2013 — 13 May: Monday

I seem to have "walked in on" a discussion about the psychology of mental illness examined via Berg's opera "Wozzeck".1 Time for my initial mind-clearing cuppa, methinks.

Just when I thought...

... this sentence (in "How to be a Pseudo-Intellectual") was describing me...

If you're a certain kind of amateur intellectual with self-improving impulses, it's less vulgar to entrust your anxieties to a Cambridge- and Harvard-educated pop philosopher who speaks three languages than to the hearty exhortations of Tony Robbins or Oprah.

Victoria Beale in New Republic

... I stumbled off-piste at the comma, being unimpressed by Cambridge, Harvard, pop-philosophy, Oprah, and sadly unaware of Robbins. Though I admire multi-linguistic skills. I was pointed to 'New Republic' from a piece in the L.A. Review of books that (in turn) I'd been pointed to when I spotted the delicious teaser "Alain de Botton, purveyor of philosophy-flecked self-help, is much derided. But give him this: He has written the least sexy book about sex ever published..." at my usual web watering hole, Arts&Letters Daily.

I recall very little of de Botton's "Cost of Letters" — an Arts Council book in 1998 about the financial rewards (if any!) of being a writer (to which he contributed merely an introduction) — other than a strong sense of disappointment. As for "On Seeing and Noticing"... well the neural trace left by that is a flat-line, alas. Time for some mind-clearing breakfast, methinks.

From the Cost of Letters...

... to the Cost of Paintings. Back in the late 1980s — a distant era when IBM still paid its lowest serfs overtime for working at weekends — I could afford to drop £45 on a "coffee table" book...2

We had a very nice break during which, among others, we: rejigged the dining room and opened up a wild new vista of space in the living room; fitted some narrow, floor-to-ceiling shelves for a batch of video tapes; broke down on the way home from the bat cave in the Midlands (and have thus been forced to book the car in at the car doctors even though it's behaved itself since I fed it new spark plugs); decided on, and then ordered, the Acorn RISC machine before I changed my mind again; went wild in the bookshops of both Oxford and London (even unto the very latest tome Read my lips, make my day, eat quiche and die! from Trudeau); gave in and bought Peter a proper skateboard; walked round Southampton model shops with him in a vain attempt to tire him out before an evening dinner party; did no work at all on either my book or the birthday brochure; thoroughly enjoyed each other's company in as relaxed a way as I can remember for a long time.

Date: 3 April 1989

...by Peter Schjeldahl about the remarkable figurative paintings of Eric Fischl. Here, for example is his 1981 painting "Bad Boy". The voyeuristic youngster is actually stealing from his mother's purse behind his back (should you be wondering).

Bad Boy

Mr Fischl has now written (with help from Michael Stone) his autobiography "Bad Boy" and it's been well-reviewed by the chap who "ran New York magazine during the art frenzy of the 1980s". Source and snippet:

Rich collectors here and in Europe threw lavish parties for Mr. Fischl where the cocaine was as conspicuous as the celebrity guests. He was making more money — and spending more — than he ever imagined. He had a monthly budget for both coke and smuggled Havana cigars, and — surprise! — he felt unworthy of his success and terrified that it would evaporate.
He was right to worry. Soon enough, Mr. Fischl and his generation were flushed out of Eden by the next wave, led by Jeff Koons with his gigantic kitschy rabbit sculptures and Damien Hirst with his embalmed tiger shark floating in formaldehyde.
"We were no longer the It-boys and -girls," he writes. "We were no longer hot." How could the art market be so fickle? "A painting valued at $2,000 in 1980 might have sold for $500,000 five years later at auction, and for $50,000 five years after that."
The gaudy art parade had moved on, leaving Mr. Fischl an embittered millionaire.

Edward Kosner in WSJ

I have no idea what Saatchi paid for the original, nor whether it's still in that collection. Me? Oh, I'm merely embittered :-)

An odd thought...

... that millions of years of evolution — assuming Bishop Ussher was as sadly-misguided as I, for one, strongly suspect — have left me with the ability to extract all traces of celery from my late lunchtime salad.

Having just provided myself with a powerful incentive to get back up into the loft to retrieve the remaining cartons of CDs3 I can reveal Mr Postie's dollop of incoming goodness...


Well, part of it... the multi-hand copy of WH Canaway's "My Feet Upon a Rock" evidently lost its dust jacket at some point in the 50 years since its printing, leaving me nothing to scan.

But then, says he (resuming after the shower necessitated by the Herculean efforts involved in relocating to the living room my last seven cartons of CDs) not much else from 1963 still malingers on my shelves:

Books from 1963

I need tea. Now! Quickly!!



1  I don't know it, won't ever seek it out, and have no great interest in it. But the topic of what goes on under the skull has always fascinated me.
2  Despite my continuing lack of a coffee table to display it on.
3  By ordering the next batch of CaseLogic folders I will be putting them in.