2 Mar 2014
Image credit: Janice Parker Projects.
I have been wanting to write about Glory for a while but it has been hard to put the experience into words.
The press has done so here, here, here, and here.
Lovely as that is, the words of the other performers themselves are the ones that have stayed with me. I have been very fortunate to share my spare time since the 11th January with lovely and inspiring people. Amongst these are Bel Pye,Kim Simpson and Emmie McKay. Perhaps I cannot write because I have been observing them, their beautiful moves, their words, their thoughts.
We are about to enter production week and we have created, marked, spaced, felt, found, rehearsed, tried and tried again. What we have not had time for is process. Yesterday was one of the most trying rehearsals I have ever had. Eight hours of movement, attention and focus with another 49 people. Would drive anyone mad, but we all got there. I know the work is going to be amazing because we have worked very hard at it, every single one of us. By 6.30pm, I could not move, I could not speak, I had to cancel a celebration I really wanted to be part of. And remember, I am kind of used to this: I do parkour, yoga, dance regularly … Yesterday, however, was a wake up call to what is to come next week. I have been learning compassion in my yoga practice and it is going to have to be exercised next week, so I can give the best in me to Janice, Nadia, the team, my fellow dancers, the audience and myself. We have a dress rehearsal and 7 performances ahead. I also have work, teaching, and an audition for the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. Compassion indeed. How do you give yourself care, what you want, what will be good for you, in situations of extreme exhaustion?
Glory has taught me many things. One of them is what is behind performing, the things that are the fabric of what the audience sees, but somehow are hidden (or, if not hidden, not so obvious): the repetition, the effort, the tiredness, the training, the focus, the camaraderie, the conviviality, the support, the trust, the truth of the moment. And when that moment arrives (every day next week, at 7.30pm), I want to be there. I want to enjoy it.
So today, my only day of rest until next Sunday, I will not plan lessons, I will not tidy the house, I will not stress over what food there is and there isn’t, what emails I need to reply to. I have had a hot bath, I have thought about and relished the memories Glory has already given me. I will make myself a special lunch I don’t get to have often (eggs!) and will spend the afternoon reading a marvellous book, horizontal, resting the feet and the knees that will carry me through next week.
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5 Feb 2014
Reading dates: 22 December 2013 – 04 February 2014
After reading my Loitering with Intent review, N— took his comfort book, Martin Amis’ The War Against Cliche and read me a paragraph from the introduction. The text acknowledged a change in literary criticism with the advent of the internet. We have all become critics and our criticism is solely related to our orientation to the book, to whether it works for us or not. But Amis thinks that this is not criticism, for something is lost: the book itself, and its relation to the canon. Fair point Amis, but what if the canon is wrong, or, perhaps, tendentious?
This idea of rules and reference points, and a right way of doing things, is what is broken in Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. I have never read a book like this one. Yet, it is not totally groundbreaking. If Amis wants me to refer to a canon I will tell you that the genre and style borrows from epistolary literature, especially Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which I studied for my PhD. Kraus, however (and like Sophie Calle but better), plays with fact and fiction, with memoir and novel. Since when has a woman written a libertine novel, which is also a theoretical fiction? Hats off to Kraus, especially as she does so beautifully. The prose is light when it needs to (the letters) and intricate too. There are three pieces within the book that return to my memory: one of Hannah Wilke and her struggle to be an artist when Claes Oldenburg decides and succeeds in erasing part of her life (Dick tried to do the same); one on two paintings by Kitaj and a sublime section on schizophrenia, just before one of the most heart-wrenching endings I have ever read. I wish Dick had killed Chris. That would have been more bearable than what really happens in the book.
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1 Feb 2014
Reading dates: 10 — 31 January 2014
N—— recently criticised my review of The Dogs of Riga. In his view, it focused too much on plot. ‘Books are more than plot’, he said to me as we were reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. This means that it is perhaps time for me to explain what the purpose of these little snippets of thoughts about books are. They are just that, a reading diary, an aide-memoire of my encounter with these texts. I write them as if I was at a party, a little merry of course, and I mentioned to someone I happened to have read a particular book. ‘What did you think?’ Well, the answer is these short paragraphs. The context is a party, not a book group and most certainly not a publication. They are not reviews; I do not look at the book in all its facets: style, author, plot, rhythm, reading experience … but focus on my own instinctual orientation to it. That’s all.
So, my orientation to Muriel Spark’s novel is set around the reading experience. This is a book that N—— and I chose to read together, aloud and in bed, and much to my disappointment (for my adoration of Spark is clear), it did not work. Given that my New Year’s resolution is to abandon books that are not giving me pleasure, we stopped the joint reading just half way through. I continued on my own and Spark’s marvellous voices and her idiosyncratic characters came alive in my mind. I could hear them, whereas when we read aloud, I did hear them — and this was not right. As Fleur discovers the truth about the Autobiographical Association she works for and becomes a writer, I also began to sympathise with her. Spark writes of writers and what they go through (the novel is vaguely autobiographical and it was great fun to guess the roman a clef bits), of publishers, of intellectual property, of the gift of a visionary state some artists have, of envy, of hysteria, of what it is to be a woman-artist. True, I did not like this novel as much as Girls, or Brodie, or Peckham Rye or A Far Cry or The Driver’s Seat. My reading experience had something to do with my rating. Yet, I found enormous pleasure is her distinction of good versus evil, her illuminated old women (Edwina is fantastic) and her sharp prose.
I didn’t know then, as I know now, that the traditional paranoia of authors is as nothing compared to the inalienable schizophrenia of publishers. (p. 81)
After last year’s experience, just this sentence is worth the three stars. It did make me smile.
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31 Jan 2014
Crux Desperationis 5
International Journal of Conceptual Writing
January 2014, Montevideo 2014
Director and editor Riccardo Boglione
Editorial staff RB, Georgina Torello
Journal header Paolo Argeri
Journal design Massimo Alacca
All images are taken from Dr. Albert de Schrenck-Notzig, Los fenómenos de la mediumnidad,
Previous editions here.
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29 Jan 2014
Reading dates: 17 – 26 January 2014
I like Mankell’s vision for Wallander, as I think he has found an angle on the tired cliché of the police officer detective. With Wallander, we get more: a believable character, questions of ethics and a focus away from the whodunnit and into what it means to detect. Yet, I think there is too much whodunnit in the second part of this book. Two well dressed chaps in a life raft turn up on the Swedish coast. As they seem to be Latvian, a charming but eerie police officer from Riga comes to Ystad to help Wallander. After his return to the Baltic country, something (which I won’t write about as it is a spoiler) makes Wallander go to Riga to continue his case. Although Latvia is portrayed in a rather seductive, dark way, the plot falls into a tokenistic love interest, a doubles game and a chase. Too predictable, even with Wallander’s lovely manner and thoughtful approach to crime. The first part, though, is just what I needed as I was lying in bed ill: an interesting page turner with mysterious qualities. Shame it all fell apart at around page 125.
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13 Jan 2014
Reading dates: 07 – 12 January 2013
This is the first book of stories, featuring the infamous Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman Jeeves. Well rounded characters, hilarious situations and precise, comforting writing make this a lovely read before sleep. Be warned, though not all the stories are Jeeves and Wooster ones. There are 3 starring Reggie Pepper, who is also lovely if less defined. My favourite, actually, is one of his: Absent Treatment. I really liked the simple, elegant plot. My problem with the stories is that they all represent rather upper class problems—moustaches, suits, love triangles, aunts and money—although they are, in their humour, also a critique, of course. Like all genres, they are reductive and by the end of it I could predict how they would get out of the pickles. What is definitely worth it, though is the names Wodehouse comes up with. I mean Rockmetteler Todd … He needs a spin-off of his own.
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10 Jan 2014
8 Jan 2014
Reading dates: 03 December 2013 – 03 January 2014
Readers of my blog will already have realised how much I enjoy short well written books. The general trend has been for me to wax lyrical every time something sparkian comes to the top of my reading pile, with Philip Roth edging endorsement last year as an outsider to the norm. E. M Foster’s novel may well be the outsider this year. Every scene in this novel is admirably crafted, vivid, full of character. It made me start to learn Italian and when the going gets hard (conjunctions are a nightmare), I think of Lucy at the Bertolini. The characters are wonderful and reading them aloud brought out their quirks. You see, if you read flat characters aloud you notice. When they are are alive with personality, you just want to bed early to start the performance. This is why I am now reading P. G. Wodehouse. The message of the story is a simple, yet very important one. This is a novel about love and about when one knows one loves. It is also a novel about society and gossip and about how people treat others who are a bit different. I know I am not telling you much. I couldn’t without revealing precisely what you will want to find out by yourself, the marvelous view.
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1 Jan 2014
Inspired by the escapologist Robert Wringham’s round-up, I am compelled to think of 2013 as a whole and somehow capture what those 12 months brought. I think it was a period of ups and downs. It started with ‘Ghost Cheese’ indeed and ended with Paris and modernism neither of which I can complain about. In between were breakdowns, and doubts, as well as too many poor style decisions I have decided to address in a 2014 New Year’s resolution.
Yet, despite what the sandwich meat days brought, I have been very fortunate to feel, in the most direct possible way, the love of friends. I went to Hong Kong to see Hayley and declared myself a cutie who could sing ‘Livin’ on a prayer’ and not remember it. I maintained correspondence with Peter and Linda, as assiduously and enjoyably as other things allowed me to. I danced with Tom, Ruth, Julie, Vickie, Andrew, Alex, Jane, Rosina, Gypsy, Patricia, Miranda, Salma, Aby, Suzi, Cath, Sita, Natasha, Irene, Jade, Vince and many others. I performed at the Grand Ole Opry, Tramway, the CCA. I read to her aloud at the Ministry of Truth. I worked with Ama and learned so much. I taught in Berlin and made one of the days (that Thursday), have more than 24 hours. I ate a lot of macaroni cheese, and even more broccoli. I wrote with Ellie. I published a book. It made my eyes bleed but now I know I can do it and may even do it again soon. I kept on with with the DiaMat book group; it makes me think if the world as a place of possibilities. I joined another book group and read the works of ornery women. I sang a Christmas card. I saw three pieces by Tino Sehgal. I got two PhD students through. I did not see my friends enough but know they understand; I did not see my family enough but I also know they understand. I went on holiday with my dad to Berlin again. I felt closer to my mum (she started dancing!) and I spoke to my brother every month of the year. I played Scrabble in a naked sauna in Amsterdam. I also went to naked baths in Japan. A stranger entered my house and found me naked, which gave both of us the fright of our lives. I spent Christmas in Egypt and saw where the 10 Commandments were given (no Charlton Heston, although I kept thinking of the film).
And I read a lot, well, at least fiction and by my own standards. My 2013 New Year’s resolution was to read better and I think I achieved it, even though I did not manage to finish 3 of the books on my list (Libra, No Name and Ada). I have awarded four prizes:
[RED]: The book I would recommend (closely followed by ‘Heroines’)
[GREY]: Don’t touch it (with ‘Anthem’ as a close second)
[GREEN]: Book revelation of the year (‘Frankenstein’ was my other choice)
[BLUE]: Most pleasurable reading experience (‘Where’d you go Bernadette’ almost made it)
[*]: Read with Neil, aloud
Should have abandoned reading
- Heroines by Kate Zambreno
The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence
- Die Trying by Lee Child
- The Bat by Jo Nesbø
- The Complete Father Brown Mysteries Collection by G. K. Chesterton
- The Turn of the Screw by Henry James*
- Death by Analysis: Another Adventure from Inspector Canal’s New York Agency by Bruce Fink
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (* partially)
- Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
- Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
- The Complete Short Stories by Muriel Spark
- Strictly Bipolar by Darian Leader
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
- Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin
Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway*
- La fiesta del chivo by Mario Vargas Llosa
Anthem by Ayn Rand*
- High-Rise by J. G. Ballard
- The Dying Animal by Philip Roth
- L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Dracula by Bram Stoker—But I am glad I kept with it and finished it
- A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Blood Memory: An Autobiography by Martha Graham
- The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin
- One-Way Street and Other Writings by Walter Benjamin
- Madness, Women and the Power of Art, ed. by Frances Davies and Laura González
- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
- One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power
- Persuasion by Jane Austen*
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
For 2014, I have given myself the permission to abandon books and a much less worthy reading list, with space for whimsy, experimentation, and whatever the year throws at me. Start recommending if you want.
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1 Jan 2014
Reading dates: 03 August – 30 December 2013
After giving Lee Child 3*, it may seem insensitive of me to give Lawrence just one. Yet, reading this book was an absolute chore and to this day, I don’t know why I finished it. I suppose the books I read at the same time (15!) gave me strength to continue. Whether that is a good thing or not, I am not going to discuss. I suppose I wanted to hate the book with the knowledge that I read it cover to cover, that I knew it and, for that reason, I am entitled to say what I am going to say. It is poorly written, badly judged in terms of rhythm. The characters, from Lydia to Gudrun, from Anna to Ursula, are not convincing. I do not recognise these women at all. It is full of innuendos. While this may sound great, the novel would benefit from calling a spade a spade. Lawrence is trying to have a soft touch, to be femininely sensitive while showing strength but the result is a poor caricature written by a man deeply embedded in patriarchal structures yet wanting feminine liberation. What happened to the man who wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover? Thank goodness, that was a few years later and I am glad Lawrence listened and observed a bit more, rather than writing women from his own imagination (as The Rainbow seems to be, a male fantasy). Maybe I should only read late Lawrence. Lady Chatterley was so good, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt rather than fall out of love, despite the fact that I wasted many an hour on this silly and contemptuous novel.
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