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Ominous - Nicholas Roerich, 1901

Ominous – Nicholas Roerich, 1901

I think prophecy is an important part of writing, at least as important as technique or form. I think there are magical processes going on in writing. Like this raven thing. I’d been writing using the raven myth, and when I went up to Sitka in Alaska, the ravens disappeared. It was very unusual. Then the day before I left they all returned and flew around the totems. It was a strange experience.

Ishmael Reed, in an interview with Jon Ewing for The Daily Californian, 1977
(from Shrovetide in Old New Orleans, 1978)

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the-leper-lazarus-clep-1631.jpg!Blog

The Leper – Rembrandt, 1631

 

I had tried to be fair. It is the one single thing no one will forgive you for, neither the communists nor the fascists, the rightists nor the leftists, the white racists nor the black racists… One will make more enemies by trying to be fair (marked by impartiality and honesty) than trying to tell the truth– no one believes it is possible to tell the truth anyway– but it is just possible that you might be fair.

Chester Himes, The Quality of Hurt
(quoted in Ishmael Reed’s essay “Chester Himes: Writer”)

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A Stroke of Luck - Rene Magritte, 1948

A Stroke of Luck – Rene Magritte, 1948

‘If you know a man is wrong, I mean, if you know he did somethin’ bad but you don’t turn him in to the law because he’s your friend, do you think that’s right?

‘All you got is your friends, Easy.’

‘But then what if you know somebody else who did something wrong but not so bad as the first man, but you turn this other guy in?’

‘I guess you figure that that other guy got ahold of some bad luck.’

We laughed for a long time.

Walter Mosley, Devil In a Blue Dress

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birdman

[mild, vague spoilers]

If Superhero Movies are our new mythology, Birdman makes our new mythology feel like crumbly newsprint and warped videotape. Not that Birdman will or should render Superhero Movies obsolete or anything. I still like, and still expect to enjoy, Superhero Movies. But Birdman reaches certain levels of truth, buried deep in the middle of an inescapable labyrinth, that might make it impossible for me to see our new mythology Superhero Movies the same from now on (at least until a movie comes along that can out-Birdman Birdman).

Things like “universal themes” and “timeless stories” are great, but I know now that I need more blood, more  super-realism.  Larger Than Life with more Life. If Superhero Movies are Led Zeppelin, Birdman is punk rock.

Darren Aronofsky dabbled in this kind of mythology with The Wrestler and Black Swan (before he got all Biblical with Noah). But where those two films hurtle towards death, Alejandro González Iñárritu & his co-writers wallop Aronofsky’s artistic defeatism with an optimism that’s more transcendent than anything I’ve experienced with a Superman story. Icarus need not be a tragic figure. There’s a Birdman in all of us.

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Kneeling breast feeding mother - Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

Kneeling breast feeding mother – Paula Modersohn-Becker, date unknown

When the breast withers away to a vanishing point, other oral and maternal values are also drying up and atrophying; when the breast spouts forth again, these values are also returning.

By no accident, the most admired poem among American intellectuals in the 1920s was T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land; although actually dealing with his adopted country, England, his symbols spoke very eloquently to American sensibilities also. The withdrawal of the breast is suggested in Eliot’s images of wandering in the desert, of thirst, of the failed crops in the land rules by an impotent king, of sterility in general. The most famous of Eliot’s images– e.g., “lilacs out of dead land,” “The Hanged Man,” “the Unreal City,” “the corpse you planted last year in your garden,” “rock and no water and the sandy road”– all revolve around the theme of life struggling to survive without nourishment. The final section, in the mountains (breast symbols, according to Freud), brings the promise of rain and renewal. If all poets seek to summon the mother goddess in her guise as Muse, Eliot in a very real sense is calling for her to appear as wet nurse.

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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Snakes - M.C. Escher, 1969

Snakes – M.C. Escher, 1969

…consider a final parable, which comes from Aleister Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice and is said by him to contain the whole secret of practical occultism:

Two passengers are sharing a railway carriage. One notices that the other has a box with holes in it, of the sort used to transport animals, and asks what animal his companion is carrying. “A mongoose,” says the other. The first passenger naturally asks why this eccentric chap want[s] to transport a mongoose around England.

“It’s because of my brother,” says the second man. “You see, he drinks perhaps more than is good for him, and sometimes he sees snakes. The mongoose is [to] kill the snakes.”

“But those are bleeding imaginary snakes,” says the first man.

“That’s as may be,” says the other placidly. “But this is an imaginary mongoose.”

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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Fake Picasso?

Fake Picasso?

An art dealer once went to Picasso and said, “I have a bunch of ‘Picasso’ canvasses that I was thinking of buying. Would you look them over and tell me which are real and which are forgeries?” Picasso obligingly began sorting the paintings into two piles. Then, as the Great Man added one particular picture to the fake pile, the dealer cried, “Wait a minute, Pablo. That’s no forgery. I was visiting the weekend you painted it.” Picasso replied imperturbably, “No matter. I can fake a Picasso as well as any thief in Europe.”

Robert Anton Wilson, Ishtar Rising

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