Read Modernism: The Lure of Heresy: From Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond by Peter Gay Free Online
Book Title: Modernism: The Lure of Heresy: From Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond|
The size of the: 9.93 MB
Edition: W. W. Norton & Company
Date of issue: August 16th 2010
The author of the book: Peter Gay
Format files: PDF
ISBN 13: 9780393333961
Read full description of the books Modernism: The Lure of Heresy: From Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond:What was it the artist still known as Prince nearly said? There's joy in definitions. They prevent us from having to be party to any more inane conversations e.g.
- Hey, what's Tracy Emin's latest stuff like?
- Well, it is what it is.
- She's still keeping it real.
- For sure.
So, let's define 120 years of art, starting with bad boy Baudelaire. Les Fleurs du Mal, 1857
– "the strictest rule-bound sonnets and the grossest subject matter".
Sounds like Lou Reed.
PG says that the essential elements of modernism are the lure of heresy and the cultivation of subjectivity... a commitment to a principled self-scrutiny…
And these modernists were
aesthetic radicals rebelling against the beloved and oppressive past
Yeah right. Blah blah. Did modernism add up to anything more than a parade of lionised tortured white male artist ritually offending their tribal elders with their rulebreaking tuneless howls of pain about the meaninglessness and futility of boohoo human life?
Art serves no one but itself – not mammon, not God, not country, not bourgeois self-gratification, certainly not moral progress.
Nothing is truly beautiful but what can never be of use to anything. Everything that is useful is ugly, for it is the expression of some need, and human needs are ignoble and disgusting. The most useful place in a home is the latrine.
– Theophile Gautier, a foppish French writer.
What a load of pompous shit – is a musical instrument ugly? Well, of course, tubas are fairly unlovely, I grant you, but all the rest of them are very beautiful to look at, and they are useful too because they produce music. Human beings appear to need music so that's one need which isn't ignoble. Gautier room, Gautier! And stay there!
Walter Pater : All art constantly aspires to the condition of music.
This is more like it – music can be abstract and very beautiful at the same time. What am I saying - music IS abstract. So in other words it doesn't represent anything, it just is. Oh, excellent, now I sound like a Van Morrison lyric. (Music can also be very useful, like jolly military bands firing up young men with the desire to slaughter other young men they haven't met yet, or like say disco music which inspires persons of all sexes to camp it up and become better acquainted. )
All these aphorisms have more holes in them than a Walmart that only sells colanders.
It's clear what modernist painting is. Impressionism, cubism, you know the whole grinning growling gurning besplotched ploopy carousel. Poor Vincent! Starry night, ah! No 1 in the charts and you never knew. Tragic.
Monet's prices rose spectacularly, year after year. In 1879 he was earning the same as a top lawyer. By the early 1880s he tripled that. In 1995 he was the Bill Gates of blurry painting. Blurry blurry waterlilies! Oh Claude!
The painters rejected convention, conformity, the academy, they wanted to be proud and alone and unique, so they instantly banded together and called themselves Fauves or Cubists or Neo-plasiticists or The Shangri-Las or whatnot. They were a whole bunch of loners, loning together.
Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian – the three imaginary boys.
Paintings of white squares and then black squares by 1913! Now that's progress.
What they did share was a powerful sense of opposition to the world as it was, and a hunger for spirituality – PG
Yeah well, Mr Gay, that's not so special. I too have a powerful sense of opposition to the world as it is, don't you? Doesn't everybody?
Art historians who in recent years have announced the death of art usually give Duchamp the credit or blame for killing it – PG
You got to love Marcel, the only French artist to inspire a doowop group to name themselves in his honour.
Readymades - Bicycle Wheel, 1913 – art by fiat – I am the artist and if I say this thing is art it is and I'll bite you if you say any different so yah. Yeah? Yeah? Bicycle wheel! Urinal! Suck it up, creeps!
It's also clear what modernist literature is.
James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust were in a noisy pub one evening.
'Will you lend me £10?' shouted Joyce.
'You'll have to speak up a bit,' said Virginia, 'I can't hear a word you're saying with all the noise in here.'
'Will you lend me £10?' screamed Joyce at the top of his voice.
'It's no use,' said Virginia, 'I still cannot hear a word you're saying.'
'Now now, Virginia,' said Marcel Proust, 'I can hear him quite clearly.'
'In that case,' said Virginia, "you lend him the £10.'
What's more extreme than Finnegans Wake? No book is.
Samuel Beckett : Pinter said about him : The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don't want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, way outs, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. The more he grinds my nose in the shit the more I am grateful to him.
They gave Beckett the Nobel Prize, that's how avant his garde was.
Among all the domains of modernism, music was the most esoteric. Unlike avant-garde painting, or the novel, or architecture, which all entered the mainstream of taste after a time of trials, much avant-garde music is still avant-garde music. PG
Well, when Mr Gay says music what he is referring to is that strange thing called "modern classical music" or "atonal bollocks".
Composers resigned themselves to their fate as emotionally available only to a narrow elite.
- poorly attended concerts before an audience consisting in the main of fellow professionals – pg
Ha ha, serves em right. Take it, take another little piece of my art, baby.
Okay, I get this. Modernism introduced the concept of ugliness as not only acceptable but as something to earnestly strive for. So in music, atonality; in painting, horrible hideousness like Les Demoiselles d'Avignon; in architecture, all that nasty steel & glass; in novels, abandonment of plots i.e. no fun
(Note : modernism is the same as the avant-garde as far as Peter Gay is concerned. Same thing.)
Anyway, jazz does not merit a mention here. But that was modernist pop music.
PG loses me when he describes what a modernist composer like Debussy was trying to do – using such phrases as "such descents into the self" and "the inner life and its felicitous portrayal" – I quite see that that is what Debussy was trying to achieve (and did) but can't see why the same vague phrases couldn't be applied to pre-modernists like Beethoven.
Grand poetasting goulash like :
Mahler was principally concerned to establish the sovereignty of the sounds he invented and constructed, to let them blossom in his own and his listeners' minds (p243) – pg
Why can't this be said about any composer? Or then again – why spin this fatuous twaddle anyway? Why not do something useful instead?
Hold the front page. It says here that Modernists could be and often were right wing, racist and misogynist.
TS Eliot, Charles Ives, Strindberg, Hamsun.
The Wrap Up, at Long last
So according to PG Modernism began in the mid 1850s, got up to high speed in 1890 to 1920 and then crashed into a big fat thing called Pop Art in 1960 and died. Don't go breaking my art!!
I was cruisin' in my Stingray late one night
When Andy Warhol pulled up on the right
He rolled down the window of his shiny new Jag
And challenged me then and there to a drag
I said, "you're on, buddy, my mill's runnin' fine
Let's come off the line, now, at Sunset and Vine
But I'll go you one better if you've got the nerve
Let's race all the way
To Pop Art Curve
Pop Art Curve
Pop Art Curve
(Abstract Expressionists :
You won't come back from Pop Art Curve)
I don't get it. Peter Gay appears to despair at Pop Art and consider it a bad thing because – this is just a guess – although the artists were still white males, they weren't anguished, and they loved low culture (and spent their time eagerly ripping it off). They possessed "hardworking cheerfulness". Maybe that's what was wrong with them. They loved selling out! They wanted to be rich. (As rich as Monet!) After traversing so much interesting material PG suddenly seems to give up. He spends a few pages hunting high and low for signs of Modernism after Pop Art. In Literature he gives a crazy number of pages to Gabriel Garcia Marquez who he appears to think is the very model of a modern major Modernist. He laments the absence of any other great-but-difficult cutting edge authors. He appears not to have noticed Williams Gass and Gaddis, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, John Barth, Marguerite Young or Alexander Theroux. Throughout the book Modernism is identified with the avant garde – well, last time I looked, we still have one of those. We have Carl Andre's minimal bricks, Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, Tracy Emin's bed, Damien Hirst's sharks – we have regular outbursts of outrage from the bourgeoisie! What's not to love? Maybe he thinks of all this stuff as "post-modern" and in some way therefore not modernist. But we wouldn't know, because he never discusses post-modernism. Huh.
I was going to grudgingly give this book 3 stars but you know what? it's just a bit crap really. Two stars, and sue me.
Read information about the authorThe son of a glassware maker, Peter Joachim Fröhlich grew up in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. Escaping in 1938 with the rest of his family on the last boat of refugees admitted to Cuba, he gained entry with them to the United States two years later, whereupon he changed his name to Gay. He graduated from the University of Denver in 1946 and earned a master's and doctorate in history from Columbia University.
Gay taught at Columbia from 1947 until 1969. In 1969 he joined the faculty at Yale University, where he taught until he retired as Sterling Professor of History in 1993. He was a former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers from 1997 until 2003. Gay was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Book Award and the received the American Historical Association's (AHA) Award for Scholarly Distinction.
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