30 January 2012

Post 474: The Portrait

The Portrait by Iain Pears. ISBN: 9781573222983.

First off, I would like to thank Stephen Colbert for his inadvertent Colbert bump of my blog. His recent interviews (1 and 2) with Maurice Sendak have given me some seriously awesome hits on my post regarding the banning of In The Night Kitchen. Check out the interviews, and my blog post. Naked boy penis Colbert Stephen Colbert Bump Herman Cain. At least I'm blatant about my search result manipulation.

This book. It was surprisingly good. No doubt it is probably more pretentious than some people will care for, but I rather enjoyed it nonetheless. It's the one-sided conversation of Henry MacAlpine with his subject and art critic William Naysmith, a central figure in MacAlpine's life in terms of influencing both his art and his personal life. While it may sound like a fairly dry read, Pears manages to write MacAlpine in such a way that the reader is constantly trying to figure out how justified MacAlpine is in addressing Naysmith in alternately placating and accusatory tones. The relationship is not so different from what most of us are familiar within the context of the child-parent relationship where the adult or soon(ish)-to-be-adult child is struggling to define the power dynamic of said relationship in order to break free from it.

Granted, many of us are unable to fully escape from the restriction of the child-parent relationship, although ideally there is an eventual realization on the part of both parties that old roles have to be abandoned in order to have a more sustainable adult relationship. Most of us are still working on that with our parents, and many of us never actually get there, certainly not while our parents are alive. Of course, death ends the struggle, but does not resolve the problem. It seems that it is harder to resolve conflict or come to terms with a parent who is especially critical. I have witnessed this in my own family, both with myself, and with my mother's father.

In any case, what Pears has exposed in this monologue of a conversation, is that it is difficult for the "child" to achieve or even feel they are capable of achieving success in their lives until the conflict with the critic has been resolved. Some people suffer from the very inability to resolve this relationship, either because they have waited too long and the critic has passed, or because the critic is unreceptive to being confronted. In Naysmith's case, he was a passive and captive audience, silenced once and for all by MacAlpine to accept a dose of his own medicine. For this reason, it doesn't even matter if MacAlpine's assessment is accurate or particularly harsh, because it is critical to MacAlpine's development as a full-fledged and well-rounded adult artist to first reject Naysmith's previous behaviors and judgments found lacking, and then to confront Naysmith with them and ask for retribution. While MacAlpine's final tactics were more extreme than most of us will take with our own personal critics, perhaps he has the right idea in theory, if not execution.

I greatly enjoyed Goodreader Mike's review of this book. Bookmarks Magazine also give a wonder, and short, review.
LibsNote: Bought with personal funds from library table.

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds interesting. The parent-child dynamic is something I was hoping would get easier as I moved away, but in some ways has become worse. And yet I've often more accepted it than thought of it as a crucial struggle, but I see where the potential merits may be in that.


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