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Tag Archives: Literature

The cost of art

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V-A-L-U-E

noun. 1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
2. principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgements of what is important in life.

A while back I saw three films around the same time which all brought up a similar issue; that of a struggling artist.

Inside Llewyn Davis focuses on the eponymous musician who is constantly striving to create folk music whilst having to sleep on friends’ couches and hitching rides across the country to search for a record deal. He reminded my of a few of my friends who are musicians, who simply need to create music, to play, to write songs, to perform. They are not necessarily doing it to become extremely rich and famous, though an income from their passion would help.

Le Regard de Georges Brassens also centres around a musician, this time a real and very successful one. It is a great documentary about the wonderful French singer, guitarist and poet, Brassens, showing us his youth whilst growing up in Sète and later his life in Paris before becoming famous. Brassens moved to Paris at the age of 22 during the war and managed to find a place to stay with an older couple, Jeanne and Marcel. Jeanne was a collector of all kinds of strays; cats, dogs, musicians. They were a poor family in terms of income, but rich in warmth and generosity and without their support Brassens would not have been able to concentrate solely on his song writing, and wouldn’t have become the star he did.  Brassens dedicated a song to her;

La Jeanne, la Jeanne
Elle est pauvre et sa table est souvent mal servie
Mais le peu qu’on y trouve assouvit pour la vie,
Par la façon qu’elle le donne,
Son pain ressemble á du gâteau
Et son eau a du vin…

“Jeanne, Jeanne
She is poor and her table is often badly laid
But the small amount you find there fills you up for life,
By they way in which she gives it,
Her bread is like cake
And her water is like wine…”

Finally Violette is a film based on the life of the writer Violette Leduc at the start of her career in Paris. She is encouraged to pursue her talents by the acclaimed Simone de Beauvoir and manages to publish her first novel. In order to continue writing, without having to spend her time scraping together the money to survive, de Beauvoir secretly becomes her patron by paying her cheques via their editor.

The lives of all three of these artists are supported, at least initially, by others, so that they can concentrate wholly on their art. They are supported selflessly, without an agenda, without hope that one day the artist will become famous and repay the debts.

It got me thinking about the patronage of the arts, which I believe is vital and must be selfless. It must not be an investment in a future monetary value, but an investment in art for art’s sake. Art does not, or should not, exist to make money, to make the artist famous. It exists because humans have been producing it for millennia, because it is a sign of our intelligence, a symbol of our culture. It is how we make sense of the world and for some, life is unbearable if they are not creating.

Unfortunately our society is obsessed with the economy; money rules all. Therefore something can only be deemed to have a value if someone will pay for it; value and cost are inextricable linked. Within this kind of society I do think people should be paid for the art they produce, just as we as should pay accordingly for the music we want, the films we watch. However I can’t see this cost as its sole value.

The stereotype of a ‘struggling artist’ is not a romantic ideal, it is an inevitable situation in a materialistic, capitalist, money-driven society where instead of creating you are producing, instead of experiencing you are consuming.

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Pigs Have Wings

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A-B-S-U-R-D

I have just spent a few weeks back at home in England sorting through a load of old belongings.  What could be a quick clearing out task is often halted and slowed by sentiment and nostalgia and I would spend a long time reading over old, excruciatingly embarrassing diary entries, or cringing at pictures of my teenage self, or critically examining my old university and school work.

In the many piles of old exercise books I found a book review of a  P. G. Wodehouse paperback I had been reading during the summer holiday in Scotland (according to my diary:”Still reading Pigs Have Wings.” That was a toe-curlingly thrilling entry). I was 13 at that point so I decided to read the book again to compare reviews 13 years on, once I stopped hyperventilating about the fact that I wrote this HALF MY LIFE AGO!

So here is the extremely eloquent original review:

Spine of Penguin Book: P. G. Wodehouse, Pigs Have Wings

4th November 2000

Book Review

Title: Pigs Have Wings

Author: P. G. Wodehouse

‘Pigs Have Wings’ is set in the countryside, outside London. The main setting is Blandings Castle where Lord Emsworth lives. He is competing with Sir Gregory Parsloe for his pig, Empress of Blandings, to gain the “Fattest Pig” award in the local show.

Most of the characters are aristocrats and the novel makes a mockery of English aristocracy. It is quite a funny book, with a lot of confusion between characters when they always seem to grasp the wrong end of the stick. A lot of engagements are made and broken, sometimes it is hard to keep up with them. At one time there are about two or three story lines interlocking but the basis of the story is the two pigs. Because of the immense competition Gregory Parsloe steals the Empress of Blandings and Lord Emsworth steals the Pride of Matchingham!

Lord Emsworth is pretty crazy and pompous and gets everyone annoyed.  He will always deliberately say he has not a clue what his companions are talking about when they know that he does understand. He does not work properly but has a very busy lifestyle.

Galahad ‘Gally’ Threepwood, Lord Emsworth’s brother, is a likeable character as he’s a bit of a joker. He helped plot the capture of the Pride of Matchingham. Although he is always willing to help out, he is not the person you would entrust secrets upon- one of his hobbies is telling stories.

I found myself getting wrapped up in this book. It was frustrating at times when the characters did not find out all the details of scenarios and acted off only the few details they knew about. It is also frustrating when you know they are engaged to the wrong person and want them to realise that. In the end it is re-arranged and all there is to worry about is the pig contest.

I would recommend this book as a light read if you need cheering up. It takes a while to get used to but in the end it is an enjoyable read.

Penguin Book Cover Pigs Have Wings by P. G. Wodehouse

Copy of Pigs Have Wings: 2 and sixpence. Finding a prize pig in your kitchen: Priceless.

I have to say I haven’t really much to add to this review, though I am not suggesting it is the most enlightening book review I have ever read. I obviously didn’t understand all the humour at that age, and I probably had no idea about why Lord Emsworth ‘does not work properly’ but it seems like I had a grasp of the gist of the book and I enjoyed it as much now as I did then.

Of course it is not a novel with an extremely hard hitting theme or many deep issues, but it is an absurdly funny serving of situation slapstick with healthy dose of tongue in cheek lifestyle advice.

“In all properly regulated country houses the hours between tea and dinner are set aside for letter writing. The strength of the company retire to their rooms, heavy with muffins, and settle down to a leisurely disposal of their correspondence. Those who fall asleep try again the next day.”

To be read with alacrity

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A-L-A-C-R-I-T-Y
n. brisk and cheerful readiness.

My new word today is one that I have read many times before, but would never have been able to give the precise definition of. When I check “alacrity” on my trusty kindle I find it is buried in there 23 times. 23 times! I have that sinking feeling; how can I not know exactly what this word means? Apparently I have read it in:

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obstreperous

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O-B-S-T-R-E-P-E-R-O-U-S

adj: noisy and difficult to control

As I add another new word to my growing collection I start to realise something. The words I have been finding are not always completely alien to me even though I might think I’ve never heard them before.  I look up Obstreperous in my kindle after underlining it in Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls and find it right there in Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I knew I had seen it before, it had been floating around for a while before it finally hit my consciousness. I hope now it will manage to stick in my memory.

I find obstreperous an interesting word. The dictionary gives an example of its use: “The boy is cocky and obstreperous.” It appears to be one of the words heavy with gender, seeming to be a typically male characteristic. From Middlesex I see the same thing: “Boys can be very obstreperous.” This is of course spoken by the main character, Calliope, a hermaphrodite who is raised as a girl and later decides to become a boy. Eugenides’s novel raises many question about gender roles and prejudice, just as The Shining Girls does, covering issues surrounding women in the 20th century.

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Glaucous and Tender is the Night

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G-L-A-U-C-O-U-S

adj Tech or Lit 1) A dull greyish-green or blue colour 2) Covered with a powdery bloom like that on grapes

Glaucous Sea

covered in a bloom?

“It was past four and under a blue-gray sky the first fishing boats were creaking out into a glaucous sea.”

Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had this underlined from Tender is the Night not only to memorise my new vocabulary, but also beause I feel it is a wonderful example of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose. It is a simple phrase, setting the scene on the Côte d’Azur, simple but so beautifully put.  I fell in love with Fitzgerald whilst reading Tender it the Night, enjoying the quality of his language as well as his storytelling.

We follow Rosemary, a young American actress, as she holidays with her mother in the sun-drenched south of France. She starts to mix with the other wealthy guests from her hotel and soon becomes embroiled in their lives, falling in love for the first time with Dick Diver, a married man. Read the rest of this entry