Tuesday, November 19, 2013

$142 Million for a Francis Bacon Painting? Jed Perl

this is about a new piece by jed perl (in the new republic, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115583/francis-bacon-breaks-art-auction-record):

can't comment on francis bacon. don't know him well enough.

so perl's points are in an aesthetic vacuum for me. but they reduce to the usual perl points. we are all being gulled, our tastes subject to and ground down by all manner of marketing, including the museum blockbuster sort.

& who am i to disagree?

but perl can't but take this fairly obvious critique too far, and become insulting. (he's never happy unless he's at least a little insulting to those who do not share his unerring aesthetic aim). in this piece, perl writes: "in this wrongheaded tradition, caravaggio is admired not because he was a good painter but because he was a bad boy. . . "

is that so? it gives me the opportunity to say that's not why i admire caravaggio. in fact, i happen to think most of what i've seen of caravaggio is pretty, petty, and utterly forgettable. and then there are some canvases — i can't say how many, probably just a few — of incomparable power: visual, psychological and dramatic power.

i remember sitting in the metropolitain museum for a long time in front of "the denial of st. peter". in brief, a woman — it matters that she is not demonic or a hag nor yet a beauty but of the flesh, a woman — is pointing out to a roman soldier that peter, to her right, had been part of the jesus cohort. peter is in anguish, torn and tortured, as he denies it, exactly as yeshu said he would.

you can stare at this a long time and think about it.

the only inhuman protagonist among the three pictured as i look at a reproduction is the roman soldier, armored and faceless.

peter and the woman are in the light.

what goes on between them?

i think it's a brilliant painting, and psychologically complex.

actually, i appreciate the dismissive violence of jed perl's opinions.  i read him whenever i can — since his views  encourage me to say what i like/"admire" in despite of his dismissal.

his intolerance is stimulating.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Doris Lessing Died Yesterday

Doris Lessing Died Yesterday

Doris Lessing died today and people who have not have been in touch for some time contact each other just to say, "Doris Lessing died". She was that important to that many of us. Yes, she was ninety-four but that did nothing to lessen the blow, the personal hit of grief, the need to say to whomever might understand: "Doris Lessing died".

Lessing got the Nobel Prize for literature belatedly, at age 88 — the details of why it took the Nobel Committee so long to arrive at such foregone conclusion are irretrievably buried in shameful Nobel murk and miasma — only to scoff at it, saying in would just get in the way of her writing anything again, which, so far as we know, it did.

There are Nobel Prizes and Nobel Prizes. In a way, Lessing's Nobel Prize was not only belated but incommensurate. The real award, one hopes, will come from literary history/posterity. Only literary priggishness of various kinds stand in the way of her being read as she ought to be. Literary priggishness was always in her way.

She was one of the finest writers about the entanglement of leftwing intellectuals with Communism, on a level, perhaps, with Sartre and Milosc, and better than Sartre.

She wrote splendidly about ageing — none better. Though aging is now a literary theme, she wrote about it without pathologizing it. She didn't require labels like Parkinsons, or Alzheimer’s or Dementia to take it on, not that such descriptors are invalid, hardly, but to say she saw the process and its sorrows and losses, however described and treated, as unavoidable functions of mortality.

There are writers who are supremely gifted at transmuting and expressing the vectors of time, place — history — in their fiction, Phillip Roth and E. L. Doctorow being two who spring easily to mind, perhaps Hillary Mantel, though I haven't had the pleasure, as well. Lessing did that and more: when historical space and time felt confining, she availed herself of the modalities of science/speculative fiction to include geological eras, pre- and trans-historical time. Doris Lessing used climate change as backdrop to humanity in several of her books, the kinds of books the likes of Gore Vidal dripped scorn on for having violated the strictures of literary fiction as he conceived it.

Then there are those who say she was unpolished as a stylist. They are basing that assessment on "The Golden Notebooks", in which unpolished expression was her style of choice. These particular literary prigs miss the fact that she could write in other ways, and that "Love Again", for example, is a work of exquisite lyricism.

Lessing baffled categories and critics, except for those, like me, who were marked by her and knew her for the bold and extraordinary writer and creature that she was.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Doris Lessing twice. In my first encounter, in the flesh, I tried to scare her just a bit, and just for fun, succeeded, briefly.

In addition:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Repetition Redux: Game 2 , Anand v. Carlsen

For those awaiting exciting news about the conclusion to the second game between Viswanathan (Vishy for short) Anand and Magnus Carlsen in their twelve game World Championship chess match, let me break it to you; there isn't any. Game 1, let us recall, ended in a draw by repetition after just sixteen moves. Game 2 petered out the same way: draw by repetition, this time after 25 moves. Yeah: repetition of draw by repetition. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Repetition: Game 1, Anand v. Carlsen

The match between Viswanathan Anand, current title holder, and Magnus Carlsen, challenger, for the world championship of chess is being played in Chennai, India, on the subcontinent where the game was born, circa 600 AD. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Affordable Care: A President being Wrong

I think Obama has blown it a few times, maybe more than a few, waffled or whatever, failed to follow through. Sometimes waffling was default wisdom. Rather than lobbing missiles into Syria, with god knows what dread consequences, since violence does actually engender violence, esp. in that part of the world, rife with religious schism as it is, he held off.

Monday, November 4, 2013

lou reed

did you see the pbs doc on lou reed? it's probably being shown again all the time. it was made no later than 1997, last dateline in it.

paid a lot of attention to reed's post velvet, solo career. i think, too much.