Book and Culture Café highlights: Achilles, teen shoppers and reality tv
I've never been lucky enough to study the classics but I know a few of the big names from antiquity. Of course, I'd heard of Achilles (with the dodgy heel) but as for Patroclus, nah. A shame really as he's got quite a story to tell, so luckily for us at the Book Café, he's just been given some exposure in a novel by an American academic and debut novelist. Madeline Miller's book THE SONG OF ACHILLES shows us the tender side of the demigod warrior because the story is narrated by his lover, Patroclus. As you might expect with such an epic tale, it took a bit of time to write this book - ten years! But it was time well spent.. it's clever but not to the point that it becomes dry and dusty - there's plenty of action and passion. I don't think I've read a more affecting description of young love as the one where Achilles and Patroclus have their first kiss on a beach. No smut, no prurience, just beautiful uplifting prose.
From prose to clothes on the Culture Café - we entered the world of the teen shopper. We've noticed that a fair few of them are shopping in the high end American preppy type stores these days, where you can expect to pay around seventy quid for a humble hoodie. The catalogues are beautifully photographed and produced, showing sepia tinted images of fresh faced, attractive young guys and girls. But the interesting thing is how these brands are recruiting staff from the ranks of the shoppers. Nothing too new in that, but there are concerns about the way they go about it.
Expert in fashion retail, Neil Tower defended marketing techniques up to a point but even he sounded surprised when he listened to our report from Glasgow's teenagers. He said targeting this age group with phone calls and face to face invitations to join the staff was "unethical". Let's be clear though, the teenagers we spoke to were more than happy to be approached. They love the idea of being invited in to some special clique populated by good looking youngsters. There's no doubt these stores are popular and the merchandise can be extremely alluring but is it right to ask young kids on facebook if they want a job? I know from experience that fifteen year olds have been spotted in the shops and asked face to face, if they want to work - aren't they too young? Even if they "appear" older, perhaps its best to check first before jumping in with the recruitment pitch.
With my head still whirling in the aftermath of that discussion between Neil Tower and fomer head teacher and education writer Sue Palmer, I was pitched into a conversation about Saturday night tv. It's an alien concept to me.. I like to do other things.. mainly eating and drinking, blimey, even grooming the dog's more fun. But even I can't deny the mass appeal of The X Factor and Strictly. I don't think I meant to "out " myself as a reality tv hater but that's what I am. Some shows are better than others (as our discussion with tv reviewer Helen Stewart and Dr John Cook showed) I'm really uncomfortable about watching lamentable performances filmed infront of millions of viewers. Thank heavens for radio.. any of MY lamentable performances can be heard, but not seen!