The Universal Teat

If you have not read “Grapes of Wrath” and for some reason plan on doing so, stop reading this. If, on the other hand, you would like to be spared the load but are curious about its classical buzz, read on.

“Grapes of Wrath” is like a fat Oreo: delicious chocolate crunch on each end, white sappy soap mush in the middle. The last paragraph of the book, after four hundred pages of soapy sap, may be the best thing that’s happened to me in book form. In it, Rose of Sharon, once prodigal daughter, later pregnant abandoned wife, nurses a half-starved man. She has milk to give because hours before she gives birth to a stillborn during a devastating flood.

I would say that the image of this wrecked woman, who was probably hot, bringing a doomed man back from the brink of death by the power of her breasts is why the book endures the test of time. Also why they made a movie about it right away.

In all seriousness, I am glad I read it. The first hundred pages are breathtaking. The last fifty are sweepingly cinematic. The ending over-the-top — as was my joy at realizing I’d finally put it to bed.

Advertisements

Nonnegotiable Time

Neko Case, a the vocalist in cult band “The New Pornographers,” is one of one hundred artists, entrepreneurs and writers interviewed for “In the Company of Women,” a surprisingly unsappy coffee table book. 

Pictured above is what she had to say about time and making it to make art. I agree. 

The Most Important Work at the 2016 London Frieze

tillsman art culture writing

Wolfgang Tillsman takes a selfie

For some reason I wrote (most of) the post below over six months ago and never published it. For some other reason I thought about it today.

Perhaps it is because I finally went to get my moles checked by a scrubbed-clean dermatologist who reminded me of Oscar Wild’s Dorian Gray. And, the most important work (in my dumb-art view) at last year’s London Frieze is was taken at Reading Prison, where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated for homosexuality. The photograph hangs above; it is basically a selfie by artist Wolfgang Tillsman: “Separate System, Reading Prison.”

The image’s reference to both Dorian Gray and Francis Bacon is evident. This catapults a new association: perhaps Bacon was painting Gray all along. Insistently, fearlessly, longingly.

As with much of Bacon’s oeuvre, and the very particular picture of Dorian Gray, a distorted, forward-facing male figure intimidates the viewer with his unmade face. However, Tillsman’s piece is not a picture, it is a photograph. Here, the artist (as was the case with Bacon/Wilde)  is not the one dissembling what’s inside the frame, subjecting it with his brush. No. In Tillsman’s image, a piece of thick glass distorts the artist. Here, the artist is no longer the lens that is able to affect his surroundings. Here, the surroundings distort the artist.

The message Tillsman delivers is clear: things have changed. The world disfigures the subject while the artist is trapped, forced to stand there and watch.

Magical Thinking

For a few weeks this book has been on my mind. Didion, Didion, Didion. And her “Year of Magical Thinking,” written during the first year she mourned her husband’s sudden death. 

This for me has proven to be a year of magical thinking, a year of metamorphosing concrete barricades into trampolines via transformative thought. 

Magical thinking works. Didion said it first. I look forward to going through her words. 

Bon Voyage

I can think of few things I enjoy more than buying a new book at an airport. The thought of being trapped in the air inside a metal tube for hours with nothing to do but read or watch bad movies is thrilling. The more so with a brand new glossy book upon my lap. 

On my flight today I carry the story above. Garcia Marquez’s first formal forray into the novelesque: a literary rendition of a true-life shipwreck tale. The “actual” story took place here, in Colombia, where I often work and play. Marquez’s version was first published in installments in one of the main national newspapers. 

Which brings forth the question: why doesn’t installment writing happen anymore? Perhaps this blog will do something about that. 

But, for now, there is nothing but paper and plane. 

Break Point Break

British artist Fiona Banner turned the opening scenes of the cult classic Point Break into a huge canvas with red words. The point? Convey the break, the chiasm between what is experienced visually and mentally. Suspense is lost. Impact becomes flaccid. Scenes become silent. In the case of high-voltage action, Banner implies that sometimes the movie is better than the book. 

On view at the ever magnificent British Tate.