Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Franz Kafka / The Metamorphosis

Franz kafka
Leizip, 1916, first edition
Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis


As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly stay in place and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.
What has happened to me? he thought. It was no dream. His room, a regular human bedroom, only rather too small, lay quiet within its four familiar walls. Above the table on which a collection of cloth samples was unpacked and spread out—Samsa was a traveling salesman—hung the picture which he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and put into a pretty gilt frame. It showed a lady, with a fur hat on and a fur stole, sitting upright and holding out to the spectator a huge fur muff into which the whole of her forearm had vanished!
Gregor's eyes turned next to the window, and the overcast sky—one could hear raindrops beating on the window gutter—made him quite melancholy. What about sleeping a little longer and forgetting all this nonsense, he thought, but it could not be done, for he was accustomed to sleep on his right side and in his present condition he could not turn himself over. However violently he forced himself toward his right side he always rolled onto his back again. He tried it at least a hundred times, shutting his eyes to keep from seeing his struggling legs, and only desisted when he began to feel in his side a faint dull ache he had never felt before.
Oh God, he thought, what an exhausting job I've picked out for myself! On the road day in, day out. It's much more irritating work than doing the actual business in the home office, and on top of that there's the trouble of constant traveling, of worrying about train connections, the bad food and irregular meals, casual acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friends. The devil take it all! He felt a slight itching up on his belly, slowly pushed himself on his back nearer to the top of the bed so that he could lift his head more easily, identified the itching place which was surrounded by many small white spots the nature of which he could not understand and was about to touch it with a leg, but drew the leg back immediately, for the contact made a cold shiver run through him.
He slid down again into his former position. This getting up early, he thought, can make an idiot out of anyone. A man needs his sleep. Other salesmen live like harem women. For instance, when I come back to the hotel in the morning to write up my orders these others are only sitting down to breakfast. Let me just try that with my boss; I’d be fired on the spot. Anyhow, that might be quite a good thing for me, who can tell? If I didn't have to hold back because of my parents I'd have given notice long ago, I'd have gone to the boss and told him exactly what I think of him. That would knock him right off his desk! It's a peculiar habit of his, too, sitting on top of the desk like that and talking down to employees, especially when they have to come quite near because the boss is hard of hearing. Well, there's still hope; once I've saved enough money to pay back my parents' debts to him—that should take another five or six years—I'll do it without fail. I’ll cut my ties completely then. For the moment, though, I'd better get up, since my train leaves at five.
He looked at the alarm clock ticking on the chest of drawers. Heavenly Father! he thought. It was half-past six and the hands were quietly moving on, it was even past the half-hour, it was getting on toward a quarter to seven. Had the alarm clock not gone off? From the bed one could see that it had been properly set for four o'clock; of course it must have gone off. Yes, but was it possible to sleep quietly through that ear-splitting noise? Well, he had not slept quietly, yet apparently all the more soundly for that. But what was he to do now? The next train went at seven o'clock; to catch that he would need to hurry like mad and his samples weren't even packed, and he himself wasn't feeling particularly fresh and energetic. And even if he did catch the train he couldn't avoid a tirade from the boss, since the messenger boy must have been waiting for the five o'clock train and must have long since reported his failure to turn up. This messenger was a creature of the boss's, spineless and stupid. Well, supposing he were to say he was sick? But that would be very awkward and would look suspicious, since during his five years’ employment he had not been ill once. The boss himself would be sure to come with the health insurance doctor, would reproach his parents for their son's laziness, and would cut all excuses short by handing the matter over to the insurance doctor, who of course regarded all mankind as perfectly healthy malingerers. And would he be so far wrong in this case? Gregor really felt quite well, apart from a drowsiness that was quite inexcusable after such a long sleep, and he was even unusually hungry.
As all this was running through his mind at top speed without his being able to decide to leave his bed—the alarm clock had just struck a quarter to seven—there was a cautious tap at the door near the head of his bed. "Gregor," said a voice—it was his mother's—"it's a quarter to seven. Didn't you have a train to catch?" That gentle voice! Gregor had a shock as he heard his own voice answering hers, unmistakably his own voice, it was true, but with a persistent horrible twittering squeak behind it like an undertone, which left the words in their clear shape only for the first moment and then rose up reverberating around them to destroy their sense, so that one could not be sure one had heard them rightly. Gregor wanted to answer at length and explain everything, but in the circumstances he confined himself to saying: "Yes, yes, thank you, Mother, I'm getting up now." The wooden door between them must have kept the change in his voice from being noticeable outside, for his mother contented herself with this statement and shuffled away. Yet this brief exchange of words had made the other members of the family aware that Gregor was, strangely, still at home, and at one of the side doors his father was already knocking, gently, yet with his fist. "Gregor, Gregor," he called, "What's the matter with you?" And after a little while he called again in a deeper voice: "Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side door his sister was saying in a low, plaintive tone: "Gregor? Aren't you well? Do you need anything?" He answered them both at once: "I'm just about ready," and did his best to make his voice sound as normal as possible by enunciating the words very clearly and leaving long pauses between them. So his father went back to his breakfast, but his sister whispered: "Gregor, open the door, I beg you." However, he was not thinking of opening the door, and felt thankful for the prudent habit he had acquired on the road of locking all doors during the night, even at home.
His immediate intention was to get up quietly without being disturbed, to put on his clothes and above all eat his breakfast, and only then to consider what else had to be done, since he was well aware his meditations would come to no sensible conclusion if he remained in bed. He remembered that often enough in bed he had felt small aches and pains, probably caused by lying in awkward positions, which had proved purely imaginary once he got up, and he looked forward eagerly to seeing this morning's delusions gradually evaporate. That the change in his voice was nothing but the precursor of a bad cold, a typical ailment of traveling salesmen, he had not the slightest doubt.
To get rid of the quilt was quite easy; he had only to inflate himself a little and it fell off by itself. But the next move was difficult, especially because he was so unusually broad. He would have needed arms and hands to hoist himself up; instead he had only the numerous little legs which never stopped waving in all directions and which he could not control in the least. When he tried to bend one of them the first thing it did was to stretch itself out straight; and if he finally succeeded in making it do what he wanted, all the other legs meanwhile waved the more wildly in the most painful anal unpleasant way. "But what's the use of lying idle in bed?" said Gregor to himself.
He thought that he might get out of bed with the lower part of his body first, but this lower part, which he had not yet seen and of which he could form no clear picture, proved too difficult to move; it shifted so slowly; and when finally, almost wild with annoyance, he gathered his forces together and thrust out recklessly, he had miscalculated the direction and bumped heavily against the lower end of the bed, and the stinging pain he felt informed him that precisely this lower part of his body was at the moment probably the most sensitive.
So he tried to get the top part of himself out first, and cautiously moved his head toward the edge of the bed. That proved easy enough, and despite its breadth and mass the bulk of his body at last slowly followed the movement of his head. Still, when he finally got his head free over the edge of the bed he felt too scared to go on advancing, for, after all, if he let himself fall in this way it would take a miracle to keep his head from being injured. And under no circumstances could he afford to lose consciousness now, precisely now; he would rather stay in bed.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pam Norfolk / The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde

Book review
Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life
of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle
London, Wednesday 24 August 2011
By  Pam Norfolk
Published on Friday 15 July 2011 01:00

‘Dear Constance ... I am coming to see you at nine o’clock. Please be in – it is important. Ever yours Oscar.’
The hastily written note, reeking of panic, which arrived in the space and calm of Oscar Wilde’s modishly minimalist home in Chelsea in February 1895 must have been greeted with some concern by his wife.
And rightly so because Oscar’s forthcoming confession was just the start of a nightmare journey for London society’s most sought-after and talked-about couple...
Franny Moyle’s poignant and revealing biography delivers a welcome new perspective on Oscar Wilde’s beautiful, bewitching and long-suffering wife.
Drawing on numerous unpublished letters, she brings to life the story of a woman at the heart of fin-de-siècle London who was the victim of one of the greatest betrayals of all time.
A celebrity in her own right, Constance was a popular children’s author, fashion icon, a member of the popular Victorian Aesthetic Movement and a leading campaigner for women’s rights.
In that spring of 1895, just as Oscar’s play An Ideal Husband was ironically taking the city by storm, her life changed irrevocably when he was convicted of homosexual crimes and she was forced to flee with her two sons to the Continent.
Her life eclipsed by scandal, her glittering literary and political career abruptly ended, she changed her name to Holland and lived in exile until her premature death aged 39 after a botched spinal operation just three years later.
Born into an Anglo-Irish family, Constance Lloyd was the daughter of a barrister and raised in Bayswater in London.
Constance and Cyril Wilde
Resented by her mother because of her natural beauty, Constance found solace in the bohemian world where she met and fell in love with the avant-garde Oscar Wilde.
The first years of their marriage were deliriously happy for them both, Constance telling Oscar ‘As long as I live you shall be my lover’ and Oscar declaring that he was ‘incomplete’ without her.
Over the next two years she gave birth to two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, but very soon marriage for Oscar had become ‘a curious mixture of ardour and indifference.’
He loved Constance’s company and companionship but he also loved the attention of young men and when the couple generously took in a friend’s son and practising homosexual, 17-year-old Robbie Ross, Oscar embarked on his first physical relationship with another man.
Constance had always been aware of her husband’s friendship with younger men and, indeed, wrote proudly to a friend in 1892 about ‘how good O’s influence is on young men.’
By this time Constance had accepted the diminished physical passion in her marriage and was reassured that at least the emotional and social bond between them remained despite Oscar now living intermittently at a fashionable hotel in Piccadilly.
Constance, a woman Moyles sees as in a classic state of denial, seemed to be almost permanently on the move with her two sons in these later years of her marriage.
But it was a state of affairs she could no longer ignore when the despicable Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas entered her husband’s life.
Oscar became smitten by the selfish, demanding and manipulative Bosie… a fatal attraction that would lead to the writer’s arrest, trial for gross indecency and imprisonment, and Constance’s enforced exile.
Moyles opens up a new window onto Constance’s life and character, allowing us to see her strengths as well as her failures.
In today’s world, her predicament would be greeted with sympathy and understanding ... unfortunately for Constance, she married the wrong man in the wrong era.

(John Murray, hardback, £20)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Amy Larocca / The Debut of Jessica Lange, Photographer

Photograph by Jessica Lange

Amy Larocca
The debut of Jessica Lange, photographer
Published Nov 16, 2008

Before King Kong, before the two Oscars, before the love affairs with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange was a square-jawed student of fine art at the University of Minnesota, taking an intro class in photography. There were any number of ways things could have gone from there, but they went like this: She fell in love with the friend of her photography professor, and he persuaded her to drop out of school in order to live la vie bohème in Spain and Amsterdam. “We made documentary films,” she says, “and then we came to New York. It was 1969.”
And as it was ’69, and as she moved to downtown Manhattan, there was an underground theater group (black turtlenecks, slender Capri pants), followed by a move to Paris in order to study mime. And then she was back in New York, being pursued by Bob Fosse and carried up the side of the World Trade Center by an outsize gorilla.
One can easily see how the photography thing just slipped away, eclipsed by life as a movie star. “I never gave it another thought,” she says, sitting in a back booth at Knickerbocker on University Place, where she’s just discussed the Times crossword—“Thursday? I can’t do Thursday!”—with another regular.
But about fifteen years ago, Lange’s longtime partner, Shepard, brought a Leica home from a movie set, and Lange was right back into it, mostly shooting her kids. (She has a daughter by Baryshnikov, and a son and daughter with Shepard.) “It was great,” she says of holding the camera again. She was living with Shepard in the Virginia countryside by then. Everything was idyllic, bucolic, domestic. “I’d go down into the basement after the kids were in bed,” she says, “put on some Al Green and Sam Cooke, and develop pictures.”
It’s not uncommon for performers to develop a love of another visual art. Witness this month’s W (photographs of Angelina Jolie by Brad Pitt), or similar work by Bryan Adams, Andy Summers, and Dennis Hopper. There’s something about the role reversal, about the safety of doing the watching instead of being watched, that must be liberating.
“It’s a great counterpoint to filmmaking,” Lange explains, “because it’s such a private, solitary experience. It’s like writing or painting; it’s something you can do on your own. Acting is a co-dependent art form, and the actor is not in control. And filmmaking definitely informs the decision to photograph something. I’m drawn to situations with a dramatic feel to them as far as lighting or backdrop or people’s presence, the way someone stands.”
About five years ago, Lange showed her work to Donata Wenders (Mrs. Wim), a photographer herself, who encouraged Lange to start printing, and thinking, bigger. Lange and Shepard, now empty nesters, were moving back to New York anyway, and so she started printing at a professional lab, and growing braver.
“I can describe acting in much more concrete terms than I can photography,” she says of the work. “But there’s something about presenting an image in black-and-white that’s so reductive in a way. It sort of eliminates all extraneous information.”
This week, a book of Lange’s photographs will be published by PowerHouse Books. The images in 50 Photographs are all black-and-white, shot mostly during Lange’s considerable travels as an actress and as a volunteer for charities in Russia and Africa, as well as in the northern part of Minnesota, where she still keeps a tiny house. There’s even one photo from the first roll she took with her Leica, while in Romania, fifteen years ago. They are overwhelmingly quiet shots.
“Showing them to people outside my family was a big step for me,” Lange says. “When I first showed them to [photographer] Brigitte Lacombe, she said to me, ‘Oh, Jessie. Why are you still so lonely?’ And I realized that I’m attracted to people in solitary situations that are evocative of lonesomeness.”

50 Photographs
By Jessica Lange.
Powerhouse Books. $60.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jessica Lange / Filmography

Jessica Lange

King Kong
All That Jazz
How to Beat the High Cost of Living
Louise Travis
Postman Always Rings Twice, TheThe Postman Always Rings Twice
Cora Smith
Julie Nichols
Frances Farmer
Jewell Ivy
Sweet Dreams
Patsy Cline
Crimes of the Heart
Margaret Magrath
Far North
Everybody’s All-American
Babs Rogers Grey
Music Box
Ann Talbot
Men Don’t Leave
Beth Macauley
Cape Fear
Leigh Bowden
Night and the City
Helen Nasseros
Blue Sky
Carly Marshall
Losing Isaiah
Margaret Lewin
Rob Roy
Mary MacGregor
A ThousandThousand Acres, A Acres
Ginny Cook Smith
Martha Baring
Jonathan Darby
Cousin Bette
Cousin Bette
Prozac Nation
Mrs Wurtzel
Masked and Anonymous
Nina Veronica
Big Fish
Sandra K. Bloom
Broken Flowers
Dr Carmen Markowski
Don’t Come Knoking
Katherine Pierson
Joshua Michael Stern
Arvilla Holden
Christopher N. Rowley
The Big Valley (in post-production)
Victoria Barkley
The Vow (in post-production)