By Malcolm Lowry
Late of the Bowery
His prose was flowery
And often glowery
He lived, nightly, and drank, daily,
And died playing the ukelele.
From Michael Dirda's column in The Washington Post Book World on Sunday, along with an explanation that Lowry actually died alone at 48, likely by his own hand. Dirda is not reviewing a biography of Lowry -- he recommends Gordon Bowker's Pursued by Furies -- but a book of Lowry's lesser-known texts entitled The Voyage That Never Ends: Fiction, Poems, Fragments, Letters. Dirda is not much of a fan of Lowry's famous novel Under the Volcano, which he says "aims to modernize the ancient form of tragedy" as it describes the last day in the life of a man on the Day of the Dead in Mexico, though Dirda recalls from the novel the Spanish phrase "No se puede vivir sin amar," which means "One cannot live without love." Dirda doesn't love The Voyage That Never Ends, either, but he does like the epitaph, whose diction he finds less "portentious blather" than many of other of Lowry's writings, though "just when the diction has grown almost insufferable, a vivid phrase will bob up -- 'pools preened with peacock feathers of oil' -- and so the reader turns the page, hoping for another."
After lunch on Sunday, Daniel went to a friend's house and Adam went with a Hebrew school group to the International Spy Museum downtown, so apaulled and I went to the National Gallery of Art, unencumbered by those family members who might have tried to rush us. Our major point of interest was the wonderful J.M.W. Turner retrospective, including a great many paintings on loan from the Tate that we didn't manage to see there and that haven't been exhibited here. The exhibit also has a very good half-hour documentary film narrated by Jeremy Irons. Turner spent a lot of time painting three things I love: light-saturated landscapes (including Tintern Abbey and the Thames), Nelson-era ships (including very famous images of Victory and Temeraire), and big natural scenes that influenced both the Impressionists and the Hudson River School. It's easy to see his influence on people like Cole and Church, who are also well-represented at the National Gallery, though the painting of Turner's with which I am most familiar is one of his Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons -- a scene he painted many times from several different perspectives in both watercolor and oil (there's a whole room of them in this exhibit) -- the one on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which I used to go visit when I was a student at Penn and the museum was free on Sunday mornings.
We also went to see The Art of the American Snapshot, a funny and touching exhibit of the casual photo as it turned to family trips, pets and naughty things after Kodak made it possible for anyone with a few bucks to buy a camera and become a photographer. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, though I came late to the snapshot -- I only ever took a handful of travel pictures and things like rainbows and rare animals before the digital camera very nearly erased the expense and put the entire process in my own hands. And we went to see Let the World In, an exhibit of prints by Robert Rauschenberg (photogravure, digital imaging, prints on textiles, lithographs incorporating newspaper headlines and published news photos), and The Baroque Woodcut, much of which was about the collaboration between painters and block cutters to achieve the results the painters wanted in reproducing their images. Gustave Dore is the only engraver I'm very familiar with, and the techniques in his era were very different from these much earlier ones, so this was all new to me. (The Rubens prints are really extraordinary, not because they're the finest examples of chiaroscuro but because even his Holy Family members look rosy, plump and well-fed as they flee for their lives.)
The rotunda of the National Gallery of Art decorated with flowers for autumn. (Here is how it looks closer to Christmas, and here with spring azaleas -- all very poor photos as the rotunda is quite dark at floor level, quite bright at upper window level, and quite large).
This photo was actually taken over the summer, hence the green trees...Mark Di Suvero's Are Years What? (for Marianne Moore) in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. I love Marianne Moore, but for years I thought this sculpture was by either Alexander Calder or Alexander Liberman (the latter the creator of Covenant aka "The Dueling Tampons" at Penn).
From the steps of the National Gallery of Art as evening approaches...much too early! I miss Daylight Savings Time! There were no photos allowed in the special exhibit galleries, so I couldn't snap Turner's Trafalgar paintings, but you can find them online anyway in places like this.
And from the Smithsonian parking lot behind the Natural History museum. One really good reason for being a Resident Associate, apart from discounts on classes and the shops and advance tickets to special exhibitions, is being able to use this lot for free on weekends.
The Redskins scored on their opening drive and managed to blow the game to the Cowboys anyway. I hate losing to Dallas. And who can feel good about New England when they're winning by such insane margins? Watched Brotherhood, feel like one storyline has jumped a couple of weeks while another has jumped only a couple of days, and I must admit that my biggest thrill moment was the preview just beforehand for the second season of The Tudors which may be totally ahistorical crack but is really attractive totally ahistorical crack with Peter O'Toole as the Pope! I don't remember if we heard exactly what Mary Kate did for a living before, but now that we've seen, I can't believe that she jumps in and out of Social Services to run Tommy's campaign and goes along with anti-immigrant voting practices. And I can't believe anyone can cremate a child without a signature from one or probably both parents. I did love Kath saying "fuck you" to Michael (he makes her have an abortion and thinks a fake purse will make things better?) and Tommy explaining the Fourth of July as celebrating independence from England, to which Colin says, "You lucky buggers." Michael is so vastly more likable than Declan and for the most part more than Tommy, and I am so glad Jason Isaacs has a multi-year contract so they won't kill him off!