what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Essays and images

…. I remember the impact which the essays of 18/19th century English writers such as Addison, Francis Bacon and Charles Lamb made on me at secondary school. “What is truth, said Jesting Pilot, and would not stay for an answer is apparently Bacon – although I get rather confused that the wonderfully evocative piece on burning pork is apparently by Charles Lamb – not Bacon! I start to google the various names and find a wonderful website devoted to.....essays - y compris... Lamb’s on pork. It was, of course, Michel de Montaigne who started this art form in the 16th Century in his castle near Bordeaux– and his "Complete Works" stands on a shelf above my study door. As I read Malcolm Gladwell’s essays, I suddenly hear in my mind the tones of Alaister Cooke - as he read his Letters from America (for almost 50 years). What an institution he was! Weaving a spell as he slowly moved from his opening ear-catching sentences through a charming analysis of part of the American system to a laconic conclusion. And then I thought of Tom Wolfe – whose 1970 essay “Mau-mauing the flak catchers” was such a merciless description of the funding culture which grew around the US War on Poverty. Unfortunately I couldn’t find this essay online – although (thanks to Wikipedia and New York Magazine) I could download his even more famous satire of “the radical chic”. If only someone would do a similar satire on EU funding – someone surely must have!! But it’s beyond a joking matter!
I then went on the say that Wolfe invented the marvellous phrase “shit-detector” – but I now discover that this was actually Ernest Hemingway’s phrase - 
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it.
When I googled the phrase I discovered this lovely blog by an Australian ceramicist which, sadly, stopped in 2011. One of my quieter passions has been for ceramics. But the blog images of the ceramicist are still archived. Nothing, however, can compare with Barbara’s It’s About Time daily blog which performs two immense public services – introduces us to American and European painters (generally of the early 20th century) few of us have ever heard of; and stuns us every day with beauty.

Tom Wolfe has not only been an amazingly creative and powerful essayist but has also - as this beautifully written essay argues -  uniquely captured sociological insights about particularly East-coast USA
The painting which adorns this post is one of a series on a recent post she gave us about a Russian painter Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962). Little wonder that her blog has had more than 2 million hits. Goncharova was a member of the Der Blaue Reiter avant-garde group from its founding in 1911.  Goncharova moved to Paris in 1921 where she designed a number of stage sets of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. She became a French citizen in 1939.

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