Saturday, July 10, 2010

Conversation About Beauty

Thinking about beauty, looking for beauty, contemplating such things as bird's nests and typewriters.  "I see blue skies, I see butterflies."  (There is Beauty in the World). Re-reading Elaine Scarry's 1999 book, On Beauty and Being Just.  She talks about the 'banishing of beauty from the humanities" and the "political complaints against beauty."    Not, she says, that beautiful things, stories, poems etc have been banished, but "that conversation about the beauty of these things has been banished, so that we coinhabit the space of these objects.......yet speak about their beauty only in whispers."  Has this been true in the humanities since?  I can't say, being quite out of the loop.  That loop, certainly. 

From Blue Studios:  "I just didn't want beauty in my poetry: any hint was an invitation to a slippery slope of the feminine.  Beauty was too nice, too expected, too complicit with what the feminine was in poetry, and by extension, what the female was."  She goes on, "In any event I tried not to write beauty (rhetorical staginess, lovely images, and the mellifluous) but to write language, to write syntax, to write austerely.  Or to compose a beauty so hard and selective, yet in intense visionary images, as to contain its suspect presence."  (p. 220, 221).  You can tell how much I like this book by all the dogeared pages in the image above. 

In the novel I have recently finished, about the possibility of the existence of a woman art forger, I did want beauty in my narrative, in my forgery.  (The subtitle of the book is, A Forgery).  She is undiscovered, my forger. (An increasingly difficult feat as technology advances in forgery detection).  Her motivation is in fact, beauty, the revelation of a mystical colour via secrets embedded in her forgeries.  The best way for a forgery to go undetected?  To be whole, beautiful.  Fake busters, as they're called, experts in forgery detection, have a sort of sixth sense for knowing that something is odd, off, unfinished, off-kilter.  So, in my narrative, beauty isn't hidden, but is what hides, or contains, a suspect presence.   In my mind, the whole narrative hangs together only if the reader believes in the beauty of the narrative, in the beauty of the art forgeries and in their capacity to fool or take in the viewer. 

It's an odd place to be in.  Having one book behind you, not yet published, and working on the next.  It's necessary to sort through in my mind what it was I thought I was doing in the previous book, to be aware of how it's infringing on the one in progress.  Even though they're two completely different works, there is communication between them, if that makes sense. 

Meanwhile, although I've stopped checking my Google alert for art forgery, things will come to my attention like this show at the National Gallery in London, titled Close Examinations: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries.  Of course, I'm immediately intrigued, especially by headlines such as "A Blonde's Dark Secret." And though my research has taken an entirely different turn for the book in progress, how could I resist the catalogue for this exhibition??