Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Hmm. I'm not totally happy about 'Mum'.
I have The Age of Uncertainty to thank for pointing me to this fabulous clip. I wonder how many artists (in Dalì's case, I use the word advisedly) would be recognised on the equivalent of What's My Line? today. Damien Hirst?
(I thought it might be nice to illustrate this post with a summery image, so I entered 'summer' into Google images. But I must have mistaken the language because what I got was a page of scantily-dressed lovelies, as the redtops used to have it.)
Sunday, 22 June 2008
Ian McEwan has just come out against Islamism*, as he calls it. I’m not sure what distinguishes Islamism from Islam, other than the generally derogatory aura created by the suffix ‘ism’, but that’s by-the-by. He’s quoted as saying: “I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on – we know it well.” Absolutely, Ian, and I couldn’t agree more.
I read about these comments in today’s Independent on Sunday, which also contains a list of the 101 most influential gay people in Britain. Thirty years ago, it would have been hard to find ten, and they’d have been artists or in show business (I’m thinking Danny La Rue). The list certainly wouldn’t have included business executives, rabbis, EU commissioners, rugby union referees or senior policemen. Coincidentally, the IoS reports that, in Saudi Arabia, 21 young men have just been arrested for the sin of homosexuality. They were rounded up in Qatif last Friday by the religious police, not a force that would have welcomed Brian Paddick with open arms, one imagines, who operate under the aegis of something called the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, a typically grandiose name for the usual befrocked gang of bigoted thugs that tend to run these things. The young men arrested can expect to be flogged or worse. Maybe they should seek asylum in an allied state.
What I can’t understand is why the IoS should consider McEwan’s views to be an ‘astonishingly strong attack’. In a country which still pays lip service to ideas of sexual equality, freedom of speech, recognition of gay rights, rational argument rather than revealed truth, etc. they seem to me to be astonishingly mild. If this is ‘hate speech’, it would be interesting to know in what way the crime distinguishes itself from the surely licit act of uttering a list of simple truths expressed in objective terms. Would any Muslim argue that Islam isn’t based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality, but on the opposite of these things – moral relativism, empirical observation, equality for all regardless of sex and sexual orientation? Wouldn’t that be seen as apostasy?
Maybe it’s just because McEwan prefaced the list with the verb ‘detest’. So ‘hate crime’ is nothing more than a statement of fact preceded by the word ‘I’ and a synonym of ‘hate’? In that case, we’re all in the shit. What about if I announce that I’m not that keen on people from the land of Nokia. Would the Finnish ambassador have a case against me?
Ian McEwan may be a public figure, but he hasn’t been elected, doesn’t depend on public money and represents no one but himself. He certainly wouldn’t defend himself by claiming to represent the word of God – unlike, say, homophobic MP Iris Robinson, who seems to have forgotten that ten percent of her constituents may not appreciate being called loathsome. Oh sorry, Iris. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Tell that to Robinson’s cronies in Saudi.
*The quotes come from an interview given to the Italian Corriere della Sera, so this may be a trans-language hiccup.
(Enjoy the play on words? I thought you might.)
Three recent moments.
One. I was reading an article a week or so ago about Cy Twombly’s working methods during the 1960s in Rome. Apparently he’d pin rolls of canvas to the walls of his studio and work on them without any very clear idea of what he was doing: daub, scribble, sign, quotation: the elegant graffiti – signifying and non-signifying – for which he’s known. When the canvas was covered, he’d look at what had been done, then select the pieces that had potential and cut them out, discarding the rest. The cut-out pieces would be pinned back on the walls, without stretchers, and the work would continue.
Two. In a different context, I was thinking last weekend about possible covers for the Salt collection and wondering if we might be able to use one of Giuseppe’s paintings. It struck me that, although a whole painting might not be what we needed, a detail might. What happened as I selected sections from paintings I loved, and thought I knew, was that the sections began to seem enough, began to seem greater than the whole.
Three. I checked up to see if anyone had left comments on Asylum, where John Self interviewed me about Little Monsters, and I found two posts, from Colette Jones and Tricia Dower, wondering aloud about what might have been lost, both in terms of material and in a larger sense, in the fairly radical editing I talk about having put the novel through.
In the first instance, Twombly must have consciously adopted redundancy as part of the process. In the second, I experienced the pleasurable surprise of seeing familiar landscapes from a different angle, which valued their incompleteness. In the third, the whole business of what we do when we edit was brought into question. Do we do what Twombly did – extract what there is of worth from the inchoate writing on the wall? Which is good. Or do we fail to see the whole because we’re attracted by the simpler forms and contrasts of a fragment, and actually prefer the incomplete, and privilege it? Which may not be.
This is a preamble to something that happened last Friday. I was working on the revision of a novel I’d drafted, redrafted, finished and set aside two years ago, only picking it up again recently, after Sam Humphreys, my editor at Picador, had read the book and made, as usual, dozens of pertinent and immensely helpful suggestions. We’d talked about these over tea, in a mood of collaboration and, in a sense, negotiation, although clearly with the same end in view. After which, I set to work happily, cutting here, expanding there, clarifying, cutting to the chase. But throughout this, something, almost suppressed, continued to niggle – a comment Sam had made about one of the four or five main characters, a man called Giacomo. The comment? “What’s Giacomo for?”
I’d answered this at the time, I’d thought to my own satisfaction, but as I moved ahead, from the first chapter to the second, from the second to the third, I found myself thinking more and more, well, yes, what is Giacomo for? And now I know the answer. I don’t know. I mean, I can see what he does, and who he knows, and I can see that certain aspects of the plot are made simpler by his presence. But I don’t know what he’s for. Because, deep down, he isn’t for anything – he was just fun to write. So it’s bye-bye Giacomo.
This is a Twombly moment.
Thursday, 19 June 2008
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Is there something wrong with me? Will I wake up one morning and not know my left from my right, and need a map to find the local supermarket, and walk out of shops and turn back in the direction I came from and end up standing on a vaguely familiar corner wondering where the hell I am? Or will I just buy the latest Mara Carfagna calender and drool over those ministerial curves? Maybe some minor brain surgery can be performed, to slightly deflate my right hemisphere. Or maybe, just maybe, the research isn't quite as watertight as it would like to be. I wonder if Ben Goldacre's Bad Science will have anything to say about this... I wonder which way is up...
Friday, 13 June 2008
In the second sentence of this post I originally wrote brining instead of bringing. How subliminally salty is that?
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Northern Ireland's first lady is being investigated by police following allegations she committed a hate crime by launching a withering attack on homosexuality.
In an outburst on a live phonein on BBC Radio Ulster on Friday, Iris Robinson, the 57-year-old wife of First Minister Peter Robinson, referred to gays as 'disgusting, loathsome, shamefully wicked and vile.'
She called homosexuality 'an abomination' but said she knew of a cure.
'I have a lovely psychiatrist who works with me and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals - trying to turn them away from what they are engaged in,' she said.
Her website tells us that she 'has a keen interest and a flair for Interior Design'. Maybe she should consider a career in that. Ideally with her lovely psychiatrist. If you think it's time for a career move for Mrs Robinson, click here for a petition that will encourage her to move into soft furnishings on a permanent basis.
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Monday, 9 June 2008
Sorry about this - and believe me, I really am trying to move on - but I was so appalled by this example of partisan journalism, in a country that knows little else, that I felt I had to share it. For those among you who don't speak Italian, the irate young man in a suit at the beginning of the piece isn't one of the spotty fascists (from Casa Pound, god help us) who tried to disrupt the march last Saturday, but a frustrated groom. He was supposed to be getting married in Via dei Fori Imperiali, but couldn't get the car to the church. Authorisation had been granted months before, he said. Sound familiar? Right! If the council had respected the authorisation it gave to Gay Pride months before, he wouldn't have found his wedding delayed. Odd that no one in the studio thought of pointing this out.
The skinny bint playing nervously with her pen in the rest of the piece is Carfagna. You may not have recognised her with her clothes on. She's talking about sobriety and stuff like that, but I won't bother you any more with her silliness. We've all heard enough from Carfagna for one government.
(I wouldn't have felt the need to post this rather snippy comment if I hadn't just heard Minister for Equal Opportunities Mara Carfagna (see topless photo here) explain why Rome, as the heart of Christianity, isn't an appropriate venue for Gay Pride. Maybe someone should tell her that it was also home to Julius Caesar, Petronius, Hadrian, etc. But why bother? Why tell the monkey what the organ grinder already knows?)
Thanks to Marisacat for the photo.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
PS The title of this post actually refers to a video I've been unable to upload, but I've left it anyway. If nothing else, it reflects the fact that we are still dancing, without any specific advance or sign of it.
Saturday, 7 June 2008
A worrying note, though, was struck, last night by a lesbian friend of ours. We called to fix up a place to meet. What for? she said. For Gay Pride, we told her. Gay Pride? she said. No one's going on it this year. We are, we said. So if you read this, and are in Rome, you might want to prove her wrong. The march starts in Piazza della Repubblica at 3, heads off down Via Cavour at 4, passes across Piazza Venezia and then, by which route I'm not sure, ends up in Piazza Navona. It's all pretty scenic, so you won't regret it. I'll be the one in 80 centimetre gold lamé platforms and a frock even Ru Paul wouldn't risk wearing. Don't worry, I'm joking.
There will be photos.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Animals should be present. Ideally, a dog of indeterminate breed will be lying somewhere inconvenient, across the doormat or halfway beneath one of the three zinc-topped tables squeezed under the shelter of the station eaves, each with its plastic ashtray advertising Crodino or Dubonnet. If the dog's small enough, it will be curled up, nose to arsehole, on one of the chairs, ear cocked, pelt marked by the odd feeding tick. It will have a collar, but no name tag, and behave as though it belongs to no one. Failing that, a cat.
There will be no announcements, but the barman, a middle-aged man in pressed black trousers and a vest, will have all the information you need. The coffee will not be very good, but may come ready sugared. You will drink it slowly, staring out to where you have left your cases, drunkenly heaped against the base of a cast-iron lamppost. There will be two platforms, the one you use when you leave and the one you will be brought to when you return. The only way to get from one platform to the other is to cross the track or to take the train and let it bring you back. Sometimes, if you're very lucky indeed, you will need to shoo chickens away as you do so. The train will always be late, sometimes by hours, and you will be angry, but deep-down you won't care because you have already arrived, without knowing it, and no other place on your holiday will stay with you for as long as this station does.
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Oh yes, if you'd like to see what his well-built chums did to the person who took this photograph (or, more probably, one of his colleagues), you should click here. No, unlike Peter Tatchell, he wasn't trying to make a citizen's arrest; he was just doing his job. Still, it might have been worse. He might have been trying to take a picture of 'Amazing' Grace Mugabe, the great man's wife, and been handbagged. Those Gucci buckles can do a lot of damage.