Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Tuesday night is..
...what Monday night is supposed to have been except we went straight out after I returned from work to the reading at Jurnet's Bar to hear Penelope Shuttle and Emma Jones, Faber's new Australian poet. No regrets at all.I have heard Penny read several times and the poems on the death of Peter Redgrove continue buoyant, sad and marvellous. As for Emma Jones: reader, I bought the book. She sounds full of adventure and space and the language bucks and sprints and opens its mouth wide in her. I think I will enjoy reading the whole thing.
But the rain was bucketing and the night was late and I was considerably sleepy so there was no time for this, as there sort of is now, though I have spent the afternoon arranging one thing or another, writing letters, reading poems.
C wanted to scan in some photos but when she opened the printer she found my passport-set under the lid, the photobooth picture I myself scanned in for Facebook (not that I do very much there at all). I looked at the face and didn't much like it. But then I never do. Fascinating, I thought, how we want to look good in photos - whatever good amounts to - almost more in photos than in life. It isn't as simple as vanity. Few of us think we look beautiful or handsome, but the photos, the photos... The trace, the permanent, or partly permanent, trace; that Platonic shadow of our best selves, needs to be fully kitted up to meet its maker. Because it matters in the vast universe, and all those other universes hiding behind this one, ad infinitum, that this creature, this tiny splinter of consciousness should have in some ways presented itself to the pooled or peaked consciousness of those incomprehensible spaces and registered itself, as itself. As some kind of quintessence or fulfilment or excuse.
I remember hearing Norman Mailer talk about Marilyn Monroe. The interviewer was astonished that he could talk of her in the same breath as Sir Laurence Olivier - because he was, you see, a proper actor, he played a variety of characters whereas she... she was, he must have thought, just a hapless, sad, curvy, chewing-gum, bottle-blonde, pneumatic, cooing, infantilised nothing-but-a-version-of-herself on a very large screen.
Yes, Mailer, riposted, but that is because you don't understand what movie acting is about. It was, he suggested, or so I remember, that sense of being a self that is capable of magnification, simplification and fixedness. It is, in that way, the being that comprehends the image and the image that becomes the viewer. (Although this is now not Mailer exactly, but me, running on, taking over.) And of course Mailer was dead right. There was that lovely phrase a commenter, Nicole, used about Cary Grant to my last posting: He always has this air of not quite believing he is where he is. Yes, that's it perfectly. And that is what is wonderful about him. Cary Grant is the icon that does precisely that. That is what being Cary Grant is. Just as Monroe is the icon that does what she does. They are those oddly hollow ringing vastnesses we step into as we might into cinema itself. Or, indeed, into the imagination
And that is, perhaps, in some ways, what we want with our photos, our images of ourselves. We want them to feel as though we and others could enter them as a kind of icon. This is not to do with acting, with being Sir Larry, and still less with reality. It is to do with imagined space, with the consciousness that fixes itself briefly on the fleeting sense of being and desires meaning in the same terms as that which it looks at.
We want to look cute, authoritative, deep, certain, or whatever else we can imagine on the big screen of the self. And that's kind of sweet. It's just humans being human, charming, vulnerable objects of desire.
And this little video too is cute. I found it via a Guardian hint, on a site called Old Jews Telling Jokes. Hey, not so old either! Not what I'd call old. Not now. The woman telling the joke is the director's mom, and, as he puts it, "she drops the F bomb". Pretty good, I say. Just beware the adverts under and after. No jokes about that please. Someone has to mind the shop.