Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cartesian Blues and Reciprocity Failure

This blog is still in hibernation, but only because I am busy doing other things. I’m currently working on two books.

The first, Cartesian Blues, is a graphic memoir (this neologism was perhaps coined for Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and indicates an autobiographical narrative told in comic-book format). Cartesian Blues is a collaboration with Dan Hallett, who is creating all the images (which means, among other things, that he has to draw me repeatedly: sorry Dan!). It's about ... well, I don’t wish to say at this stage, but it concerns empathy and embodied identity, and, as the title implies, it's also a critique of Cartesian dualism. Thus my mind and my body appear in it as separate characters. Below is a character sketch of my body, by Dan.


My contribution to this work is complete, apart from editorial input, but it will be some time before Dan finishes drawing it. The finished work will be c. 250 pages.

The second book, called Reciprocity Failure, is a novel illustrated with my own photographs (see www.letusburnthegondolas.com), set in Venice and Sydney. Inspired in part by Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, Reciprocity Failure draws on Nietzsche’s idea of the opposition between the Apollonian and Dionysian to explore the relationship between artistic inspiration and sexual obsession. To exemplify a theme of doubling, separate Venice and Sydney narratives are told in parallel, alternating chapters, and are also intercut with examples of my photographs, which in the novel are attributed to a fictional protagonist.

The Künstlerroman (a novel describing an artist’s progress) is a recognised genre, but most works of this kind deliberately exclude selections from the aesthetic artefacts created by their protagonists. One notable exception to this rule is the work of A. S. Byatt, who, in Possession, famously invented excerpts of poetry, which she then attributed to her Victorian characters (Byatt’s subsequent novels adopt a similar strategy, which makes her the author of a wide variety of texts attributed to fictional authors, which are nestled within the works that bear her name). It is, however, unprecedented (I think) to supply original examples of visual art in this way.

I am not far off finishing a first draft of Reciprocity Failure, of about 95,000 words, which I anticipate will shrink to about 75,000 words in the editing. It may, however, be some time before it’s ready for submission.

I’ll resume more detailed discussion here at some indefinite future date when I have actual news.