A little while ago I met up with John, he had been to the exhibition at the South Street Gallery and had commissioned a print – unframed and unmounted. He has been a support for my work and has several prints of mine which he only buys as described – I wonder where he stores them. John and I chatted about a few things, I think he misses conversation as he wife is now in care-home to which he visits every day, and he seemed genuinely interested in my work, how I had contextualised it and how I have envisaged it as a body of work – at Oxford John had had tutorials by JRR Tolkien and was at school with Tolkien’s son Christopher, I mention this to situate his place in time and space.
When I collaborated with John in making a self portrait he provided me with a file of 36 images of his books, which I then mixed with an image of him, I was very pleased with the outcome and so when I received another email from him recently with some literary references for my work I was thrilled but not surprised.
“There were three ‘father and son’ references which came to mind, but none of them involve physical violence. The motivation for all of them seems to me much more trivial than what you appear to have in mind, but you might, nevertheless, be able to make use of quotations from them.
The first is a memoir aptly enough entitled “Father and Son” by Edmund Gosse. It was published in 1907 and is an account of the battle of wills between an a Victorian scientist/academic and his son on the role of religious belief in life. It is written from the viewpoint of the son and the father emerges from the book as a sort of monster determined to impose his own extreme religious bigotry on his offspring. It is a literary classic and once you have adjusted to the somewhat dated style of writing, well worth the read. It may well contain quoteable passages for your purpose. It should be readily available from the library, but, if not, you are welcome to make use of my copy.
My second author is John Betjeman. There are references dotted around his poems to the strained relationship which developed between him and his father. It stemmed from his adolescent refusal to follow in his father’s footsteps as the director of the family business.
Fourth generation, John – they’ll look to you…………
I was a poet. That was why I failed……………………..
Black waves of hate went racing round the room.
My gorge was stuck with undigested toast.
And did this woman once adore this man?
And did he love her for her form and face?
I drew my arm across my eyes to hide
The horror in them at the wicked thoughts.
These are quotations from Summoned by Bells, chapters 2 and 8, which deal mainly with his estrangement from his father.
My last literary reference is to Philip Larkin’s poem “This Be The Verse” (They fuck you up, your mum and dad).
It is a pretty obvious quote, but if it is apt for your purpose I see no reason why you should not use it. It is a wildly over-the-top response to Larkin’s feelings of embarrassment about his parents. In actual life he recognised their virtues as much as their deficiencies and respected them both.
The weather has been too nice to wander to Purgatory and I’m hoping it will deteriorate soon; but I continue to walk around my home and purposefully take a camera with me. John’s references are of a specific time and place, though Larkin’s fuller text seems as apposite as any I’ve read:
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
This summer’s determination to make imagery and follow the course I’ve set for the course I am undertaking is still holding. Though the news that Sharon is moving on will likely test that resolve. Good luck Sharon and my best wishes for wherever you land. Pretty pictures….