Vague ramblings

Years may go by

Posted in Music, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 6 March, 2009

Courtesy of those nice people at Apple I have recently been upgrading my music collection to the whizzy new iTunes Plus format. A side effect of this was more poking around in my collection than I normally do and I stumbled upon something of a revelation.

It is that On Saturday Afternoons in 1963, by Ricki Lee Jones, may be the most beautiful piece of popular music ever recorded. It is an exquisite evocation of the hopes and dreams of innocence and sneaks in and around you in much the same way as Canon in D. And yet, despite it being on my iPod I hadn’t heard it for years, thanks to the randomness of its shuffle. It had become a lost gem.

This set me thinking – and then browsing my bookshelves, actively looking for things I had forgotten, for other lost gems.

One was Trace, a short (very short) story by Jerome Bixby. He is more noted for It’s a Good Life, of “wish it into the cornfield” fame, but Trace is a wonderfully quirky meditation on the idea that, just as there aren’t any genuinely pure chemicals, other things might not be so pure. Good and evil, for example.

Another was Common Ground by J Anthony Lukas. No shorty this: at nearly 700 pages it is an astoundingly detailed and frank account of the impact of the desegregation of Boston’s school system on three families (white middle class, black, Irish working class). You really won’t know who to root for.

Akenfield by Ronald Blyth wasn’t so much a lost gem as one set aside for future reference in a project that itself got pushed aside by life. The book traces English village life from the turn of the 20th Century, a time that reveals the true and appalling meaning of the word “glean” , to the mid-1960s and the impact of US airbases on East Anglia. It is marvellous in every way.

There are doubtless other lost gems – many will have to remain lost because they were lent out and never returned. And we have all lost some gems – such as the 1971 film of The Snow Goose, with Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter, which seems doomed to remain hidden thanks to the caprice of Paul Gallico and his estate.

But if I might make a suggestion, try a little gleaning, now that it doesn’t mean quite what it used to. You never know what might turn up.

And hold on to your special friends.

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