Thursday, 26 March 2009

More thoughts on thoughtful dressing




One strain - excuse pun - in Linda's book is the line of discomfort and downright pain involved in wearing some garments, especially shoes. She writes very well about this. The sheer agony of it is puzzling, she says:

And so I start to wonder if women are masochists; are we actually the brain-dead dolts and bimbos which our superior brothers suggest? 'It is only when the mind and character slumber that dress can be seen,' sneered Ralph Waldo Emerson. 'You cannot be fashionable and first rate,' intoned Logan Pearsall Smith, the early twentieth-century essayist and author of nearly thirty works, most of which are out of print.

But then I remember that men get their teeth knocked out playing rugby, fall off mountains, run marathons, lift weights and voluntarily sign up to be flown round the world to fight wars for the grand adventure of being shot at. Because pain is part of living, and pleasures without effort are candyfloss confections, pallid and sickening.

"Well," says the subtext, and not too sub- either, "a good miaow to you, Emerson and Pearsall Smith, you sneerers and intoners, whom the world has rightly forgotten and whose names I now bring up only to show how far they are forgotten, while... " ...While what? That we cannot know. But Linda is right about clothes, and they are wrong. I am firmly persuaded of that, chiefly by her, and in any case a good cat-scratch does no great harm. Certainly not to the dead, even the sneerers and intoners.

Later, in talking about the elegant women of Hong Kong, each with her designer handbag, she says of them:

... they carried them with the conviction of the young, fashionable woman who knows she is dressed to strike a certain impression of uniform brand luxury. It was a devastating sight for the untidy, badly proportioned Englishwoman. The women on the streets had achieved the plateau of excellent taste the rest of us aspire to. I found it soothing and extremely appealing to the eye. And terribly sad, too, for all individuality had been extinguished in the race for the calming plateaux of luxe, and the self-assurance it brings. I did and did not want to be them. For they seemed to exist in a morphine pre-death, utterly calm and at peace with fashion.

Lovely phrase that, the calming plateaux of luxe. It is a kind of poetry. But what strikes me under it is the tension between ease and unease, between confidence and pain, between wanting and not wanting. That, I think, is where the game is played, in that band of tension. Sometimes, I think, that is the female domain. And a pretty tantalising domain it is too, a power game in which power is helpless, and in which, sometimes, helplessness can be power.

Pain and plainness are part of what we are: ease and beauty, calme, luxe et volupté, are the wanted / unwanted objects of desire.

As to fashion, mutability is at the heart of it. Mutability - donna e mobile - used to be the characteristic barb thrown at women by men, as if mutability were unambiguously a vice. The true male hypocrisy is not about dress or fashion, it is about mutability, because mutability is the very object of desire. Which is, of course, why we condemn it.

Fashion changes because desire changes. Male desire particularly. Desire is not quite the same as love: love can live without desire, though desire might find it harder to live without love. Male desire depends on mutability, on the change, shape-shift, sheer otherness, of that-which-is-never-quite-here. It is the male equivalent of female wanting and not-wanting as described by Linda. So women change because they know in their very bones that change is necessary, that mutability is of the essence, whether they are, as Linda has it elsewhere, "on the pull" or not. It is not always the other we pull. It is our very shadows.

Maybe more on this. Translated two poems this evening. One very beautiful, but first draft only. Tomorrow to UEA for a class and some blessed admin. On Saturday to Cambridge and another lecture.



4 comments:

Background Artist said...

Them s/he wee eye of ewe and us in full pretend.

WARNING ! DO NOT READ IF EASILY OFFENDED BY VILLAGE PEOPLES POETRY.


Not having read the book I am only responding to the text on the cat-walk of yr skating rink George, and as the concept is fashion, coinciding with a calm upswing to serenity (before an inevitable return to the neurotic male equivalent of pmt) a playful and puckish friviloity pervades the desk from where this frippery's being composed.

~

Male desire is a difficult one to nail because the risk of sounding intellectually ridiculous is always there, ready to rear up one wrong verbal match and fire us from an aesthetic high-wire, into the wholly different class of intellectual clown gerrin larfed at instead of twirling with good grace high above a crowd agasp at the lithesome form of our trapeze artiste *I* executing perfectley co-ordinated acts in vertiginous daring do.

A lout on the dodgems with spots and leotard, a fashion disaster born to be mocked by cooler gum chewing supermodels bred to be gawped at and pulled by Hong Kong totties tottering along like Posh and McLoughlin after a Sunday World expose on the offside antics of Rooney and Becks bedroom shenanigans with celebrity head hunting slappers - effortlessley consumate at all things slinky, sexy and beautifully in Fashion all through their lives, as only men like Redford and Clooney, Eastwood and Newman can - brooding, enthusiastic and wholly unapproachable to all but millionaire fashionistas in six inch killer heels, begging for numbers off the stars we will never be I fear George, unless like Rushdie, they fall in love with what's between our ears instead of what's between our...etc

~

Yes, that was the second laboured response once on the ice, but the first was thinking that Linda's linking of the gender pain experienced in physical activities relating to sport, with schlepping about in high heels and squeezing into what Larkin termed (as something like) *the cross weave slip, open legged stockings and suspenders* Monica dolled herself into for him - was pretty flimsy, on a purely cerebrally speculative level of creative *I* inquiry appearing here at this juncture of what can laughably not be titled as the career of an intellectual going places, getting no further than a bouncy castle whilst my rivals are like the fair-lads spinning round the waltzers and getting all the action as fully working memebrs of the intelligensia.

Background Artist said...

The thing about fashion is, it is founded on a rigid principle of the fewer the more fashionable, achived either through exhorbitant prices or extremely sophisticated (good?) taste.

As a life long fashion no go area satorially, I cannot even begin to pretend to speak with authority, but as a younger chap, remember it well. Lime green kecks (trousers) at the barn dance. The very memeorable goon of dropping a full cup of hot chocalate over myself at nine ten on the first day of sixth form, where I had appeared in white canvas pants, spending the rest of the day unable to compete. Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and Wah! (with the exclamation mark) LP's in the fifth form dinner break when the final year had access to a record player, clutched and paraded with the covers out. Wedge haircuts, reversable parkers (blue and yellow) - kicker boots, la coste, fruit of the loom, watching not the nine o'clock news before everybody else and cottoning n first to the next big thing, like listening to Boy U2 - all thse things I was a failure at getting right and didn't even try, drawn as I was to Elvis and the Wolfe Tones instead of the Liverpool lips and rock gods, still going, like JCC, exactly the same, still ranting about the working class not getting a break and stuck in a time warp, their brains and fashion sense trapped in 1983, Groundhog Day, God Save the Queen, Sid and Nancy, nothing changed everything remains the same the more changes happen. Fashion, turn to the left, 1997, fashion, turn to the right, 2010 perhaps when Dave becomes the new Tone and squats and genral poverty get trendy again, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps Day and Hudson, Rock and Doris, drainpipes and quiffs, long hair and skins, swings and rondabouts, men and women, the impelling desire for love and nothingness held in equipoise between head and heart, between the legs and ears, always fashion steers us along to what we become and on the cobbles its distressing for a fee, ripped jeans jack and sean and Johnnie G, auld ear sings free, hearing above the cocophony toing and froing about the table, benevolence or sneer, a blank and empty canvas. Fashion what's within to be, original and uniquely wee ewe eyes of blinding night's epiphany and scream for moi, moi moi before the stock's all gone and nothing's left but God fashioning us.

~

barks the word verification.

George S said...

The balance between lust (sheer horniness) and desire (romance focused on an object that is not merely a body, but is clearly, also body) and love (which I read as a kind fierce tenderness for a person, to the point of self-sacrifice for their sake) is difficult to strike, because these are only words, and words, especially those relating to mental conditions, are only shadow precisions, which is why science tends to prefer numbers.

States are the devil. In practice emotion is a bundle, and our difficulties arise because we ourselves can rarely discern the balance in ourselves, let alone in others.

The point about fashion, I suspect, is that it is a vast exclusive commercial concern based on the need felt by women - or so I think but could not possibly prove, this being based on reading and observation in a field in which it pays no-one to be absolutely straight - on the need to keep changing, because the state of mutual desire between men and women depends on it. ie Men are erotically excited by the new: hence all male infidelity. This is not a moral issue: it is a biological one, that everyone really knows but no one wants to admit. On the other hand being oneself exciting, is exciting for the objects of excitement.

Damned impossible distinctions! etc etc. But something like that.

But lime green kecks! Gerraway!

Background Artist said...

Ha ha Szirtes me arl senior sparring rival for the Love of god man !!

I must say George, your post above this musing, the penumbra and shadow stuff, was masterful and, of course i appropriate full credit to myself for its birth, seeing as it was written after you had read what inspired you to compete that wickle bit more Georgie boy, that tiny jolt of genuine jazz that tilts one to raise their game through sheer green rage sublimated into healthy competition-with-self.

i admit it, i thought i had finsihed you off once and for all - a ha ! i thought on departing the rink after last nights dancing in the shadow and shade of imaginative make believe that is the lot of us dreamy divs - that's aul Szirtsy sorted i thought, his next post will be a grovelling apology and announcement that his true status as a psueds corner-boy impersonating the real intellectual, had been exposed by yours truly, and speaking as the bluffer he really is - beg for lessons in how to impersonate a Lancashire lout doing the Lord's business.

But no, you go and despoil all my plans for toppling your blather by and stealing your soul, by batting straight into the arena with a once quarterly out the ground event of elegance and eloquence in which, though plagarism and heresy cannot be definitley proved - no one's fooled George.

OK, you had a good performance, you stole what was in my mind and passed it off as your own, but pure luck, pure chance and blatant psychic theft. A moral crime and outrageous behaviour for a man of your standing - that those words came out in that arrangement - but you'll soon swing back into the doldrums and be blogging about the village shop again, this sort of stuff doesn't come with a guarantee of permanence George: not unless the Lord decrees it my Eliotic rival for the real prize of inner laurel.

~

And as a very close colleague of a friend of a spokesperson for the Highness below the eye behind a mind behind the hand that writes with silver sickle for mistletoe and wo/men kissing all a Lord will ask them to - you must desist immediately from this ridiculous display of - what might look like a dose of the real hard-think to everyone else Szirtes, but not ME !!!!

~

The deaf applauding a hurdy-gurdy,
sheep-fanciers spurning sheep
an idiot heart elsewhere is ours
there where a village heart beats

...stolen off the whippersnapper nipping at your blog-name, Daithi Wheatley, who I advised yesterday at the scene of the theft, prior to re-sequencing the raw material to its current verbal state - that he start stealing ideas from you, get gassing about the Hull classroom, put that Trinity wit to work and learn how to be a real faery, from me via you and the usual amount in the post, which didn't come last month George and so it's double bubble in the cruelest month, or i'll be informing Famous of the outrage and you'll have Durcan and Muldoon to answer for, i'm afraid.

carry on, there's nothing to see here but gra agus siochain.

~

thanks very much George.

Sláinte.