What I Have Been Reading


The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone.

—           Donna Tartt

I open my latest post with this quote from the author of that wonderful book, The Secret History. I really love this quote, particularly this bit: books are written by the alone for the alone. Now most people would view the use of the word alone in a negative context, lonely, isolated, insular (suggestive of an island and separated from others). Not me, I discovered the relationship between loneliness and creative vitality a long time ago. Like that most gifted writer, Virginia Woolf, I have found that lonely silence is inseparable from creative impulse. Adrienne Rich agrees, claiming that “the impulse to create begins — often terribly and fearfully — in a tunnel of silence,”

the secret history



















But I digress because my actual point was to wax lyrical about the joys of reading, not of being alone…although I kind of love both.

I believe that one of the most amazing gifts you can give anyone is to pass on the joy of reading, to teach them how to read purely for pleasure. I myself am a voracious reader and a huge bibliophile. Yes! I consume books, I luxuriate in them! And I am unashamedly old school about it. I want the physical, the tactile, the actual book, not some glowing kindle screen!


In my apartment I have a library that I am really proud of. It contains mostly academic books now, focusing on art and art theory. This is due to the demands of my studies and lecturing duties.  But you can also find Tom Robbins Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas or Alice Sebold and her Lovely Bones amongst them. Carlos Ruiz Zafón and his Cemetery of Forgotten Books share shelves with Francesca Woodman’s ghostly portraits while Ana Mendieta and her Blood Works are pressed up against Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the DayI even still have my old copies of Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye and Goodbye Columbus from way back when I was a teenager. I love my books.  One of my greatest pleasures is to hang out in second bookstores on a rainy day. To be surrounded by shelves of old (and new) books is something I will never tire of. For me it is an almost-embryonic sensation, as if being embraced and enveloped by dear friends. I am at peace and yet simultaneously filled with anticipation and excitement at the thought of all the wonders that await to be discovered within the covers and on the pages.

the rites

So what have I read recently and what am I reading now?

I generally have 3 or 4 books that I am reading at one time. As I am doing my Master’s at the moment and this requires a massive amount of research reading, so there will always be at least one book related to my research next to my bed. I have just completed The Rites of Men: Manhood, Politics, and the Culture of Sport by Varda Burstyn. In this fascinating book Burstyn analyzes how sport socializes boys into manhood by providing rituals of conquest and aggression. I played rugby from the age of 13 up until I was 36 so I really found it amazing to be able to relate my actual experiences to the theoretical thinking behind sports like rugby football. Kind of like how I felt when I began my journey as academic within the art world. Relating the thinking to the making is glorious.




At the moment I am reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I highly recommend reading this author’s work, especially The Remains of the Day. I have to sheepishly admit something though. I actually watched the movie based on the book first. To be honest the title left me cold and still does. It is a really lame title for such a beautiful piece of writing. Anyway, so I never read the book. But once I had watched the film-adaption I really just had to read it. It is a quite stunning movie and a very British . Ironically it is directed by an American though.

the beach

Alex Garland, who wrote another one of my favourite books, The Beach, is friends with Ishiguro and wrote the screenplay for the movie. It stars Carey Mulligan (love her), Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley as friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth who grow up together in a seemingly idyllic boarding school situated in the English countryside. The story, however, is set in an alternate history where cloning has become every day and is socially and morally accepted. I do not want to spoil the movie or the book for you so I will not reveal any more of the plot suffice to say that both are totally engrossing, thought-provoking and just beautiful. Both have a place on swany’s list of awesomeness!












To end off I am going to reference my 2 previous posts which dealt with rape. A book that deals with the subject very honestly is Alice Sebold’s Lucky. It is an autobiographical account of her rape at the age of eighteen while at university. She describes what she was like before the rape and the aftermath of this harrowing, life-changing event. Her description of the actual rape is heartrending. It is a must-read.









2015 & October 21st


OK, so 2015 is here! And October 21st, 2015 is quite literally happening this year! What is the big deal about that date you may ask? Another Mayan apocalypse date? A comet approaching Earth? The release of the Batman versus Superman movie? Na ha, nope, that is the date that Marty McFly (yep, that is his surname) and Doctor Emmet Brown travel to from 1985 in a DeLorean time machine (a really odd looking car). And who are McFly (very cool surname, yes?) and Brown? They are the protagonists from the awesome Back to the Future movie trilogy.


In the first movie Marty McFly (Michael J Fox), accidentally travels back 30 years to the year 1955 in a time machine built by his friend, the Doc (Christopher Lloyd). Once he’s there, his then-teenage mother falls for him instead of his father, and Marty has to unite them, or cease to exist, all this while trying to persuade the young Doc to get him get back to 1985. It’s a really enjoyable movie with loads of thrills and laughs and a cool soundtrack!


But as the movie tagline goes: “Getting BACK was only the beginning…”

In Back to the Future Part II (1989) the morning of October 26, 1985, Marty McFly and Doc Brown time travel to the year 2015 to stop Marty’s kids from destroying their lives. The date: October 21st, 2015. Earlier last year, Nike announced that it was actually going to manufacture the self-lacing high tops that Marty wears in the envisaged future 2015 of the movie. Great news for everyone that hates bending over for more than three seconds at a time to tie laces! Unfortunately no flying cars, hoverboards or food hydrators, so we have a way to go to yet before realizing BTTF Part II’s vision of the future.


It’s no surprise that the excellent Steven Spielberg was the executive producer of all three installments of the Back to the Future trilogy, assisted by fellow producer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis. Great family entertainment!











I remember watching the first one at the Durban Drive-in (a parking lot now). Man, I have to say I miss drive-ins. It is so sad that they have become virtually extinct over here in South Africa. I am so glad I grew up prior to this digital and social media age. I suppose you would call ours the analogue age: conversation and companionship versus texting, Atari versus XBOX/ PlayStation, libraries versus Wikipedia. Information was something that had to be worked for and in the process of attaining it became knowledge. It is too freely available now, very little effort is required to access it and therefore this age of the shallow, the avatar, the selfie, as in selfish/self-involved/self-centred. So yes, the drive-in: hanging with my friends- skin warm from the day at the beach, hair still full of salt from the ocean, underpants and boardies full of beach sand. Watching a movie under a canopy of stars in a deck chair or sprawled on a blanket eating junk food, drinking drive-in coke in polystyrene cups spiked with the booze we had snuck in. Softly talking, joking into the night, looking forward to another day on the beach tomorrow. Awesome! The smell of the drive-in popcorn and the sea air (the drive-in was virtually on the beach) was intoxicating! As was kissing girls who had wine cooler breaths and wore fruit-flavoured lipgloss. During intermission: walking from car to car, catching up with friends and making plans while listening to the new tunes on their decks, and then kicking to the cafeteria to get munchies and refills before the next movie started. The nights lasted an eternity, entranced by the soundtracks and god-size images of double features as we were, and made lazy by the day’s sun and by the sweet alcoholic drinks we chased popcorn and hot dogs down with .



Anyway, so back to 2015, and for me no real resolutions for this new year other than to get rolling with my Masters, perhaps find a permanent lecturing position and to kick-ass in the art world! I have quite a few exhibitions this year so I am going to be busy and that is good. But I would like to include more of those “drive-in” moments in my life this year. I have always been something of a loner but immersing myself so totally in my art career has really made me become increasingly feral. Yeah, so I guess that is my resolution, to be less feral. And, to quote Doc Brown, GREAT SCOTT!! I would kinda like to have or get to attend a Back to the Future party on 21st October. And to go to a drive-in theatre again. That would be pretty cool.