Thursday, October 18, 2018

Stephen Shames' best photograph / Robert Kennedy in his final days

 Robert F. Kennedy prepares to speak at DeFremery Park, Oakland, 1 June 1968. Photograph: Stephen Shames

Stephen Shames' best photograph: Robert Kennedy in his final days

‘This is Robert Kennedy at a rally days before he was assassinated. Notice how close I am. There wasn’t any security back then’

Interview by Dale Berning Sawa
Thu 18 Oct 2018 08.21 BST

took this shot of Robert Kennedy on 1 June 1968, four days before he was assassinated, at a rally in the run-up to the California Democratic primary.
You notice how close I am. Kennedy was standing on a platform in DeFremery Park, West Oakland. I jumped up and Jesse Unruh, who was speaker of the California State Assembly at the time, asked who I was. “A student,” I said and he let me stay up there. There wasn’t any security back then.
It was early afternoon. I took about 40 frames – a couple of rolls of film. Here, I think he may have been about to talk. He was looking at the crowd, nervously scratching his head.
Kennedy was a charismatic figure who could electrify a crowd. He was articulate and intelligent, which makes me almost want to cry if I compare him to whatshisname, whose name I won’t mention, now sitting in that office that Bobby was running for.
I was in my third year studying history and anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. As a freshman, my roommate convinced me to run for the student council. I got elected, but I hated it; I couldn’t stand the infighting. In 1966, I picked up my first camera, and I decided I wanted to be the artist of the revolution, not a leader.
I met Bobby Seale, the chairman of the Black Panther party, in 1967. He became a mentor to me. I started having my pictures published in the Black Panther paper and in the Berkeley Barb, the underground paper. If it hadn’t been for the Vietnam war, and the fact that I needed to keep my student deferment to not be drafted, I might very well have dropped out of school and just pursued photography. But I stayed and graduated.
My education, though, happened out on the streets. History was going on right in front of me. The campus was on strike for most of 1968 and 1969. There were anti-war marches and demonstrations to establish black studies. Everyone came through Berkeley. Name any important figure from the 1960s, I probably have a photograph of them. Tom Hayden, Martin Luther King, Stokely CarmichaelTim LearyCesar ChavezAngela DavisAbbie HoffmanJerry RubinJoan BaezJames BaldwinMike Bloomfield … At the time, though, we thought that was just life.

I don’t remember exactly where I was when Kennedy was shot. It was 5 June, the night of the primary. I was probably with friends watching TV to see who’d won. We were pretty sure the winner would become president. There was tremendous hope in the air. As members of the student movement, we were feeling optimistic and powerful. The very fact that Kennedy was running was a response to our protests against the war, which had led to Lyndon Johnson not seeking a second term. Kennedy had come out against the war. It wasn’t that we thought he was a revolutionary, but on issues such as civil rights and poverty, we knew he could make changes.
Mostly we knew he was a unifier. He was popular among white working-class voters, students and young people, African American and minority voters. We thought he could begin to heal the racial divides that had been tearing our country apart for ever.
Then he gets shot. And it’s like: “We’re never going to let this happen, this is America. You guys are naive.” Of course, this came right after Martin Luther King was assassinated, and not that long after JFK. That was a horrible period in the US. Progressive leaders were getting knocked off right and left. Kennedy being assassinated and Richard Nixon winning was the end of the hope.
There are clear parallels for me with what’s happening right now. Most 21 year olds are idealistic. Everyone grows up a patriot. You’re in school, you salute the flag, you read the sanitised history in your textbooks. Then there’s a polarising moment like this that shoves you into the real world.
In the US, beyond the election of Trump, which was a fluke, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the supreme court is one such moment. Young people here having their eyes opened. They are realising there’s a dark side to the United States. Their idealism is being shaved away.
 Power to the people: The Black Panthers photographs of Stephen Shames is at the Maison Folie Moulins in Lille until 6 January 2019.

Stephen Shames’ CV

Stephen Shames photographer
 Photograph: Heidi Gutman

Born: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1947.
Training: Self-taught. Mentored by San Francisco Associated Press Bureau and the Student Union Art Studio at the University of California at Berkeley. So I had art and photojournalist mentors.
Influences: Dorothea LangeW Eugene SmithJacob Riis, and many others
High point: Right now.
Low point: After the 1960s ended.



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The 100 best novels No 71 / The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)

The 100 best novels 

No. 71

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)

Graham Greene’s moving tale of adultery and its aftermath ties together several vital strands in his work

Robert McCrum
Monday 26 January 2015 05.45 GMT

'Greene's portrait of the agony of two people caught in an illicit love affair remains compelling':
Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in The End of the Affair (1999).
Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar/Cinetext Collection

here are many Greenes, and almost all of them – the thriller writer (The Third Man), the entertainer (Our Man in Havana), the contemporary political novelist (The Quiet American), the polemicist (The Comedians) and the serious religious writer (The Power and the Glory) – deserve consideration in this series. I’ve chosen The End of the Affair because it blurs the line he drew between his “entertainments” and his more serious work. The novel owes its inspiration to the conventions of romantic fiction while at the same time transcending genre. Crucially, it dates from Greene’s best years, the age of postwar austerity that also nurtured the previous author (No 70) in this series, George Orwell.
Set in Clapham during the blitz (before the war, Greene owned a house in Clapham), it’s a story of adultery. Maurice Bendrix, a second-rank novelist, wants to write about a civil servant, and makes the acquaintance of his neighbour’s wife, Sarah. They fall in love and have an affair tortured by his jealousy and her guilt. When Bendrix is nearly killed by a bomb (Greene’s house was similarly wrecked during the blitz), his mistress suddenly breaks off relations. Only in retrospect will the meaning of this inexplicable act of rejection become apparent.
Guilt-edged: Graham Greene pouring a drink, 1954.Photograph: Kurt Hutton

Two years pass. Sarah’s husband, Henry, who is ignorant of the affair, approaches Bendrix about his wife’s infidelity with “a third man”. Intrigued, the novelist employs a private detective to investigate. Having said, at the outset, that “a story has no beginning or end”, Greene now employs a dizzy mix of flashback, stream-of consciousness and conventional narrative, partly based on Sarah’s diary, to relate how she, having prayed for a miracle, “catches belief like a disease”, and then subsequently dies. The “third man”, a recurrent figure with Greene, turns out to be God, for whom Sarah has become “a bride in Christ”. This supernatural, Roman Catholic element of the plot has not worn well, but the portrait of wartime London, and the agony of two people caught in an illicit love affair, remains compelling.

A note on the text

The best clue to the emotional freight carried by The End of the Affair is probably to be found in its differing dedication pages. The English edition, published by William Heinemann in September 1951, reads “To C”. But the American edition, much less cryptic, reads “To Catherine with love”. Catherine Walston, the wife of the Labour peer Harry Walston, had been quite explicitly Greene’s mistress for several years, in a relationship that tormented all concerned. Few women ever touched Greene as deeply, however, and his novel became the sad record of their ultimately doomed relationship. “It was,” writes Norman Sherry in his very unsatisfactory three-volume biography, “a love affair of dangerous proportions”, and one wracked, as the novel is, with Catholic guilt.
The End of the Affair is the fourth and final Greene novel with an overtly Roman Catholic dimension. (The others areBrighton RockThe Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter.) About a year after its publication Greene told Evelyn Waugh that he wanted to write a political novel. It would be fun to deal with politics, he said, “and not always write about God”. Waugh’s response was characteristically sharp and practical. “I wouldn’t give up writing about God at this stage if I was you,” he replied. “It would be like PG Wodehouse dropping Jeeves halfway through the Wooster series.”

Waugh’s review of The End of the Affair of 6 September 1951 in the magazineMonth stands up well to the test of time. In his new novel, writes Waugh, “Mr Greene has chosen another contemporary form, domestic, romantic drama of the type of Brief Encounter, and has transformed that in his own inimitable way.” Waugh added that the story was “a singularly beautiful and moving one”.
This, perhaps, explains its continued appeal. The novel has been filmed twice (in1955 and 1999). William Golding, who has yet to appear in this series, ignored the religion and accurately described Greene as “the ultimate chronicler of 20th-century man’s consciousness and anxiety”.

Three more from Graham Greene

The Confidential Agent (1939); The Power and the Glory (1940); The Quiet American (1955).
The End of the Affair is available in Vintage (£8.99)

007 Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
014 Fair by William Thackeray (1848)  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The 100 best novels / No 29 / Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

The 100 best novels: No 29 – Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

Hardy exposed his deepest feelings in this bleak, angry novel and, stung by the hostile response, he never wrote another 

Robert McCrum
Monday 7 April 2014

he publication of Jude the Obscure is both an end and a beginning. In hindsight, it signals the transition to a modern literary sensibility while also painting a picture of a profoundly Victorian rural society. It was another kind of turning-point, too, because Thomas Hardy, shaken by the hostility aroused by the novel dubbed "Jude the Obscene", would never write fiction again. And it was a new beginning because henceforth he would become one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century.

When the novel opens, we seem to be in Hardy's Wessex, the world of Far From the Madding Crowd or Tess of the d'Urbervilles. But Jude Fawley, who talks to the crows he is supposed to be scaring away, is a modern English boy, with his eye on Christminster (Oxford). He wants an education. With brilliant economy, Hardy opens up three themes: the struggle of the poor and disadvantaged to make their way in a bourgeois world; the tyranny of marriage in the lives of women oppressed by a patriarchal society; and the stranglehold on English life inflicted by an established church, defensively circling its wagons in the aftermath of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
These themes lie below the waterline, but they are perhaps the more menacing for being submerged. As the untutored folkteller of "Wessex", Hardy narrates Jude's tragedy inside-out through a sequence of failed relationships – with Arabella, his wife; with Sue Bridehead, his cousin and true love; and even with himself. The heart of the story will examine the humiliation of Jude's failure as a social animal, a profound and crippling obscurity ending in death.

The strangest and most moving moments in a novel many readers find harrowingly bleak concern Jude's thwarted love for Sue, their two children perforce born out of wedlock, and the belated appearance in their midst of "Little Father Time", the son that Jude has had with Arabella. Hardy's brilliant portrait of a disturbed teenager tearing a family apart culminates in the famous scene in which, having murdered his half-siblings, the boy hangs himself with the note "Done because we are too menny".
Jude the Obscure is an angry book, and a deeply radical one. To write it, Hardy went further into himself than ever before, exposed his deepest feelings and was creatively wounded by the hostility of the response to what one critic called "the most indecent book ever written".

A note on the text

The text of Hardy's last novel went through at least three stages of evolution, and became every bit as troubled as its subsequent publishing history.
The first version appeared as a serialin Harper's New Monthly Magazinefrom December 1894 to November 1895, under the title The Simpletons, subsequently altered to Hearts Insurgent. Many of the changes to a much-edited text were dictated by concerns about public taste, for instance Jude (originally Jack) and Sue Bridehead never become lovers, and Arabella Donn does not seduce Jude.
Next came the first edition in volume form in 1895 published by Osgood, McIlvaine & Co, as part of a complete set of Hardy's fiction, the Wessex novels. This version continued the bowdlerising of all references to sex and religion begun at the serial stage. This first edition would eventually become replaced in 1912 by the third, and now definitive, version of the novel, published by his principal publisher, Macmillan.
That was not the end of the matter. Hardy continued to tinker with the text for the rest of his life. There's a copy in the Dorset County museum which contains many of Hardy's second and third thoughts about the 1912 edition. Plainly the furore aroused by first publication, in which the bishop of Wakefield was said to have burned his copy of the book, affected him deeply.

Other essential Hardy titles

The Return of the Native (1878); The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886); Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891).

007 Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
014 Fair by William Thackeray (1848)