Crumb of Comfort May 28, 2012Posted by markswill in About me, Cars and Bikes, That's Entertainment.
Grappling for the relevance or otherwise of yet another unasked for rhetoric-fest, never mind its subject matter, the best I could come up with were a few odds and sods. Still, as the highly sexualised secretary in Thomas McGuane’s latest novel exclaims after an unexpected bout of jiggery-pokery with his adolescent hero, at least it’s been “never a dull moment” since I last spewed forth. So, some random incidents, observations and travelogues…
Went to Paris last week to do some art and socialising and art apart, it’s so refreshing to visit a city that’s still motorcycle friendly: park on the pavement, ride like the devil in jeans and t-shirt, make as much noise as you like. And plenty of girls at it, too. Great. As for the exhibs, well the Degas Nudes at the D’Orsay weren’t entirely my cuppa, but you gotta admire his draughtsmanship when the chips are down, even more so Matisse at the Pompidou which was far more impressive, especially the photographically rendered revelation that he executed dozens of versions of what he had in mind before reaching his conclusion. Spent some time at the Pomp’s permanent collection which includes some fantastic stuff, especially your Cubists, your Fauvists and your Post-Modernists, although as you traipsed through the rooms the combinations seemed to get barmier and barmier.
But the hit and main purpose of the trip was the Robert Crumb retrospective at the Musee d’Art Moderne. If you don’t know Crumb, then shame on you for he was the pre-eminent American underground comic artist of the 1960s and ‘70s whose wry exaggerations perfectly skewered the cultural conceits of those times. Having lived in their country for the past 20 years, the French have done him justice with a massive assemblage of original comic strip artwork, illustrations and indeed influences which was a true delight.
All his great creations were here, Mr Natural, Honeybunch Kominsky, Fritz the Cat etc., plus his entire cartoon version of the Book of Genesis published in 2009 and four years in the drawing. My only crit of a show that needed a good two hours to absorb is that the latter, a masterpiece of graphic exposition, was last on the menu by which time and despite its greatness, I was too arted-out to clock every page.
After a restorative pot of tea overlooking the Seine and Eiffel Tower – it’s a great gallery in a great location – I explored some of its permanent works which, like the Pompidou’s, were pretty impressive if somewhat arbitrarily hung. Then the return Eurostar broke down just before the chunnel eventually, and after an infuriating confusion of announcements and silences, going backwards to Lille to be shoved onto a spare for the journey home three hours later. However as compensation we were offered a free return ticket anytime in the next year: not a bad trade-off, especially as having just concluded that if you ain’t got kids or a high maintenance spouse, and thankfully I have neither, then art is the most important thing in life. And so I’m going to go and study art history in Paris, for which the gratis Eurotart tickets are a good start.
Or at least that’s what I was thinking for the final 24 hours of my visit and the first 24 after I got home. Now… well maybe not. Art is incredibly important, though, and back-to-back gallery hopping among the greats like this reminds you how transformative and uplifting it can be. It certainly, and here I should issue an Arty Bollocks Alert, consolidates the certainties that so much else in this vale of tears™ lacks. Attachments to people you’ve known for decades, or even just met, are almost as important, but they can evaporate upon an emotional whim, or a motorway pile-up, leaving you bewildered and distraught, but great art is always there.
Trouble is, I can neither paint nor sculpt and can barely string together a few words, and I think I’m a bit too old to give it all up and live in a Parisian garret whilst I try to make sense of it all for no other purpose than, well, to make sense of it all. And in the ongoing absence of any income, I think some hideously expensive dental work is a rather more pressing need.
As for writing, well I took along the new McGuane novel which, as it somewhat shockingly hasn’t found a U.K. publisher, I rather sheepishly bought online, though not I hasten to add, from Amazon.
So back to McGuane, who is for my money arguably the best living novelist, and certainly along with Richard Ford – who is published here – the best American. In a gently sardonic sentence McGuane can say more about the emotional contraptions we erect for ourselves than many writers can in a chapter or indeed, a blog, and end it with a comic punch that’ll have you laughing out loud. His writing has a sparse cadence and (more arty bollocks ahoy, I’m afraid) lack of showyness that belies its anthropological depth, and Driving on the Rim is the best of his more recent works. But if you want to start somewhere, try Panama, which I have to read at least once a year to keep sane… and teach me some humility as a scrawler.
And here I am nearing my self-imposed 1000 word maxima with so much more to spew forth – thoughts on Leveson, FarceBerk’s floatation, the Euro implosion, Waterstone’s faustian pact with Amazon and the joy of new fencing to name but a bit – but so little confidence in your continued tolerance that I’ll leave it ‘til next time.
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