How many times have I had the same thought (about other arts)…

And then there is, of course, always, and inevitably, this spume of poetry that’s just blowing out of the sulfurous flue-holes of the earth. Just masses of poetry. It’s unstoppable, it’s uncorkable. There’s no way to make it end.

If we could just—just stop. For one year. If everybody could stop publishing their poems. No more. Stop it. Just—everyone. Every poet. Just stop.

But of course that’s totally unfair to the poets who are just starting out. This may be their “wunderjahr.” This may be the year that they really find their voice. And I’m telling them to stop? No, that wouldn’t do.

But wouldn’t it be great? To have a moment to regroup and understand? Everybody would ask, Okie dokie, what new poems am I going to read today? Sorry: none. There are no new poems. And so you’re thrown back onto what’s already there, and you look at what’s on your shelves, that you bought maybe eight years ago and you think, Have I really looked at this book? This book might have something to it. And it’s there, it’s been waiting and waiting. Without any demonstration or clamor. No squeaky wheel. It’s just been waiting.

If everybody was silent for a year—if we could just stop this endless forward stumbling progress—wouldn’t we all be better people? I think probably so. I think that the lack of poetry, the absence of poetry, the yearning to have something new, would be the best thing that could happen to our art. No poems for a solid year. Maybe two.

- Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist.



There’s a good, short interview with Enrique Vila-Matas at the Paris Review (not a “Paris Review Interview” as such)…

Never Any End to Paris uses your youth in Paris to explore ideas of creativity, influence, and identity. The narrator is a writer whose facts and dates are similar to yours, though—I think—he both is and isn’t you. Do you think art requires certain compromises with reality?

Which reality? If you mean the conventional “consumerist reality” that rules the book market and has become the preferred milieu for fiction, this doesn’t interest me at all. What really interests me much more than reality is truth. I believe that fiction is the only thing that brings me closer to the truth that reality obscures. There remains to be written a great book, a book that would be the missing chapter in the development of the epic. This chapter would include all of those—from Cervantes through Kafka and Musil—who struggle with a colossal strength against all forms of fakery and pretense. Their struggle has always had an obvious touch of paradox, since those who so struggled were writers that were up to their ears in fiction. They searched for truth through fiction. And out of this stylistic tension have emerged marvelous semblances of the truth, as well as the best pages of modern literature.



Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, by Julio Cortazar and Carol Dunlop, is about a journey the authors take from Paris to Marseilles during which they never leave the highway and its rest stops. Each day they travel for about 20 minutes in total, dividing the day in two, setting up camp and spending the night at every other stop. It’s a pretty lighthearted and low-effort book, at least it seems so at first - two loafers in love, unflaggingly positive in the face of a world that doesn’t know how or when to be lazy. But it grows into something sweeter and more affecting than I expected it would - about love and friendship, and what all road books are about.

This (one chapter from the book) is the kind of casually beautiful prose Cortazar is so good at, that made this book the unsung little joy it was… 


Sleeping Osita

I presume a good explorer tends to wake up at dawn to make various scientific observations corresponding to the day as it begins. It must be for that reason that I too almost always wake up very early, but instead of getting up and consulting the various instruments Fafner [their van] is equipped with, I stay agreeably in the house and devote myself to the study of a subject that Vespucci, Cook and Captain Cousteau never even attempted, in other words: La Osita’s manner of sleeping.

This manner of sleeping is perhaps that of all little bears, something which would be impossible for me to verify, for which reason I shall take care not make imprudent generalizations. In Osita’s case her sleep goes through two principal stages, the first of which is not at all extraordinary: Osita finds the most comfortable, most agreeable position, covers up depending on the atmospheric temperature, and for most of the night sleeps very naturally, almost never face up and almost always face down, with lateral intervals that never last long but which give way to other positions with no effort whatsoever after gentle movements that reveal the depth and pleasure of her sleep.

When dawn arrives, in other words the time when I tend to wake up entirely, for the preceding observations have actually been made without too much scientific rigor, I notice quite soon that Osita has entered the second stage of her slumber. It is here where one might well ask whether this manner of sleeping is all her own or if it extends to the entire species, since it seems like quite unusual, even extraordinary behavior, consisting of continuous attempts the sleeping Osita makes to turn herself into a parcel, a bundle, or a package, which contains everything, thanks to a series of movements, gestures, tugs, pulls and tangles that progressively wrap her up in the sheets until she turns into a big white, pink or blue and yellow striped cocoon, depending on the situation, to the point where a quarter of an hour after this daybreak metamorphosis that I always contemplate in amazement has begun, la Osita disappears in a twisting confusion of sheets, which gradually disappear from my side of the bed, by the way, for no one could imagine the strength Osita employs in drawing them to her until she manages to get entirely involved in them and finally keeps still after one last series of evolutions that complete the chrysalis and the evident happiness of its occupant.

Leaning on my elbow on the mattress, which is all that’s left, I tenderly watch Osita and wonder what deep need to return to the womb or something similar her determined labor every dawn responds to. I know very well (because at the beginning I didn’t know and was frightened) that none of this rejects me, for all I have to do is brush the warm parcel at my side with a finger to get a soft growl of satisfaction to emerge from its depths. The mystery is complete, as you can see, because la Osita is content to feel me at her side and at the same time take refuge in a cloister I cannot enter without destroying its precious darkness, its intimate temperature, and something within her knows it and defends it from daybreak till she wakes. Once—not anymore—I tried to unwrap her as gently as possible from the cocoon, because I was afraid she’d suffocate in the tangled sheets and confused pillows, and I found out what it meant to separate her hands from the knots, bonds and other not so loose ends of the sheets between her fingers. So now I only watch her sleep in her ephemeral and undoubtedly atavistic hibernation and wait until she wakes of her own accord, when she begins to extricate herself little by little, to get a hand out, a trickle of hair, a little bum or a foot, and then she looks at me as if nothing had happened, as if the sheets were not a huge whirl around her, the broken chrysalis from which peeks out my new day, my reason to live a new day.



The Gospel of Matthew

"Today we’ve got a kind of art that turns against the visual and sensual side of painting, and against the idea that content can ever really be merely in the look of something. The type of art now celebrated by Tate Modern concerns ideas alone, and a rather twisted notion of what "ideas" actually are: in this art if a bit of anger or some identity politics are referred to, then the art really is "angry" or it really does challenge the assumptions of people who haven’t read any books about identity politics (however feeble the realization of the actual art might be). What’s said and written about this type of art, its apologia, has become merely a list of the same pretend-important ideas that by now makes one fall asleep just hearing it."

- Matthew Collings, Matt’s Old Masters.



Two quotes tied with a thin string here…

I’ve been having a great time reading poetry lately, specifically 17th century poetry, wading (very slowly) through William Empson’s lovingly, comically difficult Seven Types of Ambiguity and Harold Bloom’s 2004 poetry anthology from the end of whose introduction I wanted to quote this nice passage:

"Ultimately, we seek out the best poems because something in many, if not most, of us quests for the transcendental and extraordinary, however secular, however well within the realm of the natural. We long, as Wordsworth wrote, for "something evermore about to be." The marvelous comes to us, when it comes, in very different forms: ideally in another person, but sometimes by an otherness in the self."

It’s a big enough anthology as it is, I guess, at around a thousand pages, but no matter how big, any attempt to digest the whole of English poetry is going to seem skimpy. I cringe whenever I see the italicized from such and such, if only because I feel the instant temptation then to add more books to an ever-growing Amazon queue so I’ll be able to read whatever it is in its unabbreviated form - I’m that kind of anal, completist type. A scant three or four poems for Donne, for Marvell? An introduction and not more than a few lines of Pope’s Rape of the Lock? What good is that, just to whet the appetite? Not all of us, Harold, like yourself I suppose, have already memorized the poem.

(This picture of the New York Public Library I took from the immensely popular, adult-oriented blog, Bookshelf Porn)

One 17th c. writer not in the anthology (because not precisely a poet), Thomas Browne, I read in university but hadn’t thought of much more until being reminded of him - both explicitly and, in general outlook, implicitly - reading W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn a few weeks ago. Borges also had a big thing for him. He said his own books were not worthy of sharing space on his own bookshelves with Browne’s. I like this passage of his Religio Medici, which finds him in unusually uplifted spirits, waxing almost Whitmanesque, (which doesn’t get in the way of him calling the world a “hospitall”), summing up, in a way, one of the dominant themes of the whole period, the parallel expansions of the inner and outer worlds:

"Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty yeares, which to relate, were not a History, but a peece of Poetry, and would sound to common eares like a fable; for the world, I count it not an Inne, but an Hospitall, and a place, not to live, but to die in. The world that I regard is my selfe, it is the Microcosme of mine owne frame, that I cast mine eye on; for the other, I use it but like my Globe, and turne it round sometimes for my recreation. Men that look upon my outside, perusing onely my condition, and fortunes, do erre in my altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders. The earth is a point not onely in respect of the heavens above us, but of that heavenly and celestiall part within us: that masse of flesh that circumscribes me, limits not my mind: that surface that tells the heavens it hath an end, cannot perswade me I have any; I take my circle to be above three hundred and sixty, though the number of the Arke do measure my body, it comprehendeth not my minde: whilst I study to finde how I am a Microcosme or little world, I finde my selfe something more than the great."

Hard to know where to cut this off…

"There is surely a peece of Divinity in us, something that was before the Elements, and owes no homage unto the Sun. Nature tels me I am the Image of God as well as Scripture; he that understands not thus much, hath not his introduction or first lesson, and is yet to begin the Alphabet of man. Let me not injure the felicity of others, if I say I am as happy as any, Ruat coelum Fiat voluntas tua, salveth all; so that whatsoever happens, it is but what our daily prayers desire. In briefe, I am content, and what should providence adde more? Surely this is it wee call Happinesse, and this doe I enjoy, with this I am happy in a dreame, and as content to enjoy a happinesse in a fancie as others in a more apparent truth and reality. There is surely a neerer apprehension of any thing that delights us in our dreames, than in our waked senses; without this I were unhappy, for my awaked judgement discontents me, ever whispering unto me, that I am from my friend, but my friendly dreames in the night requite me, and make me thinke I am within his armes. I thanke God for my happy dreames, as I doe for my good rest, for there is a satisfaction in them unto reasonable desires, and such as can be content with a fit of happinesse; and surely it is not a melancholy conceite to thinke we are all asleepe in this world, and that the conceits of this life are as meare dreames to those of the next, as the Phantasmes of the night, to the conceit of the day. There is an equall delusion in both, and the one doth but seeme to bee the embleme or picture of the other; we are somewhat more than our selves in our sleepes, and the slumber of the body seemes to bee but the waking of the soule. It is the ligation of sense, but the liberty of reason, and our awaking conceptions doe not match the fancies of our sleepes. At my Nativity, my ascendant was the watery signe of Scorpius, I was borne in the Planetary houre of Saturne, and I think I have a peece of that Leaden Planet in me. I am no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardize of company, yet in one dreame I can compose a whole Comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests, and laugh my self awake at the conceits thereof; were my memory as faithfull as my reason is then fruitfull, I would never study but in my dreames, and this time also would I chuse for my devotions, but our grosser memories have then so little hold of our abstracted understandings, that they forget the story, and can only relate to our awaked soules, a confused & broken tale of that that hath passed. Aristotle, who hath written a singular tract of sleepe, hath not me thinkes throughly defined it, nor yet Galen, though hee seeme to have corrected it; for those Noctambuloes and night-walkers, though in their sleepe, doe yet enjoy the action of their senses: wee must therefore say that there is something in us that is not in the jurisdiction of Morpheus; and that those abstracted and ecstaticke soules doe walke about in their owne corps, as spirits with the bodies they assume, wherein they seeme to heare, see, and feele, though indeed the organs are destitute of sense, and their natures of those faculties that should informe them. Thus it is observed that men sometimes upon the houre of their departure, doe speake and reason above themselves. For then the soule begins to bee freed from the ligaments of the body, begins to reason like her selfe, and to discourse in a straine above mortality.”



Stanley Kubrick talks about the meaning of life, in Playboy

Via Stolen Moments.



My two favorite sofa-related passages from the book I said I was looking forward to reading last week, The Possessed, by Elif Batuman…

"After three suicide attempts, [the eighteenth-century British poet William Cowper] wound up in an asylum where he began writing poetry. His most famous poem from this period is called "Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portion." "The Task" was commissioned in 1783 by Cowper’s friend the Lady Austen, who, presumably trying to steer him to more neutral topics, asked him to write a blank-verse poem about "this sofa." Cowper complied "and, having much leisure… brought forth at length, instead of the trifle which he at first intended… a Volume!"

"As Thomas Mann’s short story about Davos became The Magic Mountain, so did Cowper’s trifle about the sofa expand from its comic Virgilian incipit - "I sing the sofa" - into a six-canto book-length poem, taking the evolution of the sofa and the concept of leisure as a point of departure for musings on country walks, London, newspapers, gardening, thieves, laborers, domestic life, animals, and retirement. (Could the same book have been written in reverse: an anatomy of types of activity and leisure, which gradually turns into a meditation upon the sofa? Did Proust already write it?)"

……………………………………………………………………………….

"The person is never exhausted by his actions: there is always something left over. But what is that precious remainder - where do you find it?

"Reflecting upon the problem of the person, I was brought to mind of a novel I had always liked, but never quite understood: Ivan Goncharov’s Oblamov (1859), the story of a man so incapable of action or decision-making that he doesn’t get off his sofa for the whole of part 1. In the first chapter, Oblomov receives various visitors who are active in different spheres of human activity. In all these forms of activity, Oblomov deplores the absence of “the person.” A socialite rushes in, talks of balls, dinner parties, and tableaux vivants, and then rushes away, exclaiming that he has ten calls to make. “Ten visits in one day,” Oblomov marvels. “Is this a life? Where is the person in all of this?” And he rolls over, glad that he can stay put on his sofa, “safeguarding his peace and his human dignity.”

"The second visitor, a former colleague from the civil service, tells Oblomov about his recent promotion to departmental head, his new privileges and responsibilities. "In time he’ll be a big shot and reach a high rank," Oblomov muses. "That’s what we call a career! But how little of the person it requires: his mind, his will, his feelings aren’t needed." Stretching out his limbs, Oblomov feels proud that he doesn’t have any reports to write, and that here on the sofa there is "ample scope both for his feelings and his imagination."

"I saw now that the problem of the person was the key to Oblomov’s laziness. So loath is Oblomov to be reduced to the mere sum of his actions that he decides to systematically not act - thereby to reveal more fully his try person, and bask in it unadulterated. 

"Oblomov’s third visitor, a critic arrives in rapture over the invention of literary realism. "All the hidden wires are exposed, all the rungs of the social ladder are carefully examined," he gushes. "Every category of fallen woman is analyzed - French, German, Finnish, and all the others… it’s all so true to life!" Oblomov not only refuses to read any realist works, but becomes almost impassioned. "Where is the person in all this?… They describe a thief or a prostitute, but forget the person, or are incapable of depicting him… The person, I demand the person!" he shouts."



Literature, Music, Death, etc.

"Of course, some people are lucky with posterity, or they deserve it. Elvis Presley has been lucky. He is on the minds of many people, including my own, very often. I think Elvis Presley deserves to be remembered very often. But for most, it is not like that. On Faulkner’s centenary, I made a small volume, a tribute to him, with a few texts I had written, the poems I had translated, and a text by someone else. The booklet made people from the press take an interest in Faulkner. When they called and asked me about him, I had the feeling that a mediocre writer like myself was doing Faulkner the favor of talking about him. I am not trying to be falsely modest—you always have your heroes and you never will surpass them, never. So, from my point of view, thanks to a mediocre Spanish writer—me—and because of the accidental fact that I was alive and well known, people in Spain read Faulkner. But Faulkner should not need favors from anyone."

- Javier Marias

"Certainly in the twentieth century, the blues is the apex of the appreciation of tragedy, of loss. I’m going to get up this morning, and I’m going to put on my shoes. The idea that I put on my shoes in the morning is the hardest thing in the world."

- Maurizio Cattelan



Milan Kundera on Kafka, The Castle

"The convergence of the real world of totalitarian states with Kafka’s "poem" will always be somewhat uncanny, and it will always bear witness that the poet’s act, in its very essence, is incalculable; and paradoxical: the enormous social, political, and "prophetic" import of Kafka’s novels lies precisely in their "nonengagement," that is to say, in their total autonomy from all political programs, ideological concepts, and futurological prognoses.

Indeed, if instead of seeking “the poem” hidden “somewhere behind” the poet “engages” himself to the service of a truth known from the outset (which comes forward on its own and is “out in front”), he has renounced the mission of poetry. And it matters little whether the preconceived truth is called revolution or dissidence, Christian faith or atheism, whether it is more justified or less justified; a poet who serves any truth other than the truth to be discovered (which is dazzlement) is a false poet.

If I hold so ardently to the legacy of Kafka, if I defend it as my personal heritage, it is not because I think it worthwhile to imitate the inimitable (and rediscover the Kafkan) but because it is such a tremendous example of the radical autonomy of the novel (of the poetry that is the novel). This autonomy allowed Franz Kafka to say things about our human condition (as it reveals itself in our century) that no social or political thought could ever tell us.”

- Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel.



"In the middle age there is mystery, there is mystification. The most I can make out of this hour is a kind of loneliness. Even the beauty of the visible world seems to crumble, yes even love. I feel that there has been some miscarriage, some wrong turning, but I do not know when it took place and I have no hope of finding it.”

- John Cheever, quoted in Montano’s Malady by Enrique Vila-Matas.



My brain’s desktop, part two

"There is in the pointing out of patterns something that is opposed to life and art, an ungraciousness which artists in particular feel and resent. Readers feel it too, even critics: for every new moment, every new line or touch, is a triumph of opportunism, something snatched in from life beyond expectation and made design beyond design. And yet the fact remains that it is as we see the design that we see design outdone and brought alive."

- C. L. Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy.

 

"When Flaubert told Turgenev about his project for Bouvard and Pécuchet, the Russian urged him strongly to keep the work short. Perfect advice from an old master. For the story can only maintain its comical effectiveness in the form of a short tale; length would make it monotonous and irritating, if not completely silly. But Flaubert persisted; he explained to Turgenev: “If [this subject] is treated briefly, in a light, concise way, it will be a fairly witty fantasy, but without import and without plausibility, whereas in giving it detail and development I would appear to believe in my story, and I could make it something serious and even frightening.”

- Milan Kundera, The Curtain.

 

"Today the only modernism worthy of the name is antimodern modernism."

- Milan Kundera, The Curtain.

 

"Both ages make art that succeeds by failing , but each exploits failure in different ways. Jazz presumes that it would be nice if the four of us—simpatico dudes that we are—while playing this complicated song together, might somehow be free and autonomous as well. Tragically, this never quite works out. At best, we can only be free one or two at a time—while the other dudes hold onto the wire. Which is not to say that no one has tried to dispense with wires. Many have, and sometimes it works—but it doesn’t feel like jazz when it does. The music simply drifts away into the stratosphere of formal dialectic, beyond our social concerns. 

Rock-and-roll, on the other hand, presumes that the four of us—as damaged and anti-social as we are—might possibly get it to-fucking-gether, man, and play this simple song. And play it right, okay? Just this once, in tune and on the beat. But we can’t. The song’s too simple, and we’re too complicated and too excited. We try like hell, but the guitars distort, the intonation bends, and the beat just moves, imperceptibly, against our formal expectations, whetehr we want it to or not. Just because we’re breathing, man. Thus, in the process of trying to play this very simple song together, we create this hurricane of noise, this infinitely complicated, fractal filigree of delicate distinctions. 

And you can thank the wanking eighties, if you wish, and digital sequencers, too, for proving to everyone that technologically “perfect” rock—like “free” jazz—sucks rockets. Because order sucks. I mean, look at the Stones. Keith Richards is alwayson top of the beat, and Bill Wyman, until he quit, was always behind it, because Richards is leading the band and Charlie Watts is listening to him and Wyman is listening to Watts. So the beat is sliding on those tiny neural lapses, not so you can tell, of course, but so you can feel it in your stomach. And the intonation is wavering, too, with the pulse in the finger on the amplified string. This is the delicacy of rock-and-roll, the bodily rhetoric of tiny increments, necessary imperfections, and contingent community. And it has its virtues, because jazz only works if we’re trying to be free and are, in fact, together. Rock-and-roll works because we’re all a bunch of flakes. That’s something you can depend on, and a good thing too, because in the twentieth century, that’s all there is: jazz and rock-and-roll. The rest is term papers and advertising.” 

- Dave Hickey, Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy.



"The finest moment in modern criticism"

"A real favorite among modern critics, and the one I think influenced me considerably, though no one ever wants to talk about him, was George Wilson Knight. He was an old friend. Utterly mad. He made Kenneth Burke and Harold Bloom look placid and mild. George died quite old. He was very interested in spiritualism and in survival after death. He told me a couple of times that he believed it quite literally. There is a moment in The Christian Renaissance that I think is the finest moment in modern criticism, because it is the craziest. He is citing a spiritualist, F. W. H. Myers, and he quotes something that Myers wrote and published, and then he quotes something from a séance at which Myers “came back” and said something through a medium, this astonishing sentence, which I give to you verbatim: “These quotations from F. W. H. Myers, so similar in style, composed before and after his own earthy ‘death,’ contain together a wisdom which our era may find it hard to assimilate.” I mean, perfectly straight about it! But the early books of Wilson Knight are very fine indeed - certainly one of the most considerable figures of twentieth-century criticism, though he’s mostly forgotten now.”

- Harold Bloom, speaking of himself in the third person and about others with his accustomed superlatives, in The Paris Review Interviews, vol. 2. Pretty funny, though.



Miscellaneous links

I just read Susan Sontag’s Under the Sign of Saturn, a collection of essays, so I was interested in this article about it by Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Peter Schjeldahl and Jerry Saltz on Gabriel Orozco.

Mr. Lezard, I love your reviews, even if they’re necessarily too short and not very deep, because you seem to read anything and everything, and because you’re so good-humoured, modest, and open-minded.

Mark Kermode, a BBC film critic whose podcast I’ve been devoutly listening to every weekend for more than five years now, explains how close he got to retiring in 2009 (he explain it himself in this video, but he made his listeners a promise that if there were ten films worse than Bride Wars in the year, he would quit). Kermode is most definitely an acquired taste, but you’ll find he’s generally right about everything, and he can tell you exactly why, too.

Language matters: the old dilemma, revisited.

If you’re into Manny Farber, you like stuff like this, even when it feels pretentious.

This could have gone into my year-end youtube posts, but it didn’t. A lengthy interview with Stanley Cavell. You might want to skip over the first part, which deals mostly with Cavell’s biography. There’s one passage partly quoted in here, I remember, that I went and tracked down, via google books…

"I think of it as the poetry of film itself, what it is that happens to figures and objects and places as they are variously molded and displaced by a motion-picture camera and then projected and screened. Every art, every worthwhile human enterprise, has its poetry, ways of doing things that perfect the possibilities of the enterprise itself, make it the one it is; each of the arts has its own poetry, of couse, so has each sport, and so I am sure have banking and baking and surgery and government. You may think of it as the unteachable point in any worthwhile enterprise.

I understand it to be, let me say, a natural vision of film that every motion and station, in particular every human posture and gesture, however glancing, has its poetry, or you may say its lucidity.”

Sounds a lot like Farber there, actually.

David Bordwell, just like Cavell, doesn’t see phallic symbols just anywhere in movies …but “sometimes those bedposts do some alarming things.”



Paul Cézanne: Potrait of Mme Cézanne in Red Armchair.

"…the Salon is closing today. And already, as I’m leaving it, on the way home for the last time, I want to go back to look up a violet, a green, or certain blue tones which I believe I should have seen better, more unforgettably. Already, even after standing with such unremitting attention in front of the great color scheme of the woman in the red armchair, it is becoming as irretrievable in my memory as a figure with very many digits. And yet I memorized it, number by number. In my feeling, the consciousness of their presence has become a heightening which I can feel even in my sleep; my blood describes it within me, but the naming of it passes by somewhere outside and is not called in. Did I write about it? —A red, upholstered low armchair has been placed in front of an earthy-green wall in which a cobalt-blue pattern (a cross with the center left out) is very sparingly repeated; the round bulging back curves and slopes forward and down to the armrests (which are sewn up like the sleeve-stump of an armless man). The let armrest and the tassel that hangs from it full of vermilion no longer have the wall behind them but instead, near the lower edge, a broad stripe of greenish blue, against which they clash in loud contradiction. Seated in this red armchair, which is a personality in its own right, is a woman, her hands in the lap of a dress with broad vertical stripes that are very lightly indicated by small, loosely distributed flecks of green yellows and yellow greens, up to the edge of the blue-gray jacket, which is held together in front by a blue, greenly scintillating silk bow. In the brightness of the face, the proximity of all these colors has been exploited for a simple modeling of form and features: even the brown of the hair roundly pinned up above the temples and the smooth brown in the eyes has to express itself against its surroundings. It’s as if every part were aware of all the others—it participates that much; that much adjustment and rejection is happening in it; that’s how each daub plays its part in maintaining equilibrium and in producing it: just as the whole picture finally keeps reality in equilibrium. For if one says, this is a red armchair (and it is the first and ultimate red armchair in the history of painting): it is that only because it contains latently within itself an experienced sum of color which, whatever it may be, reinforces and confirms it in this red. To reach the peak of its expression, it is very strongly painted around the light human figure, so that a kind of waxy surface develops; and yet the color does not preponderate over the object, which seems so perfectly translated into its painterly equivalents that, while it is fully achieved and given as an object, its bourgeois reality at the same time relinquishes all its heaviness to a final and definitive picture-existence. Everything, as I already wrote, has become an affair that’s settled among the colors themselves: a color will come into its own in response to another, or assert itself, or recollect itself. Just as in the mouth of a dog various secretions will gather in anticipation at the approach of various things—consenting ones for drawing out nutrients, and correcting ones to neutralize poisons: in the same way, intensifications and dilutions take place in the core of every color, helping it to survive contact with others. In addition to this glandular activity within the intensity of colors, reflections (whose presence in nature always surprised me so: to discover the evening glow of the water as a permanent coloration in the rough green of the Nénuphar’s covering-leaves—) play the greatest role: weaker local colors abandon themselves completely, contenting themselves with reflecting the dominant ones. In this hither and back of mutual and manifold influence, the interior of the picture vibrates, rises and falls back into itself, and does not have a single unmoving part. Just this for today…You see how difficult it becomes when one tries to get very close to the facts…"

- Rilke, Letters on Cézanne. October 22, 1907.



Saint Passionate

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priceless anecdotes drawn from my real experiences and souvenir jpegs of lost time

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art / film / music / books / reviews / lists / artbullshit / titles / quotes / paintings / photography / collage / tv / japan / comparecontrast / myfavoritecharts / artistsinpictures / mybrain'sdesktop / mistakes

Reading Choices

Matthew Collings / If Charlie Parker... / FourFour / Rouge's Foam / Conversation Reading

archive / comment / mixtape