Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Back from Glasgow

So I'm back in Washington now, though not quite back at full capacity: the broadband gets installed at the ancestral pile in around a week, and so for the moment I'm stuck using the PCs in the recently-renovated Washington Library. To which I was going to include a link, but the OS these things are running won't allow me to c&p URLs, it seems. Whatever.

Glasgow was pretty good. GOMA has two fine exhibitions on at the moment, one a survey of LGBT art which includes a couple of Mapplethorpes, a piece by Pierre et Gilles, and a sculpted hermaphrodite tree, the other a really nice exhibition of abstract art which has something like five or six Bridget Riley pieces. I never really got Riley before, but seeing those massive op-art canvases up close is quite an experience. Some of them are actually physically difficult to look at - by which I don't mean they have unpalatable subject matter, I mean the arrangement of lines and colours on some of them makes it really difficult to take them in, visually. Like a fugue: you can look at one detail of the picture, like an individual line or pattern, but when you do that you literally lose the rest of the piece.

I've also got started on The Way By Swann's. I was expecting Proust to be one of those hyped-up writers who I would take an instant dislike to after five pages of the book, but I'm actually enjoying the experience. There isn't time for a detailed critique here, though I suppose I'll put one up here when the nice men from BT have given me my HomeHub; but the best way for me to point you to the brilliant thing about it is to suggest that you pick up the new Penguin translation (which is the one I'm reading), turn to page 122, read the description of the asparagus, read it again, and notice the point at which, while never being less than perfect, the description pivots from being a fairly standard description of the glories of nature, to something far more, um, physical. And the way he even inserts a tremendously backhanded Shakespeare reference into it. Marvellous.

Also finished off Exit Ghost recently too. Patchy. What Roth is really good on is the failure of the body and the torments inflicted on it by the mind during the aging process, and those bits of the novel are well worth reading - but there's some obvious recycling of other stuff going on in the book, such as the long obituary for George Plimpton that takes over the narrative for about five pages halfway through.

In conclusion then: meh. This whole business recently certainly hasn't killed me, but it doesn't exactly seem to have made me any stronger or, indeed, stranger. I am writing, though. The work's getting done which is, I suppose, the important thing.

Now to see if this library PC'll post this without mucking up and deleting half the

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