≡ A letter to Siri Hustvedt ≡

Dear Siri,

I read What I Loved while riding the train to work and listening to Bowerbirds, 16 Horsepower and Eddie Vedder. Needless to say, the experience had a great impact and I still dream about Matt’s and Bill’s artworks, wanting to see them come to life. I don’t think it had ever happened to me before, having this uncanny feeling about a work of fiction. I know they are imaginary characters, but on some level I doubt if there was a retrospective exhibition of Bill’s work in 2002 and if the Self-portrait with Violet and the taxi exists. Never had I felt this way about fictional characters.

Before What I Loved I had only cried once while reading a book and it’s an odd reference. It happened while reading Marina Abramovic’s book on her work The House With the Ocean View, particularly while reading a spectator’s account of how she felt when standing in Sean Kelly Gallery. It all seemed so intense. I felt sad for never having felt that strong about an art work. I longed for such an aesthetic experience and so I cried.

When you killed your little artist I wept a very nervous cry. I realize that millions have probably done the same. It’s abrupt and pungent, difficult to resist. Like I said, I was on the train to work and in front of me there was a very young mother with a baby on her lap. Her phone rang, she answered it and then started to cry. She cried a silent cry and I dried my tears behind the sunglasses.

Because of the songs I was listening to, M&M were given very vivid ambiances. Now Mark lives in the middle of the Bowerbirds’ album Hymns for a Dark Horse and Matt is deep into Vedder’s songs for Into the Wild. I think I associated the music mainly with these two characters because they were fragile. Hooves, written by singer and guitarist Phil Moore and his girlfriend Beth Tacular has the following short poem:

Back to when I was born on a full moon,
I nearly split my mama in two,
While she held me proud I had the thought:
Well, there’s no one more beautiful than you.
Ahhhhh ahhhhhhh
And you’re the kindlin’ still that burns below my heart,
And you’re the hooves that lead me through the forest.
Ahhhhh ahhhhhhh
And you’re the kindlin’ still that burns below my heart,
You’re the memory now that lives across the world,
While the wind howls low and tries to steal my hours,
You’re the hooves that lead me through the forest.

And Vedder’s work for the Sean Penn’s movie is sort of a protest letter about the social contract we fall into without understanding the rules, something I associate with the freedom you gave to Mark. You know, I see him as an archetype of authenticity, like Camus’ Meursault was, though in completely different levels.

Let me contextualize: I’m finishing my phd thesis on the subject of authenticity in art and my tutor was the one that recommended you shortly after we met each other, I think because of The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves. I now realize how he understood me right away, how he understood the importance of crossing subjects, even though I’m writing about arts.

I’m considering bringing the example of Mark into the thesis because of his lack of ethics. Though the way we’re considering authenticity in arts joins author and artwork in a single prerogative, and in that context ethics is one possible way to evaluate the sincerity of the “expressive urges”, there’s an unanswered question that belongs to the order of chaos, like much of the chaos that goes into the second part of your book. I question if authenticity isn’t only possible if one fails to recognize the moral pattern ruling our ethics. I mean, I question if authenticity isn’t a predicate of the outsiders and the criminals who clash with society. Arno Gruen spoke of an ego split, something the majority would associate with failing to meet normality, but that he described as making the difficult choice to chose the self over the others.

Dear Siri, I have to go back to work, but I will buy The Shaking Woman or a History of My Nerves this weekend and will write to you again soon.

Best wishes,

Sofia

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