6 Clicks: Norman Geras

In our occasional feature we invite guests to select the six cultural links that might sustain them if, by some mischance, they were forced to spend eternity in a succession of airport departure lounges with only an iPad or similar device for company.

Today’s voyager, Norman Geras, is Professor Emeritus in Politics at the University of Manchester. His books include Marx and Human Nature, Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind, The Contract of Mutual Indifference, and (with Ian Holliday) Ashes ’97: Two Views from the Boundary. His latest, Crimes against Humanity: Birth of a Concept, is forthcoming this year from Manchester University Press. Norm lives in Cambridge with his wife Adèle and blogs at normblog.

It’s mighty inconvenient that it’s just six links. Why not seven? I need seven. This is how I need seven. There are four categories of culture I’m going to have to have with me as I go about the departure lounges of the world. (That’s assuming I manage to endure at all, and don’t just expire from not being at home, which is quite possible.) These are: literature; movies; music; and sport. But, for some reason, where with the other three I’m willing to have one click stand in for all that I love in that category, I want four different genres of music. Thus: three plus one-times-four makes seven. The Dabbler forces me to omit one of classical music, jazz, country and rock. Woe. What am I to do?

1) Well, anyway, I’ll start with Jane Austen – one click for a complete set of her novels.

Of this choice I’m utterly confident. There is nothing else in all the fiction I’m familiar with that I would be so happy to read and re-read in those wretched airports. The economy, the clarity, the subtlety of observation, the humour, the complexity of character and its inner exploration – I wouldn’t tire of it. Indeed, I’d have the chance I never have as things are (since I’m always drawn towards what I haven’t yet read) to give Jane the time she deserves from me. She’d be a true companion.

2) The first of my musical choices: Beethoven. I don’t know how much of him The Dabbler will allow me, but however much it is, that’s what I’ll take. You’ve at least got to permit a complete Beethoven piano sonatas, for which this clip of Emil Gilels playing the Waldstein may serve as a representative click.

3) For movies I’m taking Hitchcock. I want a box set of DVDs that includes Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds, North By Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt and then any other of Hitch’s movies you want to throw in. No other director in the history of the cinema has combined such technical brilliance and psychological depth with the ability to tell a cracking good story. This clip for me sums up the excitement of being at the beginning of a Hitchcock movie – Saul Bass and Bernard Herrmann doing their combined stuff.

I wouldn’t care to estimate how many times I’ve watched Psycho in my life, but every time these credits begin to roll I know I’m about to re-see a masterpiece. Read Robin Wood.

4) My second musical choice is to represent all the jazz I love. Impossible in one album, of course, but today I’ll go for Somethin’ Else. This, the opening track, will show you what you’ve been missing if you have been missing it.

5) OK, now I’ve got to have some cricket. What I’m having is the DVD of Australia’s clean sweep 5-0 series victory in 2006-7.

I went to Australia and watched the whole of that series – every Test, every day, practically every ball. Not only was it great cricket from my point of view, it was the holiday of a lifetime: wonderful country, brilliant hospitality, the kindness of friends there and of people I met for the first time. It’s imprinted on my memory. Here’s one innings that is, especially: Adam Gilchrist in Perth. Wahaay.

6) And so it comes to the final musical cut. Oh no. Do I get to take the Beach Boys? Or do I go for Country music? What a predicament! Well, mustn’t grumble. The incomparable Emmylou Harris.

Here she sings ‘Luxury Liner’ and the Hot Band doesn’t exactly take a back seat:

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7 thoughts on “6 Clicks: Norman Geras

  1. john.hh43@googlemail.com'
    john halliwell
    March 21, 2011 at 07:50

    Norman, you certainly know how to flatten then pick up and re-energise a lover of English cricket, who is also a devotee of most things Harris and Nashville.

    Everything was going so well until Click 5, when very bad memories resurfaced. Why, oh why, did Flintoff declare at 551 for 6 at Adelaide, with the captain himself batting with such ease? I was astonished at the time and still don’t get it. Gilchrist at Perth was sensational; that innings must have been worth the trip on its own.

    Then Click 6: Wow! Feeling better already.

  2. Wormstir@gmail.com'
    March 21, 2011 at 08:19

    Great selection Norman; Hitchcock films are so repeatedly watchable-why is it that no one has really been able to replicate what he did? You’d think that simply being able to spin a good yarn should be replicable but films these days very rarely have a simple, compelling hook in the way that Hitchcock nailed so well

  3. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    March 21, 2011 at 09:08

    Yes, I’m with John here. Click 5 is cruel, mighty cruel.

  4. Gaw
    March 21, 2011 at 09:28

    I should really consider getting stuck in an airport for a while if it were also to mean getting down to reading all of Jane Austen’s novels. It’s one of those things I feel I should have done but haven’t.

  5. ddemille@operamail.com'
    David D.
    March 21, 2011 at 14:20

    A small quibble re # 3: I love Hitchcock (I’d opt for Vertigo over Psycho as his “masterpiece”) but there’s little psychological “depth” in his films, Vertigo included. The psychology that’s there relies heavily on the cheap Freudianism that was popular in the 1940s and 50s. Thankfully there’s so much more going on in these films that this flaw is easily ignored.

  6. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    March 21, 2011 at 16:55

    You can hurl a tsunami of Beethoven at the Dabbler Norman, no objections from this quarter especially if played by Kissin and Brendel who incidentally is making a Sinatra style come back, twice this year at the Kölner Philharmonie.

    Our boxed set of Hitchcock has spent some time in airport lounges, our son accidentally slips it into his bag and off across the sea, visiting him we retrieve it, without it ever being discussed. Will it attract air miles I wonder. One of the cinema’s subliminal moments is Norm watching the motor, not sinking into the bog.

    Your choice of Emmylou shows judgement of the highest order, the Dabbler should declare you a Good Person. How can we mere males not pay homage to a burd with matchless beauty, who sings like an angel and comes with baggage, the historical kind. Sit her next to the Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Mary Black, throw in Ally Mcbain on fiddle and the result is musical heaven. She should be made queen of the known universe, or at least Coxy’s universe.

  7. bugbrit@live.com'
    Banished To A Pompous Land
    March 21, 2011 at 19:34

    On the subject of Hitchcock and Psycho I have to say it’s one rare movie that looks better on the small screen than on the large one.

    When the BFI ran a new print around the art-houses a few years back I was there beating down the doors for my ticket. But you know, it was made in part by the crew that worked his TV stuff and when blown up again it really looked like it. The big screen brought out all the movie’s shortcomings and no new beauties.

    If were talking ‘psychos’ from 1960 then Peeping Tom gets my vote everytime over Psycho.

    David Ds point about Hitchcock’s ‘psychological depth’ is well made. Most of it looks like fashionable window-dressing now.

    God knows he appeared to have plenty of psychological quirks of his own. I wonder if anyone ever psychoanalysed him over his fear of eggs?

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