I don’t claim I imagined any of this correctly—only compulsively. And what I did in life, I did with books. I lived in them and felt them live in me. I felt I was Jane Eyre and Celie and Mr. Biswas and David Copperfield. Our autobiographical coordinates rarely matched. I’d never had a friend die of consumption or been raped by my father or lived in Trinidad or the Deep South or the nineteenth century. But I’d been sad and lost, sometimes desperate, often confused. It was on the basis of such flimsy emotional clues that I found myself feeling with these imaginary strangers: feeling with them, for them, alongside them and through them, extrapolating from my own emotions, which, though strikingly minor when compared to the high dramas of fiction, still bore some relation to them, as all human feelings do. The voices of characters joined the ranks of all the other voices inside me, serving to make the idea of my “own voice” indistinct. Or maybe it’s better to say: I’ve never believed myself to have a voice entirely separate from the many voices I hear, read, and internalize every day.
For thirty-two years, Thomas Joshua Cooper has been working on a project that he calls “The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity,” a collection of some seven hundred black-and-white photographs that he makes from remote, forbidding, largely unpeopled, all-but-forgotten outcroppings, on five continents and at both poles, along the perimeter of the Atlantic basin. He sets his camera in places with names like Cape Frigid on the Frozen Strait, the Lighthouse at the End of the World, Finisterre—places infused with human awe of the unknown and with the yearning of explorers embarking on a journey from which they will likely not return. “I thought maybe I could learn something by standing on the continental edges of the source of Western civilization and trying to imagine, with my back to the land, what happened when the carriers of the culture went over the edge of the map,” he told me. Another time, he said, “Emptiness and extremity are what I was searching for, with the firm belief that it’d kill me or transform me.”
Part Cherokee and part Jewish, Cooper was born in California and has lived in Scotland since the nineteen-eighties. In images that are romantic and psychologically severe—the angular grandeur of rock and the terror of the ocean, befuddled by clouds, fog, and breaking waves—the “Atlas” documents an exile’s search for home. He looks for what he calls “indications”—rocks or wave patterns that form arrows, pointing him in the right direction—and avoids horizons, preferring pictures from which there is no clear escape. “He is part of the conceptual-art tradition of artists traversing space to create sculpture,” Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and a champion of Cooper’s since the early nineties, told me. “He is also one of our greatest formal photographers. He captures the motion of the environment, which is near-impossible to do.” In late September, the “Atlas” had its début, at LACMA, in an exhibition called “The World’s Edge.” At Cooper’s request, the show opened on the five-hundredth anniversary of Magellan’s departure for his trip around the globe.
We’ve been here before, if here means trying to assert the primacy of the person—the pedestrian, the cyclist, the transit rider—in the matrix of city streets. We’ve been here before if here means realizing that, for the health of the planet, we need to make the pedestrian life easier than the windshield view.
Once upon a time in the 1960s and 1970s, urban leaders pushed cars out of downtown. Why is it so hard to do that now?
Before Lady Macbeth took center stage as Shakespeare’s leading femme fatale, the bard experimented with a number of scheming women, most notably in his first works: the trio of history plays covering the tumultuous reign of Henry VI. The scheming women in these plays are all known historical figures: Joan la Pucelle (more commonly known as Joan of Arc), Margaret of Anjou (queen to Henry VI), and Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester. Each of these women possessed a significant amount of power in their time and were perceived as showing ambition for further power; Shakespeare’s depictions of these women as sexualized, unfeminine, and/or in concert with malevolent occult forces reveals the suspicion and scorn with which powerful (and, arguably, power-hungry) women were viewed. Written and performed towards the end of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, these plays underpin the prevailing attitudes of the time and the careful line Elizabeth walked as a female monarch.
At the risk of too strongly emphasizing any anti-woman sentiment in these works, it is worth noting that some of these representations rely on political as much as gendered prejudices. It was convenient, for example, for the English, who burned the teenage Joan of Arc (now a saint) at the stake, to cast her as a wanton harlot in league with devils rather than, as France claimed, a righteous crusader following the voice of God. Whatever the motivations, however, the negative portrayals of these women are constructed with reference to contemporary ideas of an aberrant femininity, distorted by its proximity to power.
Before Donna got her diagnosis, she thought of herself as a musician, a busy professional, a volunteer, a mother, a grandmother. After she got her diagnosis – Parkinson’s disease, at age 58 – she thought of herself as a patient. The time she used to spend engaging in the things that gave her life meaning was eaten up by doctor’s appointments, diagnostic tests and constant monitoring of her symptoms, her energy, her reactions to medication. Her sense of loss was profound and undeniable.
Unfortunately, Donna’s experience is all too common. Heart disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, depression, cancer, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease: the list goes on. I would guess that most people know someone close to them who is suffering from one of these debilitating chronic conditions, if not struggling with a diagnosis themselves. Globally, three in five deaths are attributed to one of four major diseases – cardiovascular disease, chronic lung conditions, cancer or diabetes. Moreover, approximately a third of adults suffer from multiple chronic conditions, wreaking untold havoc on healthcare systems and economies across the globe. In developed countries, it might be closer to three in four older adults who suffer from multiple conditions. The proportion of patients with four or more diseases is expected to almost double between 2015 and 2035 in the UK alone. Frighteningly, these statistics don’t even account for chronic illnesses in children, which are on the rise. In sum, this means that billions of people are, at best, not functioning at their highest level and, at worst, are severely debilitated, living limited lives, and requiring chronic medical care.
“Frankissstein” is not a particularly good novel, if we limit our definition of a good novel to one that, at minimum, has characters and/or a plot in which one feels invested. Winterson seems to know she’s boxed herself into a facile and jokey situation, and she’s decided to shoot herself out of the corner. This novel is talky, smart, anarchic and quite sexy. You begin to linger on those three s’s when you speak the title aloud.
“Frankissstein” also has, if you squint just slightly, an intelligent soul. Winterson has always been interested in gender fluidity and there is room, in our glimpses of Ry, for real feeling between the satire and bickering.
in a stage play every scene is driven by OBJECTIVES.
Every scene is driven by WHAT A CHARACTER WANTS.
DRAMA is created when objectives clash.