Sunday, July 26, 2009


There is, in me, an indomitable streak of sentimentality,
and it looks as though I’m stuck with it for life. Of course
I try to control it, lest it disgrace me in public, but I know
it’s there, just waiting to be triggered by a lachrymose
scene in a film or a soppy piece of music. I’ve undergone
surgical procedures for its removal but it’s too deep-
seated for total eradication. It has its provenance, I think,
in my dreamy youth, when, unable to express adequate
or appropriate emotion—or any emotion at all—in real
life, I experienced it gratuitously through books and films
and music. And, naturally, the more removed they were
from reality, the better. I became a sucker for the syrupy,
and dreamt great dreams made out of this goo. You know
—love, romance, undiluted happiness, constructive
engagement with life. The usual suspects. I now allow
myself to believe that I've acquired at least the makings of
a desentimentalized literary taste, and as for film, there's
some evidence that I could no longer watch South Pacific
without flinching; but music can do still utterly undo me.
I remember, in the 80s, confessing to my Listener
colleague Gordon Campbell that in the mid-to-late 1950s,
a crucially formative time for the first wave of baby-
boomers, I’d been more into Pat Boone than Elvis Presley,
let alone Little Richard. A pale cast seemed to cloud his
gaze as he silently registered this information; I knew then
how irredeemably middle-of-the-road I was. At least I
refrained from sharing my liking for Chris de Burgh's
'Lady in Red' or indeed Engelbert's 'Les Bicyclettes de
Belsize.' So we wallow on, we sentimentalists, ever ready to
melt when a heartstring is plucked, however commonplace
the cause. Inscribed on our (slightly damp) banner are
Noel Coward's words 'Strange how potent cheap music is.'


Anonymous said...

Struth! said...

Hey, Jim Reeves, and Gene Autrey still bring a lump to my throat and conjour up the smell of candy floss, the thrill of the merry-go-round,, freshly cut Sunday lawns, a roast dinner, the request session, my father, Nelson sunshine, the blue canopy of the South Island, and would you believe it... I missed the Leonard Cohen concert (oh no), but I was in Takaka at the Naked Possum (along with about ten people), dancing myself silly to... (your anonymous struth will cringe)... Mr John Hore Grennel.
Well, there you go Denis... there's two of us.