june 22–june 27

Books

  • Robertson Davies, Fifth Business
  • Robertson Davies, The Manticore
  • Robertson Davies, World of Wonders

Films

  • Libeled Lady, dir. Jack Conway
  • Hollywood Hotel, dir. Busby Berkeley

Exhibits

  • “Alberto Giacometti: Drawings,” Peter Freeman
  • “Raster Noton: The Shop,” e-flux
  • “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus,” The New Museum

dissimulation

“It seems to me that all of these attitudes, however different their sources, testify to the ‘closed’ nature of our reactions to the world around us or to our fellows. But our mechanisms of defense and self-preservation are not enough, and therefore we make use of dissimulation, which is almost habitual with us. It does not increase our passivity; on the contrary, it demands an active inventiveness and must reshape itself from one moment to another. We tell lies for the mere pleasure of it, like all imaginative people, but we also tell lies to hide ourselves and to protect ourselves from intruders. Lying plays a decisive role in our daily lives, our politics, our love-affairs and our friendships, and since we attempt to deceive ourselves as well as others, our lies are brilliant and fertile, not like the gross inventions of other peoples. Lying is a tragic game in which we risk a part of our very selves. Hence it is pointless to denounce it.

The dissembler pretends to be someone he is not. His role requires constant improvisation, a steady forward progress across shifting sands. Every moment he must remake, re-create, modify the personage he is playing, until at last the moment arrives when reality and appearance, the lie and the truth, are one. At first the pretense is only a fabric of inventions intended to baffle our neighbors, but eventually it becomes a superior – because more artistic – form of reality. Our lies reflect both what we lack and what we desire, both what we are not and what we would like to be. . . .”

(Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude, trans. Lysander Kemp, pp. 40–1.)

cleaning up after the times

The New York Times has an article by John Noble Wilford on Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee script today; in the online version, the Cherokee text that appears in the article – maybe the first Cherokee to have appeared in the Times? – seems to have fallen out. It should look like this:

By some accounts, Sequoyah was a kind of Professor Henry Higgins who enlisted family members who had sharper ears for discriminating distinct sounds. They helped him divide spoken words into their constituent sounds, and to each sound he assigned a symbol drawn mostly, it is said, from an English spelling book. In the script, for example, Sequoyah’s own name reads:

ᏎᏉᏯ

The 15 characters on the cave wall —

Ꭱ,Ꭴ,Ꮇ,Ꮨ,Ꮹ
Ꮰ,Ꮋ,Ꮴ,Ꭵ,Ꮊ,Ꮶ,Ꭹ,Ꮗ,Ꮀ,Ꮻ

— do not spell any words. “They read almost like ABCs,” Dr. Tankersley said in the magazine article, suggesting that someone taught by Sequoyah may have been “practicing drawing them out just as we would practice our ABCs.”

(You’ll probably need Plantagenet Cherokee (standard with OS X; or see here) active to see the Cherokee text. The Times also seems to have used a Roman “G” rather than “Ꮹ,” Cherokee letter wa. Sequoyah’s invention of the Cherokee script, the article notes, might be “the only known instance of an individual’s single-handedly creating an entirely new system of writing.”)

june 16–june 21

Books

  • James Tate, Selected Poems

Films

  • Night Nurse, directed by William A. Wellman
  • Wonder Bar, dir. Lloyd Bacon
  • Year One, dir. Harold Ramis

Exhibits

  • “Chuck Close: Selected Paintings & Tapestries 2005–2009,” Pace Wildenstein
  • “The Edge of Vision: Abstraction in Contemporary Photography,” Aperture Gallery
  • “Chris Marker: ‘Quelle heure est-elle?’,” Peter Blum

what is a designer?

“The designer is therefore the artist of today, not because he is a genius but because he works in such a way as to re-establish contact between art and the public, because he has the humility and ability to respond to whatever demand is made of him by the society in which he lives, because he knows his job, and the ways and means of solving each problem of design. And finally because he responds to the human needs of his time, and helps people to solve certain problems without stylistic preconceptions or false notions of artistic dignity derived from the schism of the arts.”

(Bruno Munari, Design as Art, trans. Patrick Creagh, p. 32.)

cf. Apollinaire on Duchamp:

“Just as a work by Cimabue was paraded through the streets, our century has seen Blériot’s airplane, bearing the weight of humanity, of thousands of years of endeavour, and of necessary art triumphantly paraded through Paris to the Arts-et-Métiers museum. It will perhaps fall to an artist as free of aesthetic considerations and as concerned with energy as Marcel Duchamp to reconcile Art and the People.”

(The Cubist Painters, trans. Peter Read, p. 75.)

book i, chapter 5, pp. 104-111

(Older readings have been moved here.)

problems with pictures of horses

“Well, almost any photoist worth his chemicots will tip anyone asking him the teaser that if a negative of a horse happens to melt enough while drying, well, what you do get is, well, a positively grotesquely distorted macromass of all sorts of horsehappy values and masses of meltwhile horse. Tip. Well, this freely is what must have occurred to our missive (there’s a sod of a turb for you! please wisp off the grass!) unfilthed from the boucher by the sagacity of a lookmelittle likemelong hen. Heated residence in the heart of the orangeflavoured mudmound had partly obliterated the negative to start with, causing some features palpably nearer your pecker to be swollen up most grossly while the farther back we manage to wiggle the more we need the loan of a lens to see as much as the hen saw. Tip.”

(Finnegans Wake, pp. 111–2.)

the book of lies

I’d like to have a word
with you. Could we be alone
for a minute? I have been lying
until now. Do you believe

I believe myself? Do you believe
yourself when you believe me? Lying
is natural. Forgive me. Could we be alone
forever? Forgive us all. The word

is my enemy. I have never been alone;
bribes, betrayals. I am lying
even now. Can you believe
that? I give you my word.

(James Tate, from The Lost Pilot.)

june 11–june 15

Books

  • D. H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico
  • D. H. Lawrence, Etruscan Places
  • Jennifer Kronovet, Awayward
  • Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s

Films

  • Wife Versus Secretary, directed by Clarence Brown
  • Detour, dir. Edgar G. Ulmer
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice, dir. Tay Garnett
  • Of Time and the City, dir. Terrence Davies
  • The Nightmare before Christmas, dir. Henry Selick
  • You Can’t Take It with You, dir. Frank Capra
  • Fantômas – À l’ombre de la guillotine, dir. Louis Feuillade

the life of flaubert

FLAUBERT, GUSTAVE (1821–1880), French novelist, was born at Rouen on the 12th of December 1821. . . . . Flaubert in his youth ‘was like a young Greek,’ full of vigour of body and a certain shy grace, enthusiastic, intensely individual, and apparently without any species of ambition. . . . . Returning to Paris, he wasted his time in sombre dreams, living on his patrimony. . . . . The personal character of Flaubert offered various peculiarities. He was shy, and yet extremely sensitive and arrogant; he passed from silence to an indignant and noisy flow of language. The same inconsistencies marked his physical nature; he had the build of a guardsman, with a magnificent Viking head, but his health was uncertain from childhood, and he was neurotic to the last degree. This ruddy giant was secretly gnawn by misanthropy and disgust of life.”

(Edmund Gosse, LL.D., in the Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, vol. X, p. 483.)