Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Curtains

The leaves are coming down
the walls of my life
            are not more solid

I hear the leaves coming down
at night    they make the noise of footsteps
or the kisses of children
they fall like a curtain
             between the leaves
bits of a sky we try to remember

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Born Differently

The book is about a murder.  It is called Confession of a Murderer.  And yet, even after the book is finished, we wonder who has been killed.  The author, it seems, has too much respect for his readers to tell us the obvious.   We boil the kettle, make the tea the colour of dark chocolate, thinking of the novel we have read.  We pick up scenes and images; look under the rugs, pull the wardrobe out, searching for the corpse Golubchik has said he has created.  It is only after much searching that we find it, and are pleased.

Friday, 13 April 2012

…it’s such a drab and limited piece of realism that it makes Zola seem like musical comedy

Pauline Kael wasn’t keen.  She can see its strengths all right – the character studies, some of the imagery, the film’s seriousness –; however, they are not enough to capture her consent.  The famous critic doesn’t like Wanda.  The character is too dumb and passive; the towns too ugly; the film’s atmosphere too grim, too monotonous.  Two hours in America’s backwoods is far long for Pauline Kael; she wants to be back in New York, with the beautiful people; always charming and sophisticated, and perpetually stimulating.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Helpless and Hopeless

It is an extraordinary film.  Even more so when you consider the time it was made, in the very late Sixties, at the beginning of the feminist movement; when women were aggressively questioning the old stereotypes, and asserting their independent political will.  Watching it I wondered if the period had distorted the film’s memory, changed its influence, projected the times back onto a work that resolutely rejects them, concerned only with seeing the world in its own way.  Then I thought of how many people actually know of its existence; a few thousand at most - a tiny community keeping this movie alive; who carry out the heavy labour of periodically resurrecting yet another work of art that has vanished from public view.[i]

Friday, 6 April 2012

Class Divide

Michael Holroyd’s introduction to the trilogy is a good one; and he reminds me that Hamilton is a better writer than I remembered – thus his description of Ella’s admirer, Mr Eccles, for example, as “not unlike a parrot diving into its feathers” when looking for his visiting card.  And he is absolutely right about the surface texture: Hamilton catches London pub life between the wars extremely well.  However, his statement about Hamilton’s ability to write about class is questionable:

[H]e is an expert guide to English social distinctions, with all their snobbish mimicry and fortified non-communication.  He describes wonderfully well how the hyphenated upper classes, yelling at their dogs, splashing in their baths like captured seals, and writing their aloof letters in the third person (like broadcasters recounting an athletic event), remain so mysterious to the lesser breeds.  (Introduction to Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky)

Regarding the superficial aspects, yes, indeed.  For here, in these three books, Hamilton is more a painter than a psychologist; which Holroyd also recognises, perhaps unconsciously, by that last reference to the working classes ignorance of their betters; which is a strange way (especially as there are no aristocrats in these novels) of illustrating a point about social distinctions; which you would have thought relied on some knowledge of their differences - how else can such comparisons be made?  Of course, the artist or bohemian is supposed to skip between the two, socialising with both, and understanding them equally…


I Know You (Really Well)

The less you know about someone the more certain you are…  that you understand them:

[They say] “You don’t know the Jews.  All they understand is force”, with as much conviction as their opposite numbers, who are equally certain that they “know the Arabs, who understand only force,” though they have never met any Arabs… (Sylvian Cypel, Walled

The relationships between the Jews and the Arabs are not equal though, as the author notes:

Almost all of them have no contact with Israelis other than soldiers or settlers, the two figures of the occupation.

Yet while Cypel is rightly critical of the anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism he is perhaps a little too keen to judge both camps equally.  For although he acknowledges the role of Israeli policy, and its devastating effects on Palestinian society, he overestimates the human tolerance for abuse – only a few people can emulate Jesus Christ and turn the other cheek; or reason out the differences between people they do not know; exempting the ignorant and well-meaning.  The anti-Semitism of a young Palestinian is a reaction to daily experiences, 40 years of occupation; while for the Israeli it arises from control of that occupation, and from a much smaller amount of contact; or just news reports and demagoguery. That is, we should criticise the anti-Semitism, but understand it and contextualise it to eventually place the blame where it belongs - on Israel for creating the circumstances that produce it.  By treating both side’s prejudice as commensurate we are in reality equating cause with effect; or even reversing them: a scream responsible for the punch that caused it.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Poor Choices

You want to be free?  Stop reading the newspapers!  You won’t?  OK.  Prepared to be trapped, yes trapped, within another’s worldview - the corporate media’s; following their lead even as you resist against it; led by the mouth even as you bite at the bit.  Obsessed by the news they feed you, though convinced of its paucity and bias, which you want to shout out to the world, you will, using your finite time and most of your resources, be able only to react against it; too feeble, after the effort, to create a universe out of your own design.  The result?  You accept the general framework that the press provide, seeing the world through their viewfinder, only to give it a different spin; so that each news story generates its own battle; and every event becomes an ideological prison; the opponents shouting at each other from their different wings.