nothing more ridiculous."

"He knows what it is to have a self only in externals. There could hardly be a more absurd confusion, for a self differs precisely, no, infinitely, from those externals."

"There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept."
(Ansel Adams)

"Truth teaches you how to stay off the battlefield."

"What is a douchebag?

A-List Ego.

D-List Status.

If you see yourself how other people see you, then you'll stop trying to impress them. It's better to be forgotten than to be remembered as a cheat and a rat."

Corey Haim

"I never liked Corey Haim. Growing up I used to see him and his buddy Corey Feldman in movies and on TV, usually acting obnoxious in some way or other. Smug. Brash. Cocky. Just a few words to describe this duo. They were The Corey's. Teenagers given too much money and fame too fast. As a teenager myself growing up in the 80's they had everything that I wanted. Money. Girls. Fame. But like them or not, they were a product of the 80's, and I own the Coreys every bit as much as I own the 80's as my teenage formative years. So Corey Haim was a part of my generation.

You often wonder what makes these young stars so wild and crazy. I used to wonder if Corey Haim was always like that. In a manic state, floating from party to party, girl to girl, gig to gig. Somewhere it all stopped, and we didn't hear much about Corey Haim anymore. It was almost like he just got swept under the rug of Hollywood, like so many child actors are. He hit the peak of his life before the age of 18 years old. How does one go on living knowing that the best has already past them at such a young age?

I thought that this was probably Corey's struggle. You hit it big, then you are yesterday's news. What do you do with the rest of your life now?

Now Corey Haim is dead. Probably because of a drug overdose, but probably from so much more."
(Chris de Serres)

"I've never been a conceited person or cocky, never felt boastful, but I always had a sense of self-worth; I always had a real sense of myself."
(Will Farrell)

"We need arrogant people who like showing off. They can cover us from bullets in the line of fire."
(Toba Beta)

"I've seen you around. You liken yourself a bad ass, and darlin', you are. Minus the bad."
(Donna Lynn Hope)