I scooped this one up from writers no one reads and it went thixotropic on me soon after a promising start, and then just oozed and splatted all overI scooped this one up from writers no one reads and it went thixotropic on me soon after a promising start, and then just oozed and splatted all over the place: a rudderless effort which couldn’t be reigned in for love or money. I hate it when a kernel of pure genius dies in utero like that. I practically have the urge to start at page 57 and rewrite the rest for the poor woman. A palpitating, gothic thriller which opens in medias ras during a post mortem late night séance of Felicity Taverner’s death in Daphne du Maurier country, complete with a Bachelardian house of memories and stocked with Cluedo-ian suspects: anyone could have done it with the candlestick in the dining room, a Poe-an deliciously umbral tension vitiating about as a group of friends rehash the life and times of Felicity. And then….splat and splodge. We’re done with Felicty ere we began, and some woebegone silly plot lines unfurl from the main body like dead Twin parts that haven’t been reabsorbed in utero and now protrude monstrously from the survivor: you just don’t know what to do with them. Blackmail over Felicity’s diaries that no one wants to read, turning Cornish land into hotels, buying more land, crowned with a senseless murder, just…wtf? Mary. Whats going on here, Mary? Why the kitchen sink?...more
Sandel is worried about the lack of moral limits of markets and posits that the time has come to hold a debate, as a society, that would enable us toSandel is worried about the lack of moral limits of markets and posits that the time has come to hold a debate, as a society, that would enable us to decide, again as a society, where ‘markets serve the public good and where they don’t belong’. This to address the precipitous decline in moral values and the ensuing corruption when having a market economy morphs into ‘being’ a market economy.
Objection. Since when, pray tell, have moral values been determined democratically in any society. What ho. Moral values have traditionally, in the West, stemmed from God and the State. Its a top-bottom coalition approach. We don’t, after all, vote or legislate on morality.
But yes, there is a general consensus that morality on the whole has become rather anorexic of late. To me its pretty clear why (later on this). To Sandel, its the markets wot done it.
To this effect he starts off with a laborious exploration of queue jumping. Is it moral, or not, or maybe, um, just a little bit moral? Its no secret that the last two decades have witnessed a proliferation of a sale of rights to ‘jump the queue’. Disneyland, specially designated lanes on the highway, concierge doctors, concert ticket resales, airline checkins: OK. Is it morally right? Is it morally right to pay a hobo to stand in line for theatre tickets, thus depriving the less ‘meaned’ behind you of a ticket? Is it morally right to ‘scalp’ for healthcare therefore depriving, ostensibly, others of access? Is it morally right to resell/buy free papal mass tickets? The Inuit have quotas for ‘killing’ whales and walruses as a means for subsistence. Is it morally right to sell the quota to hunters who will pay you thousands to make the quota kill? How about paying a drug addicted woman to insert an IUD so she doesn’t bear drug babies year on year? Paying for a kidney? Paying for a baby? Is everything up for sale and is nothing sacred? By commoditising traditionally non market transactions are we not only corrupting our moral values which bind us as a society, but also corrupting our civic spirit, which as we know (and I concur) allows for gratuitous donation of services which would otherwise cost the state exuberantly and not only that, but would in fact decrease the value of the transaction by virtue of commoditising it.
The latter is not an insignificant point. Despite lunatics like Keneth Arrow who claim that commercializing an activity doesn’t change it, I think even the layperson can hazard a guess that it ain’t so. Would it surprise anyone, and it didn’t surprise me that for example, US lawyers who were asked to reduce their fees for the needy refused to do so, yet agreed to do it pro-bono as charitable work? Clearly if you try to monetise a duty within the realm of civic ‘obligess’ it becomes a transaction to be valued commercially and the value of charity loses its weight. As Titmuss proved with blood donation studies people will give more voluntarily than when paid.
Here is where Sandel flounders. And yes, I know he is a modern guru, commanding audiences of thousands upon thousands on any of his given lectures, and I am but a lowly lone voice and so who am I etc, and so forth. But yet.
The problem I think is in distinguishing between the commoditisation of state/civic gratis orientated services and purely market ones. You can’t just lump them together. What Sandel is implying is that through market commoditisation we are getting a result whereby an individual who is willing to pay for a third world kidney and jumps the queue and kills a walrus will also refuse or refute a charitable donation (Blood. Giving up a seat for the elderly. Whatever) because he has become morally corrupted in general.
I’m just not sure this is the case. We human beings are very good at compartmentalising. Plus, there is no evidence for it. Sandel is making a speculative jump in saying commercialisation crowds out public civic character. Traditionally this is not so. Were not Robber Barons charitable? Bloody hell, so were the Nazis. I think as long as the State doesn’t try to commodotise our civic responsibility, confusion shouldn’t arise.
That was a second objection. Now on to my third. Lets look at the purely market transactions and see what that speaks about our morals. Now yes, marketisation crowds out morals: no doubt about it. It would be ludicrous to argue otherwise. The difference is Sandel laments, whereas I say, whats the point of keeping these values? Why shouldn’t they change? When Ibsen’s Doll house and Ghosts played to Europe at the turn of the century, he caused moral outrage. A woman dares to stand up to her husband? And, gasp, leave him? Well, we’ve seen the back of that morality, alright, and I don’t think anyone laments its passing.
Back to the queue jumping. Clearly Sandel finds it reprehensible. Wheres it going to end? We all queue for buses and loos, right, are we going to fast track that as well? Yes, I say. We should. Why didn’t I think of that before? This queuing business. Is it a KPI of a morally functioning society? What about the countries that don’t have it? I have personally been stranded at bus queues in India, Thailand and Macedonia where the notion didn’t exist. The bus comes and it is engulfed in a human wave of 360 degrees, a perfect circle, soundwave, whaetever. Are these people morally corrupt, then because they don’t queue but fight?? Ignoramuses? Is a queue a moral stratagem? What is Sandel getting at?
Its not that a queue is a marker for morality. I believe its lack though is, an indicator for a failed state. A queue is a control mechanism, not a moral attitude. If you have a market where buses ‘come in threes’, its easy to implement a queue system. You didn’t catch the bus? Oh shucks. Next one is in ten minutes. But how about this is the evening bus. You didn’t catch it? See you tomorrow, same bat place, same bat time. Lets see if Darwinism doesn’t kick in, then.
This might be what Sandel is worried about: a sort of Ballardian breakdown in society where we start behaving like animals because commoditisation is allowing queue jumping. But that simply isn’t the case. Yet. Queue jumping in the West has NOT displaced access. It has merely restructured it.
Yet it niggles him. Why can’t we all wait equally in line? This is, at the crux of it, what this guy really wants. It reinforces his ideas of fairness. Which he ties to morality. On a superficial level, he is going to garner die hard supporters. Lets face it, we’re all waiting in line for a Starbucks, and some brazen twit cuts the line: kill him, right?
Faugh. What we are really saying is, ‘don’t fuck with OUR market’. But here is the problem as I see it.
Traditionally, we have not had a SINGLE market. One where rich and poor congregate and battle it out. Recently I went on a London Tours walk. We stopped outside a picturesque pub in Chelsea. ‘Bear in Mind’, the tour guide said, ‘that pubs were traditionally the ‘fayre’ of the working classes. The nobility went to their private clubs or drank at home at dinner parties’.
Well. Thats two market right there. The proletariat could be egalitarian about who was served in what order at the pub, since they were all homogenous. The aristocracy had a separate market. Nowadays we combine the two. We all want to go to Disneyland. Is it surprising that the rich find ways to appropriate the market? We simply didn’t ‘see’ it before, but it existed. What Sandel laments as market penetration was simply separate markets in the past. It has always existed and coincided harmoniously with an overarching morality. The ultimate problem really is not that markets are immoral (which they are not) nor that they are crowding out morality (which they are, and have always done so). Reigning in markets to preserve fossilised values and morals can not be the answer: it is not sustainable. Morals NEED to change: they have always done so despite each generation’s passionate clinging on and lament.
The problem is that crowded out morals aren’t being replenished as they were in the past. With the Church depleted and the State worried about not being a ‘nanny’ or ‘Big Brother’, with a globalisation and competing moral codes, there is no one left on the arena to define the goal posts, and so crowding out, which has always happened, I suspect, now leaves a wasteland in its wake as no new universal morals are phoenixing to replenish the loss. ...more
GR is a cult rite of passage. You have literary aspirations? Want a literary badge of honour? Voila. ExpirePerspire aspire on this. So the bon ton doGR is a cult rite of passage. You have literary aspirations? Want a literary badge of honour? Voila. ExpirePerspire aspire on this. So the bon ton do. And having circumnavigated this literary Everest, victorious, but a little delirious and oxygen deprived, the finish liners now take positions for a whole new battle. The Battle of the Bulge, PoMo style. The trenches are drawn, and to the left of the house we have the Disbelievers, the Lost, the ones who just ‘don’t get it’. To the right: the righteous Chosen who have seen the pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow. And both sides have something to say: never have I see such ferment over a book on the web as this: people in binary arms, blogging to an impervious Ethernet, sometimes with a following but mostly alone in their blog code, pontificating, explaining, justifying, redeeming, reliving, applying, parsing.....shaking a fist at the heavens and reliving this monumental journey. Why do they do it? These hundreds of blog voices out there, with no one to hear.....But the pitch has fervored me: mob rule and all that. (funny that: mob rule where the mob online is millions of silos. But memetic ones. Go figure. Astral projection?). Well, they we do it because of entitlement rights. You know, first you sow (which is never easy), then you reap. Its reaping time. Anyone who has made this journey deserves a voice. Even if that bloomin’ tree falls where no one can hear it.
So now I have something to say as well. Which is: my crop failed. I’m going hungry this winter. In like I planted poppy seeds but I realise I needed wheat after all. Cause I’ve been having poppy seed bonanzas for a long time now and I’m peaking: I’m dead hungry and Gravitys Rainbow is just a’ ghost in the machine’.
To begin somewhere, I call my 13 year old niece to the stand. I thought to introduce her to classic films a year ago, in order that she builds a ‘repertoire’ of cultural significa as she goes along. So, Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ it was. Deemed an 18 certificate, but hey: how about I take on the role of ‘risque’ aunt? This girl laughed. ‘But, its where it all started’, I protested, still coiled with the unbound tension of a twenty year hiatus in horror. ‘For you’, she replied, and instantaneously I was a fossil. Not a daredevil of cultural insights.
Same here. If you are an experimental 70s virgin, and you chance on this: it might work.
I say 70s, because here is an era which stamped and oeuvre, which defined a movement (no prunes involved), which parralleloparametered an expressiveness which earned a trademark and it is then: give or take a few years. This stretch of mid sixties to mid eighties: it has its own musk. I’ve read enough now to recognise its distinct quaff a mile away. Frenetic stylistic posturing, sometimes levied by precise historical qualia, fragmented and proud, discombobulated and victorious about it, linguistic conundrums and stylistics perforations postulating as streams of supercalifragilisticexpialidousnesness, give me a text I’ll give you a time line!
Have I not read Hod Broun, Steve Katz, John Brunner, David Ohle, Virgil Pinera, Mano, Topor, Enard, John Hawkes, Vonegutt, Hellerman and Jaroslav Hasek, the latter two not 70s but feeders into Pynchon just the same, Kavan, Delany, etc ad nauseam. Hell, even the Good Soldier Sveik is one step too far.
After all of this, how is one to ’discover’ Gravity’s Rainbow? My ‘Psycho’ of PoMo. Faugh! I’ve been robbed! Too late to the ball for a good time. ...more
Ok, sex, drugs, kidnapping, murder....but no rock n roll. Just not really gritty, raw or enaging. Vollman who I had to to kick to the curb (only 400 pOk, sex, drugs, kidnapping, murder....but no rock n roll. Just not really gritty, raw or enaging. Vollman who I had to to kick to the curb (only 400 pages in) did better than this, Vian grabbed me by the throat with 'I want to spit on your grave', and as to the drugs noir: sheesh, so many better 'uns out there. Helen Miller, Kathy Ackers, hell even Pierre Drieu la rochelle's Will o' the wisp I rate higher n this. Just not enough pizazz here....more
Fin de siècle is how I see the the mid 1960s, just before the sexual, social, cultural and other ‘revolutions’ started shaping the metaphysical experiFin de siècle is how I see the the mid 1960s, just before the sexual, social, cultural and other ‘revolutions’ started shaping the metaphysical experience. Le Clezio is just such a ‘revolutionary’ pioneer, a kind of warm up act for the French New Wave, propping up, say, Godard’s cinematic dystopia (isn’t Pierre le Fou and Weekend glorious anarchy?) with experimental literary deconstruction. This was an era, remember, of challenging the sub specie aeternitatis of the status quo: in this fluid environment, Le Clezio (reminiscent to no small extent to his British co-horts Ann Quinn, John Brunner, Tom Mallin, whilst elsewhere Clarice Lispecter was blazing forth some South American PoMo and so on and so forth), declares war on consumerism, commercialism, all kinds of isms really, as befits a strapping 1970 trail blazer cum rebel without a cause. Valiant effort, but no cigar....more
I was really looking forward to some Southern Comfort with a side serving of White Trash to Gari gargle with, after a longish bout of ‘classic’ literaI was really looking forward to some Southern Comfort with a side serving of White Trash to Gari gargle with, after a longish bout of ‘classic’ literature. Its necessary, when one finds oneself saying ‘wherwithal’ and ‘henceforth’ in all seriousness. Over a pint.
But Dorothy Allison doesn’t deliver what she promises on the label. There is, forsooth (oops, there I go again), no White Trash qualia here at all. No madness, no real violence (save for two scenes towards the end), no drunkenness, no nothing. In fact, it doesn’t even sound ‘Southern’. I don’t know who Dorothy Allison is, but she reads like some sheltered spinster with a five point plan and flowery cursive labouring over moleskin writing paper with one hand and wrestling with the Lapsong Souchong and crumpets with the other. And unfortunately its not coming out like it did in Coleman Dowell’s ‘Too much Flesh and Jabez’. Well, of course that wasn’t a real spinster reeling off the sickmare scenarios there...
The grittiest, rawest Southern white trash ever rears its ugly head in Crews’ ‘Feast of Snakes’ and nothing else I’ve come across ever captures the brilliant clarity and insidious force with which Crews imbues the quintessence of the southern differential. Snippets rear up in short burst perhaps in Agee’s ‘Death in the family’, Ron Rash’s ‘Serena’ or Stewart O’Nan’s ‘’Prayer for the Dying’, and I wouldn’t know about Faulkner because he was impenetrable in ‘The sound and the Fury’ and so scared me off for more.
But Allison: this woman points, shoots and misses the mark every single time. She tries for White Trash, but her Boatwrights are a close knit, caring extended family, where child rearing and money is shared, brothers stand up for their sisters and beat up errant brothers in law for good measure, no one seems to be cussing and frankly the worst of the lot is narrator Bone’s eight year old sister who seems to be masturbating 24/7 (as you do, at that age, right?) for no discernible reason (she was never the focus of incest or abuse).
Daddy Glen is supposed to be ‘cold as death, mean as a snake and twice as twisty’: but rape scene apart, and I’m not excusing that, prithee (and again I go), this is a man who doesn’t drink, doesn’t beat his wife or raise his voice to her, keeps her and her two ‘bastard’ children even though she can’t have any children by him, and although bestowed with a remarkable propensity to get laid off work, seems to jump right back in the fray getting one job after another, thus perpetually employed. Does this sound like a twisty snake? What did I tell you about Allison trying to patch together a mean ole nasty but just don’t know how to do it? Does throwing in a rape scene willy nilly as an afterthought satisfy the criteria for successful character development?
And Bone’s mama? Phish. Here is a woman who tries her best to protect her children all the way throughout until the very last moment, when for no rhyme and reason, and mind you after walking in on Daddy Glen in flagrante delicto with Bone, decides to abandon her two daughters and run off with this fine specimen of a man into the sunset. And its not that final act of unbelievable gauche which rankles me, but rather the lack of any characterisation or build up whatsoever to lead to such a denouement.
A total, utter train wreck from start to finish. And I only finished because I couldn’t be bothered to rouse myself from my reclining position on the couch with the duvet thrown over and the Southern Comfort easy in. ...more
Rogozkin’s Cuckoo razzledazzled me by taking magical realism up a notch: making it situational rather than transactional concept. A Finn, Lapp and RusRogozkin’s Cuckoo razzledazzled me by taking magical realism up a notch: making it situational rather than transactional concept. A Finn, Lapp and Russian end up cloistered together in Finland during WWII, communicating with each other in their own languages. An amicable, collaborative existence dawns, eloquent conversations ensue, despite the fact that there is no verbal understanding between the three, who are perfectly normal as standalone executors and surreal in combo. Its mesmerising, and this, in fact, is what happens in Kaputt ubiquitously. Malaparte, as a war correspondent, attends high command German parties and bluntly denigrates his German hosts, whilst they go on pontificating obliviously, presumably too punch drunk on the legends they are in their own minds, and I sighed with pleasure at this surrealistic overture. But then I found out Malaparte didn’t mean it. A consummate turn face, and ex Fascist he wrote the book initially under the supposition Germany would win the war: once the writing was on the wall, he went back and ‘fixed’ a few things here and there. Most of the ‘fixing’ of course he would have reserved for his own participation in these Le Grand Buffouet style, pan-Roman dinner do-s, where he emerges as an exalted Lone Ranger in defending the victimised populations of Europe against German Kultur. Bashful, Malaparte is not. And the German guests? Here the artist’s quilt falters: as it always does in these circumstances. I remember admiring Queen Hatshepsuts temple in Egypt where her furious nephew Thutmoses III sought to have her annihilated from public memory by altering her statues to look like him. The grotesque outcome only served to reinstate her, IMO. Similarly here, Malaparte revisits his montage of figures and starts painting by numbers. The end result: polyphemic Beryl Cook-esque caricatures of self delusional grandeur coupled with an odd, emphemeral dreaminess and sensitivity. Like bloated pigs who eat truffles rather than trough.
I’m tempted to say very stereotypical, except given the novel was published 1946, perhaps it was the van guard which yielded the sterotypes later on: the cultured but cruel Aryana. I’m less appalled than accepting. It doesn’t matter which Culture you belong to: its always better than the rest. In Pillars of Salt the Jordanian nomads claimed supremacy over the invading English: and so it goes. As Malaparte would say here, Bittania may rule the waves, but even she can’t waive the rules. Which are, that we are all legends in our own minds.
So, Malaparte scurries hither and thither across the European map, extolling the virtues of every nation apart from the Germans, singlehandedly saving scores of Jews and other prisoners from a gruesome end some of the time, and recording the macabre details of death and destruction the rest of the time. The pace is frenetic, the man seemingly ubiquitous, the atrocities a cotillion of Boschean strokes with no end in sight, til we get to a passage concerning the execution of a group of Russian prisoners when the proverbial light bulb finally clicks over my head and I realise Malaparte is a cheat and a phantasmagorist. Now, the man is extremely erudite and well educated: he pepers his ccounts with all sorts of posh references. Jews are not just jews: they are Chagall’s jews. Dinner parties spring right out of Lucas Cranach paintings, and Ante Pavelic’s ears arouse in him the same impression of deformity as is produced by listening to musical compositions by Eric Satie and Darius Milhaud. Well hum dee dum. I have had a very good listen to both of these subsequently: there could be nothing, btw, deformed in any of their compositions. Milhaud I found average, Satie is mesmerising: very tonally centred and melodic. Anyway that’s by the by. My point is to set the background here apropos Malaparte’s enormous general knowledge.
Now the execution scene. He saw, Malaparte says, a group of Russian peasant POWs who were executed in a most brutal manner: horrific really. But just prior, they were laughing and ‘slapped each other on their backs with the simple minded gaiety of the Russian peasant’. Whoooa. Now, on the back of a steady diet of Russian classics (Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev and Goncharev), I happen to know that Russian intelligentsia is very fond of the simple peasant moniker; its like a Russian trademark, the calling card issued to their peasant classes. But how the deuce does Malaparte, who has come as close to Russian peasantry as I have to an orange butt baboon (read: never), identify this group as simple buffoons in the space of 5 minutes? He can’t, can he? He can only be paraphrasing and making it up as he goes along. Quick flip to the afterword, and sure enough: Kaputt is only partially real, it seems. A very small part, perhaps. The rest: well, we all have imaginations, right? Now, Jerzy Kosinksi The Painted Birdwas lambasted for using his in the Painted Bird to similar effect in the 1960s, the effect being of embellishing and exaggerating grotesquerie for brownie points, not unlike David Madsen’s approach Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf. Here, it is Germanic bezobrazan in the klieglight, a compilation of the macabre and deconstructed, a peisage of decomposition and ontological breakdown – well apart from Malaparte. He never breaks down.
Published in 2001, this textbook surfaces around the same time as LeVine and Scollon’s Discourse and Technology and O’Hallaran’s multimodal DiscoursePublished in 2001, this textbook surfaces around the same time as LeVine and Scollon’s Discourse and Technology and O’Hallaran’s multimodal Discourse Analysis, perhaps pioneers in the field of multimodality. Back in the olden days, I should say. Of note is how no one is in agreement of what mode actually is, given it’s the building block of discourse and design. Kress and Leeuwen take the middle road: modes are semiotic resources which allow the simultaneous realisation of discourses and types of (inter)action. I say middle road because previously (in 1999 publications) they took a stance that modes are constantly changing ‘units’. I wonder if they linked it to discourse, which of course is a moving feast as well.
In any event. The usual high falutin’ fare ensues: complicated linguistic constructs and deconstructs ad infinitum, until we get to the most important issue for me: the one which makes this book worthwhile. Colour. K&L specifically point out that colour is a signifier and not a sign. Its been 12 years since publication, and a cursory look at development of semiotics theories since then has not dispelled this notion: and I am frankly puzzled as to how this can be. A sound and a smell are indisputably signs, yet colour is not. If we accept colour as a signifier, in fact, a floating signifier, perhaps traditionally from a cultural perspective it might be deemed to have the potential for disparate meanings. My question is: so what? In as much as there is no such thing as a meaningless signifier, everything by default becomes a sign anyway. This article is very useful in underlining my point :
Further, there is debate going on as to whether universality of understanding is a prerequisite for defining a sign: e.g. do we all have to agree on the meaning of a sign in order for it to be one? This then makes me think that perhaps an overhaul of semiotics terminology, particularly in view of multimodality, may in fact be due. Going back to colour, I’m not sure the G&L example of pink representing different signs necessarily stacks up. They attribute it once to the cultural norm that ‘pink is for girls’ (and maybe a pink baby chair?) and subsequently quote an example of pink furniture in a minimalist house where it represents the sign of minimalism. This then is their explanation of why colour can’t be a sign but rather a signifier. Well, but first, while the signifier is different, I’m not so sure the ‘signified’ is. (an opposing example, well documented, is say the word as a sign ‘open’, which has the same signifier but the signified is different if it is applied to the open jaws of an alligator vs. A store open for business). True, the latter has the distinction of having an identical signifier, but why should that make it more acceptable as a sign than the previous example, where the signifier differs but the signified is the same. I am pretty sure (although don’t have time to research this now), that the so called ‘grammar of colour’ (love that expression) is well categorised in our minds in terms of classes of objects or emotions or experiences, providing a similar signified for each colour. For example, no one would deem flaming orange either as a minimalist expression nor as a ‘baby colour’. This is not even so much predicated on cultural preconceptions but rather on what I think are ingrained interpretations of spacio-physical constraints. We all know dark colours make a room appear smaller and light colours make it appear larger, and that sort of thing.
This book is two stories, jointly and severally independent of each other, spliced together haphazardly in the middle and left trailing off into nothiThis book is two stories, jointly and severally independent of each other, spliced together haphazardly in the middle and left trailing off into nothing doing at the end, almost as if Hodgson had ‘ tinkered, tailored, soldiered, spied’ to his content, and finally got so bored of the whole melange he just left the tangled mess of shards on the floor and walked.
The first part sees an ageing recluse, ensconced in a ‘haunted’ house (every village in Ireland has them), battling a horde of swine –men-thingies who dwell in pits and channels underneath the house. If there is any mention of Lovecraft being influenced by this book, this must be this section that did it: in ‘The Lurking Fear’ Lovecraft somehow manages to come up with the novel idea of a haunted house on a hill, underscored by by tunnels and channels and overridden by whitish monkey-thingies. Now, where have I read that before?....
Whereas Lovecraft comes up with an ingenious explanation of the origin of his thingamadgits, Hodgson sees no reason to go into such details. Who, what, where, when....these trifling questions are not to bothered with. Swine men, I tell you. What more do you want to know? One interesting snippet here: why is the protag’s sister so frightened of him at one point?
The second part is a psychedelic journey into time travel, which begins promising and turns stale, a little like a houseguest who’s outstayed their welcome. The sun, the moon, the stars, the orbs.....for over half the book, planets seem to be whizzing around in some macabre dance: again, to no discernible purpose.
And then.....Nothing. The end.
I understand this book has its die-hard fans. And, its not necessarily a bad read. Just a little too all over the place, don’t know whats goings, suspect Hodgson doesn’t either, loose endy for me. ...more
A wonderful beginning quickly plateaued to a cruising altitude of banal and uninspired until the final couple of chapters, when Carrington seemed to sA wonderful beginning quickly plateaued to a cruising altitude of banal and uninspired until the final couple of chapters, when Carrington seemed to shake out of her dithering reverie and started throwing her weight about: but the turgidity of phantasmagorias was simply not enough to save this book from the doldrums.
Mirian Leatherby is 92 and a character: the first chapter had me in stitches: between her ‘gallant’ beard, the crazy concoctions she plots with her friend Carmella who steals the French yellow pages and writes letters to random recipients within, as well as plans to defect to Lapland, and even more hilarious, her unwelcome intrusions in her sons parlour where she recites fourteen stories about multicoloured parrots but forgets the ending of a mere six of them, I was constantly in mirth.
Too quickly though Marian gets dispatched to a nursing home and things here become beyond tedious. A coterie of utterly uncharming residents, whose (non)idiosyncratic ways are described a tad too loquaciously, charge onto the scene and my eyes glaze over. Not even a rather overlong and mysteriously uninspired soliloquy into the life of an 18c nun can bestir me from apathy. In fact, I’m cringing: its obvious Carrington is giving it all she’s got, trying to be witty, innovative and engaging, but its coming out a dud. A minor murder mystery adds some salt to this bland soupcon, but I’m unmoved.
The end part switches gear and now its a magic mystery tour. (I.e. there is a lady with a wolf head who give birth to werelets. Yay). This was mildly enjoyable, even if it came like a curve ball out of nowhere. One minute we’re on solid ground, next minute, cuckoo land. (Mirian had probably had a puff of the weed Carmella smuggled in )Fine, fine, I’m good with that. But, still. Not so much a little too little too late, but rather a little too much not a little too early. ...more
Fact: Tsvetayeva is considered one of the most prominent Russian writers (poetry and prose) of the 20th century.
Fact: I am not considered a prominentFact: Tsvetayeva is considered one of the most prominent Russian writers (poetry and prose) of the 20th century.
Fact: I am not considered a prominent writer of any nationality, creed or race.
Logical conclusion: Ergo anything I say about Tsvetayeva is poppycock and balderdash.
Poppydashing along, this is a book crafted with an explicit audience in mind (not me). It precedes the’ how to genre:’ you know, books aimed at target audiences for specific purposes, as in, for example:
Now, its not beyond the realms of reason to presuppose that if I don’t have a predilection for fishing, fish, or anything fishy then I would not buy the crappie book above. The same principle applies to the Captive Spirit.
Lets me backtrack a wee bit. Tsvetayeva is born with a silver spoon in her mouth in 1892: at a time when serfs were still laden with redemption payments (despite partial abolition in 1867, serf overall indebtedness didn’t wind down until 1907). Her father was a prominent professor, and as such Tsvetayeva was born to the Manor. Which means direct, unequivocal and unobstructed and immediate baptism in all and any intellectual circle one wishes to immerse in. Ofcourse, she is prodigiously talented (as a poetess first) and ambitious, and so it doesn’t take long for her ‘meet and greet’ the notables of the day.
Now, this is what she does in Captive Spirit: with spectacular flourish and possibly the MOST uninhibited egomaniacalism I have ever, ever, encountered, Tsvetayeva composes a series of essays which read like a ‘Whos who’ of turn of the century Russia. I find out how she is great friends with all the greats, and how they all adored her: there are snippets of gossip on Blok, Bely, Voloshin,Turgenev, ...........(insert writer of choice. You’d be right). The long conversations she had with them, the letters they wrote her, the parties they attended, oh be still my beating heart.
We finally get to ‘My Pushkin’. Now, Tsvetayeva’s greatest peeve is that Pushkin had the indecency to predecease her , and so wasn’t around to share Stoly no ice at the soirees with. So ,she has to make some other claim on him, personalise the ‘MY’ in the title. Hmmm. How would you do it? (not a trick question. Go on.). First, she has one on us contemporaries because she can legitimately claim that PuskinMonuments’ son visited their house when she was four. Ok, grant her that one. Second, she read Evgeny Onegin when she was five. (Ok, thats fighting talk. I am compelled to respond. I read Einstein’s Theory of Relativity when I was in my mother womb. So there). Finally, the peice d’resistance.
I choked on this.
1924. Prague. Tsvetayeva hears the students around her assert that Delibash is a banner. She, recollecting from her reading of it at age seven (god, positively haggish) thought Delibash was the devil. Back and forth the ‘spor’ goes. But there are so many of them , and only one of her. No matter, this is all good, because in 1936 she rereads the poem and it clearly says:
Hey Cossack, don’t rush to battle! The Delibash galloping headlong Will sever with his slanting saber Your brave head from your shoulders!
Clearly, a banner can’t slice the head of a Cossack. Here is Tsvetayeva:
‘So the poor seven year old barbarian more rightly understood the smartest man in Russia than the products, four times older than she was, of Prague University’
Well, knock me over with a feather. If I live to be a hundred years old I haven’t got it in me to match this woman ego for ego. Can you imagine the gall.
So, in conclusion. Recommended for niche players in the Russian market cum 1900-1930 who want to know the personal habits of the Russian greats.
Pasolini was a polymath: poet, writer, scriptwriter, diarist, essayist, director. Persecuted for his homosexuality and killed violently for his communPasolini was a polymath: poet, writer, scriptwriter, diarist, essayist, director. Persecuted for his homosexuality and killed violently for his communist ideology. An intriguing, highly emotionally intelligent man.
Enigmatic, profoundly passionate, constantly battling real and existential oppression, Pasolini's poetry is a relentless onslaught of political and ideological recontextualizing, a provocation to the complacency of an elitist and punitive middle class, an indictment of fascism, catholicism and in fact most entrenched 'isms' within histroical context.
But whilst his despair at a demoralized hegemony eshews loud and clear, and the tempo of his resolve propels pieces such as 'Poetry in Form of a Rose' along emphatic lines, regretably, there is insufficient lyricism to render his poetry more than passionate slogans....more