Value for money

About a month ago, at a final sale in a charity shop on Whitefriargate, I bought 5 books for £1. One of them is the memoir of Hull-born actor Tom Courtenay. Actually, it is a narrated collection of the letters his mother wrote him to London during his studies and the first few years of his career, between 1955 and 1962, the year of her premature death. Reading just a few pages at night before sleep or in the morning after waking up, gives an emotional boost, variably heartwarming or sad. Apart from the social atmosphere of the fishing and dock worker community on Hessle road and the working class in Hull more generally, glimpses at the trials and tribulations of a famous artist as a young man, the real treasures of the book are those clumsy but artful, funny, touching paragraphs by “Mam” which show the poetry of trivial everyday life events, ambitions never fulfilled and a hard-working life shadowed by illness and impending early death. Yet this excerpt shows the gentleness of the father-son relationship.20181026_135839

I shall return to the term in the title – it is worth serious discourse analysis how it has become so widespread in public language of the UK in recent decades. Some cases show the absurdity or frivolity of talking about value and money in one breath.

The pleasures of (go)ogling

Start with a random article in the wonderful philosophy magazine Aeon on the limited relevance of consent in sexual ethics and politics – actually a taster for the author’s forthcoming book on the same topic.

There are some good arguments there. And consent is a topic I have been thinking about and touching upon time and again in my research. The legal understanding of this key aspect of human agency is not just different in law than in morality or common sense; it is also domain specific. Consent has a different legal meaning in, say, contractual (business), family (marriage) or criminal (rape) contexts. This article opens new perspectives on this issue and at the very least makes a strong case that consent has a far more limited role in determining what is right or acceptable or should not be interfered with, than many of us had thought.

The article is illustrated by a (cropped) painting by Károly Ferenczy, representing two wrestling men, a mild visual parallel to the strong fable the article opens with. A simple google search (for “Károly Ferenczy wrestling”) brings up a number of images which are taken from a 2012 blog entry by Hungarian art historian Nóra Veszprémi (currently at the University of Birmingham, as another simple google search would confirm).

Artwork by Károly Ferenczy, Wrestlers III, Made of Oil on canvas

This blog entry is a small revelation – it confirms what I have been feeling and thinking for a while now, every time I walk through the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest or look at certain reproductions: there is, what is called, “homosexual eroticism” in many of Ferenczy’s paintings. At least this is a serious academic hypothesis by Judit Boros, the curator of a retrospective exhibition back in 2011-12 and a co-editor of Ferenczy’s collected letters. There is little biographical evidence but some good starting points for legitimate speculation. Namely, Ferenczy’s late work, with circus artists, wrestlers but also earlier pieces of the human nude, allows for a queer reading.

Ferenczy: Orpheus (1894)

And from here, it is easy to jump to a further blog entry, originally written as accompanying material for that exhibition, especially if one reads Hungarian. It provides details on one of the few biographical hints at “uranian” or “oxonian” interests – how Ferenczy responded to Nijinsky (there are many other interesting details on the links between Nijinsky and Hungary). After seeing the dancer as the faun in the legendary performance with the Ballets Russes in Budapest, he wrote an incredibly detailed, anatomically precise report to his son. The letter contains almost nothing else but this report on Nijinsky’s body – and Ferenczy is candidly affirmative about this exclusive focus of his gaze.

Vaslav Nijinsky, 1912, dancing the Faun. Photograph by Adolf de Meyer.

Vegetarian lasagne and Karl

20181024_134105One of those rare sunny autumn days when there is nothing better to do than go for an “adult lane swim” in the local swimming pool (although being overtaken by at least 30% speed difference by a man in his 70s only using his arms is a bit intimidating, or more positively, showing there is room for development), followed by an al fresco lunch at the wonderfully hippy, rather than hipster, Zoo café; and to grab the last portion of the daily special vegetarian lasagne, with mushrooms and spinach, in a rich sauce, crispy garlic toast and a colourful and totally healthy (except the mayonnaise) side salad. Accompanied by the handy volume of selected writings by Karl Polányi (Economy and Society – a title strongly suggesting Max Weber’s opus magnum). Followed by a mocha – a new habit which should not become an addiction