Saturday, March 28, 2009
Since I am staying in a ten bedroom mansion off the coast of Greece, I decided to spend the day in my tennis shorts eating turkish delight and reading the biography of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis's love affair. (A biography of a love affair is an interesting idea, no?) I lay on the terrace overlooking the harbour, basking in the sunlight on my naked torso, with just the gentle sounds of the boats bobbing below for company and this in my head:
Friday, March 27, 2009
Forgive me, but I had become just a little bored of Madonna in the last few years, I honestly wondered if she would ever do anything interesting ever again. Et voila, W magazine's "Blame it on Rio". Part homage to herself, part Hitchcokian voyeurism, part showbiz memoir, we have a series of photographs that give us Madonna as Madonna. And after half a decade of Madonna as Kylie and Madonna as Mother Superior that is frankly something of a relief. Don't you love it that she's at it with Latino toy boys in hotel rooms again? The styling is even a little rough around the edges, no? It's as though she's no longer interested in being fashionable (sartorially, musically, culturally) but rather she's back to making things (fashion, iconography) happen. Literally no more Mrs nice Ritchie.
It's a kind of behind the scenes in the playboy mansion thrown through a very Neil Gaiman mirror, though one can't help but read it as a post-divorce fuck you either. This is what W specializes in, celebrities playing out their fantasies of themselves. Be in Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as Mr and Mrs or conversely David and Victoria Beckham as smouldering sex symbols, W is a sort of Hollywood Hills version of myspace, wherein the world's overprivileged get to erect a tenuous, occasionally ironized, ideal version of themselves.
It's a mechanism for the overexposed to take back control over their private lives by displaying their intimacies for hundreds of thousands of well-heeled readers, and millions more casual 'net surfing peeping toms. In constructing a very public private life for our perusal, these cover stars get to both indulge themselves in some wildly glamorous role-play and simultaneously cloak their real (and one expects, very mundane) existences. In short, Madonna on the cover of a magazine, in a penthouse full of Brazilian boys is both more interesting to we cultural cannibals, and also allows her to keep her life of health food and comfortable underwear to herself.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Ahead of Athens I have much to wrap up in the big smoke, so it's a week of meetings and press shots for me - joy of joys. However on Wednesday I am reading for the first time ever from my novel Everything Must Go at the literry salon, Polari in Soho. Afterwards you can join me at The Poodle Club for my very last gig in the UK until my Summer. Won't that be fun?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Having just read Georges Bataille's surrealist fuckfest, I can't say I was much moved by anything but the priest's murder. Three images however struck me as beautifully shocking and profound.
Marcelle hanging herself in the wardrobe begs for a reading of the scene through the eyes of Bachelard. Bataille resituated this real life event, enacting it not in the attic (where he found his Mother hanged) but rather in the bedroom. It's an interesting trading of space, placing Marcelle's suicidal corpse inside a closet.
The image of Simone and the nameless narrator cycling naked through the countryside likewise brings to mind another French stalwart, in that the whole scene seems reminiscent of a Godard movie. That freedom, lightness of spirit, birth of the teenager, rush of emotion, only Bataille prefigures all of this by three decades and his romance is decidedly less romantic.
Finally, the dead priest's eyeball staring out of Simone's vagina is a vision, not entirely unexpected but all the same, startling. I suppose it is the culmination of the book's concerns and fixations, its framing is as weird and rich as anything De Sade (whom Bataille was clearly very familiar with) ever cooked up. It's beyond obscene, it borders on absurd, but yet strangely mesmerising in it's appearance.
Beyond all of the blaspehmies and scenic perversions, which inevitably seem old hat in this jaded world of Pussy Cat Doll's pop videos (where a person practically has to masturbate with a crucifix to get shown on MTV), is the book's best line (which actually comes in the Preface). Bataille writes that he comes from something like horror, something beyond horror, much more complicated and overwhelming, "terror reveals itself," he says. This I think is the crux of everything that really holds power over us, it's why death, the dark and loneliness are so fearful. Not because they remind us of our own mortality, but rather because they can't be explained away, as terror can. If you're afraid of sharks you can always stay out of the water. What is truly awful is what is incomprehensible, you can't fight what you can't see.
Eggs, eyes and piss fill the book, standing in for each other and very real memories from Bataille's own life, though transfigured into something far lewder than the original only to be rediscovered upon completion, by the author, as recompositions of past startling events. Bataille's own postmortem of his process and product has a distinct feel of The Turn of The Screw to it; everything has its double, yet it all reveals itself to be something else, a ghost from the past, unsettling, hallucinogenic and cold (in spite of all the wet cunts and hard cocks). Story of the Eye is a whole new way of seeing and not.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I watched "Mommie Dearest" with my very own Mommie Dearest last night, I thought it was hilarious. My Mother was sort of open-mouthed at it all and at the climax of this infamous bathroom scene she said; "Well, your bathroom's certainly not clean now, is it you silly cow?"
I personally came away from the film marvelling at Faye Dunaway's skills (Dunaway of course now refuses to speak of her involvement in the film) and the general success of the production design, but barely able to look at the actress playing poor baby Christina (sorry, Christiiiiiiiiiinaaaaa!) She veers between brattish and hideously sanctimonious; the holier than thou attitude she adopts through the second half of the film is enough to drive St Teresa to the bottle, let alone dear old bipolar Joan.
In the making of an icon, a picture such as "Mommie Dearest" is almost necessary, because it edifies around one aspect of a personality and obscures the rest. If a star cannot be parodied then they have made themselves too complex and therefore impermanent, icons are not just a representation but the embodiment of the spirit itself. Like cave paintings, only the simplest renditions can last, can record. The specifics, the details, destroy through overdecoration, over complication. A star can be many things, but an icon can only be one, she must be the boiled down concentrate that everyone in the world recognises instantaneously.
Dietrich is still being spoofed today in much the same way she was in the '30s (and probably by the same people) as an icy, androgyne in a tux puffing on her cigarette and barely able to sing a note. But as for the raucous, complicated, life-long insomniac and ominsexual that was Tallulah Bankhead (once as big as any star in Hollywod) what has become of her legacy? Simply, she was not simple enough to facsimile. A star must become entirely two dimensional in the public eye, if she is to become an icon, for flat is the format of magazines. Thus we have endless caricatures of Hitler (evil personified) and Madonna (unhinged female sexuality) but no Malcolm X or Joan of Arc.
It may seem reductionist, but it remains true, that if it wasn't for her daughter's poison pen memoir, and the scream-a-long catchphrases of the movie adaptation, Crawford would more than likely have been consigned to the collective cultural dustbin alongside Bankhead and Barra.
Like all the fairy tales we tell ourselves, "Mommie Dearest" allows us to reduce and entomb fearful complexities within a cardboard cut out that we can beat up as we please. Crawford becomes an archetype, a stereotype, the eternal bitch Goddess, a repository for all of our own fears, childhood nightmares and inadequacies, in short everything but herself.
Not because of Dunaway's performance (in spite of, I would argue) but rather because of some unabashedly schlocky directorial decisons, a pretty horrible score, and a mise en scene that swerves between soap opera and Hammer Horror, the film gives us a simplistic and overwrought dipsomaniac Medea. In making her Mother a monster, Christina Crawford made her an icon, which no doubt to the proudly determined, defiant, and staunchly independent Crawford (the woman who allegedly yelled to her nurse whilst on her deathbed, "Don't you dare pray for me!") would have been the gravest insult.
And speaking of iconic images: