Saturday, 2 February 2013

Things I Found on the Web - 26 January to 2 February 2013

My absolute favourite thing, of all the things I read on the web this week was definitely this story about the Russian family who lived in isolation in Siberia. It leaves you with so much to imagine.

I also enjoyed an article about International Art English or IAE, a form of English that is "a unique language" that has "everything to do with English, but is emphatically not English. [It] is oddly pornographic: we know it when we see it." Here is an example of IAE:

"The artist brings the viewer face to face with their own preconceived hierarchy of cultural values and assumptions of artistic worth ... Each mirror imaginatively propels its viewer forward into the seemingly infinite progression of possible reproductions that the artist's practice engenders, whilst simultaneously pulling them backwards in a quest for the 'original' source or referent that underlines Levine's oeuvre."

Here is another article that I also enjoyed on the ludicrous business that is contemporary art. Perhaps my favourite bit in it was this:

"The men at Sotheby’s greased back their longish hair with some sort of unidentifiable shellac. In their well-tailored suits and leather-soled shoes, they looked like patrician vampires."

I was intrigued by an article about a library of unpublished books, which included this wonderfully unprovable assertion from a writer of unpublished books:

“I believe the best novels are in the minds of people who don’t have the time to write them,” Alyce told me, explaining that she had first begun to write Did She Leave Me Any Money? while she was the visual-communications manager for a city agency in Portland. “Faulkner? Hemingway? Their novels aren’t nearly as good as those that could be written if only people had the time to write them.” 

I was initially interested by the words of Timothy Donnelly, a poet I'd not heard of before:

"I’m disinclined to let myself think that my poems might appeal to an “establishment,” because that word suggests to me a league of misguided writers struggling to maintain the status quo. Deep down they’re anxious about how boring their work is, or if they’re plainspoken confessional poets, they probably aren’t really poets at all, but just heartfelt expressers in verse, and they will insist that that’s what poetry is, goddammit — and trying to loosen them up and get them to think otherwise can be about as useless as encouraging a bullfrog to fly. You might get them to leap a little, but that’s about it".  

Donnelly wrote this, which at first I liked very much and which reminded me of one of the stories in Peter Carey's early short story collection, The Fat Man in History (I can't find my own copy, but I think the story may be called 'Dreams') and then I suddenly decided I didn't like quite as much, but whether that was a result of my own fluctuating ability to respond to poetry and, indeed, other works of art (does anyone else suffer from this - occasional lapses into a bleak kind of dreariness where for some reason nothing much seems any good? A good blast of Beethoven usually shakes me out of it, but it's annoying) or not, I can't tell.


  1. Poets use a form of IAE too, when they're writing about other poets. I see it in the blurbs. This poet-language likes to bring in a bit of drama with pairs of contradictions: "her verse is gentle as a sunset but simultaneously it is fierce as a potent moon." That's not an actual quote but the real thing is similar. (Theory: because two statements that cancel one another out means they're not committed to anything?)

    1. I think I read somewhere that the main purpose of an arts education, at least in England, is to train you to articulate paradox, so perhaps that where it comes from

  2. "I believe the best novels are in the minds of people who don’t have the time to write them"

    The statement makes no sense as written: a notion of a novel, a plan or a strech of the novel may be in the mind; but a novel is novel only when committed to paper (or, now, electronic storage). And as contracts say "time is of the essence"--one may write a poem in a hurry, but a novel does take time. Someone more charitable might say that the statement can be construed as "much better novels can be written than have been so far." Perhaps so.

    1. That statement made me think of Borges - I thought he might have had a library of unwritten novels somewhere in one of his stories, rich with the elusive potency of the unrealised