The New Yorker has a list of requirements for a good summer read –
I like a summer read to be only as complex as a white cashmere sweater with a whiskey stain on it ...
My white whiskey-stained read so far has been Cesar Aira's new book "The Conversations" concerning an argument between two friends who meet regularly at a cafe. Their conversations usually have a high philosophical tone but one day they decide to settle another sort of question.
Why, in the movie both of them have just seen, does a rustic Ukrainian shepherd, played by a famous movie star (Brad Pitt?), appear wearing an expensive Rolex watch? Was this a continuity error – a long interlude on how Hollywood films are made follows – or was it a part of an intricate subtext? The narration slips, like a fugue, between this discussion, the discussion of the discussion, the movie itself with all sorts of crazy characters running around the mountaintops, and the narrator recounting all of this to himself at night.
And since there's a big Matisse paper cut-outs show making the rounds and Matisse is always something of a summer pleasure, I have been reading different critiques about his work, about how it all works and when it doesn't.
Unlike the Cubists who wanted to objectify the space between objects, make space as physical as objects, Matisse wanted to make the spaces between things as ambiguous as possible... Which made me think of the spaces in Ratmansky's Trilogy, how he loosens his reins on space, how he tightens them up; his "arabesquing" patterns and Matisse's. (One critic, Marcelin Pleynet, breaks Matisse's name open, Ma – Tisse, to become My Weaving-together.)
Another interesting difference is that with the Cubists, Picasso especially, is that it was all about touch – the touch of the hand and the guitar to be touched – whereas with Matisse it's about the eye, how the eye runs over things: and the goldfish bowls in the paintings are surrogates for the incessant activity of the eye. (Are there ballets with a scruntizing goldfish-bowl subgroup in them?)
In TJ Clark's delightful review of the cut-out show there is this quote from Matisse –
Matisse, who admired Monet greatly, thought constantly about the contrast between a painting devoted to pleasure and the agony involved in its production:
A man who makes pictures like the one we were looking at [he is writing to his son about Rouault’s The Manager and a Circus Girl, but no doubt also about himself] is an unhappy creature, tormented day and night. He relieves himself of his passion in his pictures, but also in spite of himself on the people round him. That is what normal people never understand. They want to enjoy the artist’s products – as one might enjoy the milk of a cow – but they can’t put up with the inconvenience, the mud and the flies.