- 2 months ago
- 2 months ago
The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass. The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art. Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless.
- 2 months ago
"…from the Dome and the Rotonde they set off pub-crawling to the neighbouring bars, and their writings were the product of their next day hangovers. Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, pontificated more or less among bevies of truculent women. It was considered essential to look tough, to simulate the cowboy, if only in flourishing verbal lassos, to make a cult of the hair upon your chest. I was suspicious of this vaunted virility, and I saw just enough of these bogus Broncho Bills to shun them. Their homespuns, tweeds and stetsons, their pugilistic sweaters and ponderous pipes, were generally the camouflage of timorous souls. They lived in dread of betraying their emotions except by hiccups, and Hemingway at least has the distinction, in his early novels, of having introduced the hiccup into literature.’"
- 2 months ago
"How many copies of Aquarium did I autograph with tender dedications! Where are they now, those witnesses of youthful passion? I think I know the answer. Not long ago I came across a copy in Charing Cross Road and purchased it - for threepence. Sic transit gloria…At least it had been well-thumbed and nicely battered. The fly-leaf was torn out. Had it compromised the owner? My thoughts returned to the bygone loves to whom I had given copies, to blue eyes, green eyes, eyes like black diamonds, to gentle struggles and showers of burning kisses. Could this have belonged to…? Perish the notion! Some of my inscriptions would have been embarrassing to explain. Nearly all my loves are married, and parents of children I have no desire to meet. Why distress the tranquil vegetation of middle-aged Darbies and Joans? No home-breaker I, no cuckoo in other nests. I culled the premices, and it is a subtle satisfaction, even in retrospect, to have kindled flames in Elgin marble breasts. After many years, the breasts tend to forget…Do they remember our ecstasies on Thames and at Thame? Do they remember the poems they inspired? Let them blush as they read these words in their nuptial couches: I have not forgotten a single kiss. At the same time let them rest assured that with age I have learnt discretion."
- 3 months ago
i’ve never properly understood why people suddenly decided to call everything “media” when there is a perfectly good word for the same thing and the word is “art”. i’m sure we have american higher education to thank for this somehow
i know it might feel galling and ludicrous to put the word “art”…
- 3 months ago
You say that the ‘first priority’ is to get a Labour government elected on socialist policies, and the second to make sure that it is backed by the actions of the rank and file.
I say that the first priority is to stiffen the resistance and increase the confidence of the rank and file, and that any parliamentary or electoral politics should be used for that purpose, and be seen as secondary to it.
Excuse me just for a moment if I slip into jargon. You are inclined to particularise from the general. That is, you start with your socialist programme and your strategy for electing a socialist Labour government, and go on to say that any particular action, strike, demonstration, agitation should be adapted to that end. I prefer to generalise from the particular, to start with the strikes or agitations and seek to generalise from them into a socialist strategy which can take off from there.
How do you think peoples’ minds can be changed? Do you think they will change just through listening to Tony Benn on the television or reading pamphlets and so on? Some people’s minds do change that way. But most people are inclined to think the way they feel. Their own experience, their environment, and their commitments, their immediate fears and hopes govern the way they think.
So there is often a great gulf between the way people think about their own circumstances and the way they feel about things in general. A majority of trade unionists, we are told by the polls, think that the unions are too powerful and should be curbed. They are almost unanimously against secondary picketing. A week or two ago, I went up to Doncaster and talked to some of the workers from Laurence Scotts, a factory in Manchester, who were engaged in an ‘illegal’ secondary picket of a mining supplies firm. They told me that if they were to save their jobs, then they had to picket that firm.
These were workers who, before their factory was threatened with closure, had never been on strike. I am sure that if a pollster had gone there before the dispute and asked: ‘Do you agree with laws against secondary picketing?’, there would have been an overwhelming vote ‘Yes’. But now their own experience has changed their minds. If you stick to the conventional processes of electoral politics, that is to general statements and general arguments, then you are at the mercy of the Tory-run media, which are much better than you at putting and distributing their point of view. When issues seem distant to people, they tend to believe what they are expected or encouraged to believe. But when the issues are close, when they impinge directly on people’s lives, especially when people are engaged in some action in their own interests, then often they see things entirely differently from the way the powers-that-be would like.
How does all this relate to the Labour Party and to your determination to ‘stay in the Labour Party in order to change it’?
One thing you can’t change about the Labour Party is that it was formed to get parliamentary representation for the trade unions, and that remains its key function however much you change its direction or its policies. And because that is its main function you are always bound by the Gallup-inspired views of people as voters, not as human beings whose views change with their confidence and their ability to affect their own destiny. You are tied down to the business of winning elections, and therefore to chopping and changing to accommodate the right wing. And precisely because of the distance between peoples’ ideas when they are fighting and the ideas which they are simply expected to form in order to vote, the right wing of the party is not only necessary for the party’s survival, it will in 99 cases out of a hundred call the tune.
This is shown by the Left’s predicament, which I harped on to your obvious fury in my last letter. You did change the Labour Party. You pushed its policy to the Left; you got a better and more democratic way of electing its leaders; you nearly won a motion that the election manifesto should be written by the executive; you established a system of compulsory reselection for MPs; you enormously weakened the influence of the Parliamentary Party – you had all these triumphs, but after all of them, you find yourself dragged back more sharply to the right than at any time in the history of the last forty years. Why should anyone now believe that the Labour Party can be moved to the left and kept there while it forms a government?
In the end, it comes to this. You still see the main hope for change in an elected Labour government, backed by supporters in the rank and file, passing and enforcing laws to establish a socialist order. I see the only real prospect for change in a growing movement from below, culminating in a revolutionary process, where so many working people are confident of their own ability to run society that they seize hold of economic and industrial power, and use it."