In January, the Poetry Society of America awarded the 2011 Robert Frost Prize (for lifetime achievement in poetry) to Charles Simic. In a recent posting on the NYRB Books Blog, Simic asked Where Is Poetry Going?
Perhaps you respond to the slick style-nostalgia, the sentimentalisation of commodity mystique, or to Don Draper’s hollow and bloodless Gatsby routine, or perhaps it’s something else. Daniel Mendelsohn opened up The Mad Men Account to search out the show’s appeal. ‘So much of Mad Men is curiously opaque, all inexplicable exteriors and posturing’ but for the majority of its viewers, this world of facades and partial comprehension is comfortingly familiar.
If J.G. Ballard were still alive, would he be up to a psycho-sexual reading of Top Gear? Could he decode the overbearing machismo of Jeremy Clarkson: a fleshy creature’s submission to a fetishistically eroticised object that is both voluptuously moulded and perpetually rigid? Looks promising. Continue this worthy thought experiment while watching Towards Crash, a short film by Harley Cokliss based on J.G. Ballard’s novel. Enjoy Ballard’s fantasies about modern design, automobile styling, collision pornography, and enjoy Ballard’s donnish tone, here and then here..
In recent years, succesful and respected film actors have become more willing to work in television because that’s where they find the best written projects and parts. The best show-runners are outpacing srennwriters, playwrights and novelists in the vitality, depth and quality of their work. David Free wrote about this Auspicious Development in televisual comedy for the Australian Literary Rreview. “The best of the new shows, especially the comedies, belong permanently on your shelf anyway, like books. They are dense and eminently rewatchable…”
We have a review in the pipeline of a great collection of WWII propaganda cartoons from the American magazine PM. Dr Seuss and Co. Go To War features Geissler’s visual polemics against US neutrality along with many other exponents of the caricatural, the satiric, the reductio ad absurdum and the poignantly tragicomic. Here are some old cartoons undertaken in a similar vein. Start off with an authoritative animated explanation of the strengths and limitations of Hitler’s blitzkrieg (a politely abstracted and bloodless rendering of warfare). You can watch a series of Soviet pieces here, simultaneously demonizing and lampooning Hitler, and then move along to an anti-fascist offering from the Disney studio.
The Japanese pulled no punches when they revisited the final atrocity of ‘the good war’ – pathos and horror, but they make their point - Hiroshima. Sad. So here are two palate cleansers. Fabulist whimsy at a rarefied level: UPA’s animation of James Thurber’s The Unicorn in the Garden, and Yuri Norstein’s Hedgehog in the Fog. Music is a feature in both, as it is in these beautiful oddities where: Max Fleischer riffs on Cab Calloway’s song and dance stylings, here and here; and then back to Japan for some classics - Ladybird Girl and Samurai vs spooks - that sit somewhere in between Fleischer and Hayao Miyazake (with more great soundtracks). These are from the era of the pre-feature short mind you, so if you’re in a hurry, save them for a quiet moment.
Season’s Greetings to Googlebots and Web crawlers - we will welcome back humanoid eyes with some fresh content in the New Year. Until then… Read more
Curatorial cross-pollination - Joseph Cornell and Karen Kilimnik both loved ballet, a few months back in London, the Sprueth Magers gallery in London showed some of their ballet works together. Browse the show here and read some background info here.
No Country for Old Men - ‘One of Juárez’s darkest, most fearsome mysteries is the regularity of mass murders in rehabilitation centers.’ A taste of Juarez from Ed Vulliamy at The Nation.
Ed Dante (not his real name) has written a lengthy and histrionic confession for the Chronicle of Higher Education detailing his lucrative trade writing course essays to order. ‘Of course, I know you are aware that cheating occurs. But you have no idea how deeply this kind of cheating penetrates the academic system, much less how to stop it.’ He writes, berating some imaginary academic. ‘As for me, I’m planning to retire. I’m tired of helping you make your students look competent.’ - “thanx so much for uhelp ican going to graduate to now”
‘The people I paint don’t exist. The only thing that is real is the painting’ - John Currin has a new show at the Gagosian gallery in New York - refined technique, brilliant fabrics and Currin’s curious camp eroticism. Browse the show here.
Coming to us direct from Venice Beach, Raymond Pettibon’s ‘talented draftsmanship, combined convincingly with the cartoon-like, economical style of his representations, speaks swiftly and freely about contemporary culture.’ Selected works from his current New York show here.
Elif Batuman takes issue, at some length, with the cultural illiteracy of programme trained creatives.
The Guardian Book blog says literary magazines are thriving online.
Michael Hofmann picks over a new translation of Thomas Bernhard’s Old Masters. He suggests that the comic energy which many English speaking readers find in Bernhard’s unrelenting negativity might well be an illusion - Bernhard may just have meant all the nasty things his characters say.
Over at The Post Post, Tracey Clement wrestles with a tacitly condoned culture of self-censorship within the tight circles of the art world.
New paintings by Luc Tuymans at David Zwiriner - Corporate.
‘Celebrity autobiographers are celebrities first and autobiographers second’ - David Free reviews Michael Caine’s The Elephant of Hollywood for The Australian.
Enough with ennui and suicide, seems everyone is rediscovering Chekhov’s sense of humour.