Lolita – Recommended Read

I’ve been meaning to write about books a bit more. It may seem like a digression, but¬†reading a good book inspires me the same way going to a gallery does; it’s a revitalising leisure activity where I can enjoy something beautiful and be inspired by the talent of amazing people.

One book in particular has reminded me of this recently: Lolita, the faux autobiographical account of Humbert Humbert (what a great name for a perv) and his erotic obsession with a twelve year old girl.

At first I was completely absorbed by the smoothly ironic and lyrically beautiful writing (not even Nabakov’s native tongue… damn smart people…). But then there’s a jolt: a sudden realisation that the object of this enthralling literary eroticism is a twelve year old girl. Twelve. Years. Old. All Nabakov’s considerable skill draws you into collusion with Humbert; is Lolita actually seducing Humbert or is it just his obsession clouding his sense of reality? Even if you take Humbert’s account as an accurate reflection of reality, it’s a uncomfortable experience being lead into identification with a morally suspect protagonist.

So, a book that is engrossing, skilfully crafted and thematically stimulating? A good excuse for Saturday on the couch if you ask me.

Oh, and if anyone asks, tell them you’re participating in cultural enbigenment – hey, you’re reading a literary classic, you can make up as many words you like.

On Assignment

I haven’t posted in a while, for the same old “I’m doing an essay” reason. Writing essays is so much harder than I remembered; I guess a year and a half off has stunted my brain.

My Bachelor of Arts fits in here at PhoebeC even though Literature and Gender Studies majors may not seem particularly creative. But I chose my course and I choose my subjects according to what excites me (so no vocational justification for my education, just academic pleasure).

I just wrote an essay on films that address ‘masculinity in crisis’. The idea is that white, middle class masculinity is no longer enjoying hegemonic power so it’s in ‘crisis’ – ie lots of angry white, middle class men. A more generous – and to me more generally accurate – construction is that society demands certain a certain kind of masculinity (unemotional, successful, uncomplaining…) which constrains men. I think it’s a really interesting issue; how do you start to address the difficulties of a group that has enjoyed a position of power for hundreds of years against the ongoing difficulties of gender, racial and sexual minorities?

If you really want a gender studies rant, ask me about the functioning of a patriarchal consumerist society some time.

The essay I’m writing now (once I’ve finished procrastinating) is on James Bond. I’m comparing the novel and film versions of Dr No, looking at the ideological shifts that change how Bond is depicted in each. The Bond of the novels is so much more British than in the films… Stiff upper lip, me old boy and all that.

Anyway, an excuse to watch an old Connery Bond – now that’s a reason to study Arts!

Fleshy Fiberglass

I joined my cousin Leila and friend Elle for a Saturday outing to the gallery a couple of weeks ago. Both Elle and Leila had asked me separately if I wanted to go to see an exhibition – I didn’t recognise the artist’s name, but I was keen on a change of scene for the weekend.

The exhibition was of Ron Mueck’s work, ‘hyperreal’ (Hello¬†Baudrillard – well, if I can’t use my Bachelor of Arts to reference French cultural theorists obsessed with Disneyland, what can I do with it?) sculptures of the human form.

The pieces are eery – if I looked at them for too long, I felt more and more certain that I was going to see one of them move. This extraodinary life-likeness isn’t even disrupted by the pieces’ scale – amongst others there was a giant seated naked man (I came up to his hip) and two tiny old women (about the length of my forearm). If anything, the scale makes them even more strange; there’s no other word for them but ‘unheimlich‘, roughly translated as uncanny. There is a real strangeness in looking a pieces I know are inanimate sculptures when I could swear they just moved while my back was turned.

It’s so rare to find art that make you feel physically affected, but these pieces were technically and emotionally amazing. Definitely a Saturday well spent.