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Peter Salmon Web Site Introduction Welcome to my website, which has everything you need to know about me. That's right, everything.

Pensive Peter Salmon

Proof of Pudding


What discerning judges have said about The Coffee Story

'It's been a while since I read a first novel that felt as universally accomplished as Peter Salmon's The Coffee Story' - Toby Litt

'I was constantly intoxicated by a sense of desire & loss' - Jake Arnott

'Wild and raucous... an extraordinarily accomplished debut' - Niall Griffiths

'Reminiscent of Phillip Roth's Everyman. But it's much, much funnier' - Sydney Morning Herald

'An exceptional debut' - Martyn Bedford

Hard Sell

Now in sexy orange!

Peter Salmon is an Australian writer living in the UK. His first novel, The Coffee Story (Sceptre, 2011), was a New Statesman Book of the Year. He has written frequently for Australian TV and radio and for broadsheets including the Guardian and the Sydney Review of Books. The Blue News, his satirical column about books and publishing, was subsequently collected and published by Melbourne University Press as Uncorrected Proof  (2005).  He has received Writer’s Awards from the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Victoria, Australia.  Formerly Centre Director of the John Osborne/The Hurst Arvon Centre (2006-2012), he also teaches creative writing, most recently at Pembroke College, Cambridge and Liverpool John Moores University.

Wheels of Cheese #38: Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, sung by Roderick Williams

Benjamin Britten really fucking hates you.

Benjamin Britten really fucking hates you.

Well, this isn’t much fun. After the wafty wafty waftiness of Cendrillon, I was quite looking forward to Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, what with my love of Benny’s song setting Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, and my love of Blake, that marvellous comic character from Joyce Cary’s The Horses Mouth.

But blimey, if you’re looking for a bit of a laugh this ain’t the compact disc for you. Britten takes the Blake, rips out all human joy, and uses it as a stick to beat the listener with. A baritone and a piano for God’s sake! I’ve had more fun during suicide attempts. My musical friends point out there’s a bit of twelve tone stuff going on here too, just to add to the levity. Also, it’s a continuous cycle, so you can’t even go to the loo.

All the Blake hits are here – A Poison Tree; London: The Tyger – all made that little bit worse by joyless Ben. Thanks for nothing, sir! If these are Songs of Experience, I pray God I never have to experience them again!

I didn’t hear the rest of the disc, because I died.

Wheels of Cheese #37: Cendrillon by Massenet

Cinderella

Cinderella

Well.

I must admit that after trawling my way through the brutal, heart-wrenching magnificence that is 17 cds of Jacqueline du Pre banging out tunes on the cello, I was looking for something a little lighter, a little less informed by the over-determined nexus (or indeed nexii) that Jackie brings to the world (the whole genius/tragedy/jewish/barenboim/beethoven/illness/sad/also happy!/sad/but happy! Nexus – you know the one). Something that didn’t make me gaze into my soul and find it wanting, or my musical abilities and find them crap.

Well.

Here it is. Cendrillon – which means Cinderella, who knew?! – the fluffiest piece of fluff that ever there were. It tells the story of, like, a chick who has two evil stepsisters and they, like, want to marry the prince, innit, but the chick gets a heavy duty makeover (mice, horses, pumpkins, chariots, again we say ‘innit’) from a fairy godmother. Shoes. Feet. Victory.

The opera was written by Massenet, the composer. Of him, I know very little, (which will remain the case, given that I’m writing this on the tube and have no internet access), but from what I do know, plumbing the depths of the human soul wasn’t really his bag. Taking the human soul and putting it in a decorous pair of britches, then spraying it with that cream you get in a can seems more his take on Existence, and good luck to him for that. I once saw a duck at a petting zoo which had been given a small hat like a French gendarme, and whatever the philosophical pros and cons of said situation, the duck seemed happy and I emerged from our encounter none the worse for wear. This opera is a lot like that, yes.

The EMI version is taken from one of those filmed performances of opera that go into cinemas – a perilously democratic manoeuvre on the part of whoever it is who is in charge of opera, but a move to which I give my unqualified support, albeit with qualifications. I watched it sat, wearing only a dressing gown, on the couch at home, nodding off occasionally, occasionally making toast, but filled throughout with a sort of numb disinterest, like when your aunt dies. You didn’t know her, you didn’t care to, but hey, emotions.

Anyway, if you like music which is vaguely reminiscent of having a beautiful woman run a feather up and down your genitals, then this is pretty much the opera for you. I don’t actually like that, the music, or the avian stimulation. I’ve been meaning to tell you that, Rebecca. Sorry to do it online.

Next, Benjamin Britten does Blake.

Jacqueline du Pre plays Maria Thersia von Paradis et al

Maria Theresia von Paradis

Maria Theresia von Paradis

And so it ends – the 17 cds of Jacqueline du Pre’s Complete EMI Recordings – not with a bang, but with a rag tag collection of pieces grouped under the dubious moniker of ‘Encore Recital’. Some Bach. Some Mendelsshon. And a little bit of Saint-Saens.  The most intriguing piece here is Sicilliene by Paradis, a composer of whom I knew nothing until listening to this disc. ‘Paradis’ turns out to be Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824), composer, performer and, crucially, interestingly, woman, who went blind at the age of five. Paradis commissioned works by Salieri, Haydn and Mozart, who may, or may not have written his Piano Concerto #18 K. 456 for her.Fascinatingly, Paradis was treated for her blindness by Fraz-Anton Mesmer, father of ‘Mesmerism’ or ‘hypnosis’, who diagnosed her with psychosomatic blindness, or ‘hysterical amaurosis’. The details of what then happened are unclear. According to the website anton-mesmer.com

Mesmer was hired by Paradis´ parents to cure her of her blindness. What really happened is uncertain; Mesmer himself asserts that he managed to cure her, but that her parents, who received a pension that would be revoked if the girl was to regain her eyesight, withdrew her from Mesmer’s care, and she relapsed into blindness. Mesmer’s opponents claim that he only managed to make the girl “see” images by suggestion, and that the parents withdrew the girl when they found out that Mesmer had seduced her. Whatever really happened, Mesmers reputation was badely damaged by the incident, and he moved to Paris in 1778 to begin again.

And thus, those of us who are interested in such things are thrown again into the world of charismatic Viennese psychologists and women whose trail peters out at the moment their hysteria is declared…

Paradis is best know for Sicilliene, the piece on this disc. Which scholars tend to agree, is probably not by her. Effacement is piled upon effacement. Around her slight Wikipedia page tower men such as Mozart, Weber and Mesmer himself, fully articulated. The blind woman, rendered invisible. Thus ends the 17cds.