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11/29/2009 The Art of Fiction: "To fling his soul up…

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The Art of Fiction

The Art of Fiction was a famous essay by Henry James, from 1885. This weblog aims to offer an ongoing critical discourse on the creative
process. It is written by Adrian Slatcher, who is a writer amongst other things, based in Manchester. Bournemouth Runner is a song by the
Fall, but you probably already knew that.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2009 My Links


"To fling his soul upon the growing gloom." Bonbon Experiment Myspace
It's a wintry morning, after a cold night. There were specs of snow seen in Poems & Fiction by Adrian Slatcher
Manchester, the sudden drop in temperature bringing with it a certain
gloom. A friend on twitter sees a song thrush in the garden, and you realise Other People's Sites
it's exactly the kind of day that had Thomas Hardy thinking of "every spirit
upon earth/seemed fervourless as I" until he heard the darkling thrush that Almost Island
had "chosen thus to fling his soul upon the growing gloom." Arts & Letters Daily
Baroque in Hackney
Travelling south I've been feeling a little Hardyesque myself this morning, the Brit Lit Blogs
darkness of the daytime sky not helping my mood. I'm tired, I think, as the Carcanet
year draws in, yet haven't time for a rest - not a proper one anyway, with a
Creative Tourist, Manchester
full calendar, work, social, and work-social. I've been cramming in
Eggbox Publishing
experience as well, and it tends to frazzle one's innocence sometimes.
Amongst the books I found in Morecambe and Lancaster last week was one Elizabeth Baines
by Andre Malraux where he writes about "museums without walls" - which Fiction Bitch
seemed so appropriate to the discussion at "The Art of With" at the George Szirtes
Cornerhouse on Wednesday that one is amazed by the serendipity. Horizon Review
Malraux, writing after the second world war, talks about our galleries and If P then Q
museums as a recent ordering of things. As an active participant in the Litfest
French resistance he had more reason than most to think about these
Manchester Lit List
institutions as signs of our "civilisation", but also, to question a little, the
Nathan Hamilton
patterns that are made from art without purpose other than to be shown,
collected and preserved. At the Art of With, following up his thoughtful Openned
essay on curators as gatekeepers, Michael Connor spoke about the idea Parameter Magazine
of curation from a non-collecting perspective; yet the art gallery as "keeper" Poetry & the Poetry Foundation
of our cultural flame has another role, which is not only to preserve, but to Poetry Magazines Archive
commission, to show, to purchase, to collect, to value - and perhaps, finally Salt Publishing
to "judge", not in the present, but for the future. Social Media Cafe, Manchester
Steven Waling
What is it that we keep? What is it that we discard? And what's our
reasoning behind each? The BBC famously wiped old Dr. Whos and Top of
the Pops yet kept endless news broadcasts. Perhaps it was right - maybe The Barcelona Review
as this archive becomes available on line we can see some new narratives The Manchester Review
emerging from a history that can be revisited as it was perceived at the The Manchizzle
time. The "lost music" or "lost performance" sometimes seems almost The Other Room
tangible. Yet, without the Man from Porlock, perhaps Coleridge's "Kubla The Poetry Channel
Khan" would have ended not as a fragment but as an overwrought, overlong The Rialto
epic? The accident of history that somehow preserved Beowulf seems
Tony Trehy
almost magical, like something from Borges, a document that is only
partially there, its history obscure, a tantalising teaser of all the lost epics
that we haven't found. Writers' Centre Norwich

Back to Connor's essay, he made an interesting contrast between Clay Twitter Updates
Shirky's book "Here comes everybody" which hardly mentions art, and the
Whitechapel's recent Manual for a 21st Century Arts Institution - which "there was a fire in the watford area
earlier, we're running 15 mins late & a
rarely mentions the web. I'm struck by this. for its clear that the arts, at
queue of trains in front of us and are
present, through events like Art of With, is wanting to bring in "thinkers" going slow" #UKTrains about 6 hours ago
from other spheres like Shirky, like Charles Leadbetter, like Malcolm
villa v spurs later - should I be very afraid?
Gladwell, like Andrew Keen. Yet is this in itself a crisis of definition - where our defence has been a little porous of

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11/29/2009 The Art of Fiction: "To fling his soul up…
our defence has been a little porous of
the discourse has to be filtered not just through other thinkers, but in a late, and spurs did get 9 last sunday...
language which seems mutually exclusive? Its like the arts hasn't begun to about 6 hours ago
have a language around which it can sensibly talk about the future - yet its Blogging about the week #artofwith
deeply felt thoughts on praxis, on aesthetics, could surely colour the #homegrown at @URBISManchester
somewhat drab debating points of the flash 21st century thinkers? Perhaps Angels of Anarchy at @mcrartgallery
its not Malraux and Walter Benjamin who we should be in dialogue with, but http://bit.ly/4KbbLM - & thomas hardy
linguistic thinkers such as Levi-Strauss and Pierre Bordieu? "Here Comes about 6 hours ago
Everybody" as I'm not sure everybody realises, is from Joyce's "Finnegan's Firefox thinks I'm in Germany - how very
Wake", of course. strange about 7 hours ago
@coralgrainger made me realise I've
These thoughts of curation, collecting, saving, preserving, came to mind had too much city time of late - need a bit
again on Thursday at the two excellent exhibitions I visited in Manchester. of country air before xmas! about 7 hours
"Homegrown" at URBIS is a celebration of 30 years of UK Hip Hop. I ago
realised, looking at the earliest exhibits that I was there near the beginning
of UK Hip Hop, listening to my Streetsounds Crucial Electro albums, and follow me on Twitter
obscure b-boy tracks heard late at night on John Peel. "Buffalo Gals" and
"The Message" were like bombs sent from the future. That the few UK Blog Archive
tracks at that time couldn't really find a way round the American slang
▼ 2009 (117)
language of hip hop, meant that it perhaps never had the same success as
house music, another black American form, remember, which, being ▼ November (8)
primarily instrumental, didn't cause the same tongue-twisting trouble for "To fling his soul upon the growing
home counties homeboys. UK Hip Hop in many ways doesn't seem to be gloom."
particular genre in itself, but some kind of wire looping back and forth novel-nausea AND essay-ennui
across the Atlantic - and then further afield - and twisting itself around Secondhand Book Shortage in
techno, house, triphop, drum 'n' bass, dubstep and grime - all of which, in Morecambe and Lancaste...
one way or another owed a debt to hip hop culture. Walking round the The Art has Left the Building
gallery, shards of half remembered electro and rap interrupted one's flow, Decade Talk
like some cultural hip hop jam. Memories
"We are a corrupt people involved in a
Another cultural jam, melange, medley or melting pot, was there to be seen collective ...
on the other side of the side in the hallowed halls of Manchester Art Gallery. Manchester's Literary Renaissance
"Angels of Anarchy", a look at 3 generations of female surrealists is a
superb exhibition in every way but one; it showed art that I had never seen ► October (14)
before, much of it good, some of it excellent; it was a long overdue retelling
► September (9)
of a familiar story - surrealism through its women artists; and as a piece of
art history/art research it was exemplary. I felt the space somehow didn't ► August (14)
work that well - perhaps the small, delicate nature of many of the artworks ► July (11)
became a little overawed in such a large hall. I wanted, I think some of the
fun of surrealism recreated in the gallery space. The pictures of Dali at the ► June (10)
International Surrealist exhibition in London in 1937, in a diving suit that ► May (13)
almost suffocated him, had the playfulness that surrealism always seemed
to have to me. Like Fluxus or situationism, a formal historical "walk ► April (14)
through" seems a little wrong. It was only a shame I'd missed some of the ► March (10)
events - talks, and films - that accompanied the exhibition.
► February (6)
Why did I like the "Angels of Anarchy" so much? Perhaps the same as with ► January (8)
"Homegrown", it felt like it meant something to me. The reason there were ► 2008 (117)
so many surrealist women painters, even as the males remained as
► 2007 (146)
patriarchal as ever about it, was surely because the favoured subjects of
► 2006 (165)
surrealism; re-imagined still lifes, self-portraits; dream and fantasy; were
subjects that hadn't been totally owned by male artists. By allowing art to ► 2005 (38)
be about domestic objects turned unreal, or about fantasy or dreams,
surrealism allowed people to talk about things that in another context would
be seen as negative, "hysterical" objects rather than art objects. One thing I
noticed, which didn't seem to get a mention in the exhibition, was the
strong use of colour in the paintings and particularly the exhibits. 20th
century art sometimes seems a battle in extremis to control both form and
colour; "Angels of Anarchy" revelled in both.
Posted by Bournemouth Runner at 4:32 AM


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