Saturday, February 21, 2004


Have discovered another Scotsman whose writing I adore. The first, of course, is Alasdair Gray, whose Lanark remains in my mind as one of the greatest things I've ever read. And now there is William Boyd [granted, not a native Scotsman, but having spent a good portion of his life there renders the point arguable]. Currently reading Any Human Heart [thanks, A.], which, in and of itself, is no groundbreaking work of literature. However... he has managed to capture the essence of the era in which his journal-writing protagonist, Logan Mountstuart, exists, or at least what I imagine the essence of that era to be, in that he [Boyd] enlivens a sense of the burgeoning expression of art, as well as the necessary exchanging of ideas between artists, creating an impression that the artistic sensibilities of the time paved the way toward a cultural climate that was at once innovative and volatile.

In the novel, Logan Mountstuart [LMS] is introduced to various members of the Bloomsbury Group, and from time to time, comes in contact with notable literary figures such as James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, and Ernest Hemingway. LMS is later inspired to write a book about the lives and careers of Les Cosmopolites, a circle of French poets, after having made an acquaintance with one of its members. He calls it The Cosmopolitans.

LMS is not the only one who finds the idea of a circle of artists and thinkers intriguing. How often have I wished that I could be an integral part of such a group: minds coming together to put forth ideas that are previously amorphous and without tangibility, suddenly taking shape, suddenly tangible...

There is cause to lament the lack of such a phenomenon in the present day world of arts and letters. Where are our Harry Kesslers and our Lytton Stracheys? And furthermore, why do renderings of house plans no longer include parlours and salons? Where are we expected to gather and share our collective artistic consciousness? I should certainly hope that it isn't Starbucks.

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