Hannah Fitzpatrick and Anindya Raychaudhuri discuss a topical podcast that covers politics, power, and pop culture

What is the State of the Theory podcast?

Hannah Fitzpatrick: Like most podcasts, State of the Theory is a manifestation of our narcissism. It began as an optimistic hope (albeit with few expectations) that our casual conversations might be of interest to, and spark debate among, our friends and colleagues. We used to commute together a few times a week, and the car became a sort of impromptu seminar venue, but without the audience. After the last research auditing exercise undertaken by the UK government in 2014, Impact and Public Engagement became quantifiable entities that might be used for or against us later in our careers, so the podcast is a sort of compromise, a way for us to demonstrate that our thoughts have value beyond the walls of the Vauxhall Astra, while still doing it on our own terms. A way of selling out without entirely selling out, if you will. Also, we missed the long drive, where all we could do was chat, and we could have these long, multi-stage conversations over the course of a week or two, so the podcast was a way for us to recreate that time. (more…)

welcome-to-twin-peaks-new-sign-revealed-david-lynch

“I often wonder if Lynch is the era’s most original artist, or at least the creator of its most haunting images—the severed ear in Blue Velvet, the Red Room in Twin Peaks, the Mystery Man in Lost Highway—but his works feel too schlocky, seedy, tearful, too male, too white for me to want to say this often in conversation. His cinema is disreputably baroque, brimming with meaning that it seems to disavow. He’s of the same generation as Terrence Malick, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese, but where they now seem historical, Lynch still has the fragility of the contemporary. The greatness of his art seems directly linked to the kitsch of his materials, all the B-movie unheimlich maneuvers: doppelgängers, prosthetics, recurring numbers, dream sequences, animated corpses. And this, I think, is an enigma worth pursuing.”

— Adam Thirlwell, The New York Review of Books

The Samuel Beckett Society has details of an upcoming conference exploring the role that technology plays in the writer’s work:

“In April 1981, having devoted considerable time to resolving the technicalities that surrounded his TV play Quad, Samuel Beckett confessed to Ruby Cohn: ‘Not long back from Stuttgart. Unsatisfactory. Television is beyond me.’ Frustrating as it may have been at times, technology held its fascination for Beckett and often became enmeshed with his work. It remained central for him, as it continues to be for researchers and practitioners engaging with his work today.”

The deadline for the call for papers is 15 January 2018. The conference will take place between 13-15 September 2018 at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague.

American filmmaker answers questions from the audience at a recent photographic exhibition

“What matters is what you believe happened. […] Many things in life just happen and we have to come to our own conclusions. You can, for example, read a book that raises a series of questions, and you want to talk to the author, but he died a hundred years ago. That’s why everything is up to you.”

David Lynch

In October 2014, it was announced that David Lynch and Mark Frost would be returning to the world of Twin Peaks, the television drama series which followed the intuitions of FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as he investigated the death of high school homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Twin Peaks is the name of the small northwestern town where the murder takes place, and is home to a community of eccentric personalities and troubled figures. First aired in 1990, Twin Peaks become a cultural phenomenon that spanned two series and a feature-length film (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, 1992). The show secured David Lynch lasting mainstream recognition, and the show has influenced countless television series since.

Lynch and Frost’s continuation of the story in Twin Peaks: The Return, aired by Showtime, has offered some of the most boldly audacious television of the twenty-first century. The series has been ingenious in its use of timing and dialogue to generate mystery, suspense, and humour, and the writing and performances have been superb throughout. I found the two-hour finale confusing for a number of reasons, but I also found it appropriate to the story Lynch and Frost were telling: for me, it was haunting and deeply moving. (more…)

On pursuing a vocation in art, writing, and simple living

The reasons for my decision

Back in June, I attended a cardiology appointment that had a profound impact on me. My meeting with the cardiologist was routine and I did not receive any alarming news, but I became aware of the fragility of my own body in a new way. As an infant I was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, and my life had been saved by the UK’s National Health Service and the surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. I have always felt grateful for the life-saving help that I received, and could talk superficially about my condition with friends and loved ones, but now I see that I was also prone to a form of denial. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I placed my heart condition to one side as I tried to establish an identity for myself. My routine appointments continued from year to year, but in my conscious mind and my behaviour I aimed to suppress what they represented with denial and distraction. This year marks the first time that I am fully and consciously aware that I have a congenital heart condition. And while there is no reason why I cannot live a full and happy life, I am now awake to the fact that I nearly didn’t survive infancy. (more…)

Jason Bailey (Flavorwire) has alerted my attention to Amazon Prime’s recent acquisition of David Lynch: The Art Life, a feature-length documentary about the artist and filmmaker from Missoula, Montana. The film is now available to stream to all Prime customers residing in the United States, but for many in other regions the wait continues:

“‘You drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and you paint… and that’s it.’ That, in his youth, was David Lynch’s notion of “the art life,” right around the time he decided that was the life he wanted to lead – that nothing was more important to him than being an artist, no matter how long it took to make it as one. “I knew my stuff sucked,” he recalls, “but I need to burn through. I had to find what was mine. And the only way to do that is to keep painting.” This moody and informative documentary from directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm is solely interested in those early years, with particular interest in his Pacific Northwest upbringing (“My world was no bigger than a couple of blocks”), and how all that suburban normalcy gave birth to his darkness and peculiarity – the way flashes of dread and strangeness would invade this idyllic childhood, and alter him forever. Lynch is, as ever, a fascinating figure, full of great stories, odd turns of phrase, and disturbing images; this unconventional documentary does right by its subject, which is no mean feat, and serves as a valuable guide to the psyche of the man who’s currently blowing our minds every Sunday night.”

Source: The 5 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘Okja,’ ‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ – Flavorwire

Saul Anton (Frieze) is watching David Lynch‘s Twin Peaks: The Return, and offers what he calls  “a rudimentary sketch of the motley tableau of Americana that Lynch strings together into some of the most mesmerizing, bizarre, and funny television I can remember.” [Read More]

Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003)
Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003)

Dismal weather this morning. Reading the journals of Thomas Merton. Over the last few days I have found a great deal of satisfaction in the following interviews, articles, and reviews:

How Georgia O’Keeffe turned her life into a work of art • Teju Cole explores how we see the world in Blind Spot • Teju Cole: “My camera is like an invisibility cloak. It makes me more free” • “He’s a model of how to have lived as a writer.” — Geoff Dyer on John Berger • Writers’ and artists’ fascination with the ocean • Colm Tóibín on the artist Alberto Giacometti • A Quest to Rename the Williamsburg Bridge for Sonny Rollins • Doctor Anton Chekhov, writer • Is Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale an allegory of the Trump era? • The Modernist Gas Stations of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe • The 25 Greatest Summer Films • Take a look at Ralph Steadman’s distinctive illustrations for George Orwell’s Animal Farm • Kyle Chayka revisits Anselm Kiefer’s Velimir Chlebnikov • “The whole [moviemaking process] starts with daydreaming about something.” — Sofia Coppola • Art Deco around the world: How modern transport and communication brought the aesthetic to a global audience • Kraftwerk: Past masters of the future • Roy Jacobsen‘s Norwegian Island Trilogy • Lauren Elkin on Brian Dillon‘s Essayism • Shannon Burns on the fiction of Clarice Lispector • Beyond Caravaggio: National Galleries Scotland • Andy Warhol‘s inaugural ‘selfie’ expected to fetch £7m at auction • Inside Bob Dylan‘s Historic New Tulsa Archive • Was the Twentieth Century a Mistake? A Conversation with Werner Herzog

David Lynch at work at his home, the Beverly Johnson House in the Hollywood Hills, CA. Photograph: Patrick Fraser
David Lynch at work at his home, the Beverly Johnson House in the Hollywood Hills, CA. Photograph: Patrick Fraser

Spent some time yesterday afternoon touring the Universität Basel in Switzerland. Aside from walking the city streets and dipping my feet into the Rhine, I’ve been devoting some time to reading. As I mentioned in previous posts (1, 2), I am enjoying Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I am also slipping back into the world Twin Peaks, which has reignited my fascination with all things Lynchian. Here are a few of the articles that have caught my attention over the last day or so:

LA Weekly has posted a fantastic gallery of David Lynch shooting locations, with accompanying stills from Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire • “[A] heady whiff of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton” — Tom Huddleston recaps episodes 5-6 of Twin Peaks: The Return • German image-maker Michael Wolf‘s first retrospective exhibition shows urban living at its most extreme • Listen to the history of rock music before and after Radiohead‘s OK Computer • Ali Smith on meeting W.G. Sebald • The pros and cons of the digitized Walt Whitman and his “lost” novels • Miroslaw Balka and Joseph Rykwert discuss how art and architecture shape the politics of memory around conflict • Why American modernism is older than you think

In a conversation published by VultureDavid Marchese asks artist and filmmaker David Lynch about the reboot of his cult 1990s drama:

After being away from the world of Twin Peaks for so long, was it hard to find your way back into the atmosphere of the show and the minds of the characters?
It was just like rolling off a log.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s a very good thing, David. It’s hard to stay on a log. It’s easy to roll off.

You could hit your head, though.
That would be bad, David. I mean to say I know the world of Twin Peaks. You get Douglas firs in that part of the Pacific Northwest rather than ponderosa pine. I love vertical-grain Douglas-fir plywood. I love that world and all the characters from the original series. It feels like only a moment ago we were working on the original and then, a moment later, we’re stepping back into it. It’s just like that.

Lynch also shares his favourite topic of conversation (hint: it involves sitting quietly) and speculates on the importance of television since the decline of arthouse cinema.

Peter J. Beck discusses the history of H.G. Wells’ iconic sci-fi novel, and how it continues to resonate in popular culture
Peter J. Beck, The War of the Worlds: From H. G. Wells to Orson Welles, Jeff Wayne, Steven Spielberg & Beyond (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Peter J. Beck, The War of the Worlds: From H. G. Wells to Orson Welles, Jeff Wayne, Steven Spielberg & Beyond (Bloomsbury, 2016)

What inspired you to write the book?

I have lived in Woking since 1971. Over time I became increasingly aware of the town’s links with H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Woking is the place where he researched, wrote and set the book. My house is located within one mile or so of both Horsell Common, where Wells’ Martians landed, and 141 Maybury Road, the house where Wells wrote the story.  Apart from walking the trail of the story and reading his books, during the late 1980s I began researching Wells’ correspondence, most notably that held by archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and Yale University Library. This research was basically undertaken out of personal interest rather than with a view to publication, since as a professor of history my principal areas of research and publication were the history of British foreign policy and international organisation. RAE pressures – my membership of the RAE History panel for the 1992 and 1996 RAEs made me acutely aware of these – left no time for other research topics. However, I taught a course at Kingston University on ‘Literature, Art and War 1860-1920’, and introduced The War of the Worlds as one of the war scare set texts alongside The Battle of Dorking. I began to write up my research about Wells’ The War of the Worlds only in 2012 after finishing two contracted books: Using history, making British policy: the Treasury and the Foreign Office, 1950-76 (2006) and Presenting History: Past and Present (2012). A further source of inspiration was my membership of a Woking Task Group set up in 2013 to organise a programme of events celebrating Wells’ links with Woking in 2016, a year marking the 150th anniversary of his birth and the 70th anniversary of his death. I represented the H.G. Wells Society on this task group. (more…)

Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts
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Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures, designed by Peter Saville.

discover-badge-circle-rhystranter-comA selection of the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that have caught my eye this week. Highlights include: an interview with President Barack Obama on his life as a reader and writer; the late Mark Fisher’s discussion of post-punk group Joy Division; a free Yale course on the American Novel since 1945; and much more.
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Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts
Elisabeth Moss in the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
Elisabeth Moss in the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

discover-badge-circle-rhystranter-comIn the first weekly-round up of the year, a selection of the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that have caught my eye. Including: a premiere date for Hulu’s adaptation of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson on one of the key influences on The Lord of the Rings; tributes pour in for the late art critic John Berger; Karl Marx’s favourite London haunts; and much more.
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Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts
Carrie Fisher portrays Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars franchise
Carrie Fisher portrays Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars franchise

discover-badge-circle-rhystranter-comIn the final weekly-round up of the year, a selection of the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that have caught my eye this holiday season. Including: reflections on the legacy of actress and screenwriter Carrie Fisher; an interview with Bethany Rose Lamont, whose print journal Doll Hospital uses art and literature to explore mental health issues; 2016’s most essential jazz reissue; and much more.
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