**spoiler alert** A kind of bookend to Patti Smith's Just Kids in terms of an artist's view of New York. Grim & glorious. What a will to power Kus**spoiler alert** A kind of bookend to Patti Smith's Just Kids in terms of an artist's view of New York. Grim & glorious. What a will to power Kusama had to escape Japan, make it in the boys club, be hipper than Warhol and in her latter years accept her cultural heritage. And she was the muse and lover of Joseph Cornell - ok - Burroughs couldn't have made up that chapter, SO odd. A supremely weird ride....more
There is a building at Auschwitz, one of the disarmingly bourgeois brick two storey buildings that in any other context might be from a thirties suburThere is a building at Auschwitz, one of the disarmingly bourgeois brick two storey buildings that in any other context might be from a thirties suburban development and which was wild with jonquils on the verges when I visited in glorious Spring, that is labelled "Physical Evidence of the Holocaust."
Rather carefully worded.
This book documents a slippery thing - what was humour under the Reich like? Who told the jokes and what were they like? Did people die because of them?
I was drawn to this book because of my fascination with the film of Baron Munchhausen made by UFA under Goebbels, who was obsessed by the wonderous fantasy of The Thief of Baghdad and sought to best it with his own frothy concoction. It's beautiful and full of sly humor, and the irony of the Nazis choosing to make their fantasia about the greatest liar of all time, well...
There is an argument here that everyday Germans, via the evidence of their recorded humor, knew far more of the extermination of the racially impure, the misfits, the outspoken critics and all those stamped expendable by the fastidious Party far earlier in the war than was once discussed. This isn't a new revelation - the early 90s? was I think when scholars beyond academic circles began to widen the understanding of the incremental acceptance and inevitable psychic burden of so much dreadful hatred on the German people - but what Hertzog gives us here is more "evidence of knowledge of the Holocaust" from a fresh angle
His theory that humour was a relief mechanism that shielded Germans from the need to act to stand against the Nazi regime is build subtly and chillingly enough through the book. And most affecting of all is the surviving jokes that Jews told to each other at the time. The humour of the abyss....more
Ineffably joyful, Dionysian,wabi sabi, austerely messy glory. How I miss Jarman. It was no surprise to me to find he was such a good gardener, with anIneffably joyful, Dionysian,wabi sabi, austerely messy glory. How I miss Jarman. It was no surprise to me to find he was such a good gardener, with an eye for form and the patience to allow wind to prune his plants. ...more
Bitch bitch, moan moan. This is a misery memoir from the Mother of God.
As a feminist revisioning, the subject has potential, but the control of ToibinBitch bitch, moan moan. This is a misery memoir from the Mother of God.
As a feminist revisioning, the subject has potential, but the control of Toibin, his smooth sentences. gives a sense of a man who eats an apple with a paring knife.
He wrote this woman’s interior life too nicely. Her anger at her predicament is exquisitely refined. Mary’s outward acceptance of her lot is believable – there weren’t many Bodiaceas in Judea – and yet, there is something that makes it feel like a man is at the helm. It lacks the smoulder of the displaced matriarchy of the early fertile crescent. (In the interests of full disclosure, early readings on Catal Huyuk were formative, I admit it.)
I imagine that after a particularly rich meal in a small hotel at Selçuk, Toibin retired to dream up a tale that hits all its tourist highlights. The site of Ephesus, the titular house of Mary, the ruins of the enormous Basilica of St John, the single remaining column of the great temple of Artemis, and finally, the site of the third ecumenical Council of bishops in 431 held at the church of Mary, bang in the middle of all the other sites. The major outcome of that council was to reject the teachings of Nestorius – rejecting his assertion that Christ was not entirely divine because he was born out of a woman – and that she, Mary could not be called “Theokotos” (God-bearer). She could. She did.
The story suggests itself. The woman whose actual experience is excised from the record before she has even died. The woman who ran from the foot of the Cross in terror when a former friend points her out to an assassin. The woman bewildered by the changes in her son, his speaking in riddles, his rejection of his former life. She finds comfort in the figure of Artemis and the prospect of her death.
Mary hates St John, her keeper at Ephesus, where she has escaped the fame and infamy of her role as the pure vessel that held the Messiah. What we understand as the gospels was a hardening, a codification of the events of the life of a man into abstract patterns that reflect Talmudic prophecies, necessary to strengthen the authority Jesus has to be the one so many waited for. His stormtroopers and champions like Paul of Tarsus used whatever means necessary to ensure their success and here John questions Mary, waits for pearls, and ignores those answers that do not fit his editorial. Ignores what she clearly thinks. He wasn’t the Messiah, just a very naughty boy.
The Ur-texts of the early church, when the Bible was not scripture but a shifting sheaf of snatched words from Mary, Judas Iscariot and a collection of unknown pseuds vying to stake journalistic claim on what happened, who was there, and what it meant, are fascinating. Discoveries like the Nag Hammadi trove include the sayings of Jesus, whoopsies from his childhood like smoting those who annoyed him, and Gnostic concordances that question the divinity of Jesus. They paint a more vivid picture that what was eventually inside the ringfence of acceptable dogma and authorative voice.
Having just watched that high-camp masterpiece Ben Hur, (based on a bestseller by Lew Wallace, American lawyer, Civil War General, territorial governor and shithouse-rat-smart statesman) plenty of writers have felt entitled to have a crack at “a story of the Christ” and each successive version holds up a mirror to its own age, at best. They invariably stink of the lamp, and I’m happy to report that this one does not. It is an exercise in restraint.
But. There are no surviving texts that tell what it was to be a woman of ancient Judea.
Colm Toibin’s writing is pellucid and beautiful. But if you want to get a sense of the historical Mary you’ll get far more from Nag Hammadi.
If you want to know the fascinating trajectory of her role post-death in the Church, I’d go straight to Marina Warner’s Alone of all Her Sex. ...more
I loved the poetic flow of this, & its evocation of a woman who cracked. Jessie is a superb character, but this book fell into fragments for me. AI loved the poetic flow of this, & its evocation of a woman who cracked. Jessie is a superb character, but this book fell into fragments for me. A bit Deadwood, a bit magic realist, with the seduction of the Aussie pastoral.
I also think the choice of narrator a big mistake, boxing the narrative POV more and more as book progressed. It made for a killer first chapter but couldn't be sustained.
Palimpsest, for all Vidal's narcissism, was an achievement in autobiography, a genre generally to be avoided. For a man I'm inclined to think of as exPalimpsest, for all Vidal's narcissism, was an achievement in autobiography, a genre generally to be avoided. For a man I'm inclined to think of as exceptionally cold it was lyrical and warm, surprisingly frank on the heart, and well structured. He didn't feel compelled to tell us all - self aware enough to edit even life for the good bits.
But this. If you rate Vidal, best not read it.
The voice is still there, the wonderfully shaded irony, his acidic cutting through spin in commentary on events. But it's mostly the final telegrams of an old man missing his dead partner and lamenting the death and decline of his America, his friends, his glittering life. Even the chapter length tells of his waning powers - a page or two at most, before he must rest.
The queerest thing of all was the three or so chapters where he rated academic and biographical writings on his own life and significance. One chapter is a complete quote from the book of an academic - like he was reading you his book review over the breakfast table.
Or perhaps he was worried that his words, his important words, were impermanent after all. Not etched on tablets for eternal reference. I'll be reading his collected essays for the rest of my life, as he himself never put down his Montaigne.
I am hoping for some unreleased essays and his correspondence to be published. But this second autograph of his life made me feel like I was feeding on carrion. ...more
A thoroughly enjoyable faggot of thoughts and musings from Robb, some falling more towards the journalism end of interview and observation (more declaA thoroughly enjoyable faggot of thoughts and musings from Robb, some falling more towards the journalism end of interview and observation (more declamatory and crisp in tone) and others dreamier, or happy to gorge on the author’s particular obsessions. The range of its concerns follows the author’s commissions and experience – the cultural cringe an irrelevancy. Robb writes about what he likes.
I loved his visit to the “lost” Caravaggios exhibited together in Naples for the first time – his breathless excitement at seeing properly rare pictures that obsessed him and his tumbling out what he could puzzle from them, slotting their hints into the large body of his insights on that artist – gleaned with such intensity that he alarmed the guards and was escorted away. Also his dissection of the crossed swords of academe in relation to scholarship on Caravaggio, starring Roberto Longhi.
Robb is not afraid to show us himself craven in a horrible apartment in the Cross, pissing off Gore Vidal, exploring queerness without the slightest hesitation of opinion, or his bare, breeze-on-flesh pleasure of a lotus-eating retreat in Brazil.
I never quite escaped my consciousness of Robb controlling his presentation of self – he is always clever, always, always, grasping what is going on – that sureness of his opinion at times was too impervious. Occasionally I wanted that large, brainy head of his not to be glinting across the table from me at the dinner party. He might get up from the table and let his words alone give me a rest.
The only time I felt the urgency of his need to master understanding it all waver was in his interview with Marcia Langton, whom Robb has known for a long time and with whom he shares a powerful frisson. You sense his awe of her and the wound of her chastisement of him when she rips him a new arsehole in public, while out for dinner.
I do know one of his interview subjects (or I did, fifteen years ago – the piece is fairly old too) and I can’t say I think it very characteristic of her. But it doesn’t make me like this book less. And like all essayists, it’s a pleasure to dip into and read over time.