Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic is known as ‘the grandmother of performance art’. I knew her name,but only a little of her work,until a friend sent me a video clip – an extract from one of her performances ( link below ).

Read a little about her before watching it,as this will help you to understand the background. The clip will probably make you cry,so get a tissue ! My correspondent has recently been separated from her loved ones,after moving to a new city,so I understand why the film moves her.

It’s worth having a look at Marina Abramovic’s Wikipedia entry first,to understand what a tough upbringing she had. This certainly influenced her pained and masochistic performance art,and whatever you think of her sanity her unflinching honesty is involving.

In the video she sits in a most uncomfortable dress,with stays running up the sides. This performance piece ‘The Artist Is Present’ went on for about three months,and in it she confronted people who sat opposite her,opening her eyes to them once they were seated.
She had not seen Ulay,her former lover,the man who did a lot of the performance pieces with her,for 15 years.
They are reunited here – she did not know he would be there. Grab the Kleenex !

Songs Lyrics as Poetry

I recently woke up with this song going through my mind. ‘Millworker’ is written by James Taylor,and the lyrics are like poetry – which the best ones are. I love its sad,reflective observations.
I vastly prefer the version sung by Emmylou Harris,to James Taylor’s original. The song works better,and it’s seen through a woman’s eyes anyway. Lovely stuff ! 
Now my grandfather was a sailor, he blew in off the water.
My father was a farmer and I, his only daughter.
Took up with a no good millworking man from Massachusetts
who dies from too much whiskey and leaves me these three faces to feed.

Millwork ain’t easy, millwork ain’t hard, millwork it ain’t nothing but an awful boring job.
I’m waiting for a daydream to take me through the morning
and put me in my coffee break where I can have a sandwich and remember.

Then it’s me and my machine for the rest of the morning,
for the rest of the afternoon and the rest of my life.

Now my mind begins to wander to the days back on the farm.
I can see my father smiling at me, swinging on his arm.
I can hear my granddad’s stories of the storms out on Lake Erie
where vessels and cargoes and fortunes and sailors’ lives were lost.

Yes, but it’s my life has been wasted, and I have been the fool
to let this manufacturer use my body for a tool.
I can ride home in the evening, staring at my hands,
swearing by my sorrow that a young girl ought to stand a better chance.

So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
and never meet the man whose name is on the label.

It be me and my machine for the rest of the morning
and the rest of the afternoon, gone for the rest of my life.

Books in prison

In 2014,the British government tried to ban prisoners receiving books sent to them through the mail. Their declared reason for doing this,was to prevent drugs being smuggled in.

After vigorous protests,the ban was recently overturned in the High Court.

This makes sense,for one only has to look at the illiteracy and numeracy rates of those imprisoned. Half of male,and three quarters of female prisoners have no qualifications at all,and 67% of them were unemployed at the time of their offending. There has to be a link between their breaking the law and the opportunities that they’re denied though a lack of education.

Poor self-image doesn’t help either,so for those wanting to better themselves and turn their lives around through the education programmes available inside,having access to books is vital. Prison libraries are poorly funded,and wouldn’t necessarily stock the much-needed books that a prisoner needs to transform their thinking.

Restricting access to the latest and most pertinent books would have been petty-minded censorship. As Joseph Brodsky,poet laureate of the United States in the 1990s,said : ” There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

booka book can bring light to the darkest places

Snoopy and ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’

While approaching literary agents and publishers in the last couple of months,my memory drifted back to some old Peanuts cartoon strips.

I’m sure that we all recognise the situations below. Snoopy often begins his stories with the phrase ‘It was a dark and story night.’ This was coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton,who was an influential English novelist of the nineteenth century.

He also came up with the phrases ‘the great unwashed’,’the pursuit of the almighty dollar’ and ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.
He could wax lyrical as well,and as I get older turning into a silver wolf,I take comfort in his observation :

Writers In Their Garrets

At the risk of becoming a doom-and-gloom monger with my postings about how tough it is to be a writer,try this link for truth :

Unfortunately,and without exaggerating,my living circumstances are not that dissimilar to the poor poet in Carl Spitzweg’s atmospheric painting. I live in a roof space flat which has sloping walls,above a petrol-station shop and next to the flight path for an airport. It’s the noisiest and most dangerous place that I’ve lived. To be able to concentrate on my creative writing,I wear earbuds all of the time that pipe music from 500 albums saved to the hard drive of my laptop. Listening to music,where I know what’s coming next,is preferable to being startled by the bangs and crashes from the garage next door. I’m perverse enough to be able to do this …

I haven’t needed to resort to an umbrella to keep out the rain,but I do wear enough clothing in winter to resemble the Michelin Man,even in bed when the temperature descends to 39F/4C. Rats running in the wall was a low point…

Carl Spizweg was a romanticist painter,who came from a wealthy background. His paintings are charming,and lure the viewer in to a moment in time making you wonder what happens next. I’m sure that we all feel for the precarious position of the reader in the painting ‘The Bookworm’ below,who looks to be too engrossed in what he’s reading for his own safety.

John Kennedy Toole

The story of John Kennedy Toole is a cautionary one. For years he struggled to get his novel ‘A Confederacy Of Dunces’ published. Following his suicide,it took his mother another eleven years to find a publisher. The following year it won the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction.

If you’re thinking of giving up,then don’t. As Thomas Edison said : ” Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Update 2nd March,2015 : Nick Offerman,of ‘Parks and Recreation’ fame is to take the lead part,playing Ignatius J Reilly in a stage adaptation of ‘A Confederacy Of Dunces’.

Zen Pencils

I’ve been following the work of Gavin Aung Than,who is a freelance cartoonist based in Melbourne, Australia.

His Zen Pencils  cartoon blog adapts inspirational quotes into comic stories,and is well worth a look.

Try these two stories for inspiration in your work as an artist :

A Literary Agony Uncle

Haruki Murakami,the Japanese novelist,has become an agony uncle. He has a web site dedicated to answering questions and problems put to him.

If you haven’t read any of his work,I recommend that you do,as it will make you reconsider how a book is structured and paced. I read ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ a couple of years ago,and though it’s narrative flowed easily not a lot appeared to be happening in the story – except that it was beneath the surface,literally in one part of the plot. it was very clever and memorable.

Does writing come naturally ? I like what he has to say on the subject :

Writing is like “chatting up a woman”, Japan’s superstar novelist Haruki Murakami has said: “You can get better with practice to a certain degree, but basically, you’re either born with it, or you’re not.”