Saturday, 20 November 2010

Deathly Hallows

Loved it. That was the general view. Harry Potter 7 part 1 is a big hit, at least with the Quinns, who have read, listened to and seen all the other flicks countless times. (My son, Sam, has been doing HP trivia quizzes daily for the past month as this film approached).
Yes there are disappointments. The subtleties of the book - yes really - are lost. Some of the twists and turns in the logic. Some of the careful set ups. But as a film it works very well.
When it was first mooted that it was going to be two films we discussed where they might split the story. I argued for Dobby's death all along, even though it is a downer. The film makes it clear just how appropriate that moment is. Deathly Hallows 1 starts and ends with Malfoy Manor. It concludes with the end of the wandering in the forest sequence - which I have to say came across better on screen than it did in the book. Time Mag complained it was too much forest angst. I disagree, I think they got it right.
Some things were left a bit too vague for me. Bathilda turning into a snake? And there was no sense of Voldemort breathing down their necks as JK managed to do in the book. But these are quibbles.
The actors did extremely well. The direction was slick. The editing couldn't be argued with. It was a pacy, entertaining 2 hours 40 minutes that felt like a lot less.
Of course the book is better. Books are always better. But this film: perhaps the most satisfying adaptation yet.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Big Willie and Babykins

Obviously it's exciting. For them. But should the rest of the country be excited too?
I'm talking Royal nuptials, of course. Those of Big Willie and Babykins. (And there was I thinking that Catherine Middleton had a right to be ticked off by the fact that journos always referred to her, familiarly, as 'Kate'.)
I noticed today that Gerry Hassan and John MacLeod, two of Scotland's politically opposed opinion formers aka bloggers aka newspaper pundits, have been discussing the cool Scottish response to the news that the Queen's grandson, second in line to the throne, is to tie the knot with his commoner girlfriend.
Hassan thinks it has an 80s sheen to it all. People have commented on this already: Tory government, rising unemployment, recession, cuts... and a Royal Wedding. It's 1981 redux. I saw similar chat on Facebook at the time of the announcement.
Superficially, I think that's a funny observation. But this is no repeat of history, things are quite, quite different. And I don't just mean: she's six months older than him, he's not a berk like his father was etc.
MacLeod, meanwhile, is a great defender of the monarchy. He says that anything other than monarchy would be a lot worse. Which as standpoints go strikes me as being simultaneously pathetic and utterly sensible.
The most interesting commentators I've yet heard on the wedding have been Starkey and Schama who did a sort of wonderful, highbrow double act on Newsnight early this week. I increasingly think it is a bit sad when commentators react to every event with a prescription for how the world should change for This Sort Of Thing To Be Done Away With.
When Schama and Starkey spoke about William and Kate you got a sense of what was really happening: this isn't just a day off work and a street party. This is a dynasty renewing itself. So sit back and try to understand it, rather than wade in with some half baked opinion.
The choice of Kate isn't trivial, though you might think it with a glance at the tabs, it is in fact crucial: she has to be everything Diana was, and everything Diana was not.
Honestly, do you think that engagement ring was about William being sentimental? "Hey dad, I really like this girl, where's that £100,000 plus priceless ring you gave mum?" Not a bit of it: it was hugely symbolic, chosen to highlight the fact that as far as the Royals are concerned, they know they did bad, but this is a new beginning with different people, and you're bound to like these ones even more...
Even her surname: Middleton. She's Middle Class. She represents Middle Britain. Middle of the Road. Don't scare the horses. We're taking a Middle Line. Historians of the future will wonder whether even it was a coincidence, or whether it was somehow planned too.
Of course the vast majority of Mirror, Sun, Heat and Hello readers will look at the wedding as just that: a wedding. They'll discuss the dress, they'll read articles about her choice of hairdresser, and they'll debate whether the honeymoon should be in St Barts or Australia.
That is the Royal Family doing one of the things they do, in order to stay in power: they give people a sense of ... well, family.
If the more serious among us, The Guardianistas, left wing bloggers, artists and writers, shrug and say 'that doesn't matter' or 'who cares' or 'hang 'em', then that's understandable. Similarly, if the Scots Nats, Republicans, socialists or the whoever choose not to join in with the general sense of well being, well, as far as the Royals are concerned, that's a shame - but in the scheme of things, it's no great loss.
The marriage of Big Willie and Babykins isn't just about two horsey yahs getting hitched - as some seem inclined to dismiss them. It's about the continuation of the Royal story. And it highlights the fact that Britain remains in its thrall.
We might see ourselves as a radical, progressive country. We Tweet, we Facebook, we Blog. We have iPhones and SUVs, mortgages and ISAs. We watch HDTV and eat microwaved organic ready meals from Waitrose. But we are still steeped in the past, our feet weighed down by the clay not just of the last couple of decades: but of hundreds of years of precedent and privilege. That is what this wedding should remind us of.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Fort

Historical fiction. Bernard Cornwell has written more of it than most. I read and spoke to the author about his new book The Fort, for Big Issue Scotland recently:

Bernard Cornwell loves a battle. If he’s not knee deep in Saxon blood retelling the history of King Alfred the Great he’s swashbuckling his way through the Napoleonic wars with Rifleman Richard Sharpe, pursuing the Holy Grail, or reliving the bloody massacre of Agincourt.

Cornwell, who at 66 is arguably one of the most successful historical authors in the world, injects his stories with thrilleresque pace, turning subject that most of us vaguely recall from dull history lessons at school into page-turning beach reads.

In The Fort, Cornwell makes a rare foray to the American War of Independence. He’s written about the conflict just once before, in an early book, Redcoat and as an Englishman who has lived much of his adult life in the US, where he is now a citizen, you’d think it might be a pet subject. But he admits: “It’s not a particularly popular war either side of the Atlantic. I was drawn to this battle just because it was just so extraordinary.”

You can see his point. The Fort retells the story of the so-called Penebscot Expedition, a land and sea battle which resulted in a modest force of British redcoats, supported by three small warships, seeing off the largest raiding party the Americans had by that time ever put together – including 18 warships and about five thousand men. It was David and Goliath with muskets.

And yet the British won. “The Americans were making entirely the wrong decisions almost every time,” Cornwell explains. “It was their bad luck they were up against two consummate professionals in the British leaders, who made all the right decisions and who worked very well together.”

The Fort is littered with intriguing, real life historical figures. The American commander, General Lovell, who “like a rabbit caught in the headlights” freezes at all the important moments and manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. His reliable number two, Peleg Wadsworth (“He’s the real hero of the book for me,” says Cornwell), knows things are going wrong but lacks the authority to do anything about it. And then there’s Paul Revere, yes that one: the heroic Patriot who warned that the “British were coming” in Henry Longfellow’s poem Paul Revere’s Ride.

Intriguingly, Peleg Wadsworth was Longfellow’s maternal grandfather, but Cornwell doubts the men would agree on their assessment of Revere.

“I’m offended by Revere’s reputation and I think Peleg must be turning in his grave at what his grandson did,” Cornwell says, who adds that he hopes his book goes some way to debunking those myths. “Part of the reason for it was that after the war, the Americans had won and there was a lot swept under the carpet.”

However, because the expedition was funded by the Boston state government rather than George Washington’s continental army, defeat cost the city almost $2 million – the equivalent today of about $300 million – and left them bankrupt. In a fascinating post script to the book, Cornwell argues that a conspiracy was hatched to blame the defeat on a Federal naval commander for his refusal to engage the enemy – allowing the state government to later successfully sue for compensation.

In fact it was Lovell’s indecision that was most culpable – and as for Revere, Cornwell depicts him as both incompetent and cowardly.

“Revere was a local folk hero in Boston just after the war, but he is one of many,” Cornwell says. “There were others who did the famous ride – and finished it, which he didn’t – and others who are genuine heroes. But Revere becomes an industrialist the biggest employer in Boston and one of its wealthiest men. So people think of him as a patriot – with an iffy bit at Penebscot they’d rather not mention.”

On the British side it is a bluff Scotsman, Brigadier General Francis McLean, who wins the day, outwitting the Americans long enough for reinforcements to arrive. There’s also the intriguing presence of a young 18-year-old lieutenant.

“I first came across the Penebscot when I was researching the life of Lt General Sir John Moore – I had a thought that Sharpe might meet him in a novel. He never did but I got distracted by Moore’s history and the fact that he first saw action in this battle at the age of 18.”

Glasgow born Moore was a hero of the Napoleonic wars and his death at the Battle of Corunna is commemorated in a famous poem by Charles Wolfe.

“It was really Moore’s army Wellington inherited,” Cornwell observes. “What we can’t know is whether Moore would have been as great a general as Wellington. There is no doubt that Moore brought great sympathy and intelligence to his job. The men really liked him: he had the common touch which Wellington never had. And when he dies he is an instant hero – long before Wellington was ever heard of."

The Fort by Bernard Cornwell is out now (HarperCollins £18.99)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

More Harry please

My fingers are trembling slightly as I type this, such is the expectation. On Saturday we will be going, en famille as per normal, to the cinema to see the new Harry Potter film. None of us can wait.
Not that we won't be disappointed. The first viewing of any HP film always comes with regret: oh they didn't do that bit? Where was so and so? What about Bill?
HP 6 got several things wrong wrong wrong, as far as we were concerned. It was too teenaged, there was too much dating, we missed the quidditch subplot - which was a lot of fun in the book -and as for the ending, well that was a real let down. Harry wouldn't have just let Snape tell him to stay put! Where was the big fight? What about the aforementioned Bill? He gets bitten by a werewolf at the end of Half Blood Prince, its a BIG scene, but it didn't make the cut.
Of course, films are different to books. Stephen Fry's audio versions of the HP books run to 20 plus hours, the films are limited to two and a half. It's a crunch game so you've got to cut those highly paid producers and screenwriters some slack. But over all we love the HP films in our house. They are part of the family ritual and we always enjoy them more the second or even the third time of watching. This was certainly the case with HP 6 which seemed much more fun when I watched it on dvd at home. Though I still say the ending isn't right.
We're dreading the new one, in part because the reviews are mixed, but mainly because it looks so unremittingly grim. The forest! Another forest! More forest! Dobby! Hedwig! It's the death of the owl that will be the worst, of course. My daughter (aged 8) still blubs each time she reads of Hedwig's last moments, trapped in a cage unable to fly to safety on his own. Actually, so do I.
What I don't understand is why some people just refuse to go there. The people who dismiss the books as kids stuff, who have never seen the films, or if they have thought the 'first one was boring'.
They are kids books, yes. They aren't as challenging as a McCarthy or a Roth, a Tartt or a Waters, but they are cracking good fun. And the mythical depth of them is really great, there's so much going on. The world is as nicely imagined - and as preposterous, when all is said and done - as Tolkein's.
Plus: millions are reading them, sharing the excitement. Why do you not want to be part of that? Aren't you curious about why they are so unbelievably successful?
Once the films are finally finished and done with, I'm sure Warner Bros will start turning the books into a long running animated TV series. That's what I'd do with them anyway. I'd include every single scene from the books and it would run to about a million instalments. The kids would love it. And so would I.
Should Rowling herself write more books though? If she does it will be for the right reasons (she doesn't need the money). And if the books to date are anything to go by whatever she does write will be worth the read.
On that same subject, I really hope she writes SOMETHING soon.

Rick Riordan interview as promised

Percy Jackson has left the building. But that doesn’t mean Rick Riordan and his army of readers can’t still have fun with the Gods of Mount Olympus.

The school teacher turned blockbuster author appeared to have consigned Percy the demigod to history with 2009’s The Last Olympian. But authors hate to completely leave a world they’ve created so carefully and despite launching a new trilogy, The Kane Chronicles, inspired by Egyptian mythology, Rick has been lured back to Camp Half-Blood.

“I felt very strongly that if I carried on indefinitely that eventually I’d get tired of the Percy Jackson books and that the readers would too,” Rick says.

“That’s why I gave him his good strong ending at the end of book five. But I was also aware that the readers wanted to find out what happened next and that many of them weren’t ready to say goodbye to that world.

“So I began scheming and planning ways in which I could return to that world – but through a new lens, a fresh perspective. The Heroes of Olympus features three new characters – Jason, Piper and Leo – who alternate in telling different aspects of the story. They gave me the chance to reinvent the world, and to give it some twists that kept me interested and hopefully that keeps the readers interested as well.”

Not that Percy, the son of Poseidon and a New York housewife, is at all forgotten. “This isn’t a years after, epilogue type of story,” Rick concedes. “We pick up the action almost immediately after the previous books.” As this book gets off to an explosive start, Percy has mysteriously disappeared just three days earlier. The new characters find themselves thrust into his vacuum, and have to get to know his old buddies, including Annabeth (daughter of Athena) and Chiron (the ancient, scholarly Centaur).

Riordan’s twist this time out is that he is taking these books in a Roman direction. The Greek gods were adopted by Rome and renamed – Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno and so on – but they were also given distinct characters. It is these quite different personalities that come to the fore in this planned trilogy.

“We tend to study the Greeks and Romans clumped together – but the Greco-Roman world is a misnomer, they were very different. The Greeks were Roman for much longer than they were Greek, almost,” he observes.

“As Roman Gods they reflected a different set of priorities and values. The Greeks gave us great architecture and wonderful art and drama - and all these wonderful artistic endeavours. The Romans gave us the idea of government, bureaucracy and military discipline, they were a very practical people.

“They admired the Greeks but they also looked down on them because the Greeks didn’t have their ambition.... the Greeks couldn’t help being impressed by the Romans but thought of them as crass barbarians.”

A bit like Britain and America then? He laughs: “A little bit. And it’s a pattern I’m sure we’ll see repeated again and again.”

Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan is out now Puffin £12.99. This interview appears in Big Issue Scotland magazine

Monday, 15 November 2010

For the love of Candace

So what's a middle aged man like me doing reading a book by Candace Bushnell? I suggested we put One Fifth Avenue on the reading list of our book group a year ago. It got vetoed by the - then - only female member of the group who said she despised Bushnell so much she wouldn't consider ever reading another of her books again. I think she'd read 4 Blondes and found it utterly revolting. Well, whatever. Carmen is such a fan of Bushnell's, and this book in particular, that despite the BG veto I've been meaning to read it ever since. Last week I finally managed it.
And it is fabulous. I wish I'd read it when it first came out and campaigned for it then. I could have stood in bookshops telling people it was nothing like the TV shows and insisting that if they love Trollope or perhaps even Tolstoy, then they had to read Candace.
Bushnell has since written The Carrie Diaries, a teen targetted blockbuster based on her Sex and the City character which has sold mega units thanks to its TV tie in. Carmen read it this summer and found it a slight, throwaway disappointment compared to One Fifth, which he kept telling me to read. When I finally did, I found it a wonderfully ambitious, clever and extremely satisfying novel.
One Fifth Avenue revolves around people living in the same building... It's a real address - we stayed quite near it when we were in NY in 2009 - which looks as amazing as it is described. The building is an art deco microcosm of all the aspirational angst, the class structure, the fuckyounofuckyou bullshit that makes New York such a stunning example of modern day capitalism. The self same materialist bullshit that dominates London, Paris, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo and you-name-it. It's New York at its most raw, most human, most universal.
I've been told that when she is on form Bushnell excels at social commentary. Especially high society social commentary, but not exclusively so. Like Trollope in a cocktail dress, she flits from penthouse to basement with ease, scrutinising the collapse of the American dream in an Atlanta suburb as easily as she does the red carpet goings on of the glitterati. Her women are almost always vicious - the TV shows are a Disneyfication of her original ideas - though this book is salvaged by having one genuinely nice person in Schiffer Diamond (Bushnell plays against type and has an actress who is both generous and centred, well ... who'd have guessed?) and a nearly nice person in the figure of the 80-something gossip writer Enid Merle, a JJ Honeysucker in a hairnet if ever there was one.
Bushnell's fans love the glam aspect of her books. The designer clothes, the swish restaurants and the like. But while these are celebrated in the TV spin offs - SATC, Lipstick Jungle - her books have always treated them in a far colder, harsher manner That's what I've gathered from Carmen, anyway. This one is certainly that. It's not fluffy. It's well dressed, perhaps, but certainly not a bimbo.
Bushnell writes a brilliant portrait of grasping ambitious desperate young 20-somethings, frozen out of the good jobs by the 'boomers'. She is fantastic when it comes to writing about sex - both as joyous romance and as cynical trade. She is adept at capturing men's inadequacies - vain 40-something writers in particular. And she packs a lot into a page, regularly shifting POV in a fluid, clearly written style. One that a lot of young literary bucks could learn from. But then they won't because they'd never consider reading a Bushnell novel.
Which is a shame. Because they should

Friday, 5 November 2010

Percy Jackson

I've just been speaking to Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series. He's got a new one out featuring most of the same characters, but without Percy, which introduces three new heroes.
I've spoken to Rick once before, less than a year ago, and although there is something of the earnest schoolteacher meets CEO of a mid sized company about him, I like him a lot.
He's passionate about getting kids to read. His inspiration for the Jackson stories was his own son's problems with reading. He needed to tell a story in an efficient, page turning, unputdownable way.
Mixing up High School with the Greek Myths did the trick and if you've got a child in the 9+ range I suggest you get them a couple. They are great fun and actually easier to read than say Harry Potter or Philip Pullman.
I think this is a greatly over looked aspect of being a writer. Too many critics rush to dismiss novels that they consider 'easy' or 'throwaway' or 'pure entertainment' and that goes for kids books as well as adult fiction.
It's harder and harder these days to find the time to read a book. We're bombarded with alternatives. TV, internet, going out, all night swinger parties (if you happen to be an MSP that is).
But - and Rick makes this point - reading a novel: being able to read a novel. Or a non fiction book. It's a real skill. It's a different, more engaging, deeper experience than skimming through a website, reading a newspaper or updating your Facebook page with photos of your new kitchen.
I met a pal for a drink last night and he couldn't think of the last time he'd read a book. Six or seven months ago, he thought it was. "And it was rubbish," he said. Which struck me as a bloody shame. There's so much good stuff out there. But I also think it's up to the writers to engage with their readers, keep them gripped from page one, and to serve up an experience that will make them think how worthwhile reading can be.

I'll post the interview with Rick in due course.

Kindle burning 2

After writing yesterday's rant I noticed a reference today to a story about the Kindle being used, like a hardback, as a sort of promo for the paperback. It made me think that my comments about half priced hardbacks were possibly a little one dimensional - though I don't think they were entirely wrong.
I can understand selling hardbacks at a discount to get a big sale, which leads to big word of mouth, which leads to an even bigger paperback sale.
What I don't get is discounting that seems to devalue the very act of writing. If books are disposable throwaway items at £4 or under, or if hardbacks for less than a tenner, then we won't value them. Or read them. Or take them seriously.
I'm a writer rather than a publisher. That probably shows. But I still think most of the discounting that goes in is crazy.
That said, a lot of books that come out are entirely disposable and probably should never have been published.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Kindle burning

Oh don't make me laugh. There's a report today that angry Kindle readers are giving authors one star reviews in retaliation for their publishers hiking the cost of their e-books. Imagine: publishers wanting premium prices for brand new products! Where could they get such an idea?
Publishing is a nuts economy. Well, we know this already. But readers have to get wise to what is going on here, otherwise we won't have a books industry soon. Well, not one that is worth a damn.
There's a war going on. Its a war of production and supply.
Once upon a time newspapers were wealthy behemoths able to send teams of reporters into foreign lands to rescue, er, donkeys from Spanish beaches. But they covered wars and disasters properly too and thank goodness they did because you certainly didn't get the full facts from government PR departments. Not then, not now.
But newspapers have shrunk - because people don't buy them in the same numbers. We are more literate than ever, of course, but we get our news from the TV and from the Internet. Suddenly the power players in news are the BBC, Fox, Sky, Google.
Publishing is seeing a similar trend. The publishers were in a unique position. They controlled the means of production and supply: it took certain skills and distribution networks to produce and market and sell a book.
Now e-books shift the distribution power towards the big e-tailers. Amazon doesn't need publishers, does it? It just needs writers, and maybe an editor or two. But not a publisher, not really. The Guardian's story on this today points out that the James Bond novels are going to be available on e-book but not through Penguin, 'directly' from the Fleming estate.
Which is great for them but bad news for Penguin.
The problem for writers is that this all drives down prices. Which drives down income. Now you might not feel too sorry for Dan Brown, he might only lose a million or so out of his usual Gazillion a year income. But it is serious for the vast majority of writers who get by on small numbers of sales. If those sales are now for half the price the real book is, if the publishers keep the squeeze on writers to protect their position while giving the e-tailer giants - Amazon, Apple - all the discounts they want, then you know what happens? Writing dies off. Nobody bothers anymore. We go where the money is: and that's elsewhere.
I'm not ashamed to say this. I write for money. Actually, call that an aspiration at the moment. I want to write for money. I need to earn a living from writing if I am to be a good writer and write full time.
So for these reasons I don't want to see Amazon or anyone else discounting and discounting and giving away ebooks for less than the physical books. I want new writers to demand a premium. I don't understand why the new Franzen, for instance, was half price? I'd have paid full price for it. Or waited for a paperback. Why cut the cost of the hardback? Don't get it.
One question for you: do Apple, when they bring out a new iPad or Macbook, do they knock 50 per cent off the retail price to get lots of people to buy it?
Do they hell.
Writers shouldn't be sold short. And readers - e-readers, kindle owners, or those of us who still prefer paperbacks and hardbacks - should recognise that writing oughtn't to be free.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

And the next US president is likely to be....

Woah. Obama really did get a kick in there. The Holy Republicans have stormed the citadel, their quasi religious/economic jihad has won them - what? - 57 new seats in the house of Congress. But its not all good news for the team in Red. With Democrats clinging on to a slim majority in the Senate the next two years look like being interesting.
Or just jammed stuck.
Let's not beat about the bush, Nobel Peace Prize or not, Obama is a failure. There's no doubt about it. America fell in love, particularly the American left, with the idea of this smart, black, political messiah. But the guy doesn't have the streetsmarts. Don't take my word for it, take Gore Vidal's.
The fact is: right from the beginning he was weak. Guantanamo? Health Care? The guy didn't even seem to be in charge when it came to picking the family dog. He clearly doesn't have a White House regime that is smart enough, or sharp enough to deal with American politics, global politics. The Israelis know that. The Chinese know that.
Which is why not enough of those Democrats who elected him two years ago stepped out to boost their party this time. The Tea Party might be extremist, but they are active. Boy are they active. And they smell blood. Will Obama win a second term? It depends on what he does over the next nine months really. One more set back and he's a dead un.
The only thing that could save him is that the Republicans fail to come up with a candidate that half the country won't laugh at. It's a strange thing to say, but Sarah Palin might just rescue Obama after all and win him a second term.

Or maybe not. If there is any one result that shows just how hard it is to predict what the US electorate will do and just how powerful Palin and her Tea Party are, then its what happened in the senate race in her very own Alaskan backyard. You gotta love this story: the Alaskan Republican, who was defeated at the party primary and was therefore not on the official ticket, won anyway as a write in candidate. Who knew so many people in Alaska could write? America is clearly a far more complex place than we've given it credit for. Palin had supported the "official" candidate. So ya boo to her. Perhaps the GOP will find another presidential candidate after all. Maybe it will be that senator from Alaska...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

God Bless America

I so love the mid terms. I love American politics. Obviously this is as a spectator sport, and at a distance, but the way America chooses and runs its government is utterly fascinating. No, make that terrifying.
British elections are just so, well, British, by comparison. In Britain we get into a flap if a polling centre is run badly. That's right: we get into a bit of a flap. In America all hell would break loose. Someone would get a gun. Even our scandals are kind of ordinary. Middle aged couples fiddling their mortgage payments. In America, the pork barrel is so much deeper. The stakes, so much higher.
I'm not qualified to cast judgement on the Tea Party, or on the Democrats' torpor. Though you have to wonder about the latter: did Obama catch Gordon Brownitis? (That said, I thought the John Stewart appearance was pretty good. Positive. Even with the "Yes We Can.... But" clanger. Well doh, Barack. American voters don't do sophisticated arguments...)
Certainly not going by the campaign ads they've been running. Half truths, spin doctoring, muck raking. There's a great run down of some of the best examples here.
My suspicion is that the result tomorrow will not be as bad for the Democrats as was once feared. I think there is a bit of negative spin going on: the demos know that if they make it sound really really bad and then all they get is really bad, well then they've rallied. They can focus on the positive message.
And there is a good indication that some of the real fruitcakes of the election - the Witch Lady, Dan Quayle's Son - will be gone in a puff of, er, tea.
And then the real game starts. America needs to rebuild its economy. The cover article in Time magazine last week really nailed it. It needs to address some real fundamentals. It needs to tighten its belt and get working. (As does the UK, by the way). But perhaps there are too many problems for "the ordinary voter" to get their head round right now. Right now that is. The time might yet come.
For the moment the question is: "What will the new Republican led congress let the President do for the next two years?" If the result goes the way of the polls, Obama is in for the scrap of his life. Here's hoping he's up for it. Here's hope that Audacity he went on about comes back. And not just for America's sake but for the whole world economy.