Sunday, September 14, 2008

Exhibitionism, Keats's Champion, Sex, Lolcat, and Snowclone

from Paula Marantz Cohen's review (TLS Sep 5 2008) of books on Alfred Hitchcock:

[Hitchcock] was flamboyantly modest or, perhaps better, a self-deprecating exhibitionist. His understated preening is evident in his famous interview with Truffaut and in the cameo appearances he insisted on making in all his films.

*

He had an unerring grasp of the cinematic--on the technical level of understanding lenses and camera angles, and on the conceptual level of visual storytelling. He was able to make suspense into a metaphor for life and to use the theme of mistaken identity as a source of rich existential meaning. He understood the popular audience, was a master of studio politics and a genius at publicity, and yet he managed to hold on to his own vision.

***

from Richard Marggraf Turley's Commentary piece (TLS Sep 5 2008) on "Barry Cornwall" (the pseudonym of Bryan Waller Procter) and Keats:

. . . we reject Cornwall for not offering the layered complexities our long admiration for Keats has conditioned us to expect. Yet Cornwall's poems offer more than just fine phrase-making, and form a vital context to Keats's poetic evolution and reception. Early drafts show that Keats was seduced on various occasions by Cornwall's commercial style. To be sure, Keats is most canonically "Keatsian" at moments of strategic retreat from Cornwall's populist aesthetic; but, by the same tokem, Cornwall achieves his most durable successes, seen through a modern lens, when he eschews voguish cliche tom reproduce the hallmarks of Keats's own poetry, poetry lived at a pitch.

***

from Toby Lichtig's review (TLS Sep 5 2008) of John Berger's novel From A to X:

The Marxist in Berger has always sat side by side with the aesthete. G. (1972), forexample, which won him the Booker, is both a powerful political novel and a sensual feast in which Berger was able to write about desire with great beauty and utilitarian precision. "Why does writing about sexual experience reveal so strikingly what may be a general limitation of literature in relation to aspects of all experience?", he asks, before inserting into the text a crude pornographic sketch to show that language strips away the quality of "firstness" in the way other more immediate petitions to the senses do not, binding an experience up in "an exterior system of categories".

*

Some of her [A'ida in From A to X] temporal dictums are vintage Berger: "love adores repetition because they defy time". Similarly provoking is A'ida's insistence on creative reconstruction as a means of escaping incarceration. "The past is the one thing we are not prisoners of", she reassures her man, before offering different readings of their previous encounters ("Agree to this version?").

*

The best prison literature--from Dostoevsky to Jean Genet to Tahar ben Jelloun--has drawn on the importance of the imagination to create a happier reality, and this is exactly what A'ida finds herself doing: "Every night I put you together--bone by delicate bone". "Thought and extension are parts of the same stuff", she writes, reassuring herself as much as him.

*

Berger deals well with the solipsism of desire. If, as Hegel argued, the self is formed through desire then these letters are certainly building A'ida a lot of character. But Xavier's absence remains a tangible presence, an affirmation of a political project that is bound up with their love. This is love as plenitude: personal and political.

***

from Cherie K. Woodworth's review of Aleksandra Shatskikh's Vitebsk: The life of art:

In 1900, as it had been for the past four centuries, Vitebsk was a gateway from Russia to the West, diverse in its population (in the late nineteenth century, 60 per cent of the population was Jewish) and cultural influences (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox; Polish and White Russian; urban and rural, commercial and industrial).

*

Its golden years were short: 1917-22. During that short half-decade, Vitebsk gave birth not only to the paintings of Chagall, but also those of El Lissitsky and Kazimir Malevich, the Unovis art school; and to the essays of Mikhail Bakhtin.

*

The artists of Vitebsk were proudly and self-consciously the Red Army of Creativity. . . .

***

from Jonathan Hope's review (TLS Sep 5 2008) of two books on how the internet is changing language:

Ultimately, both books make the mistake of treating language change as something out of the ordinary, and of misreading the direction of cause and effect. Social changes produces language change, not the other way round. Language change is neither good nor bad: it is inevitable. It is also very often, despite what the doom-mongers want to believe, superficial and transient. If you do not like the current set of changes, my advice is to wait a while: another set will be along soon.

1 comment:

Mark Peters said...

More on snowclones:
http://www.good.is/?p=13907

Hope you enjoy!