Thursday, August 14, 2008

Something provoking visceral hatred and wounded sadness

Which doesn't happen often. "Jesus Christ Rastaquouère" by Francis Picabia. Picabia was a core Dadaist and a brilliant poet and satirist, and aphoristic writer, whose imagery is exceptional. But fucking "Jesus Christ Rastaquouère", to be referred to as "The Book", even though it's more like a longish pamphlet, is like a knife in the heart. This means that there's something to it. I've read Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao, and at no time have I had this kind of visceral anger well up in me that I had while reading this piece, along with wounds that almost reduced me to tears in some places because they were so sharply made.

So what is the book about? It's a satire and criticism of avant-garde literary and artistic people from an inside perspective. This is what makes it hurt so much. You can dismiss people who think that everything is shit while not exerting themselves to actually look deeper into what it is that they're objecting to, but Picabia has an inside view, and obviously it's a view that hasn't changed much in nearly 90 years, since it was written in 1920! The book talks about the jockeying for influence and exposure, self preening prestige, making literature and poems about things that could be dismissed in themselves as shit. Creating false profound space for artistic exploration in order to prop up the explorer as someone important. I hate it and I think he's being somewhat unfair, but he's close enough to the truth that some artistic and literary avant garde people secretly fear exists to make you want to take out a revolver and end it, because in the provocatory world there's no hope.

I recommend people read it. If it can offend me like this it means I need to think about things more, and being provoked to think about life is always useful. It's published in "I Am a Beautiful Monster; poetry, prose, and provocation" by Francis Picabia. I found a cheap used copy by accident, delved into the poetry and sarcasm, and was hooked.


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