The Brown Wedge

Nov 04

Sometimes completely unexpected connections

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Sometimes completely unexpected connections leap out and smack you in the face. Not too long back I wrote a little on Proven By Science about certain kinds of brain damage that cause aphasias related to ways of seeing. Last night I read the trade paperback comic book by David Mack, Daredevil: Echo – Vision Quest. Today I picked up my current art book in progress, Robert Rauschenberg by Sam Hunter. I wouldn’t have expected these things to link up in any way, but they do.

The character called Echo in the comic was born deaf. Much of this comic is about how she developed her own way of communicating and interpreting the world, form and content matching as we are given a comic largely presented in art resembling collage (it’s very post-McKean – and I don’t know that there is any actual collage involved, as it looks as if it’s almost all painted and drawn), supposedly from her own notebooks.

I learn from the Hunter book that Rauschenberg, probably my favourite living artist, is badly dyslexic, and this is convincingly tied in to his own use of collage. The theory presented is that his way of seeing text is directly related to the way he picks images out in his combine works, their rotations and reversals, but also as a suggestion that dyslexia imposes a different way of seeing and organising ideas – it’s argued well, and quotes from Rauschenberg show that he agrees with this idea.

Another incidental pleasure in reading this Rauschenberg book is the captions for the images, the statements of the physical composition, the medium, of the work: we are used to seeing things like ‘oil on canvas’ under a picture, but of course with Rauschenberg it’s rarely so simple. Perhaps his most famous work, Monogram, for instance, gets “oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas, with oil on Angora goat and rubber tire, on wood platform mounted on four casters.” Whoever writes these throws their hands up at times and just writes “combine painting” or “painting and assemblage”.

An experimental graphic novel based on blogs?

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An experimental graphic novel based on blogs?

That sounds thrilling! And its automatcially generated from harvested Blogger text, creating the art on the fly from themed computer graphics – geek heaven!

But the execution turns out to be a jumble of sprites and speech bubbles, and after a while the naratives reveal themselves to be from war blogs, which, when coupled with the imagery of Civ3, makes the whole project seem suspect.

Nov 04


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Nov 04

We wandered into St Sulpice

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We wandered into St Sulpice in Paris the other weekend. As my delightful travelling companion went off to light a candle for her Grandmother, I put on my specs and started having a glance around the old place. It’s nice in an not-very-demonstrative neo-classical sort of way. That is to say it has more flash baroque action than its average English equivalent and less than its average Italian one.

Anyway, a very friendly Frenchman, late middle aged / early old aged, came up and started talking to me about the architecture. He was some sort of guide: he had a wee name badge on. He explained to me about the style, about the relatively egalitarian impulse of the open chancel and the double height clerestory. All very pleasant. He seemed very keen to tell me about a line running at an angle across the nave, brass set in pink marble. He said it was the line the French took as the meridian before it was agreed that Greenwich would be The One. Hm. Quite interesting, I guess. His English was amazing.

The surprise came the next day when my friend got to the relevant part in The Da Vinci Code. That very line was there in the book! What a coincidence! And we wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t been for the nice man. It clicked that he was stationed there to talk the roaming hordes of DVC tourists through something more than the wretched line they’d come to see. This seems marvellously welcoming and peculiarly unParisian.


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“Guernica represents something recently demonstrated in this year’s passionate torrent of anti-Bush agitprop, namely art’s ineffectuality in the production of concrete political results.” I wonder if there’s a kind of Godwin’s Law active in ref. “Successful” Political Art – if you were to compare Grozny, say, to Guernica, the comparison risks being treated as on-its-face absurd NOT bcz the events are dissimilar (seeing as i cast around for like all of 7 secs to come up with a.n.other city bombed in a civil war), but rather bcz Guernica-the-painting, which “encapsulates an atrocity with genius” (=made-up ‘typical’ quote), is incomparable w.all art (so far) abt Grozny? Hence by unconscious extension…

Nov 04

More comparisons:

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More comparisons:

Boris Akunin’s The Winter Queen has been called a Russian version of an Ian Fleming book. Sure it is full of restless adventure clich’s but actually the book is far closer to John Buchan’s style of derring do*. The Fleming reference only comes in at the last chapter, where the spurned and thwarted villain exacts revenge on the hero Fandorin in a manner similar to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It is not as affecting as Bond’s tragedy though, as the young lady in question seems to have been shoe-horned into the last few chapters merely to (at first sight) give the hero a happy ending and then (on second sight) to give him a tragedy. It is a bit unfortunate because the rest of the book had been a rather good fun romp.

The book also suffers when the villain’s masterplan is revealed: not only is it a good plan, but actually does not seem to be in any way dastardly. I felt sorry for the villain, which I suppose is why we needed the final act to mark them off as actually evil. Unfortunately in books we don’t get Louis Armstrong singing “We Have All The Time In The World”. Just an introductory paragraph to Akunin’s next book Leviathan (which riffs on Agatha Christie, apparently).

*And surely, if we are looking at this stuff stylistically, there is probably a pair of translators involved before any direct claims of plagarism are even considered.


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rainy just emailed me this link – it is self-explanatory (or maybe the other one)

Nov 04

I have gotten Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy mixed up before.

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I have gotten Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy mixed up before. Not in a prose identification way, they are distinctive enough, but merely in the name filing part of my brain. I was reminded of this by looking at the blurb for David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Four where three capsule reviews mention Ellroy while one mentions Leonard. I think there was the brain error there as Peace’s book is certainly tarred by the Ellroy brush (why have paragraphs when sentences will do). And to start off with the stark kinetic style really sucks you in.

The relentless violence, authentically anachronistic prejudices of the characters do threaten to push you away. And once the lead has been beaten within an inch of his life, you would think there is nowhere else for the book to take its nastiness (trust me there is). A snuff movie of a book almost, it riffs on its Yorkshire setting to create a miasma of horrors which sit poorly with its actually rather rubbish plot machinations. When the “Book Of Canals” stuffed with kiddies photos is discovered just after our lead is told of tens of missing kids you put two and two together. The journalist hero does not do this basic arithmetic and ends up tortured, battered, bruised and effecting a pointless solution. The literary version of fireworks stuffed with fecal matter.

S’NDOR WE’RES: Antithin

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S’NDOR WE’RES: Antithin

At last it has leaked out – thin men are the cause of everything.
They wait in ambush on street corners and if an old woman comes by
they don’t even greet her. They are more concerned with exchanging their
straw hats for lottery tickets, and with naturalising crocodiles in
the waters of Europe, so that even there there should be no safety.

They always begin their fishy deals in their beds at dawn, and
afterwards go to the street. Some work in offices, others ostensibly
are waiters or locksmiths – they all disguise themselves but their
true trade is thinness. At last it has leaked out – thin men are, etc.

(This poem, translated by Richard Lourie, can be found in Leopard V: An
Island of Sound – Hungarian Poetry and Fiction before and beyond the Iron
. It is included here as The Brown Wedge’s contribution to the
Pumpkin Publog’s campaign to save the Ayingerbrau Fat Man. You can add your name to the petition here.)

Nov 04

The cover of Murphy’s Favourite Channels is not very promising

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The cover of Murphy’s Favourite Channels is not very promising, it is indeed almost offputtingly poor. John Murray’s book which, in a cosy fashion, juxtaposes the life of a Northern lad made good with the television he watched is actually a better book than that cover would suggest. It is the kind of book though where the conceit too often comes to the fore, and perhaps coupling the backstory with a modern story of life with multichannel television was a mistake.

The real issue is one of balance. Well over half of the book is taken up with Murphy’s youth, evoked with a number of well drawn vignettes. When Murphy reaches London, we speed through the rest of his life (including four wives) in much less space. Perhaps it would be less interesting, perhaps nostalgia for 80’s/90’s television is not Murray’s strong point – but it does leave the book wanting. Equally the modern day television review section is hampered by involving fictional programmes and fiction channels (thinly veiled mind), whereas the historical bits are quite clear on its Z Cars and Brains Trust lineage.

Nevertheless I enjoyed it, and part of that may well have been due to the books crossover with my own life. The foreword (Murphy can watch the Arabic News Channel as he took Arabic at the School Of Oriental and African Studies in 1971) was enough to make me flick through it. The SOAS sections are plenty inconclusive. But then coning across a character near the end called Shona MacLean (mis-spelled name of ex-flatmate) was enough to give me pause. This has happened since (Ronald Gannon, another ex-flatmate in David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Four) and is both arresting but disconcerting.