Monday, 27 May 2013

Novel Extract - Tong Street Blues - chapter 38 of 'The Other Elephant' - set in London in the 1970's

He wakes up. He was dreaming of the smell of patchouli.

The day pokes fingers of sunlight between streaks on the grimy window and into his dry eyes. His head is parched from last night’s intoxication, last night’s dream. He feels like he’s slept for three weeks. Only he knows that’s wrong. It’s three weeks since the funeral, but he knows. In that time he’s hardly slept, except for last night, this morning. This morning’s dream. He was dreaming of the taste of apple, dipped in cinnamon sugar.

He sits up. He’s in his own bed. Some remaining inkling of self-preservation had made him leave Alvin’s pad, late in the night and seek his own, safer place. He pulls protesting limbs to the sink and gulps water. It oozes over his wizened tongue and down his throat in slow motion, like a stream of new rain creeping over a parched desert, with the burning ground sucking moisture from beneath as it tries to run. He was dreaming of the wetness of fucking, with her wonderful, fair skin sliding beneath his sweating body, his mind burning with the joy of it.

He remembers yesterday, before the dream, he had climbed to the top of Sandringham flats because he couldn’t bear it any more. Oblivion beckoned and he followed and he toked on Alvin’s pipe, and now he understands. It’s something else, the fulfilling blast of smack, but it’s not real, because this morning the world is still dry. He feels parched from his skin to his core, like brittle, bark-less twigs high on a beach, bleached and sand blasted. Out of the reach of the water.

He was dreaming of Sandy. Now he needs to find her.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Suzy Frelinghuysen; the 31 Women number ten

7 May is Suzy Frelinghuysen’s birthday, she was born in 1911.
Suzy Frelinghuysen was an abstract painter in the USA before the country had any great tradition of abstract art.  She and her husband, George L.K.Morris, were founding members of American Abstract Artists and also of a smaller group which became known as the Park Avenue Cubists. Their influences came from Europe. Morris was also a member of Abstraction-Création-Art Non-Figuratif, a group formed by important European abstractionists including Sophie Taeuber and Jean Arp.  Suzy Frelinghuysen adapted cubist, mixed media and collage styles into her work, with an emphasis on musical and operatic motifs, because Suzy was also a singer.

Suzy Frelinghuysen in her studio
She was born Estelle Condit Frelinghuysen, in New Jersey, into a wealthy and influential family. Her grand-father, Frederick, was secretary of state to President Chester A. Arthur and Suzy was never forced to sacrifice her wealth and social status for the sake of her art. This was held against her by some from the ‘artists must starve in garrets to be considered authentic’ school of thought and the anti-patrician, anti-European attitude of critic Clement Greenberg. His disparaging opinion of her and her fellow American Cubists was expressed in a 1948 essay, “The Decline of Cubism”. Greenberg was about to ‘discover’ abstract expressionism and already felt that cubism was old hat and probably too un-American.

During her childhood, Suzy was privately tutored in art and music.  She also visited Europe a number of times, although she was not particularly aware of European cubism at the time. Originally a realist painter, she said that she really became interested in trying abstraction after her marriage to painter and sculptor, George L.K. Morris. She adopted the cubist style and her paintings were described as bringing humour and elegance to synthetic cubism.