With the Manifesto Marx “…delineated the endlessly inchoate, incessantly restless and unfinished character of modern capitalism as a phenomenon. He emphasized its inherent tendency to invent new needs and the means to satisfy them, its subversion of all inherited cultural practices and beliefs, its disregard of all boundaries, whether sacred or secular, its destabilization of every hallowed hierarchy, whether of ruler and ruled, man and woman or parent and child, its turning of everything into an object for sale.”
Gareth Stedman Jones, ‘Introduction’, The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, London: Penguin Classics, 2oo2.
Macbeth’s language is the difference between Paris and Rome. Paris is elegant, it accommodates good taste. I can speak the language. Whereas my knowledge of Italian comes from the 2 great canons of opera and pizza. Music and appetite. Desire.
Paris suits me but Rome I want to go back to.
I hate it when I’m there: it’s bruta. It’s about hard bodies pushing up against me in steaming buses. Dripping lacerated Christs. A nun who makes hourly the story of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion. Body. Visceral. Headspin.
But it’s the city I remember.
Macbeth is my Rome. It’s the body play; the eating, sexing, the bloody, desiring, the operatic playscript.
“Predictability is the death of suspense and therefore drama. Good dialogue is unpredictable. Lines that elicit only predictable answers, gestures that duplicate what has already been conveyed by other means, are dead and should be eliminated. The brilliance of the dialogue of the great comedy writers like Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde lies in its paradox and surprise; the greatness of giants among playwrights like Shakespeare lies in the originality of their language and images (which is another way of saying their unexpectedness and surprise).”
Martin Esslin, An Anatomy of Drama, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977, p47.
Esslin’s commentary taken from his chapter, ‘The structure of drama’, begins with Beckett, of course, and the incomparable lesson in making suspense – even with nothing – that is Waiting for Godot.
Esslin makes me think of another of my other favourite dialogue exchanges from the theatre. It’s from the opening scene of The Seagull, which Chekhov subtitled ‘A Comedy in Four Acts’:
Maxim Gorky was his pen-name. Alexei Maximovich Peshkov was Russian. The son of peasants, he became a novelist and playwright, a revolutionary and a member of the Marxist Internationalist Group. My Childhood (1913), the first installment in his autobiographical trilogy, reads like the most horrific family violence statement one could imagine. An unbelievably savage beating at the hands of his murderous grandfather puts the 5 year old protagonist, Alexei, into a near-death fever. For pages he lies unconscious, secretly nursed back to life by his grandmother. It would appear that she saved his life, by telling him stories.
This is what Gorky – a literary self, a child of story – had to say about the big three of the Self, Literature and Beauty:
“The purpose of literature is to help people to understand themselves, to inspire them with a yearning for truth, and to give them greater confidence in themselves; the purpose of literature is to combat human baseness, to reach the good in people and to waken in their souls anger and courage so that they may become noble and strong and be fired with the scared principle of beauty.”
Add this math and then tell me whose stories we’re telling!!
1. In episode 1 of the podcast Justin Clemens talks about a personal link between reading trash Sci-Fantasy and Hamlet. He then details how Michael Moorcock used royalties from The Knight of the Swords to fund New Wave SF magazine New Worlds, which went on to publish Pynchon, …and Burroughs.
2. Burroughs said literature was an alien virus from outer space...
3. P K Dick scholar, AND self-described former Shakespeare man, Christopher Palmer, said that Hamlet was a play morphing into the novel form …via its excessive use of surveillance! #conspiracy
4. Kundera says the novel enters literature as Quixote rides out into the un-God desert of the universe and fiction.
5. Creator of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke, says narrative and the Mandelbrot set are linked. #chaos
6. Ursula K. Le Guin, SF writer and critic, disseminates narrativetheories.
7. P K Dick invented the Voight-Kampff test.
8. Timelords can’t love!
9. Hamlet has no empathy! Clemens: “He’s basically a psycho killer.”!!
For the full and revealing discussion of WHO OR WHAT SENT US THE NOVEL FORM?! tune in to episode 1 of the podcast:
“They’re scared of the power of writing, not of the content…The thing about desire is so much in the world wants to get rid of it. And one of the nothingnesses (whether of beauty, or of a literary power or artistic power) is to once again open up a little bit where something that we can’t control but that’s nevertheless very intimate with us may take us along tragic or glorious roots. That actually there’s that play which can’t be locked down, controlled, shut off or otherwise canalised.”
Listen to the entire conversation in episode 1 of the podcast:
Kevin Spacey talks about theatre being Now. He’s right. Theatre uses the eternal present, radical space, to make up something, to play: here, and then here, and then here. Every night.
Ryk Mayall was master of that anarchic play space. A massive shout-out to John Haynes for capturing him in his moment of Now. I’ve had this book for ever. It never gets old: Taking the Stage: Twenty-One Years of the London Theatre, Photographs by John Haynes, Introduction by Lindsay Anderson, London: Thames & Hudson, 1986.