( the facebook page - @MarkHaddonAuthor
is run by vintage books / doubleday
i don't have any input
and i don't see any of the comments...
predictably it has far more visitors )

  freud / gayford

a fascinating book about an artist whose work i love (most of it, and the etchings especially). freud is a notoriously private man and seldom gives interviews and i'd never previously read anything about his studio or his working practice. looking / thinking intently about how he makes his pictures while reading the book made me realise several things...

1) how close he comes to be a very bad artist, especially in his later looser work. this risk seems somehow vital to his work (like bacon he was a prodigious gambler). i think you can see something similar in van gogh, whom freud reveres.

2) there is something about his portraits which is almost-but-not-quite caricature. in the early work you can see precisely what is being exaggerated (eyes, fine details, clarity of line...). in the later work it's much harder to see what freud is doing to an image to make it bigger, bolder, more gripping (see below).

3) artists, critics and models talk a great deal about how a good portrait can reveal a subjects true self, or aspects of that self of which they are unaware. i think this is probably bollocks (i think the idea of a 'true self' is probably bollocks to start with). i think there is parallel with writing here. if you write / paint with enough verve and character and confidence the reader / spectator thinks, yes, that's absolutely right. whether it maps directly onto the world (as most photographs do) is neither here nor there. it's all sleight-of-hand. very difficult, very impressive sleight-of-hand, but sleight-of-hand nevertheless.



  heroin v alcohol

i'm fascinated by this stuff (professor david nutt was sacked from the advisory council on the misuse of drugs by the then health secretary, alan johnson, specifically for criticising the re-upgrading of cannabis to a class b drug, and more generally, for telling the truth about drug-matters in a way that contradicted the government policy). we live, most of us, safe in the conviction that our lives are guided by rationality and common sense, but when these are contradicted by strong emotions the latter trump the former every time. paradoxically this usually happens when we are talking about people who seem to have abandoned rationality and common sense and given into strong emotions: drugs, sex, crime...



  brutal economics

there are many depressing things about the recent government cuts. the increased homelessness and the de facto 'social cleansing' as poor people are moved out of big cities to cheaper b & b accommodation by cash-strapped councils looks like being the most pernicious result, but who knows precisely what's going to happen in the longer run?

one of the less-often discussed aspects of the crisis is the 'supposed' necessity of the cuts at this severity and speed (or indeed the superiority of cuts over a stimulus package). i have no way of judging this, neither do most people. and the study of economics clearly gives no help in this regard because academics, politicians and business people line up according to their previous ideological affiliations (the question of whether the cuts are opportunistic social engineering misses the point; the tories and the cleggite lib-dems have adopted this economic model precisely because they are pro-freemarket, low-tax, low-state involvement).

the truth is that most of us know nothing about economics beyond our own bank account / mortgage / business despite the fact the it governs our whole lives. a) because it's boring and complex. b) because economists make virtually no effort to make it simpler and more comprehensible (go into any decent bookshop and you can find a whole section devoted to the popularisation of science and mathematics - often of fearsome complexity - and three books which try to make economics accessible: stuff like freakonomics is not really about economics at all but about the analysis of social structures and large data sets). c) because econmoics simply doesn't do what it essays on the tin. it's driving using only the read view mirror, as i-forget-who once said. it's good at autopsies but very bad at prevention. and d) very little economics steps outside the world of business and finance and politics to answer what seem to me to be some fundamental questions. is growth necessary? is someone's wealth dependent on another person's poverty? why are we obsessed with the free market when free-market societies simply do not exist and would be clearly abhorrent (witness the freemarket firemen in tennessee watching gene cranick's mobile home burn down last month because he hadn't paid them his yearly fee)...?

a footnote: the most interesting and revelatory economic fact i stumbled upon recently was in the documentary corporation: that the corporation was originally a body of citizens granted a limited charter to engage in specific business. only in the nineteenth century after aggressive lobbying by lawyers on their behalf and a dogy judicial decision or two, were corporation recognised as 'natural persons' with a host of rights previously enjoyed only by actual persons. this was done by hijacking the fourteenth amendment which whose original purpose was to protect the rights of freed slaves and grant the rights of citizenship to black americans... 

  5x15 rerewind

my co-speakers from two weeks ago have finally appeared online. lemn sissay, kate daudy, andrew parker, ruby wax, louise doughty. now i can enjoy their performances. i was the final speaker on the night i was far too busy pacing, panicking and practising while they were doing their stuff. on the page there are some other fine speakers for your browsing pleasure. brian eno, andfrew o'hagan, yotam ottolenghi...

  5x15 rewind

this was the 5x15 talk. i'd include links to the other four speakers but i haven't been able to track them down yet.

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