So far this year I have read two prize-winning ‘novels’ – The Sell Out by Paul Beatty (Man Booker) and The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Pulitzer).
Both have been widely praised for their craft and cleverness. Both left me wondering what happened to good old-fashioned storytelling. These are driven by themes rather than plots, each with an unnamed narrator respectively reflecting upon racism in America and perceptions of the Vietnam war.
The weightiness and worthiness of the topics is beyond doubt but masked by a knowing irony; neither author has any interest in a conventional narrative with a start-middle & end.
Far be it from me to knock the post-modernist slant of these works. As a worshipper of David Foster Wallace, I am fully aware that modern truths cannot always be told in a linear style but at the same time I find myself increasingly missing characters and plots.
I have come to realize just how many classics of English literature I know but have never read; for example Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe. While re-reading Infinite Jest I now intend to plug these gaps. Pre-modernism here I come.
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS directed by Tom Ford (USA, 2016)
“All the animals come out at night” – Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver (1976)
“Now it’s dark” – Frank Booth – Blue Velvet (1986)
Inspiring comparisons with the finest works of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch is a sign of how impressed I am by this magnificent movie.
Tom Ford’s equally fine debut A Single Man from 2009 can no longer be dismissed as a one-off.
Well-established as a hugely successful fashion designer, Ford does not need further acclaim or money. Wealth does not guarantee creative inspiration but it does buy a certain freedom. Perhaps this is how he has been able to be so uncompromising and daring in his adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan. Continue reading
‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’ This is title of the famous Pop Art collage by English artist Richard Hamilton from 1956.
In it we see a body builder, a fashion model, a portrait of an unidentified Victorian man , a ‘young romance’ magazine cover, a hoover ad, a TV and a reel to reel tape recorder.
Hamilton’s image playfully mocks the way in which the saturation of media imagery influences the way we make our lifestyle choices.
Sixty years on, the satire looks fairly mild and humorous rather than disturbing. The world wide web has changed everything. TV and dumb magazine advertisements are the least of our worries.
Nowadays, with the information overload, our minds have become more nimble but the major drawback of all the online zapping is that we are rapidly becoming less capable of the kind of critical thinking that makes us unique individuals.
Nowadays, by the time kids reach 18 it is estimated that will have seen 500 hours of advertising spots while they will have spent just 5 thousand hours reading books.
Should we be concerned about this? Derrick de Kerckhove a Canadian born professor and disciple of Marshall McLuhan, thinks so.
The statistics about what he calls the “always-on hyperkids of today” are taken from de Kerckhove’s The Augmented Mind (40k, 2011).
In this short but cogently argued book he details how the rapid transformation of the digital world has re-wired our brains and fundamentally altered our behavior. One consequence of this is that “people are gradually delegating their capacity for imagining things on their own to processes that do their imagining for them”. Continue reading
IMAGINARY CITIES by Darran Anderson (Influx Press, 2015)
This eloquent, ambitious, challenging and, ultimately, fascinating book was conceived in part as “a diminished non-fiction mirror” of Italo Calvino’s Le Città Invisibili (Invisible Cities).
Darran Anderson‘s guiding principle is that cities should not be defined solely in terms of its built environments but ought to be seen as states of mind which can, and should, be read : “Architecture is not simply the construction of buildings; it is the construction of space, both inner and outer”.
He asserts that “a history of ever-changing cities, whether real or unreal, must also be a history of the imagination”, adding that “the boundary between ‘real life’ architectural settings and fiction has been an intriguingly porous one”.
Whatever can be imagined can be re-imagined and cities change and evolve according to fashions and fetishes of the people. Architecture is influenced by culture and vice versa; art and life are not separate things but are indelibly linked.