Thursday, October 31, 2013

Suleman Anaya / The Return Sante D'Orazio

Работы известного фотографа Sante D’Orazio (98 фото - 7.65Mb)

The Return of Sante D’Orazio

A poster-child of the supermodel era, which he helped construct, the career of fashion photographer Sante D’Orazio seemed to burn out prematurely as a result of the excesses and pressures of the times. But with a new show at Christie’s, D’Orazio is staging his comeback and cashing in on some of his iconic images.
Left: Linda Evangelista; Right: Keith Richards | Photo: Sante D'Orazio
NEW YORK, United States — Sante D’Orazio typified an era. From the moment Andy Warhol gave the Brooklyn-born photographer his first job, D’Orazio became somewhat of a poster-child for the hedonistic fashion world of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Along with peers like Peter Lindbergh, Patrick Demarchelier and Herb Ritts, D’Orazio was part of a generation of photographers whose highly stylised, hyper-sensual imagery captured the pulse of their bullish time. This was the heyday of supermodels and of Azzedine Alaïa, a time when a voluptuous larger-than-life feminine ideal reigned supreme. Now, after a 7-year absence from fashion, D’Orazio is staging an exhibit of some of his most famous shots at Christie’s New York, a move meant to herald his comeback — and hopefully earn the photographer new commercial commissions.
D’Orazio’s covers for Allure magazine and his provocative nudes of models like Christy Turlington, Helena Christensen and Cindy Crawford, for the pages of Italian VogueInterview, and Vanity Fair, among others, are so representative of their time, that they fill entire threads on online forums like They have also become collector’s items, a fact D’Orazio is leveraging with the private sale of large-format prints of some of his most iconic images. BoF reached the photographer at Christie’s space on the 20th floor of New York’s Rockefeller Center, as he was putting the final touches on his show, “Other Graces,” which opens on Monday.
D’Orazio’s career remained strong even after his trademark, overtly sexual style went out of fashion. In the early 1990s, when photographers like Corinne Day ushered in the grunge era in magazines and advertising campaigns, Sante D’Orazio found demand for his glossy work in Hollywood, where he shot the likes of Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer and Keith Richards. “My pictures were more sensual and glamorous and the whole grunge movement and all that was just not my cup of tea. That is what dissuaded me from continuing to work in the fashion field because I just didn’t see women that way.”
Around 2005, however, after a major gallery show of explicit portraits of Pamela Anderson, things got quiet around D’Orazio. “I had been doing the fashion and beauty stuff and the portraiture and the celebrities for a good 25 years, so I had to stop all the commercial work.” D’Orazio, who had trained as a painter under Philip Guston in his youth, turned away from fashion, he says, in order to return to his more abstract, fine art work.
But his split with the system seems to have been motivated as much by burn-out as by a need to explore his neglected interests. Much is made of the pressure fashion designers face in today’s constant-output world, but as D’Orazio describes it, top fashion photographers are subject to similar strains: “The shootings consume you. There’s pre-production, production, post-production — and if you have four or five of those a week, they are all-consuming.”
It didn’t take long for his magazine and advertising work to dry up. Clients simply stopped calling, he recalls. “People think that you’re not into it anymore, and in many ways my head wasn’t, I was concentrating on other things. That basically was my commercial demise. After a couple of years it became hard to get work, because I had basically disappeared from the scene. The way it works is a lot of the commercial work starts with editorial work and when you’re not in the mix with people, at the fashion shows, socialising…. It is a political game as well, if you’re not in the scene, Paris-London-New York-Milan, and you’re not seen and you’re not showing up in editorial pages anymore, people just think you died.”
But D’Orazio claims he was very much alive, just preparing for his comeback. He is ready now, he says, and in some ways the Christie’s show is D’Orazio’s pitch to land commercial work again. “Now that I have discovered and developed a language for myself, I have a lot to go on that people have yet to see because it hasn’t been displayed anywhere. At the same time I miss a lot of what I did before, portraiture and beauty and editorial. And the truth of the matter is, at this point I have a lot more to give.” So far, D’Orazio says he doesn’t have any major editorial or advertising projects in the pipeline. “But I have a joy for it once again and I am going to approach this with a whole new vision. I’m excited about it.”
According to D’Orazio, eight of the forty-six prints in the show (each of which comes in editions of three and ranges in price from $55,000 to $120,000) have already sold to contemporary art and photography collectors, and that’s before the show has officially opened. That should be good news for the photographer, given that, apart from reigniting his commercial career, the sale also appears intended to finance the photographer’s livelihood. “I have been friends with so many great artists and collected their work over the years. For the last couple of years, it’s been Andy Warhol who has financed my life, or rather the sale of one of his canvases which I owned. It went for over a couple of million dollars.”
Other photographers, like David LaChapelle, have tried to cross over from commercial photography into fine art, with mixed results. For D’Orazio, right now, the question is whether he can cross over back into fashion.
Работы известного фотографа Sante D’Orazio (98 фото - 7.65Mb)
Работы известного фотографа Sante D’Orazio (98 фото - 7.65Mb)
Работы известного фотографа Sante D’Orazio (98 фото - 7.65Mb)
Работы известного фотографа Sante D’Orazio (98 фото - 7.65Mb)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Zbigniew Dlubak / Structures

Zbigniew Dlubak
by Krzysztof Jurecki

Zbigniew Dłubak, Autoportret, ca. 1950, © Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii/Armelle Dłubak
Self-taught art theoretician, painter and photographer. His primary goal was for the latter two to gain recognition as two separate forms of artistic expression. Born on on the 26th of April,1921 in Radomsko, died on the 21st of August, 2005 in Warsaw.
During the Second World War, he studied photography and painting on his own in an informal setting. Even after he was taken as a prisoner of the Mauthausen concentration camp, he organised exhibitions of art at the camp. After the war ended and he was released from Mauthausen in1945 he returned to Poland, where he took an active part in the reconstruction of Polish artistic life after six years of foreign occupation. He became one of the cofounders of the art group Grupa 55. Between 1947 and 1949 he participated in the art work promoting the modern views of The Club of Young Artists and Scientists in Warsaw. Between 1953-1972 he was the editor-in-chief of the Fotografia monthly. In 1948 he was one of the organizers of the Contemporary Art Exhibition in Kraków. He cooperated with several Warsaw galleries - Krzywe Koło, Współczesna, Foksal and Remont, later with Wrocław’s :Permafo: and Seminarium-Foto-Medium-Art. In the years of 1965-1975 Dłubak worked a lecturer at the National Film School in Łódź and at the Higher School of Fine Arts in Łódź. Together with his students and alumni he founded the Warsaw Seminary group, which functioned between 1975 and 1981, striving to explore the theory of the rendering process
In the late forties he eagerly and successfully created works that referred to surrealism and abstraction (geometrical and allusive), less often to constructivism. During the time of social realism he tried to withdraw from artistic life, however he did make works that were inspired by this growing trends and wrote texts on photography exhibitions. During this period he also photographed his own series of anti-aesthetic urban landscapes.
Inspired by his own theories of existence and a short she'd story he'd written Dłubak executed a series called Existences 1959-66. These photographs were documentary in nature, drawing cutes from American photography from the Farm Security Administration era. In 1967 he presented hisIconosphere series, which became an important stepping stone in Polish photography on the road to breaking down the concept of artistic photography. He initiated a series of Exhibits of Subjective Photography in 1968 and the exhibition Photographers in Pursuit in 1971. In 1970 he began studying the symbolism of the body within Gestures series. He later became interested in the concept of contextual art, promoted mainly by Jan Świdziński. In the early 1980s he began living in Meudon outside of Paris, where he worked extensively on his art, before returning to Warsaw for the last years of his life.
In 1983 he began producing a series that blurred the lines between photography and painting. He worked on the Asymmetry project for several years and its ultimate shape was presented in 2003 as the artist’s individual exhibition at the Zachęta Art Gallery in Warsaw. The show corresponded with the constructivist explorations of Władysław Strzemiński and his Theory of Vision.
Dłubak’s portfolio of photography and painting was also presented that year against the works of Grupa 55 in 2003 at a show entitled Zbigniew Dłubak and Grupa 55 at the Museum of Art in Łódź. Dłubak is considered a great authority in post-war Polish photography , with his avant-garde practice shaping the inspiration for many generations of artists since the end of '50s through today.
Author: Krzysztof Jurecki, Museum of Art in Łódź, March 2004. Updated: August 2005. Translated by Jagoda Dziadek, January 2011.

Morfi Jang / Women

by Morfi Jang

Scott Foltz / Women in the water

Scott Foltz

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Alice Munro / I like looking at people's lives / Quote

Alice Munro
Ilustration by Triunfo Arciniegas

by Alice Munro

I like looking at people’s lives over a number of years without continuity. Like catching them in snapshots. And I like the way people relate, or don’t relate, to the people they were earlier.... I think this is why I’m not drawn to writing novels. Because I don’ see that people develop and arrive somewhere. I just see people living in flashes. From time to time.

Geoff Hancock
“An Interview with Alice Munro”
Canadian Fiction Magazine, 43 (1982): 74-114.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Alice Munro / The Bear Came Over the Mountain / Short Story

The Bear Came Over the Mountain
by  Alice Munro

Fiona lived in her parents’ house, in the town where she and Grant went to university. It was a big, bay-windowed house that seemed to Grant both luxurious and disorderly, with rugs crooked on the floors and cup rings bitten into the table varnish. Her mother was Icelandic—a powerful woman with a froth of white hair and indignant far-left politics. The father was an important cardiologist, revered around the hospital but happily subservient at home, where he would listen to his wife’s strange tirades with an absent-minded smile. Fiona had her own little car and a pile of cashmere sweaters, but she wasn’t in a sorority, and her mother’s political activity was probably the reason. Not that she cared. Sororities were a joke to her, and so was politics—though she liked to play “The Four Insurgent Generals” on the phonograph, and sometimes also the “Internationale,” very loud, if there was a guest she thought she could make nervous. A curly-haired gloomy-looking foreigner was courting her—she said he was a Visigoth—and so were two or three quite respectable and uneasy young interns. She made fun of them all and of Grant as well. She would drolly repeat some of his small-town phrases. He thought maybe she was joking when she proposed to him, on a cold bright day on the beach at Port Stanley. Sand was stinging their faces and the waves delivered crashing loads of gravel at their feet.
“Do you think it would be fun—” Fiona shouted. “Do you think it would be fun if we got married?”
He took her up on it, he shouted yes. He wanted never to be away from her. She had the spark of life.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Alice Munro / Face / Short Story

By Alice Munro

I am convinced that my father looked at me, really saw me, only once. After that, he knew what was there.
In those days, they didn’t let fathers into the glare of the theatre where babies were born, or into the room where the women about to give birth were stifling their cries or suffering aloud. Fathers laid eyes on the mothers only once they were cleaned up and conscious and tucked under pastel blankets in the ward or in semi-private or private rooms. My mother had a private room, as became her status in town, and it was just as well, actually, seeing the way things turned out.
I don’t know whether my father saw my mother before or after he stood outside the window of the nursery for his first glimpse of me. I rather think that it was after, and that when she heard his steps outside her door she felt the anger in them but did not yet know what had caused it. After all, she had borne him a son, which was, presumably, what all men wanted.
I know what he said. Or what she told me he said.
“What a chunk of chopped liver.”
Then, “You don’t need to think you’re going to bring that into the house.”
One side of my face was—is—normal. And my entire body was normal from toes to shoulders. Twenty-one inches was my length, eight pounds five ounces my weight. A strapping male infant, fair-skinned, though probably still red from my unremarkable recent journey.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Alice Munro / Boys and Girls / Short Story

by Alice Munro
My father was a fox farmer. That is, he raised silver foxes, in pens; and in the fall and early winter, when their fur was prime, he killed them and skinned them and sold their pelts to the Hudson's Bay Company or the Montreal Fur Traders. These companies supplied us with heroic calendars to hang, one on each side of the kitchen door. Against a background of cold blue sky and black pine forests and treacherous northern rivers, plumed adventures planted the flags of England and or of France; magnificent savages bent their backs to the portage. 

    For several weeks before Christmas, my father worked after supper in the cellar of our house. the cellar was whitewashed , and lit by a hundred-watt bulb over the worktable. My brother Laird and I sat on the top step and watched. My father removed the pelt inside-out from the body of the fox, which looked surprisingly small, mean, and rat-like, deprived of its arrogant weight of fur. The naked, slippery bodies were collected in a sack and buried in the dump. One time the hired man, Henry Bailey, had taken a swipe at me with this sack, saying, "Christmas present!" My mother thought that was not funny. In fact she disliked the whole pelting operation--that was what the killing, skinning, and preparation of the furs was called – and wished it did not have to take place in the house. There was the smell. After the pelt had been stretched inside-out on a long board my father scraped away delicately, removing the little clotted webs of blood vessels, the bubbles of fat; the smell of blood and animal fat, which the strong primitive odor of the fox itself, penetrated all parts of the house. I found it reassuringly seasonal, like the smell of oranges and pine needles. 

    Henry Bailey suffered from bronchial troubles. He would cough and cough until his narrow face turned scarlet, and his light blue, derisive eyes filled up with tears; then he took the lid off the stove, and, standing well back, shot out a great clot of phlegm – hss – straight into the heart of the flames. We admired his for this performance and for his ability to make his stomach growl at will, and for his laughter, which was full of high whistlings and gurglings and involved the whole faulty machinery of his chest. It was sometimes hard to tell what he was laughing at, and always possible that it might be us. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Alice Munro / Runaway / Short Story

by  Alice Munro

Carla heard the car coming before it topped the little rise in the road that around here they called a hill. It’s her, she thought. Mrs. Jamieson—Sylvia—home from her holiday in Greece. From the barn door—but far enough inside that she could not easily be seen—she watched the road where Mrs. Jamieson would have to drive by, her place being half a mile farther along than Clark and Carla’s.
If it was somebody coming to see them, the car would be slowing down by now. But still Carla hoped. Let it not be her.
It was. Mrs. Jamieson turned her head once, quickly—she had all she could do to maneuver her car through the ruts and puddles the rain had made in the gravel—but she didn’t lift a hand off the wheel to wave, she didn’t spot Carla. Carla got a glimpse of a tanned arm bare to the shoulder, hair bleached a lighter color than it had been before, more white now than silver-blond, and an expression that was both exasperated and amused at her own exasperation—just the way Mrs. Jamieson would look negotiating this road. When she turned her head there was something like a bright flash—of inquiry, of hopefulness—that made Carla shrink back.
Maybe Clark didn’t know yet. If he was sitting at the computer, he would have his back to the window and the road.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Alice Munro / Passion / Short Story

Chicago, 1954
Photo by Harry Callahan
by Alice Munro

When Grace goes looking for the Traverses’ summer house, in the Ottawa Valley, it has been many years since she was in that part of the country. And, of course, things have changed. Highway 7 now avoids towns that it used to go right through, and it goes straight in places where, as she remembers, there used to be curves. This part of the Canadian Shield has many small lakes, which most maps have no room to identify. Even when she locates Sabot Lake, or thinks she has, there seem to be too many roads leading into it from the county road, and then, when she chooses one, too many paved roads crossing it, all with names that she does not recall. In fact, there were no street names when she was here, more than forty years ago. There was no pavement, either—just one dirt road running toward the lake, then another running rather haphazardly along the lake’s edge.
Now there is a village. Or perhaps it’s a suburb, because she does not see a post office or even the most unpromising convenience store. The settlement lies four or five streets deep along the lake, with houses strung close together on small lots. Some of them are undoubtedly summer places—the windows already boarded up, as they always were for the winter. But many others show all the signs of year-round habitation—habitation, in many cases, by people who have filled the yards with plastic gym sets and outdoor grills and training bikes and motorcycles and picnic tables, where some of them sit now having lunch or beer on this warm September day. There are other people, not so visible—students, maybe, or old hippies living alone—who have put up flags or sheets of tinfoil for curtains. Small, mostly decent, cheap houses, some fixed to withstand the winter and some not.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Alice Munro / Train / Short Story

by Triunfo Arciniegas
By Alice Munro

This is a slow train anyway, and it has slowed some more for the curve. Jackson is the only passenger left, and the next stop is about twenty miles ahead. Then the stop at Ripley, then Kincardine and the lake. He is in luck and it’s not to be wasted. Already he has taken his ticket stub out of its overhead notch.
He heaves his bag, and sees it land just nicely, in between the rails. No choice now — the train’s not going to get any slower.
He takes his chance. A young man in good shape, agile as he’ll ever be. But the leap, the landing, disappoints him. He’s stiffer than he’d thought, the stillness pitches him forward, his palms come down hard on the gravel between the ties, he’s scraped the skin. Nerves.
Illustration by Raymond Verdaguer
Illustration by Raymond Verdaguer
The train is out of sight; he hears it putting on a bit of speed, clear of the curve. He spits on his hurting hands, getting the gravel out. Then picks up his bag and starts walking back in the direction he has just covered on the train. If he followed the train he would show up at the station there well after dark. He’d still be able to complain that he’d fallen asleep and wakened all mixed up, thinking he’d slept through his stop when he hadn’t, jumped off all confused.
He would have been believed. Coming home from so far away, from Germany and the war, he could have got mixed up in his head. It’s not too late, he would be where he was supposed to be before midnight. But all the time he’s thinking this he’s walking in the opposite direction. He doesn’t know many names of trees. Maples, that everybody knows. Pines. He’d thought that where he jumped was in some woods, but it wasn’t. The trees are just along the track, thick on the embankment, but he can see the flash of fields behind them. Fields green or rusty or yellow. Pasture, crops, stubble. He knows just that much. It’s still August.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alice Munro / Gravel / Short Story

by Triunfo Arciniegas


At that time we were living beside a gravel pit. Not a large one, hollowed out by monster machinery, just a minor pit that a farmer must have made some money from years before. In fact, the pit was shallow enough to lead you to think that there might have been some other intention for it—foundations for a house, maybe, that never made it any further.
My mother was the one who insisted on calling attention to it. “We live by the old gravel pit out the service-station road,” she’d tell people, and laugh, because she was so happy to have shed everything connected with the house, the street—the husband—with the life she’d had before.
I barely remember that life. That is, I remember some parts of it clearly, but without the links you need to form a proper picture. All that I retain in my head of the house in town is the wallpaper with Teddy bears in my old room. In this new house, which was really a trailer, my sister, Caro, and I had narrow cots, stacked one above the other. When we first moved there, Caro talked to me a lot about our old house, trying to get me to remember this or that. It was when we were in bed that she talked like this, and generally the conversation ended with me failing to remember and her getting cross. Sometimes I thought I did remember, but out of contrariness or fear of getting things wrong I pretended not to.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Alice Munro / Amundsen / Short Story

By Alice Munro

On the bench outside the station, I sat and waited. The station had been open when the train arrived, but now it was locked. Another woman sat at the end of the bench, holding between her knees a string bag full of parcels wrapped in oiled paper. Meat—raw meat. I could smell it.
Across the tracks was the electric train, empty, waiting.
No other passengers showed up, and after a while the stationmaster stuck his head out the station window and called, “San.” At first I thought he was calling a man’s name, Sam. And another man wearing some kind of official outfit did come around the end of the building. He crossed the tracks and boarded the electric car. The woman with the parcels stood up and followed him, so I did the same. There was a burst of shouting from across the street, and the doors of a dark-shingled flat-roofed building opened, letting loose several men, who were jamming caps on their heads and banging lunch buckets against their thighs. By the noise they were making, you’d have thought the car was going to run away from them at any minute. But when they settled on board nothing happened. The car sat while they counted one another and worked out who was missing and told the driver that he couldn’t go yet. Then somebody remembered that the missing man hadn’t been around all day. The car started, though I couldn’t tell if the driver had been listening to any of this, or cared.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Alice Munro / The View from Castle Rock / Short Story

The View from Castle Rock
by Alice Munro

On a visit to Edinburgh with his father when he is nine or ten years old, Andrew finds himself climbing the damp, uneven stone steps of the Castle. His father is in front of him, some other men behind—it’s a wonder how many friends his father has found, standing in cubbyholes where there are bottles set on planks, in the High Street—until at last they crawl out on a shelf of rock, from which the land falls steeply away. It has just stopped raining, the sun is shining on a silvery stretch of water far ahead of them, and beyond that is a pale green and grayish-blue land, a land as light as mist, sucked into the sky.
“America,” his father tells them, and one of the men says that you would never have known it was so near.
“It is the effect of the height we are on,” another says.
“There is where every man is sitting in the midst of his own properties and even the beggars is riding around in carriages,” Andrew’s father says, paying no attention to them. “So there you are, my lad”—he turns to Andrew—“and God grant that one day you will see it closer, and I will myself, if I live.”
Andrew has an idea that there is something wrong with what his father is saying, but he is not well enough acquainted with geography to know that they are looking at Fife. He does not know if the men are mocking his father or if his father is playing a trick on them. Or if it is a trick at all.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Alice Munro / Dimension / Short Story

by Kim Nesskain Hong
by Alice Munro

Doree had to take three buses—one to Kincardine, where she waited for one to London, where she waited again, for the city bus out to the facility. She started the trip on a Sunday at nine in the morning. Because of the waiting times between buses, it took her until about two in the afternoon to travel the hundred-odd miles. All that sitting, either on buses or in the depots, was not a thing she should have minded. Her daily work was not of the sitting-down kind.
She was a chambermaid at the Comfort Inn. She scrubbed bathrooms and stripped and made beds and vacuumed rugs and wiped mirrors. She liked the work—it occupied her thoughts to a certain extent and tired her out so that she could sleep at night. She was seldom faced with a really bad mess, though some of the women she worked with could tell stories to make your hair curl. These women were older than her, and they all thought that she should try to work her way up. They told her that she should get trained for a job behind the desk, while she was still young and decent-looking. But she was content to do what she did. She didn’t want to have to talk to people.
None of the people she worked with knew what had happened. Or, if they did, they didn’t let on. Her picture had been in the paper—they’d used the photo he took of her with all three kids, the new baby, Dimitri, in her arms, and Barbara Ann and Sasha on either side, looking on. Her hair had been long and wavy and brown then, natural in curl and color, as he liked it, and her face bashful and soft—a reflection less of the way she was than of the way he wanted to see her.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Alice Munro / Free Radicals / Short Story

Free Radicals
by Alice Munro

At first, people kept phoning, to make sure that Nita was not too depressed, not too lonely, not eating too little or drinking too much. (She had been such a diligent wine drinker that many forgot that she was now forbidden to drink at all.) She held them off, without sounding nobly grief-stricken or unnaturally cheerful or absent-minded or confused. She said that she didn’t need groceries; she was working through what she had on hand. She had enough of her prescription pills and enough stamps for her thank-you notes.
Her closer friends probably suspected the truth—that she was not bothering to eat much and that she threw out any sympathy note she happened to get. She had not even informed the people who lived at a distance, to elicit such notes. Not Rich’s ex-wife in Arizona or his semi-estranged brother in Nova Scotia, though those two might have understood, perhaps better than the people near at hand, why she had proceeded with the non-funeral as she had done.
Rich had told her that he was going to the village, to the hardware store. It was around ten o’clock in the morning, and he had just started to paint the railing of the deck. That is, he’d been scraping it to prepare for the painting, and the old scraper had come apart in his hand.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Alice Munro / Voices / Personal History

by Triunfo Arciniegas


Nobel Prize 2013: Alice Munro exclusive story

In 'Voices', an exclusive short story from her latest collection, the Nobel Prize-winner Alice Munro recalls an experience she had as a ten year-old child: a fleeting wartime encounter with a prostitute.

The final part of Alice Munro's latest collection, Dear Life, comprises four works she describes as "not quite stories". They are, she writes, "autobiographical in feeling ... the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life”.
Published here exclusively is one of those:"Voices"
When my mother was growing up, she and her whole family would go to dances. These would be held in the schoolhouse, or sometimes in a farmhouse with a big enough front room. Young and old would be in attendance. Someone would play the piano — the household piano or the one in the school — and someone would have brought a violin. The square dancing had complicated patterns or steps, which a person known for a special facility would call out at the top of his voice (it was always a man) and in a strange desperate sort of haste which was of no use at all unless you knew the dance already. As everybody did, having learned them all by the time they were ten or twelve years old.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why we need fairytales / Jeanette Winterson on Oscar Wilde

Love transfigured by imagination … 'The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.
Illustration: Grahame Baker-Smith


Why we need fairytales: Jeanette Winterson on Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's magical stories for children have often been dismissed as lesser works, but as examples of how important imagination is to us all – young and old alike – they are a delight

Jeanette Winterson
Wednesday 16 October 2013 17.21 BST

ar off, like a perfect pearl, one can see the city of God. It is so wonderful that it seems as if a child could reach it in a summer's day. And so a child could. But with me and such as I am it is different. One can realise a thing in a single moment, but one loses it in the long hours that follow … "

– Oscar Wilde, "De Profundis"
Oscar Wilde wrote "De Profundis" in Reading gaol where he was serving two years hard labour for being himself; he was homosexual. He was sent to prison in 1895 after one of the most notorious trials in English history. Wilde's fatal amour, Lord Alfred Douglas, was son of the Marquess of Queensberry, who was a bully, womaniser, gambling addict, cycling bore and amateur boxer (to him we owe the Queensberry rules). In his personal life there was no such thing as fair play. Queensberry was a vicious pugilist detested by his family. A caricature of masculinity, he loathed the cult of art and beauty that Wilde championed, and under the guise of saving his son from sodomy, he set about bringing down Wilde at the height of his fame.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Alice Munro / Dear Life / Personal History



A childhood visitation.

BY the new yorker, september 19, 2011 

Alice Munro, at the age of two or three, in her home town of Wingham, Ontario.
Alice Munro, at the age of two or three, in her home town of Wingham, Ontario.

I lived when I was young at the end of a long road, or a road that seemed long to me. Behind me, as I walked home from primary school, and then from high school, was the real town with its activity and its sidewalks and its streetlights for after dark. Marking the end of town were two bridges over the Maitland River: one narrow iron bridge, where cars sometimes got into trouble over which one should pull off and wait for the other, and a wooden walkway, which occasionally had a plank missing, so that you could look right down into the bright, hurrying water. I liked that, but somebody always came and replaced the plank eventually.
Then there was a slight hollow, a couple of rickety houses that got flooded every spring, but that people—different people—always came and lived in anyway. And then another bridge, over the mill race, which was narrow but deep enough to drown you. After that, the road divided, one part of it going south up a hill and over the river again to become a genuine highway, and the other jogging around the old fairgrounds to turn west.
That westward road was mine.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Alice Munro / Dear Life / Reviews

Dear Life by Alice Munro – review

Anne Enright on Alice Munro's collection of subtle short stories
Farm in Canada
'Before anyone calls a lawyer, it is ­important to say that the Ontario woman whose life Alice Munro plunders most is herself.' Photograph: Ocean/Corbis
I remember a conversation I had about Alice Munro with a Canadian, 30 years ago, that was, for reasons I could not quite figure, a bit sticky. It took me a while to realise he thought Munro wrote about the lives of women in rural Ontario – which she did, of course – and this was why he didn't like her work so much. He didn't like it because of Ontario.
  1. Dear Life
  2. by Alice Munro

It stayed with me, as a kind of deliberate smallness about what writers do. Thirty years ago, in Canada, people thought Munro was writing about what it was like to be a woman in rural Ontario, and that this was territory they knew something about. Because rural Ontario was not just a flat place with some farmers and small towns, it was a set of ideas about itself, and these ideas could be owned and disputed and placed in the balance. Is this what Ontario is actually like? Are there, perhaps, more important things to be said about Ontario – or, indeed, about being a woman, in 1982? Also, by the way, are there more important books to be written about being Canadian: ones about men and grizzly bears, ones about immigrant communities in Toronto?
No disrespect to the good people of Ontario, but it is now pretty clear that Munro was just using them in order to write about the human condition. Her work is, in this regard, steadfast. Her characters are bare and true. It is also the case that she could not have done this so well without rural Ontario, in all its ordinary, fascinating particularity.
Before anyone calls a lawyer, it is important to say that the Ontario woman whose life she plunders most is herself. It is a chilly business, writing well: even the writer does not know how much is selfishness and how much generosity. Munro has calibrated to perfection the intimate distance that exists between writer and reader. She holds back in order to give us more.
Although she has lived in other cities, Munro returned many years ago to the landscape of her childhood, and her home is 20 miles from where she went to school. She lives, like her characters, in a stable, small-town world, where it is possible to know certain things about people and to be surprised by what they do next. Here she is, talking to an interviewer about a plane, spotted in a local field: "The man who owned that farm," she says, "had a hobby of flying planes, and he had a little plane of his own. He never liked farming so he got out of it and became a flight instructor. He's still alive. In perfect health and one of the handsomest men I've ever known. He retired from flight instruction when he was 75. Within maybe three months of retirement he went on a trip and got some odd disease you get from bats in caves."
This description is – almost – already a short story. You can see how a life like this might linger in her writer's mind, waiting for the extra thing, the alchemy. Or you can see her working on a story and stalling; waiting for the emotion, or gesture, or turning point, to which a farming flight instructor is the suddenly obvious key.
In a known landscape, every house asks and answers the question "what happened here?" By leaving and then returning to the countryside of her childhood, Munro has stocked and then restocked her mind with other people's choices, fates, furniture, budgets, realisations and regrets. The "natural" shape of her stories comes from a sense of the way life goes. Time reveals. Things "turn out". We know how they turn out because people do not disappear, or not for long. In fact, you can't get away from people, in these stories. Even the ones you thought had wandered off show up again, if only to be avoided, if only as a voice in the next room.
This sense of circumference is possibly one of the reasons she writes stories and not novels. There is also an uncertainty about how things are. Munro is interested in how we get things wrong. Age she says, changes your perceptions "of what has happened – not just what can happen but what really has happened". One of the ways her stories "turn out" is simply "different to what the main character thought all along". The story forms a new circumference, but it is not a new trap. "I feel so released," says Belle, in "Train", when the strangeness and ether of a hospital operation makes her remember and then tell the story of her father's death. "It's not that I don't feel the tragedy, but I have got outside the tragedy, is what I mean. It is just the mistakes of humanity."
Munro is now in her 80s. The timelines in her stories have become longer, and the sense of fatedness has stretched to match. Some of the stories in her new collection, Dear Life, begin with the cultural and economic shift that happened after the second world war and end anytime around now. It is as though the events of that time loosened peoples lives up just enough to make them their own.
The past resurfaces constantly in these tales; there is no escaping it, or its sense of consequence. But the past doesn't just catch up with Munro's characters, it also exists, quite peaceably, behind the present. A character, walking down a street, sees what used to be there very clearly. "Housewives who had finished washing the dishes and sweeping up the kitchen for the last time that day, men who had coiled up the hose after giving the grass a soaking." In fact, the present is slightly less vivid to her since "every single person is inside with their fans on or their air conditioning".
Munro is amazed by the effects of time. It is not difficult to remember the past so much as to believe that things were like that once. Belle talks about her warm sponge bath as an adolescent, how she washed in a basin that had no plumbing, so the plughole drained out to a bucket. In "To Reach Japan" Greta tries to explain what it was like for women in the early 1960s, when having a serious idea "or maybe even reading a real book, could be seen as suspect, having something to do with your child's getting pneumonia".
We can never fit back in to our former selves. Change may be the central mystery in Munro's stories, but her approach is pretty secular (or at least low church). Although she shares Flannery O'Connor's interest in the gothic, there is very little use of epiphany, transcendence, metamorphosis or even metaphor. Although her characters suffer the occasional interventions of fate, Munro is most interested in the slow changes that time itself wreaks; the difference a new road makes, the reality of wooden houses giving way to brick and brick to concrete. She is interested in how we make our lives, as much as how we escape them; the degree to which we are connected, or alone.
This swirl of people around each other – where no character is truly lost – is a cause of both fascination and anxiety for Munro. This anxiety becomes critical when it comes to children, who disappear with some frequency in her work, and sometimes die. One of her most anthologised stories is "Miles City Montana", first published in 1985, in which a father hauls his baby daughter from the water, after a moments's inattention by a swimming pool. The baby's sister is distracted by the lifeguard and her boyfriend, who are kissing. The baby's mother, stretching her legs after a long drive, is distracted by the "poorest details of the world" in this strange town; "their singleness and their precise location and the forlorn coincidence of your being there to see them". She is, let's face it, "being" a writer, or at least thinking like one, when the "ever ready guilt" causes her to startle and check for her daughter. "To Reach Japan" in this collection is also about maternal guilt and a wandering toddler. This time the mother is doing the kissing (adulterously, on a train) as well as the imagining and noticing and writing. Greta has run off for a few months to be a poet, or a bohemian, or to sleep with a newspaper columnist, which in the 60s was all sort of the same thing.
Munro has spoken about her need to write when her children were small. "Some part of me was absent for those children, and children detect things like that … When my oldest daughter was about two, she'd come to where I was sitting at the typewriter, and I would bat her away with one hand and type with the other. I've told her that. This was bad because it made her the adversary to what was most important to me."
It is not clear why a child should be threatened by the work a writer does, as opposed to, say, the work a cook does (who might just as easily bat a child away), or why a mother's imaginings are, in Munro's fiction, such an invitation to disaster. There is no reason why a child should be on the same hierarchy of importance as a story, they are not the same kind of creature. But there it is. Munro makes fiction from her anxiety about making fiction, that mixture of distraction and attention, absence and desire.
But more than this, a kind of absence is essential to Munro's work. It would be wrong to say there is an absence at the heart of it – that would sound aggrieved – but there is nothing wrong with holding yourself a little in reserve. A slight sense of withholding gives Munro's prose its gracefulness, and allows intimacy without danger. After many years, many collections and many wonderful stories, readers may feel they know everything about Alice Munro, especially as so many of her characters lead lives similar to her own. In fact, we know very little about her. This is one of the reasons readers become dizzy with love for Munro. This other reason is that she is so damn good.
These stories are difficult to read because the writer is so alert to her own mortality, and as honest as ever. The last section of the book, which is "autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact" has a sombre preamble. "I believe they are the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life."
These four short autobiographical pieces are beautifully written and give some insight into Munro's formation as a writer. The uncanny doubling of the title piece "Dear Life" makes us think of lives we might have led, or endings we might have endured. "The Eye" shows how reality cedes to imagination in the face of death. Munro tells us a little about her process; how real life throws up details that are too loud for fiction, such as a loose woman's orange dress, or details that lead nowhere, such as the man from her childhood who bore the "troll's name" of Roly Grain. We see her as a child, rehearsing her skills with her younger sister, taking on the role "of sophisticated counsellor or hair-raising story-teller". These are fascinating pieces, but they are also, as she says herself, "not quite short stories" and though I count myself as one of the people most interested in this writer on planet Earth, I find, to my surprise that they do not hold me in the same way – it is Munro's stories that I want; not her, after all.
• Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz is published by Vintage.

Dear Life
by Alice Munro

336pp, hardback, £18.99
Published by Chatto & Windus 15 November 2012

Reviewed by Alison Burns
The final four works in this book are not quite stories. They form a separate unit, one that is autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact.  I believe they are the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life.’
Alice Munro has long been hailed as one of the very best short-story writers in the English language.  Four fascinating semi-autobiographical pieces at the end of this new collection show the influence of incidents and undercurrents observed in childhood and youth, as the author acknowledges her own strong reactions to events. Rivetingly, we also see her acknowledging the lives and selves of others from an early age.
In ‘Night’, teenage Alice is recovering from surgery.  Little is demanded of her, and her days are lazy. At night, she cannot sleep. On one of her interminable walks, she encounters her father, also waiting. She confesses that she has thought of strangling her younger sister, and that this is what is disturbing her. Instead of being shocked, he helps her: ‘People have thoughts they’d sooner not have. It happens in life.’ What is most remarkable here is Munro’s ending, where she thinks about why he was out there at dawn, sitting on the stoop.What was he worrying at?
It is this humane curiosity that drives and distinguishes the Munro opus. Over and over again, Munro ends with a question of some kind. We see this in ‘Gravel’, for example, where another pair of sisters, contending with the effects of their mother’s love affair, become embroiled in tragedy: ‘But in my mind, Caro keeps running at the water and throwing herself in, as if in triumph, and I’m still caught, waiting for her to explain to me, waiting for the splash.’
Speaking of being ‘caught’, this is one of Munro’s favourite subjects. In her stories, the men are often to be seen laying down the law, losing their money, breaking their backs on the farm or going off to war; they puzzle over their wives and daughters, or fail to commit in the first place; some are magnificently (or maddeningly) tolerant or wise, but most are not quite all they are cracked up to be. The women can be difficult too:  unscrupulous, provocative, devious, deranged. Mostly, though, these average men and women are destined to be bound together, and they do not always like it.
It is the not liking, the war between mutual dependence and freedom, that Alice Munro catches so well – whether she is writing about lovers, siblings, husbands and wives or parents and children.
Another hugely rewarding volume from a mistress of the art.

The Sense of an Ending

‘Dear Life,’ Stories by Alice Munro

Noviember 16, 2012

That Alice Munro, now 81, is one of the great short story writers not just of our time but of any time ought to go without saying by now. This new volume — her 14th, not counting a collection of selected stories that came out in 1996 — is further proof of her mastery, and also a reminder that unlike a lot of accomplished short story writers — unlike William Trevor, say, her only living rival — Munro did not hit a characteristic note early on and then stick with it. Over the years her work has deepened and enlarged. At the end of “Dear Life” is a suite of four stories that Munro says are “autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact,” and she adds: “I believe they are the first and last — and the closest — things I have to say about my own life.” They seem to me as good as anything she has ever done, but also to strike out in the direction of a new, late style — one that is not so much a departure as a compressing or summing up of her whole career.Munro has never been an autobiographical writer in the strictest sense — not the way Updike was, for example — and yet certain themes and patterns in the stories more or less parallel the trajectory of her own life: a dreamy, misunderstood girlhood in hardscrabble western Ontario; an early marriage and move to Vancouver; children, separation, divorce; the death of parents; a return to that Lake Huron landscape, now inevitably altered; the contents and discontents of middle age. These four new stories all take place during the narrator’s childhood, and some of the material and the atmosphere will be familiar to readers of Munro’s earlier ones, especially those in “The Beggar Maid”: the ailing, hard-to-please mother; the remote, angry father; the childhood beatings; the mink farm that goes bust.

The style of those early stories was often bold, dramatic, a little raw. I edited many of them for The New Yorker, one of the first American publications to pay any attention to Munro, sometimes in spite of the hesitancy of William Shawn, who found them “rough” — violent, that is — and objected to the vulgarity of some of the language. (Years later I introduced Munro, who in person is shy and proper and as understated as most of her writing, to Shawn, and he said to me afterward, “She wasn’t at all what I expected.”)
But there is nothing in “Dear Life” that would give Mr. Shawn pause. As is so often the case now in Munro’s fiction, the drama sneaks up and then slips past almost before you’re aware of it. The descriptions are, even by Munro standards, precise and economical, and the mood is less angry or sorrowful than merely accepting. The very beautiful title story, for example, is ostensibly a reminiscence about living on a farm at the edge of town — neither truly rural nor really citified — and about the efforts of the narrator’s somewhat grandiose mother to keep up standards. It finishes with an anecdote about a misunderstanding — about a day when the mother, fearing that a neighbor was coming to snatch or attack her child, hid inside the house — and only then do you realize that it’s really a story about childhood intolerance, our need to misunderstand our parents so that we can be embarrassed by them, and about filial guilt. At the end, the narrator remarks almost matter-of-factly that years later, living in Vancouver, she did not go home for her mother’s last illness or even her funeral, and she ends the story this way: “We say of some things that they can’t be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do — we do it all the time.” The deeper theme here, as so often in Munro’s work, is memory itself and its selectivity and unreliability, its falseness even. As one character observes, no lies are “as strong as the lies we tell ourselves and then unfortunately have to keep telling.”
Another great Munro theme, sex or romantic longing — its unpredictability and the price it too exacts — is present only implicitly in these last four stories. In two of them, oddly, a prostitute appears and becomes an alluring, mysterious figure to the narrator’s younger self, bearing a hint of illicit thrill. But elsewhere in the volume a woman who is only half-­knowingly on the way to dissolving her marriage astonishes herself by having a one-­nighter with a younger man on a cross-­Canada train, temporarily abandoning her young daughter; another mother flees her strait-laced marriage to take up with a dope-­smoking hippie and is stoned or making love with him when her daughter drowns; a father throws himself under a train after lusting for his naked daughter; a crippled single woman allows herself to be blackmailed in order to continue a long-­running affair; and a young teacher falls in love, as if on command, with an older doctor, is jilted by him and never gets over it.
Many of these stories are told in Munro’s now familiar and much remarked on style, in which chronology is upended and the narrative is apt to begin at the end and end in the middle. She has said that she personally prefers to read stories that way, dipping in at random instead of following along sequentially, and this structure also echoes her view of the world, in which events seldom follow a plotline but merely happen, suddenly and inexplicably. Love especially: it strikes like a thunderclap in Munro’s fiction and often as ominously. In one of her earlier stories a character reflects that “love is not kind or honest and does not contribute to happiness in any reliable way.” And in a story in the new collection an elderly man, seemingly long past romance yet smitten again by an old girlfriend, tries to explain the nature of the attraction to his angry wife: “You know, it’s not even the person. It’s like a sort of aura. It’s a spell. . . . Do you understand? It just strikes like an eclipse or something.”
Munro is among the least fanciful of short story writers, seldom resorting to an image or a metaphor. This may reflect a lifelong habit of Canadian understatement — a suspicion of cleverness and a resistance to making too much of things — but it also accords with a sense in her fiction that the world is strange enough, without need of embellishment. In one of those last autobiographical stories, Munro makes a joke at her own expense. After describing in some detail a woman wearing a showy, too-tight dress, she remarks, “I think that if I was writing fiction instead of remembering something that happened, I would never have given her that dress. A kind of advertisement she didn’t need.” In fact, Munro’s fiction is full of details that initially seem distracting or extraneous, because life is like that, and especially life as we recall it.
The stories in this volume are filled with incidents, subplots, even characters that at first glance don’t fit the requirements of a classic, well-made short story — like those of Chekhov, to whom Munro is always being compared — and they’re why the narratives often take such surprising directions. In “Amundsen,” the story about the schoolteacher and the doctor, there’s a character both the principals wish weren’t there: a schoolgirl named Mary, clever, needy, a bit of a wiseass, who turns up at inopportune moments. At one point she interrupts a romantic dinner by appearing in costume and insisting on performing a number from “H. M. S. Pinafore.” She won’t be shut up or brushed away because she’s too full of life — or dear life, as the book’s title would have it: precious but also costly and so unpredictable it’s all one can do to hang on.
Charles McGrath, formerly the editor of the Book Review, is a writer at large for The Times.