French novelist Colette was a firm cat-lover. When she was in the U.S. she saw a cat sitting in the street. She went over to talk to it and the two of them mewed at each other for a friendly minute. Colette turned to her companion and exclaimed, “Enfin! Quelqu’un qui parle français.” (At last! Someone who speaks French!) — viâ Cat Ladies and a book whose title I forget
Some good quotes by Salvador Dalí (1904-89), who will need no introduction to keyly committed core components of the quixotically contrarian community. The Spanish should be reliable, but the English translations may not be (coz i dun em).
• A los seis años quería ser cocinero. A los siete quería ser Napoleón. Mi ambición no ha hecho más que crecer; ahora sólo quiero ser Salvador Dalí y nada más. Por otra parte, esto es muy difícil, ya que, a medida que me acerco a Salvador Dalí, él se aleja de mí.
— At six years of age I wanted to be a chef. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambition has only grown since then, but now I only want to be Salvador Dalí and nothing more. Still, it’s very difficult, because the closer I get to Salvador Dalí, the further he gets from me.
• El canibalismo es una de las manifestaciones más evidentes de la ternura.
— Cannibalism is a sure sign of affection.
• El que quiere interesar a los demás tiene que provocarlos.
— He who wishes to interest other people needs to provoke them.
• …Es curioso, a mi me interesa mucho mas hablar, o estar en contacto con la gente que piensa lo contrario de lo que yo pienso, que de los que piensan lo mismo que pienso yo.
— …It’s strange, but I’d much rather talk with or be in touch with people who think the opposite of what I think than with those who think the same as I do.
• Es fácil reconocer si el hombre tiene gusto: la alfombra debe combinar con las cejas.
— It’s easy to tell if a man has good taste: his carpet should harmonize with his eyebrows.
• De ninguna manera volveré a México. No soporto estar en un país más surrealista que mis pinturas.
— Under no circumstances will I return to Mexico. I cannot bear to be in a country more surreal than my own paintings.
• Hoy, el gusto por el defecto es tal que sólo parecen geniales las imperfecciones y sobre todo la fealdad. Cuando una Venus se parece a un sapo, los seudoestetas contemporáneos exclaman: ¡Es fuerte, es humano!
— Today, a taste for the defective is so strong that the only things that seem attractive are imperfections and, above all, ugliness. When a Venus looks like a toad, the pseudo-aesthetes of today shout: “That’s great, that’s human!”
• Los errores tienen casi siempre un carácter sagrado. Nunca intentéis corregirlos. Al contrario: lo que procede es racionalizarlos, compenetrarse con aquellos integralmente. Después, os será posible subliminarlos.
— Mistakes almost always have a sacred character. Never try to correct them. On the contrary, you need to ponder them, to examine them from every angle. Afterwards, you will be able to absorb them.
• La Revolución Rusa es la Revolución Francesa que llega tarde, por culpa del frío.
— The Russian Revolution is the French Revolution arriving late due to the cold.
• La única diferencia entre un loco y Dalí, es que Dalí no está loco.
— The only difference between a madman and Dalí is that Dalí is not mad.
• La vida es aspirar, respirar y expirar.
— Life is aspiring, respiring and expiring.
• Lo importante es que hablen de ti, aunque sea bien.
— What’s important is that people talk about you, even if they only say good things.
• Lo único de lo que el mundo no se cansará nunca es de la exageración.
— The only thing the world never tires of is exaggeration.
• ¡No podéis expulsarme porque Yo soy el Surrealismo!
— You cannot expel me: I am Surrealism! (After being expelled from the surrealist movement in Paris.)
• Picasso es pintor. Yo también. Picasso es español. Yo también. Picasso es comunista. Yo tampoco.
— Picasso is a painter. So am I. Picasso is a Spaniard. So am I. Picasso is a communist. Nor am I.
• Sin una audiencia, sin la presencia de espectadores, estas joyas no alcanzarían la función para la cual fueron creadas. El espectador, por tanto, es el artista final. Su vista, corazón, mente — con una mayor o menor capacidad para entender la intención del creador — da vida a las joyas.
— Without an audience, without a circle of spectators, these jewels would never realize the purpose for which they were created. The spectator is therefore the final artist. His eyes, his heart, his mind — whether better or worse equipped to understand the purpose of the creator — give life to the jewels.
• Llamo a mi esposa: Gala, Galuska, Gradiva; Oliva por lo oval de su rostro y el color de su piel; Oliveta, diminutivo de la oliva; y sus delirantes derivados: Oliueta, Oriueta, Buribeta, Buriueteta, Siliueta, Solibubuleta, Oliburibuleta, Ciueta, Liueta. También la llamo Lionette, porque cuando se enfada ruge como el león de la Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.
— I call my wife Gala, Galuska, Gradiva; Oliva for her oval face and the colour of her skin; Oliveta, diminutive of Oliva; and its delirious derivations: Oliueta, Oriueta, Buribeta, Buriueteta, Siliueta, Solibubuleta, Oliburibuleta, Ciueta, Liueta. I also call her Lionette, because when she’s angry she roars like the MGM lion.
• Sólo hay dos cosas malas que pueden pasarte en la vida, ser Pablo Picasso o no ser Salvador Dalí.
— There are only two things that can go wrong for you in life: being Pablo Picasso or not being Salvador Dalí.
• Si muero, no moriré del todo.
— If I die, I will not die completely. (Compare Horace’s Non omnis moriar, I will not wholly die.)
• La inteligencia sin ambición es un pájaro sin alas.
— Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.
• No tengas miedo de la perfección, nunca la alcanzarás.
— Don’t be afraid of perfection, because you’ll never achieve it.
• Para comprar mis cuadros hay que ser criminalmente rico como los norteamericanos.
— To buy my paintings you have to be criminally rich like the Americans.
• Hay días en que pienso que voy a morir de una sobredosis de satisfacción.
— There are days when I think that I will die of an overdose of satisfaction.
• El termómetro del éxito no es más que la envidia de los descontentos.
— The thermometer of success is nothing more than the envy of the discontent.
• Lo menos que puede pedirse a una escultura es que no se mueva.
— The least that one can ask of a sculpture is that it stays still.
• Mientras estamos dormidos en este mundo, estamos despiertos en el otro.
— When we are asleep in this world, we are awake in another.
• Yo no tomo drogas. Yo soy una droga.
— I do not take drugs. I am a drug.
• Los que no quieren imitar nada, no producen nada.
— Those who refuse to imitate will never create.
• Las guerras nunca han hecho daño a nadie, excepto a la gente que muere.
— Wars have never done harm to anyone, except to those who die.
• Gustar el dinero como me gusta, es nada menos que misticismo. El dinero es una gloria.
— To relish money as I do is nothing short of mysticism. Money is a glory.
• La existencia de la realidad es la cosa más misteriosa, más sublime y más surrealista que se dé.
— The existence of reality is the most mysterious, most sublime and most surrealist thing of all.
Ratschläge einer Raupe is one possible German translation of “Advice from a Caterpillar”, which is the title of chapter five of Alice in Wonderland. But the drawing above doesn’t need a translation. John Tenniel and Lewis Carroll were a classic combination, like Quentin Blake and J.P. Martin or Thomas Henry and Richmal Crompton. Tenniel drew fantastic things in a matter-of-fact way, which was just right.
But that makes me wonder about Ratschläge einer Raupe. In German, Rat-schlag means “piece of advice” and Ratschläge is the plural. At first glance, the title is more fun in German: it alliterates and trips off the the tongue in a way the English doesn’t. And Schlag literally means “blow, stroke”, which captures the behaviour of the caterpillar well. Like many of the characters Alice encounters in Wonderland, he is a prickly and aggressive interlocutor. “Advice from a Caterpillar” is plain by comparison.
So perhaps that makes it better: it’s a matter-of-fact title for a surreal chapter. Tenniel’s art echoes that.
Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:
• The Sting’s the Thing – A Sting in the Tale, Dave Goulson (Jonathan Cape 2013)
• Two Heads, Two Tongues – Excuse my French! Fluent Français without the Faux Pas, Rachel Best and Jean-Christophe Van Waes (Kyle Books 2013)
• Marred Moon – Void Moon, Michael Connelly (2000)
• ’Vile Vibes – In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile, Dan Davies (Quercus 2014)
• One-Stop Chop-Shop – Toxic Trannies from Kastration Kamp 23: A Sinister Symposium of Academic Assholes Shamelessly Shmoog the Filthiest Films in Cess-Cinema, Dr Miriam B. Stimbers, Dr Samuel P. Salatta, et al (TransToxic Texts 2016)
Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR
I wish someone would translate Lord of the Rings into English.
6 = 2 x 3. And 6 = 1 + 2 + 3. But 6 also equals 3!. That is, 6 = 3 x 2 x 1, or factorial three. If you have three different items, you can arrange them in six different ways. There are three posibilities for the first item, two for the second and one for the third.
You can illustrate this linguistically. All languages are governed by mathematics, but maths manifests itself in different ways. Emphasis is an important part of language, for example, but there are different ways to achieve it. English usually does it with stress or by adding an emphatic word. Other languages can do it by varying the order of words. Latin, for example:
- Mathematica Magistra Mundi
— Mathematics is Mistress of the World.
- Mathematica Mundi Magistra
— Mathematics of the World is Mistress.
- Magistra Mathematica Mundi
— Mistress is Mathematics of the World
- Magistra Mundi Mathematica
— Mistress of the World is Mathematics.
- Mundi Mathematica Magistra
— Of the World Mathematics is Mistress.
- Mundi Magistra Mathematica
— Of the World the Mistress is Mathematics.
Coke, booze, earsplitting volume. Not a combination you associate with the Smiths. But it was there, as you’ll learn from this book. Towards the end, they were almost turning into Guns’n’Gladioli. Morrissey, of course, was the odd one out: he wasn’t battering his brain-cells with drink and drugs on their final American tour. But back home his Lichtmusik was also lout-music: the Smiths didn’t just appeal to bedsit miserabilists in rain-hammered humdrum towns. No, they appealed to some football hooligans too, including a Chelsea fan who didn’t mind being asked, “You still wanking off over that miserable northern poof?” as he travelled north by train to do battle with Manchester United and Manchester City, who also supplied hoolifans to the Smiths (pp. 509-10). So did football clubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Smiths are easy to caricature, but the caricatures don’t capture their complexity.
Tony Fletcher does capture it: the band, their music, their fans, friends, producers, studio-engineers and record-labels. He’s definitely a Guardianista, but his prose is plodding rather than painful and he does a good job of putting the poof and his partners into context. The 1980s is one important part of that context. So are Irish Catholicism and Manchester. When you look at pictures of the Smiths, you can see two clear divisions. One of them separates the singer, guitarist and drummer from the bassist: the dark-haired, bushy-browed, strong-faced Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke clearly belong to one race and the light-haired, lesser-browed, milder-faced Mike Joyce to another. They’re Irish and he’s English: the British Isles are rich in language and rich in biology too. But Morrissey’s height and handsomeness also separate him from Marr, Rourke and Joyce, like his polysyllabic name. Both must be related to his intelligence, his creativity and his ability to turn himself into the Pope of Mope and become much more famous than any of the other three. Fletcher doesn’t talk about this biology – as I said, he’s a Guardianista – but it’s implicit in his descriptions of Irish settlement in Manchester and of Morrissey’s genius.
Is that too strong a word? Maybe. Morrissey is certainly the interesting and original one in this book and it ends with his story only just beginning. You can feel the tug of his later career throughout the book: it’s not discussed, but you know it’s there. But Fletcher isn’t concentrating on Morrissey and doesn’t seem very interested in Carry On and Brit-film in the 1960s, so he’s less good on what might be called the Smythos: the world created by Morrissey in his lyrics and interviews. Morrissey’s influences are better explained in Simon Goddard’s Mozipedia (2009), which isn’t just about the New York Dolls, the Cockney Rejects and vegetarianism. It has also entries for everyone from Hawtrey and Housman to Williams and Wilde by way of Sandy Shaw, Shelagh Delaney and Jobriath. No-one will ever devote an encyclopaedia to Marr like that: music doesn’t have as much meaning and metaphor in it. It has emotion and beauty instead and Fletcher is good at describing how Marr created a lot of both on albums like Meat Is Murder and Strangeways Here We Come.
I’ve never liked him much, though. I like what he did with the guitar and in the studio, but I don’t like what he did to his body and mind. Or what he put on his body: he didn’t have Mozza’s way with weeds either. In the photos, you can clearly see Morrissey’s narcissism and Marr’s weediness. It’s no surprise that Marr smoked a lot of marijuana, preferred working at night and didn’t eat properly. But he’s weedy in more ways than the physical: there’s also a photo of him with Billy Bragg, the committed socialist behind Red Wedge. This was a collective of musicians and bands who wanted to make the world a better place by fighting Fatcher, fascism and free speech with their fantastic music. Morrissey had his lefty opinions too, but he didn’t like collectives and he didn’t scorn just Margaret Thatcher and the Queen: Bob Geldof and Live Aid got the sharp side of his tongue too. Which is good. Mozza is worshipped by Guardianistas, but he’s not a Guardianista himself.
Or not wholly. The hive-mind hasn’t been able to hum him fully into line, unlike Marr and Bragg. As for Rourke and Joyce: their politics don’t matter and the most interesting thing one of them does in this book is get stung by a sting-ray (pp. 539-40). They were competent musicians, but they weren’t essential to the Smiths. Joyce is most important for causing trouble, not for strumming his bass: first there was the heroin addiction, then the 21st-century court-case in which he sued for more money and earnt Morrissey’s undying enmity. Fletcher barely mentions the court-case and ends the book in the 1980s, with the Smiths exhausted, antagonistic and unfulfilled. They never achieved their full potential and though few bands do, few bands have had more to offer than the Smiths. The Beatles were one and managed to offer it from the nearby northern city of Liverpool. They were Irish Catholic too. But, like the Smiths, they achieved success in England, not Ireland. That’s important and the younger band captured it in their name. “Smiths” is an Anglo-Saxon word with ancient roots and difficult phonetics. It seems simple, but it isn’t. Rather like light.
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