tisdag 27 maj 2014

Beards and bestsellers

This spring has been tough blog-wise. Mini-flus, colds, headaches, broadband installations and, I suppose, the odd moment of general laziness have had a sad effect on the number of entries written. As a case in point, it is not until now that I find myself ready to broach the subject of this year's Eurovision Song Contest which ended weeks back.

This was a satisfying Eurovision year. Not only did Sweden reach an honourable third place, I liked the winning song too. In some ways, it illustrates why I'm so fond of the contest. Forget cool, edgy music and the latest fancy trends. Instead, the winning song was a resoundly old-fashioned power ballad - belted out beautifully by a bearded drag queen.

Yes, I admit it, I was bemused by the beard. Drag acts are not that uncommon in the Swedish qualifying heats for the competition: this year, we had a bouncy number where the guys' pins were definitely better-looking than mine (admittedly, not difficult). However, these cross-dressers tend to look as fetching and feminine as possible, which made me think that this was partly the point. A beard kind of spoils the womanly effect. Still, what do I know: doubtless my confusion is what the Dowager Countess would call "provincial". And the beard proved a useful diversion. If, say, the svelte Spanish lady singer would have competed with a Bond anthem-style ballad and won, the critics would have been up in arms the next day about the continuing uncoolness of Eurovision. As it was, there was benign talk of a "victory for tolerance". Even hostile reactions tended to center on the beard to such a degree that the little detail of the dress was quite overlooked. We got the absurd situation of protesters shaving off their beards - a symbol of manliness - in order to look less like a drag queen. The Austrian singer Conchita Wurst (stage name, naturally - I'm not sure Wurst was good idea) must be thinking: "Result!".

Moving on, in a not very smooth transition, from singing queens to femmes fatales. I've been scandalously unadventurous on the book front lately. Hardly had I finished Destiny than I ordered and started reading yet another of Sally Beauman's novels. I did try something else by another author at first - an Edwardian whodunnit awash with noblemen but disappointingly short of women for them to squabble over - but I kept longing to get back to well-written family-saga land. Consequently, I'm now well into Beauman's Dark Angel. I don't like it quite as much as Destiny, because I have predictable problems with the dark angel in question and above-mentioned femme fatale, Constance Shawcross. The family on which she preys is so essentially likeable - if flawed - that I just wish Constance would snap out of her bitterness concerning her truly disgusting father's demise (he may have been dispatched by one of the family members - but then again maybe not) and get on with life without causing too much unnecessary harm. On the other hand, that wouldn't make much of a novel, would it? Even as I wince while anticipating Constance's next move, I keep turning the pages. Without doubt, Beauman is this year's find.