Tuesday, July 27, 2010

that Loveliness was complete

Quite some time ago I indulged myself, and bought this copy of the facsimile of Jane Austen's Sanditon. (I don't think this site existed at the time).  I love having it, and at one time was so obsessed with it, that I thought I might write a book, somehow, about this manuscript, about how I was pacing around it, dreaming around it.  I wrote several poems that I've abandoned, one of which I robbed from and used in my as yet unpublished novel about a possible woman art forger, Hive: A Forgery. I was mainly obsessed with the phrase, "that Loveliness was complete."  In the Austen manuscript (as you can see in the note above) the line appears on the first page, at the bottom, but belongs with the text on page 32.  I find this phrase terribly moving maybe mainly because of its placement, the way that it can be found there, mentally returned to its proper place in Chapter 3.  It's just a moment of logistics, getting things down, a running out of room.  I love this fragment from an unfinished novel, and I loved working on my abandoned poems.  It somehow made sense to me to add this phrase and bits of my abandoned poem into Hive, which also contains fragments, brushstrokes, from an earlier version.  I'd written about 100 pages, when I realized the voice was wrong, the telling of it was off kilter.  I deleted this version, but had printed off about 5 or 6 pages that I though had moments.  Out of the 5 or 6 pages, maybe 2 or 3 end up in the final version. 

I took the book outside today, in the sun, after reading Bachelard's The Poetics of Reverie.  (Another book I often return to).  He writes,

 "Often the dream of flight is a dream without wings." 

I held the book up to the sky, dreaming of flight, dreaming my next book.

This is how reading is, and even more so, writing - a sudden take off, the sensation of lifting off, leaving earth. 

(I've posted the set of photos from this aft on my Flickr page, here).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Purse Portraits

It goes without saying, the writing life is pretty odd.  The novel I'm writing (it seems odd to call it a novel, but maybe at 80 pages of prose and counting it's safe to say that it won't turn into poetry or transmogrify into a collection of essays) is the portrait of a young woman obsessed with handbags and purses. That's really all I feel like giving away at this stage. Wouldn't want to jinx anything.  Although in truth, it's all likely to change anyway. 

Writing a novel about a person obsessed, means that you get to follow their obsessions around a bit, try them on.  I've got a whole shelf of books by now on purses and handbags.  Books on vintage handbags, the history of handbags, how to divine a woman by her handbag, and my favorite book: Bags which is the catalogue for The Museum of Bags and Purses.  Possibly it goes without saying that my character will at some point end up there.  With some luck, this means that in the next year or so, I also will end up there.  Wish me luck....bags of it, yes?

In the meantime, I'm mixing my obsession with taking photos, with my character's obsession with purses.  The photos here are the result of a shoot this afternoon - a series I'm calling, "Purse Portraits."  I mean, I'm just doing this to amuse myself, but also to think about purses, to really see them, these things that we just sling over our shoulder usually, casually draping a large part of pretty important and revealing stuff, and dashing out the door. 

I'll leave you to them. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Conversation About Beauty

Thinking about beauty, looking for beauty, contemplating such things as bird's nests and typewriters.  "I see blue skies, I see butterflies."  (There is Beauty in the World). Re-reading Elaine Scarry's 1999 book, On Beauty and Being Just.  She talks about the 'banishing of beauty from the humanities" and the "political complaints against beauty."    Not, she says, that beautiful things, stories, poems etc have been banished, but "that conversation about the beauty of these things has been banished, so that we coinhabit the space of these objects.......yet speak about their beauty only in whispers."  Has this been true in the humanities since?  I can't say, being quite out of the loop.  That loop, certainly. 

From Blue Studios:  "I just didn't want beauty in my poetry: any hint was an invitation to a slippery slope of the feminine.  Beauty was too nice, too expected, too complicit with what the feminine was in poetry, and by extension, what the female was."  She goes on, "In any event I tried not to write beauty (rhetorical staginess, lovely images, and the mellifluous) but to write language, to write syntax, to write austerely.  Or to compose a beauty so hard and selective, yet in intense visionary images, as to contain its suspect presence."  (p. 220, 221).  You can tell how much I like this book by all the dogeared pages in the image above. 

In the novel I have recently finished, about the possibility of the existence of a woman art forger, I did want beauty in my narrative, in my forgery.  (The subtitle of the book is, A Forgery).  She is undiscovered, my forger. (An increasingly difficult feat as technology advances in forgery detection).  Her motivation is in fact, beauty, the revelation of a mystical colour via secrets embedded in her forgeries.  The best way for a forgery to go undetected?  To be whole, beautiful.  Fake busters, as they're called, experts in forgery detection, have a sort of sixth sense for knowing that something is odd, off, unfinished, off-kilter.  So, in my narrative, beauty isn't hidden, but is what hides, or contains, a suspect presence.   In my mind, the whole narrative hangs together only if the reader believes in the beauty of the narrative, in the beauty of the art forgeries and in their capacity to fool or take in the viewer. 

It's an odd place to be in.  Having one book behind you, not yet published, and working on the next.  It's necessary to sort through in my mind what it was I thought I was doing in the previous book, to be aware of how it's infringing on the one in progress.  Even though they're two completely different works, there is communication between them, if that makes sense. 

Meanwhile, although I've stopped checking my Google alert for art forgery, things will come to my attention like this show at the National Gallery in London, titled Close Examinations: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries.  Of course, I'm immediately intrigued, especially by headlines such as "A Blonde's Dark Secret." And though my research has taken an entirely different turn for the book in progress, how could I resist the catalogue for this exhibition??