Scoob Books in Bloombury, a very excellent second hand book shop to which I owe several hours of quiet joy, has a section of ‘Recent Acquisitions.’ The choice of words made me laugh. Pictured are my own recent acquisitions (plus one of Beckett on the set of his film, Film). Clockwise from top left they are:
Everything You Wanted to Know About Curating But Where Afraid to Ask. Hans Ulrich Obrist. Stenberg Press, 2011.
Virginia Woolf. Mary Ann Caws, The Overlook Press, 2001.
Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice. Janet Malcolm, Yale University Press, 2007.
Poems by Ben Johnson. Billing and Sons, 1924.
Essays in Love. Alain de Botton, Picador, 2006.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. Italo Calvino, Vintago Books, 1998 (1979).
The Golden Notebook. Dorris Lessing, Harper Perrenial, 2007 (1964).
In Essays in Love, which I have begun with, Alain de Botton writes the following:
Discussions of physical beauty have some of the futility of debates between art historians attempting to justify the relative merits of different artists. A Van Gogh or a Gauguin? One might try to re-describe the work in language or else to elucidate technique or materials. (‘the lyrical intelligence of Gauguin’s South Sea skies…’ next to ‘the Wagnerian depth of Van Gogh’s blues’…) But what would all this do to explain why one painting grips us by the collar and another leaves us cold? The language of the eye stubbornly resists translation into the language of words.
Yes Alain. Exactly that - the language of the eye and this problematic desire to translate (or interpret - see Sontag).
And the impotence of language in general, though that’s spiralling into Beckett territory which deserves a blog all of its own (tempting).
Plus the problem of subjectivity/objectivity (it’s all so interesting) and, again, the language of the eye. I can’t repeat it enough.
The language of the eye.