Last week I went to see The Cult of Beauty at the Victoria and Albert museum. Aestheticism was all the rage in the late 19th century in literature and art. Oscar Wilde was one of the main proponents in British literature and there are examples of his work in the exhibition and also some cartoons which made fun of aesthetes. The aesthetic movement believed that art should primarily be beautiful and not seek to influence its audience in any way (the opposite of propoganda). The reason I went to the exhibition was obviously that it fits into the time-scale of my (fingers-crossed) MA and also because the first module of the OUs 20th Century Literature course is Aestheticism & Modernism so it's useful to see some of the ideas from that brought to life. Unfortunately the exhibition closes on Sunday but if you do have a chance and are at all interested do try and see it - they had some beautiful Edward Burne-Jones paintings, and a sort of diorama of Whistler's Peacock Room which is actually at the Freer Gallery in Washington. It wasn't too big, about 4 rooms and had a lovely mixture of art, furniture, costumes and jewellery.
I also went to see Michael Cunningham (The Hours) speak. The sound in the room wasn't great but he was really interesting. One of the things he said that I found reassuring (bearing in mind what I want to do) is that his imagery is often intuitive, he doesn't know what he is doing or why but then he likes it when an academic or critic suggests to him the reason they think he has used that imagery & to him that then makes sense. He believes that writing a novel is an intrinsically optimistic task - you are hopeful of publishing & being read. I don't know if he believes that novels should influence people, I probably should have asked him.
So, whilst we're on the subject and I'm still pretty much reading for pleasure here is an update:
I liked this book but I'm not really sure exactly why. It certainly made me keep reading and I was intrigued what would happen with 'Palladio'(which is a kind of advertising agency). The characters are interesting, but I think it's hard to get to like them. There is a kind of evil genius who brings together all of the characters to work in a new kind of advertising; Molly, our heroine, who is a really damaged person and John, the nice southern guy who was once Molly's boyfriend. The story itself is about relationships, ideas and dreams/visions. There is definitely humour there and a nod to pop culture/art which engages you more with the story,'yes, I know that'. The narration is 3rd person in two sections and then John takes over for one part. The transition is fine although I don't know that it really adds anything to have the change. Dee has a good style and I think this book would be a good holiday read. I'm about to read The Privileges so I'll let you know how that goes.
I'm having some problems with this post so will leave this here. Thanks for reading.