Saturday, 30 April 2016

Where are my keys?

Here they are.
Dear Internet, you are welcome :-)

Z is for Zwillinge

We reach the end of our challenge and on the last day I have this very odd offering: 'Zwillinge' (Twins) by Paul Klee. I have tried to include a variety of styles over the month but had not included much abstract art. Klee is an interesting and unique painter; his wiki page does not label him as belonging to any group or movement but describes his style as being influenced by Surrealism, Cubism and Expressionism. He worked in a huge variety of mediums and developed his own techniques and was often influenced by music and poetry. He was Swiss-German but left Germany in 1933 where his work was decried by the Nazi regime as degenerate art.

Well it has been a very interesting April and I feel like I have learned a lot in order to complete my rather spur of the moment challenge theme. I hope everyone out there in blog-land has had an enjoyable challenge. See you all again next year.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Y is for Yellow

On the penultimate day of the A to Z challenge I bring you this intensely vivid painting entitled 'Harmony in Yellow' by Paul Sérusier (who I had never heard of). He was a pioneer of abstract art and a member of an avant-garde group called Les Nabis in the 1890s. 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A Better World?

I bought 'Elect Mr Robinson for a Better World' by Donald Antrim for Monkey for Christmas, purely on the basis of reading the first few pages standing in Waterstones. This really is dystopian fiction at its most subtle; the world seems rather normal, so you think you can predict how people might think and act, but in reality things have gone completely to pot. There is no explanation for the timescale or the nature of the breakdown of society as we know it. I spent quite some time expecting to get an explanation, but really Pete is rather too wrapped  up in dealing with an increasingly bizarre sequence of events to tell us how it all began. 

It is good writing because I didn't find myself questioning what was happening, there was no time and the author is too confident in his telling, and it took me quite a long time to figure out what an unreliable narrator our Pete really is, and by that time it was too late, for me and the other characters in the book. As is often the case I don't believe that whoever wrote the blurb on the back had read the book; the mayor has not been drawn and quartered, merely torn apart by wild motorists, and Pete's election campaign is only happening in his imagination; the book is punctuated by snappy election slogans that he comes up with from time to time. People are fortifying their homes and fighting over parkland territory, the school system has broken down but for some reason the library still functions and there is water and electricity, though nobody seems to go to work any more. While trying to ritually dispose of various body parts of the aforementioned mayor our hero Pete finds himself getting to know his formerly well behaved neighbours in a totally new light.

I can't write much more without giving things away, and if you enjoy stories at the weird end of the spectrum I would definitely recommend this. Here is one not-so-little quote to give you a taster. This takes place at a community meeting at the 'Clam Castle' restaurant, where Pete's role is to act as minute taker. I found it somewhat entertaining in the light of the current US election coverage and the populist rants that have come out of some of the Republican candidates (I wonder if the name 'Nixon' was carefully chosen):

"He paused for a sip of water. What would it be like to be this guy's kid? Dismal. Nixon was undoubtably a stern disciplinarian. To be his child would be to endure intolerance in the guise of paternal charity. Bill cleared his throat and embarked on a protracted screed about target marksmanship, home ownership, the joys of gardening, and the Rule of Law. It wasn't particularly coherent stuff. Or maybe it's just my minutes that don't make sense to me - Bill's inflammatory  town meeting speech is all but lost on one of those pages defaced by a water or soda glass. I guess I might've set my iced tea down on the notes without realising it. After all I wasn't, I'll admit, paying especially close attention to Nixon. I was watching his wife, Barbara. I was, in fact, having a hard time keeping my eyes off her. I do not believe it was purely a sexual thing. Bill ranted, 'I don't want some animal lover telling me to put up a chain-link fence around my lawn-based defense cavity because he or she is afraid his or her dog or cat is going to run in there.'  He chuckled at, I guess, this ironic image of a fenced-in trench or moat. Several men and women in the audience chuckled along. Bill puffed out his chest and finished, 'Friends, little Jeff's home with the sitter tonight, and let me tell you I feel a whole lot better knowing there's a network of electronically triggered fragmentation bombs armed and ready in the nasturtiums outside his window.' " (p.75-6)

The Fault in Our Stars (not an A to Z post)

This is a quickie, because surely everyone in the book blog universe loves John Green and has already read 'The Fault in Our Stars'. I have reviewed 'Paper Towns' and 'Looking for Alaska' previously, and loved this one just as much. He manages to achieve very authentic voices for his young people, you care about them straight away, and I just allowed myself to get sucked right into this story that I was convinced in advance was going to make me cry. It did. I think it also very convincingly tackles ideas about mortality, and how one faces it; although for young cancer sufferers it is rather more urgent than for most people I think the issue is one that confronts us all in the end. I can also totally sympathise with the idea that when you love a book you want to ask the author all sorts of awkward questions. He manages to make you care and be sad without ever becoming mawkish, so huge kudos for that because I hate manipulative sentimentality.

" 'How's your friend Isaac?'
'Blind,' I said.
'You're being very teenagery today,' Mom said. She seemed annoyed about it.
'Isn't this what you wanted, Mom? For me to be teenagery?'
'Well, not necessarily this kinda teenagery, but of course your father and I are excited to see you become a young woman, making friends, going on dates.'
'I'm not going on dates,' I said. 'I don't want to go on dates with anyone. It's a terrible idea and a huge waste of time and -'
'Honey,' my mom said. 'What's wrong?'
'I'm like. Like. I'm like a grenade, Mom. I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to minimise the casualties , okay?' " (p.99)

X is for X-ray

Wikimedia commons
For my X post I found some art which is thousands of years old, from the very origins of human creativity. The picture is an Aboriginal rock painting that shows a turtle and is an example of what has become known as 'X-ray art', because pictures would be made that showed the internal structure, bones and organs, of animals and people. It is a style that is still used today by commercial artists. (There is more interesting stuff about the religious and cultural symbolism in Aboriginal art on the Wikipedia page)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

W is for Where Do We Come From

This painting's full title is 'Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going' by Paul Gauguin, a 19th century French Post-Impressionist painter (though I find, somewhat confusingly, that Impressionism and Post Impressionism were going on at roughly the same time). A copy of this painting hung on the wall of our morning room when I was growing up, so it became very familiar to me and I always liked the dark shadowy quality it has, focussing the attention on the figure in the centre, which consequently made me more curious about the people in the background, and the weird statue that seems to luminesce. It is another picture with much going on, that you could spend a lot of time absorbing the detail (if you click the picture you can see it a little larger).


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