2014 - Film DiaryParadise: Faith | Ulrich Seidl | Austria | 2012 | 6.5
2014 - Film DiaryParadise: Faith | Ulrich Seidl | Austria | 2012 | 6.5
I don’t really care for the Smiths, I’m indifferent to Marr and I disliked Morrissey long before this engorged folly. But I so love How Soon Is Now. At the moment I can’t get enough of it.
Am I the last person on God’s green earth who both still remembers and adores the frothy Shangri-Las-meets-Blondie audio-porn that was The Pipettes circa 2004? Devotion seems the only appropriate response to a band so conceptually kitschy that they were prepared to shape the entirety of their creative output in such a way as to tonally capture the internal monologues of some kind of particularly mouthy Bunty heroine. They even had their own all-male The-Shadows-lite backing band called The Cassettes. Ay me.
They might have pretended that the whole thing was committed in an arch spirit of post riot-grrrl irony, but the truth is that bands as camp as the Pipettes only exist because people loved the Ronnettes, they loved the Crystals and by God if they didn’t just love to pull shapes with The Pipettes in an utterly non-ironic way.
They’re still around if anyone’s interested, only now they’re performing in the wake of Sugababes-esque line-up overhauls and singing much less adorable songs and the sexy librarian one is gone and the glory days of those fabulous videos are past just like our youth and you can never go home again and we’ll all die someday and the sun will burn out and all this will be but a balled-up post-it note in God’s wastepaper basket.
"Early in his career Ernest Hemingway devised the writing strategies he would follow for life: when composing a story he would withhold mention of its central problem; when writing a novel he would implant it in geography and, insofar as possible, he would know what time it was on every page; when writing anything he would construct the sentences so as to produce an emotion not by claiming it but by rendering precisely the experience to cause it. What he made of all this was a rigorous art of compressive power, if more suited to certain emotions than others. He was unquestionably a genius, but of the kind that advertises its limits. Critics were on to these from the very beginning, but in the forward-looking 1920’s, they joined his readers to make him the writer for their time. His stuff was new. It moved. There was on every page of clear prose an implicit judgment of all other writing. The Hemingway voice hated pretense and cant and the rhetoric they rode in on."
From E.L. Doctorow’s New York Times review of Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden, upon its initial publication in 1986.
Started in 1945, the novel’s long gestation period followed by Hemingway’s suicide in 1961 account for at least some of its shortcomings, of which there are many. The 70,000 word edition finally published by Scribners a full 25 years after Hemingway’s death presents a re-jigged abridgement of the author’s original 200,000 word manuscript. Whether it could be said to adequately represent Hemingway’s original vision is anyone’s guess. Suffice it to say, The Garden of Eden as we know it is a far cry from his best work, but that doesn’t stop its being every bit as intriguing as it is unsatisfying.
For there are passages in this book which must easily count among the most beautifully spare prose Hemingway ever wrote. Moreover, when evoking at length the destructive power of sustained intimacy, Hemingway is devastatingly- almost painfully- good. And I’m not sure I ever read a first chapter in any novel so perfectly-formed (or so curiously self-contained) as that in Eden.
Some critics have called yuppie-Goddess Catherine (for whom Lee Miller makes a credible model on the cover of my vulgar 1980s paperback edition) the most impressive of all Hemingway’s female characters. Warm, androgynous, capricious, sadistic and rather fey, it’s true that she’s easily more vivid than her nearest counterpart Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises and indeed just as fascinating as any creature conjured by Capote, Williams or Faulkner.
She’s also the only heroine I can think of who gleefully sodomizes a Hemingway protagonist whilst cooingly addressing him with feminine pronouns.
What better sell than that?
Having recently picked up an anthology of verse that Dylan Thomas read for the BBC and other public fora (The Colour of Saying, Dent, 1977), I was struck by the way that surveying poetry admired by a man like Dylan provides almost as great an insight into his character as reading his own work does. Titans like Auden, Betjeman, Eliot, Graves, Housman and Yeats all predictably feature heavily, alongside several less familiar names like Alun Lewis, Louis MacNeice and Frances Cornford. One particular highlight I’d never come across before is Padraic Fallon’s rather dark and peculiar “Rafferty’s Dialogue with the Whiskey”. So far my attempts to track down an online audio of Thomas’ reading have been fruitless, but if anyone knows of where I could listen, do let me know.
What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory—meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion—is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.”
-from So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell.
A novelist, short story writer and erstwhile fiction editor of The New Yorker, Maxwell has long held a fascination for me. I was intrigued to learn recently from Barbara Burkhardt’s superb biography William Maxwell: A Literary Life that he counted French painter and Les Nabis founder Pierre Bonnard among his favourite artists. That oft-overlooked school of “Intimism”, chiefly comprised of the emotionally vivid paintings of Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, does seem to share some tonal sympathies with the cloistered struggles of Maxwell’s characters.
"It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes… we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions - especially selfish ones."
Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008): Russian dissident, author, historian & political prisoner.
After the mainstream women’s denim industry sold the shriveled remnants of its soul to the twin demons of lycra and elasticine sometime in the last decade, a woman might be forgiven for thinking that no matter if she is prepared to drop £40 or £400, she is doomed to never track down that elusive ideal: a pair of shuttle-loomed raw selvage cotton denims cut expressly for the female body.
This article over on Denim Hunters offers a good discussion on the dirth of premium selvage jeans on offer to women. It also surveys a handful of small-time companies like Tellason, imogene + willie, Railcar Fine Goods, Samurai, Raleigh and Baldwin, all of whom carry their own drool-worthy selvage in attractive, contemporary cuts that will wear gorgeously over time. Ranging in price from $150 to $400, these aren’t currently a realistic purchase for me. However, they’re certainly very desirable- particularly the cuts from Baldwin and Raleigh.
In its discussion of the womenswear selvage market’s limitations, the article ended up making me feel sad that even in the large-scale resurgence of interest in raw jeans we’ve seen in the fashion press of the past few years, there’s an all-too-predictable assumption amongst most manufacturers and writers that this type of denim is a premium, hard-wearing cloth that, like most premium hard-wearing materials, is primarily intended for the menfolk.
Wayne’ll take his jeans like he takes his steak: raw and blood-soaked.
By contrast, the average female consumer’s most coveted commodities are perceived by major labels to be the transient gimmicks of any particular season’s "look", no matter how tacky/idiotic/downright ugly those gimmicks might be. As a result of such a poisonous Philip Green-esque business strategy (which powers everything from Asian sweatshop labor to the protracted death-knell of mass-market Western manufacture), any additional considerations for women’s clothing (such as quality construction, durable materials or ethical pedigree, for instance) will necessarily result in a garment that retails at a ludicrously inflated price point.
In the first season of Put This On's webseries, Mike Hodis- the manufacturer behind Rising Sun denim, who also make women's jeans- remarked that what amounted to a standard level of craftsmanship in an 1890 pair of workman's jeans today constitutes a luxury standard out of reach to anyone who doesn't have $300-$550 to spend on one garment.
Of course he’s undoubtedly right that the ethos which underpinned the manufacturing values of a century ago has today given way to a near-universal acceptance of mediocrity in all things that aren’t made for wealthy people. The disease infecting womenswear that I bemoan above, therefore, does apply in the menswear market too.
Nevertheless, in relative terms, there is still a considerable gap in how the average male consumer’s demand for well-constructed, timeless clothing is catered for at a reasonable price point over and above the equivalent female consumer’s. If you’re at all skeptical about this claim, make sure that in your next trip to low to mid-end high street stores like Topshop, Uniqlo or Gap you visit both the male and female sections, comparing the construction, fabrics, aesthetics and the overall conceptual ‘product’ on offer in each. Whilst neither section in these brands will yield anything near a quality to write home about, you’ll find that the menswear is virtually always better constructed and usually more reasonably priced than the women’s. To wit: in their much-touted recent Best of British range, Marks and Spencer priced their attractive (if wincingly-current) Northampton-made men’s Chelsea boot at £60. The women’s version- all but identical in materials, construction, provenance and style- cost £160.
First world feminism, I know. But still.