Wednesday, 8 December 2010

An Early Christmas Present

Yesterday we had author Philip Hoare come and speak to our little group of ten. He's a great talker and sparkles with enthusiasm for his craft. His latest book "Leviathan" is a biography with a whale as its subject. This is of course a wonderful jumping off point to discuss whether that really fits into the genre of biography - to have an animal as your subject. It seems anything goes in this post-post-modern world of biography. I like it when people break the rules and get away with it. His book is a huge hit and he's laughing at his detractors all the way to the bank.

After the session ended, one of my fellow students - the American women, Michelle - and I went across the street to the Sainsbury Centre for the exhibition of three surrealist friends - Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna. This is the last week it's on and I was determined to see it before it left. It's an amazing collection of the work of Carrington and Varo, but there were none of the photographs of Horna, who wasn't a painter. Walking through the gallery and gazing at these incredibly fantastical paintings, being the only two people in the place, was strangely moving, and I'm not actually a big fan of surrealism. The paintings are hauntingly beautiful, and Carrington especially brings in a touch of humour to hers - bizarre humour. It's clear that the two women had a strong influence over each other's work.

When Michelle and I walked out of the exhibition and towards the exit, we passed the gallery shop, and noticing we had fifteen minutes before the place closed, had a browse through. We both landed right where the hard cover book was on sale for £30 and looked longingly at the two copies sitting there. We're both very tight to the bone right now financially, but still we lingered. The woman at the counter said, "Those are the last two copies we have." Michelle said that she couldn't possibly buy it because she's been "hemorrhaging" money since she came to the UK. I one-upped her and said I didn't have any money to hemorrhage. Still we lingered. Then I finally said, "Tell you buy that copy for me for Christmas, and I'll buy this copy for you for Christmas." Settled. We walked out clutching our books, and I was so absorbed with mine all the way home on the bus, I nearly missed my stop. Michelle got picked up by her friend, but emailed me today to say she'd stayed up until 3:00 am reading it. It's strange how things weave in and out of your life, but these women were great friends of Edward James, the wealthy eccentric who built a surrealist sculpture garden in Las Pozas, Mexico, where I've never been even though my visits to San Miguel de Allende have got me close to it. Never day.

Next week, unbelievably, is the last week of classes for this semester. I'm at the halfway point with the course work. The next semester starts January 18th, and while I still have two 5000-word essays to work on over the holidays, I'm feeling like I've got a good hold on things. I've finished the 2500-word workshop piece I'll be presenting to the group on Tuesday. We have an excellent camaraderie now - essential when a group critiques each other's work - and I'm not too worried about being lacerated.

No comments:

Post a Comment