Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Well, yesterday it finally happened: I outed myself as an actual physical presence by attending a social event. I spent the entire day cursing myself for having accepted an invitation to meet Paul Theroux at a dinner hosted by Larry and Ellen Schwartz at their Amrita Shergill Marg residence. But at the end of the evening, mercifully short, I had to confess (when asked) that I'd had fun. The author was pleasantly approachable -- and in my brief interaction with him, showed me a tattoo on his right hand that (he said) was an example of his own artwork. It was a simple symmetrical mark, rather like a logo design, which looked like a combination of bird-in-flight and cross-bow. About an inch long. Interesting.

This is my fourth or fifth recent public appearance and I am starting to feel it's time to get back into my shell coz otherwise it could get to be a habit. On Friday the 15th I officiated at the launch event for Amruta Patil's KARI and that was fun too. However, as I realized long ago, the trick to ensuring that one gets pleasure out of doing things like this is to do them VERY RARELY. It takes only two or three sightings to become a fixture and then a bore. Currently, it is still odd enough for me to be present in a crowd of well-dressed people that the few others who recognize me say "Oi! What are YOU doing here?" instead of "Gahhh. You again ..."

Meanwhile, on the recent-reading front, I have just finished an extraordinary book: THE ART OF MURDER by Jose Carlos Somoza. Yes, it's a murder mystery and I don't generally make a big deal about genre books. But this one is different. VERY different. The murder(s) are practically incidental to the main motif of the story which concerns itself with a new trend in art, call HYPERDRAMATISM. It involves the use of living models, many of them female and most of them nude, as the actual artworks. This means that the models must be painstakingly trained to pose for several hours at a time to remain perfectly still, including all kinds of drugs and chemicals to ensure e.g. that they do not need to evacuate their unmentionables or dribble, that their eyes will not stream with tears or need to be blinked. The models are referred to as "canvases" and from the time that they are contracted for a work, they are regarded as objects, rather than people. An extension of this art form is the design and creation of various subsets of art, such as furniture: live models used as tables, chairs, trolleys ...

When the first of these beautiful young oddities is murdered, one of the puzzles that presents itself immediately is: was this some form of Art? Was it an extension of the original work in which the model had been posed, or was it a despicable act of destruction, in which a young girl had been murdered?

The author is Spanish so the book is a translation. I feel sure, without any persuasive argument to back me up, that a Brit or American author could not have carried this theme to its logical conclusion, because the moral/ethical issues would have caused the narrative to break down. It required that special European sensibility -- a highly sophisticated artistic vision -- to make it convincing. Run out and order it at once ...

1 comment:

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