Last week politicians worried how David and Ed Miliband would deal with Prime Minister’s Question Time (personally it’s brother Glen I worry about) and we saw the triumphant rescue of the Chilean miners – coinciding with, and sublimely over-shadowing, Margaret Thatcher’s birthday celebrations. There were two other events worth more than a mention.
DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND – ‘La Stupenda’
(1926 – 2010)
Pavarotti, who as a young man was taken under her wing when she toured Australia in 1965, described Joan Sutherland as ‘the Voice of the Century’. It was as powerful and as influential as that of Maria Callas and was a force that celebrated opera like no other in the 20th Century. Her true beauty lay, not only in her extraordinary talent as magnificent as it was, but in her dedication to modesty and in recognising she was blessed with something that transcended ego or fame. Her great friend, Dame Norma Major, said last week – ‘a great light has gone out’.
HOWARD JACOBSON – Man Booker Prize winner.
For years Howard Jacobson has not been recognised for his considerable literary talents, believing with admirable conviction that the greatest literature must, at its most basic, be entertaining. He has been compared to Shakespeare and Roth amongst others but his talent is dissipated by such glib comparisons.
He would repudiate I’m sure the phrase ‘comic genius’, knowing the word ‘comic’ is used too often with little understanding of the depth and weight the word demands. The word ‘tragedy’ immediately invokes a seriousness which encourages gravitas and substance. The word ‘comedy’ – equally, possibly more important a concept to understand – is too often deemed trivial, superficial and of less value.
Humour is the brightness in our lives, a way of looking at the world which is vital to our well-being. Congratulations Mr Jacobson on winning the Man Booker Prize and thank you for encouraging an approach to writing which provides optimism and compassion rarely expressed so eloquently.