Monday, 12 March 2012

40BFL 10: The Forger's Shadow

This book reminds me of a friend I have not heard from in nearly a decade. Seeing it gives me a wry smile of nostalgia and the return of an ambiguous range of emotions, such as I think all people experience when confronted with a particular year of their life - especially if it was a somewhat tumultuous one. The friend used to tell the story of the author of the book taking a class on Shakespeare's sonnet 129. He read the poem:

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

and then began his paper: "Well it's about wanking isn't it?" (I think it was the author of this book - but as I said it was nearly ten years ago. Stories like that though tend to stick in the mind.)

Anyway, this is a fabulous book. You feel like it's revealing what lies beneath - the the dark shadow cast by the bright colonial power of the canon. For anyone interested in the murky, mysterious and entirely prevalent category of "authenticity" it's an absolute must-read. It dispels many common-place illusions and reveals a triumphant score-settling history of forgery, counterfeits and plagiarism. The breadth of material this guy engages with is breath-taking but it is also a master class in how to maintain a consistent, original, persuasive argument from start to finish. I remember a tutor telling me at some point that it is useful when beginning to write on a day to read a little of someone whose writing you really admire, someone you want to write like. Well this is it:

Deep in the Dialogues, then, Plato admits that there is an argument that questions his abiding binaries of, say, original and copy. For Gilles Deleuze this is a constitutive philosophy: 'God made man in his [sic] image and resemblance. Through sin, however, man lost the resemblance while maintaining the image. We have become simulacra.' Maybe. But if so we need to reinvent the simulacrum as a post-Platonic entity. This simulacrum is our reality, but in our being we remain haunted by the chimaera of authenticity. We can overcome this authenticity by craft and by making, and in rebellion, and in becoming inspirational; and we can overcome it too in that poetry which is all this and still more. Is the simulacrum the postmodern word for the daemonic? It has returned. It dwells herein: a flicker, a recurrent beat; whatever stirs the heart:

the progeny immortal
Of Painting, Sculpture and rapt Poesy
And arts, though unimagined, yet to be.

This is how it called to me in a dream, a dream of fire and writing, of the breath of life:

The wandering voices and the shadows these
Of all that man becomes, the mediators
Of that best worship, love, by him and us
Given and returned, swift shapes and sounds which grow
More fair and soft as man grows wise and kind,
And veil by veil evil and error fall.

Prometheus, Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, Act III

And the heart beats...

Even if you had no idea what the hell he was on about - the force, almost a sneer, of the single word sentence "Maybe." the mythological, primal language, the manifesto call to arms... That's as good a finish to a book as you'll ever read.


  1. ummm you can get it for 63p on Amazon, lets add that to the maybe list then...

  2. It's an academic study written in the style of a novel. So pleasing to read...

  3. midlands man's man13 March 2012 at 10:40

    Sounds like a perfect post-doc perusal...


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