It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.
The Admiral Chrichton
What if Lord of the Flies happened, except everyone is adult and civilised? Of course, this was written decades before William Golding's only good book and Barrie's aims were more by way of social satire via comedy of manners than getting in-yer-face with the underlying brutal savagery of human nature, papered over by civilisation. Which in turn was JG Ballard's favourite theme, though he probably never quite succeeded so spectacularly.
But back to Barrie: You can rip through this in no time and be gently amused but it's about an alien world for most of us - hardly anybody has even one live in servant any more od course, let alone an entire staff of hierarchically minded people presided over by a Butler who keeps everyone rigidly in their places. Probably why it's nowhere near as famous as a play about a boy who never grew up - because we all had a childhood, whenever or wherever we lived.
I'm ambivalent about this series: most of Stross's flaws are absent - no Luggage Syndrome! - but somehow it's not the page turner most of his books are. Thinking about why that is led me to two conclusions. Firstly the characters are not that interesting. Secondly, the characteristic Stross humour is conspicuous by its absence. There's another volume combining books five and six that wraps up the series and I'll likely read it some time, because I'm just invested enough to want to see how things turn out.
I have arrived at the beginning of the collection (73 Poems) that inspired me to read the Complete Poems in the first place. It was the last collection published in Cummings' lifetime.
Julian Opie clearly considers himself a portraitist, which is interesting, in that realism is not a big concern of his and the people he uses as models are often unidentifiable from the finished works. He uses various media but seems generally to create the image using computer software then convert it to his chosen physical medium afterward - these media are varied: vinyl, LEDS, computer monitors, painted sculptures, animations, to name several but not all.
The animations are particularly interesting to me. Imagine you see a painting of a woman hanging on a wall, looking unexpectedly bright but otherwise not very remarkable, then - did she just BLINK?! - YES! It's not a painting at all - it's a computer animation and the brightness comes from the fact that it's a monitor emitting light rather than just reflecting it like a painting.
So that's one half of the book - Opie's own work. The other half is a selection from his collection of other people's work. Portraiture is the common theme here, with very few exceptions, and the range of the collection is striking, with sculptures from ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian artists right through to 18th century paintings of the kind rich families had done as status symbols and vanity projects.
The book really opened my eyes to the fact that realist portraiture is largely not for me; give me a Rembrandt of someone with a characterful face, yes, but a Gainsborough of some dynastically minded minor noble or rich merchant and - well, the trees in the background will be much more interesting. I noticed it in the book comparing african and European art, too. The African art had no interest in realism at all, where-as the European seemed to pize it as the most valuable aspect of the work in most cases. And I much prefered the African work, almost invariably.
In this exhibition, the least realist work was also my favourite, whether it be an outline human figure made from LEDs, like a programmable traffic sign, or an ancient Egyptian funerary sculpture intended to represent a servant in the afterlife. I am wondering whether this preference has an Aspie connection or not? I need to look into it a bit to find out.
Anyway, the physical design of the book is an annoying and unnecessary distraction (start at either end; meet in the middle), as is the consequent lack of page numbers, but still, it's a good reminder of the exhibition and I like Opie's style in his own work.
Käthe Kollwitz had strong connections to Berlin and there is a museum dedicated to her, there, which is where I bought this book. The format is huuuuuuuuge - big enough for "over a dozen" reproductions (out of 82) to be full size.
Shipwrecked! On the island the former social order begins to unravel and Crichton begins to show his Admirable qualities.
I wonder if my lack of interest in realistic portraiture is Aspie related? It takes a subject with a really interesting face for me to really like it. Opie's own work, which, whilst usually figurative, is far removed from realist painting, is much more interesting to me.
So, definitely a comedy of manners, showing up the rigid hierarchical nature of aristocratic households and how difficult they are to break down when the servants are just as hierarchical as the Lords and Ladies...
Passport to Eternity: Psychedelic bonkersness! Even more psychedelic and bonkers than PKD's We can Remember it for You, Wholesale, though in a similar vein.