William Forsythe
William Forsythe

“Reading Julien Offray de la Mettrie’s L’Homme machine (Man a Machine, 1748), in 1978 the philosopher Karl Popper suggested that ‘there may be no clear distinction between living matter and dead matter’; that man ‘is a computer’. William Forsythe’s ‘Choreographic Objects’ puts this thesis to the test in the vaulted space of an aircraft hangar that houses Gagosian Le Bourget. What Forsythe calls ‘choreographic objects’ are the installations, films and sculptures that he’s been creating since 1989, which lie at the intersection of dance and the visual arts. Exploring choreography, technology and space, his work brings us closer to understanding our own bodies.”

— Lauren Elkin, Frieze

Since interviewing Michelle Boulous Walker about “slow philosophy” earlier this month, I have been thinking about the way we approach writing within institutional or commercial settings. It seems I am not the only one. Lauren Elkin has posted a link to a piece by Andrew Gallix where he reflects on the benefits of writing at a slower pace:

“[B]ack in February, I expressed concern at the accelerating pace of publishing and called (half-jokingly) for the creation of a Slow Writing Movement (SWM), modelled on the Slow Food phenomenon. Word processing probably enables people to write faster than ever, and the internet provides the sometimes dubious means of instant publication.

As a result, what often passes for fiction today would have been considered no more than an early draft only a few years ago. In truth, however, the digital age has simply compounded a problem caused by the increasing hegemony of one school of writing (the Ionic) over another (the Platonic).”

Andrew Gallix, The Guardian
Sketching a brief history of Ionic vs. Platonic writing, Gallix identifies a social/economic bias that sets the quick work of the “hack” against the slow, patient verse that privilege can afford. But his central point remains crucially relevant in a digital age of around-the-clock productivity: perhaps a Slow Writing Movement can make us stop for a moment to catch our breath?

Cheryl Strayed, Wild
Cheryl Strayed, Wild

Spent this afternoon walking around Cardiff Bay barrage with Jennifer and our good friend, Laura. There’s little that beats good conversation at walking pace. I’ve spent much of this week working on an academic manuscript, so it’s refreshing to get outdoors for awhile and see the sunshine.

I have started reading Cheryl Strayed‘s Wild, a memoir of the author’s life changing decision to hike America’s Pacific Crest Trial. It’s written in an accessible and compelling style which has literally made me laugh and cry within the first fifty pages. An excellent start, and I’m looking forward to reading more of it this afternoon.

The New Yorker has published a new short story by Don DeLillo, entitled “The Itch” • Geoffrey Rush plays Alberto Giacometti in British film made with close involvement of artist’s estate • Herman Melville‘s Mystery: Was Billy Budd black? • Lauren Elkin on Jeanne Moreau

I speak to author and academic Lauren Elkin about women walking in the city, and the pioneering writers who influenced her
Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse (Penguin Books, 2016)
Lauren Elkin, Flâneuse (Penguin Books, 2016)

I wonder if you could say a little bit about your title. What exactly is a “Flâneuse”? And what motivated you to write the book?

A flâneuse is quite basically the female conjugation of a “flâneur,” or a kind of idly curious stroller in the city, a man-about-town. As Baudelaire wrote: “The crowd is his domain, just as the air is the bird’s, and water that of the fish. His passion and his profession is to merge with the crowd.”

The flâneur is this really resonant archetype in our culture; you come across it really frequently when magazines or other brands (most recently Hermès) want to lend a kind of worldly, nonchalant, urban intellectualism to their enterprise, or to whatever it is they’re selling. However – and this is going to answer your second question as well – this figure is usually male, or male-identified; only men have historically (and this is arguably still true today) had that kind of access to the city, where they could walk around observing and “merge with the crowd”; women have been, or are, generally too conspicuous in the city, we’re viewed either as a threat or as someone who needs protection; we’re told to smile, our appearances are commented on. Or, for women who don’t conform to some idea of youth or beauty, made to feel functionally invisible. In neither case do we have the kind of neutrality the flâneur needs to have. So the “flâneuse” is a figure who’s kind of impossible to conjugate. (more…)