Sunday, 24 November 2013

On Not Being Able to See Your Favorite Piece of Art

I hardly know anything at all about one of my favourite works of art. I can hardly even remember it at all. I saw a painting somewhere important about thirty years ago. I remember that it was a large painting by an emerging contemporary artist. I remember that it used lava colors: bright reds, oranges, and yellows. I remember that it was painted in a surrealist style. I think it was about a male body, but somehow about birth, too. It was rich and luscious and thought-provoking. I have looked for that painting ever since, but I have never found a hint of it. Today I have no idea who painted it or where I saw it or even what it is actually about.

But the interesting thing is that I still think about that mere notion of a painting with such fondness and admiration! I still completely love it!

The image shows a picture of Andy Warhol's (1985) 'Invisible Scultpture', which actually consisted only of a label that said: “Andy Warhol, USA/Invisible Sculpture/Mixed Media 1985. Copyright (2013) by Chris F. Westbury; May not be reproduced without permission of the artist.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

On a Sense of Balance

I am a longtime fan of Canadian singer/songwriter  Jane Siberry. I saw her in concert a few days ago and she sang this song 'Calling All Angels' as an encore. It is my favorite song of hers.  

She has released all her songs on a 'pay as you think best' basis. I like this item among her items for sale: "Lump sum according to your sense of balance.  This is how I like to do things, personally."

Saturday, 9 November 2013

On Mobius Dick

A few years ago my favorite blog BoingBoing had a competition to 'mash up' two authors. There was a prize; I forget what. I submitted a mash-up between Thomas Pynchon and Herman Melville. It didn't place and so perhaps failed to achieve what it set out to do, but here is my entry for your amusement.

 [Image is from this article on the space whale meme. I love the Internet.]
Mobius Dick, by Thomas Pynchon & Herman Melville

Our imaginations set aflame by yelling, our shouted slogans, our inflated sense of team spirit, we all sensed the gigantic apparition at once. But though each of us saw the same thing with wide-open eyes, none of us knew if the thing was in the real world, or whether it had been ripped out of us and made to appear real by the strange times, the extenuating circumstances, the insanity of the moment materializing for us as bleeding heaving flesh, our pure goal. Anyway something every one of us, freaks and ex-cons and escapees, all of us lost devils, could believe in. Something we could bet our lives on.

When it came Captain A-Man climbed and climbed and climbed. He didn’t stop climbing but continued beyond the upper edges of our limping vessel’s ragged rigging, climbing, as we swarmed in awed confusion below, to an impossible perch. The A-man could gaze at the water and see all its mysterious beasts and he could see inside them, could enter into each one. He fell into the dark water to enter all the beings living in that vast heaving chaos. He was billions of vectors of thought accelerating out through earth’s oceans looking for life that inflected in a whisker’s breadth so that at once he was pushing himself, his multi-vectored self, like a reverse big bang, from all directions with fantastic speed into just one little speck, a tiny speck in the midst of vast oceans, one beating heart among the billions. Inside that great heart the brave man burst like a firework, sparkling out into every cell, and then into every cell’s chromosomes and every chromosome’s nucleotides and each nucleotide’s atoms, until at last, lost in salt watery wash beyond the reach of normal vision, there was no more climbing to look outward, there were no more vectors in flight. He had become what he had wanted to become, what we men had all fought and bled and died for him to become, had done at last what he had needed to do, what you and I need him to keep doing; conflicting desires, conflicting lives, conflicting needs and ambitions and dreams, resolved by the simple application of a meta operator. At last at long last, he was (at peace and whole! So marvelous!) the hunter and the hunted at once.

Monday, 4 November 2013

On the Cover of 'The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even'

This is the cover to my novel, coming out in June from CounterPoint Press. My first blog post here explains the title. Along with the piece named in the title, the cover alludes to several of Marcel Duchamp's other pieces, including The Green Box (from which my chapter titles were drawn), the BoƮte-en-valise, and Self-Portrait in Profile.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

On 36 Plots from the Futility Closet

The always-excellent Futility Closet has an interesting article today on French writer Georges Polti's (1916) claim that all stories are variations on just 36 basic plots (although Cecil Adams claims that Polti stole the idea from Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi). It's an interesting and thought-provoking list, but I find that many of the categories are vague enough to cover each other at different levels of abstraction.

My novel The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even tells a story about a hero and his faithful sidekick who go on a heroic quest with a powerful third friend, to obtain an object that is necessary for the hero to obtain liberation. (More briefly: it's a buddy road trip story.) Depending on the level of abstraction at which you view the story, I think it could be described by any one (or some combination) of six of Polti's plots:
9. Daring enterprise. The Bold Leader takes the Object from the Adversary by overpowering the Adversary.
10. Abduction. The Abductor takes the Abducted from the Guardian.
11. The enigma. The Interrogator poses a Problem to the Seeker and gives a Seeker better ability to reach the Seeker’s goals.
26. Crimes of love. A Lover and the Beloved enter a conflict.
30. Ambition. The Ambitious Person seeks the Thing Coveted and is opposed by the Adversary.
35. Recovery of a lost one. The Seeker finds the One Found.
If I have to pick just one to describe my story, I choose number 11, The Enigma: The Interrogator poses a Problem to the Seeker and gives a Seeker better ability to reach the Seeker’s goals.

[Image: Altered detail from Caravaggio's Sacrifice of Isaac, now at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence]