In search of rarer and better things

A painting of a jet of water
 Francis Bacon, ‘Jet of Water’ (1988)

Dear Reader,

I recently read The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson. It might feel like self-flagellation to read a book about human cruelty during a global pandemic but somehow, I found myself strangely comforted and renewed by Maggie’s ethically robust and nuanced exploration of cruelty and violence in art.

There is an interview where she says a lot of people felt like the book didn’t have a clear thesis or something, and it really doesn’t, so kudos to them for noticing that fact. I have no idea why I find this comment so hilarious. Perhaps just being able to think and write very clearly about ambivalent experiences is already a worthwhile endeavour in itself. It allows for rarer and better things if we are paying attention.

One of my favourite scenes in the book is when Maggie receives a used copy of The Theater and Its Double and it came with an unexpected inscription:

In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.

This quotation is of course by the legendary Patti Smith, reminding us of the inextricable relationship between art and life while also making useful distinctions between them.

It feels particularly apropos now, so let this too be my prayer and wish for you in the days to come. Be good to yourself.

Until next time,

(From May 23, 2020)