Tuesday, October 28, 2008

For Philip, Morton, David, Harold and Don

Philip Guston, Painting, Smoking, Eating (1973)
Oil on canvas 77 1/2 x 103 1/2 in.
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
(from here)

Being able to let Morton Feldman's gargantuan yet spare For Philip Guston trickle out over the course of the day is a much more productive way to face down the abyss than laying under tight covers, eyeing unfinished paintings on the walls with a plate of cakes resting on your belly, tempting as that actually sounds.

Speaking of, I am thirty pages into David Foster Wallace's Everything and More; A Concise History of ∞, his rather witty and personable take on higher math, and while I know it is a weak impulse to read everything written by a suicide as a suicide note, his meditations on induction and phenomenology and infinity are littered with anxiety, using the notion of "if you really thought about it, you'd never get out of bed" as the pedestals on which he places intellectual theories without which the downward what-if spiral would never end. He has a great layman's grip on math, as well as the sweetness and humor to convey it effectively, and an uneasy comfort with discussing anxiety. It is really easy to see this book as a rationalist's variant on a religious internal dialogue, acknowledging that there are little leaps of faith one must make to not fall in the gaping holes.

Feldman's Guston is as unending hole-filled field over across which we make out little leaps, with a near-imperceptible breeze in the flute, momentary chills in the vibraphone churchbells, and the will to push on from the piano. As for Guston's Painting, Smoking, Eating, he's probably closer to the real truth than either Wallace or Feldman are.

Or in the face of anxiety, maybe the real answer lies with Harold and Don Reid and the rest The Statler Brothers...

No comments:

Post a Comment