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Author Topic: PC269: Selected Program Notes From the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa  (Read 8412 times)
Talia
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« on: July 18, 2013, 08:14:52 AM »

PodCastle 269: Selected Program Notes From the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer

by Kenneth Schneyer.

Read by Peter Wood.

Originally published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen.

34.     _Magda #4_ (1989)
        Oil on poplar wood, 30 x 21″
        Private collection

Sometimes called “Devotion” by critics, this nude the earliest extant work featuring Magda Ridley Meszaros (1963-2023), Latimer’s favorite model and later her wife.  The lushness of the flesh and the rosiness of the skin are reminiscent of Renoir’s paintings of Aline Charigot _(See, e.g., The Large Bathers_ (1887) (Fig. Cool).  Latimer maintains microscopic hyperrealism even as she employs radiating brushstrokes which emanate from the model, as if Meszaros is the source of reality itself.

_Discussion questions:_

a.      The materials and dimensions of this painting duplicate those of Da Vinci’s _La Gioconda_ (c. 1503-1519) (Fig. 17).  Is this merely a compositional joke or homage by Latimer?  How does it change the way you see the painting?

b.      Most biographers agree that Latimer and Meszaros were already lovers by the time this work was completed.  Is this apparent from the composition or technique?  From the pose of the model?  As you proceed through the exhibit, note similarities and differences between this and other portrayals of Meszaros over the next 34 years.


Rated R. Contains references to murder and child abuse.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: August 07, 2013, 07:36:44 AM by Talia » Logged
ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2013, 04:03:20 AM »

At the start of this story I thought it was an interesting twist on the epistolary, but otherwise unremarkable. I was listening while riding my bicycle and when the story finished I had to stop because I was sobbing, and at first I couldn't even have said why.

Part of it is the contrast of the dry, academic, unemotional narration and the lives it reveals, bursting with love and tragedy and joy. The relatively abrupt ending was like a punch to the sternum. It literally took my breath away.

I do not believe in any of the metaphysics implied by this story, but I do believe that a world where it were so would be a more hopeful and if not more comfortable, at least a more comfortED place.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 04:05:07 AM by ToooooMuchCoffeeMan » Logged
jpv
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« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2013, 11:55:47 AM »

For the first half or so, I kept starting to reach over to my phone to skip over it, but the intro said not to...

I'm glad I didn't.

I liked where it went and I actually liked how open to interpretation it still is. There's just enough of a touch of the fantastical to make me think. The style is odd, but I think it works. It would be interesting to see a version of the story / world from TRL's point of view, although I imagine it would be rather different in tone.
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« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2013, 12:14:31 PM »

Kind of ditto. Because Dave said not to skip it, I gave it that extra couple of minutes. I was driving, and after I got where I was headed, I sat in the car in the parking lot and let it play to the end. It was just beautiful and moving, and like ToooooMuchCoffeeMan, I'm not altogether sure why. The only thing was...I kept wanting to Google Image search the (real) paintings referenced so I could see the image.

Perhaps I'll listen to this one again while I'm actually at my computer and can listen more actively.
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Moritz
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2013, 04:34:25 AM »

I liked it in the first hearing but I needed to listen to it twice before posting, fearing that I had missed something. I generally like more experimental, even the more pretentious writing styles, so I was exited about this piece from the beginning - though at first I wasn't sure where this would be going, as I don't know anything about art criticism. Some of the questions were quite suggestive weren't they? They really worked as part of building the story but they would be strange in an actual program.

I read a lot of fiction like this in book form but would usually file it under literally fiction, maybe magical realism*. In fact, I am not sure how well it fits into PodCastle's portfolio, especially right after Conan. I usually delete past episodes from my iTunes, but this one will definitely stay on my playlist. It's one of the more distinct pieces of the last months.

* i.e. fantasy for people who think that genre fiction isn't art.  Wink
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Moritz
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2013, 05:10:05 AM »

The only thing was...I kept wanting to Google Image search the (real) paintings referenced so I could see the image.

As I listened to this on the commute, I was also wondering whether we could get links in the shownotes to the real life paintings mentioned in the story.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2013, 12:23:01 PM »

Oh man. This story. Oh man... It kind of blew my mind. I don't even know what to say. It was beautiful, strange, and... yeah, it worked. It took a while for the format to colonize and oppress my brain to the point that the narrative flowed, but it was totally worth it. Thanks for taking a chance on this one, Dave.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2013, 11:43:42 PM »

Heh. Well, for me, a cataloger who's worked in art museums, there wasn't as much unusual about the way the story was presented  Grin

Not that I was ever clever enough to think up presenting a story in this fashion.   

I kept thinking of William Blake and his visions (let's face it, if Blake were born today, he'd be on meds and have a very dull accounting job somewhere. If he was lucky). In Theresa's case, well, I'll come right out and say it, it's more of a "I see dead people!" thing than Blake's angels, but it still is an artist seeing beyond the mundane.

I was also put in mind of something Alisdair said about a story on Escape Pod recently, about the stuff going on just outside the frame of the story. Certainly you can see the tracings of the events - rejection from parents, loss of friends, fostering a battered child - but it's more interesting piecing it together from the description of the art works. Hell, I think it's even better than if someone had tried to *make* the artworks, because of course the paintings probably look better in our imaginations (unless the painter is very very good).
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chemistryguy
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« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2013, 08:29:05 AM »

As neighboring Detroit heads into bankruptcy, I cringe at the possibility that some of the DIA's collections might be sold off.  I regret not visiting more or learning more behind some of the pieces. 

I want to visit this exhibition and learn more about this artist who doesn't exist.  The imagery created was just amazing.  Thanks so much for running it.

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DKT
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2013, 09:42:44 AM »

I read a lot of fiction like this in book form but would usually file it under literally fiction, maybe magical realism*. In fact, I am not sure how well it fits into PodCastle's portfolio, especially right after Conan. I usually delete past episodes from my iTunes, but this one will definitely stay on my playlist. It's one of the more distinct pieces of the last months.

* i.e. fantasy for people who think that genre fiction isn't art.  Wink

Hmmmm. How long have you been listening? Pretty much since the beginning PodCastle has prided itself in running some very different kinds of fantasy, trying to showcase that it can be so much more than S&S or Epic, which (I think) is primarily how it's viewed. You might be interested in these stories:

The Axiom of Choice, by David W. Goldman
State Change, by Ken Liu
The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories, by Gene Wolfe
The Hortlak, by Kelly Link
Some Zombie Contingency Plans, by Kelly Link
Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery, by John Schoffstall
The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale, by Benjamin Rosenbaum

There's easily a dozen more I could come up with, but hopefully this helps you get started if you're looking for something other than Danger! Thrills! Excitement!
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Moritz
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2013, 10:35:57 AM »

Oh, I didn't start posting here until I had listened to every single episode in the back catalogue. I am now almost up to date with pseudopod as well. In any case, I didn't mean setting wise, but style wise. From your list, I don't remember any of these being as experimental.
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DKT
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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2013, 10:38:35 AM »

No worries! Experimentation is in the ear of the beholder, I guess Smiley
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DKT
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« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2013, 11:26:46 AM »

Oh man. This story. Oh man... It kind of blew my mind. I don't even know what to say. It was beautiful, strange, and... yeah, it worked. It took a while for the format to colonize and oppress my brain to the point that the narrative flowed, but it was totally worth it. Thanks for taking a chance on this one, Dave and Anna.

Fixed this for you Smiley

And you're welcome!  Grin
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2013, 11:20:46 AM »

Oh man. This story. Oh man... It kind of blew my mind. I don't even know what to say. It was beautiful, strange, and... yeah, it worked. It took a while for the format to colonize and oppress my brain to the point that the narrative flowed, but it was totally worth it. Thanks for taking a chance on this one, Dave and Anna.

Fixed this for you Smiley

And you're welcome!  Grin

Thanks, Dave.

It's totally unfair, but in my mind you will always be the heart and soul of Podcastle, in the same way that Nyarlathotep is the soul and messenger of the Outer Gods.
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LadiesAndGentleman
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2013, 12:28:59 PM »

Adored this one.  Good job, Ken Schneyer.  This seems like a step in the right direction for his fiction, at least from what I've read.  It had me from beginning to end and I teared up a little as it came to a close.

I briefly wondered why people in the artist's world didn't pick up on the fact she was depicting ghosts/souls, but I talked myself through this sticking point with the idea that this story is made up of isolated excerpts.  Some other academic in this setting is probably theorizing about Theresa Rosenberg Latimer's supernatural abilities, possibly an academic with a penchant for tinfoil hats and a catchphrase along the lines of, "They thought I was mad at the university...for art critics!"

Because I read this as a straightforward ghost story, I didn't see it as particularly experimental.  Maybe in comparison to Conan, but on its own?  I don't see it.

[...]

I read a lot of fiction like this in book form but would usually file it under literally fiction, maybe magical realism*. In fact, I am not sure how well it fits into PodCastle's portfolio, especially right after Conan. I usually delete past episodes from my iTunes, but this one will definitely stay on my playlist. It's one of the more distinct pieces of the last months.

* i.e. fantasy for people who think that genre fiction isn't art.  Wink

I agree it's a distinct piece and certainly one I'll be brooding on for a while, but I'm going to nitpick about this definition of magical realism.  For a while, I also thought it was a way for English students and professors to refer to fantasy they don't want to admit is fantasy or a label the marketing department of publishing houses threw on to get a review by The New Yorker.  Instead, I've discovered "magical realism" is mainly used to refer to political fiction that uses a surreal or meta lens.  Magical realism novels are usually set against a background of social upheaval, like Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Catheryne Valente's Deathless, and Toni Morrison's Beloved.  Characters have problems that they're either unable to talk about openly or too traumatic to contemplate, so conflicts are written in a "coded" language. Allies and antagonists in these works become ghosts, monsters, and living folklore characters, just depicted in a "factual" or reporter-like way.  There's an extra layer of metaphor wandering around. 

So I do think magical realism is its own category not just a phrase slapped onto "literary" fiction.  While I like Schneyer's piece, I don't think it entirely fits this category.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2013, 01:22:31 PM »

There is a fantastic essay at the back of Dedalus Books THE MYTH OF THE WORLD: SURREALISM 2 (which is the second part of their two volume anthology of Surrealist texts) which I wish was more widely available.  Written by the series editor Michael Richardson, it lays out his clear and lucid way of making distinctions between terms like "Fantasy", "Magical Realism", "Surrealist", etc. etc. (as might be expected, it comes down to intent instead of content).  If I can dig up my copy I may try to excerpt some of it here but it's a fairly long essay so I'm not sure if there's some crux point where everything gets summed up (and which wouldn't, in summing up such previously extended thoughts, just make the argument sound reductive).  But it's well worth searching out.
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Ken Schneyer
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« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2013, 08:39:12 AM »

Since it's been a full week, I thought I'd drop in and say how delighted and flattered I am to receive feedback like this.  When I realized that LadiesAndGentlemen had actually read enough of my other stories to form an opinion about the direction my work is taking, my jaw dropped; that's never happened to me before!  Wow.  And I'm especially grateful to those who confessed to tears -- there were tears involved in the writing of it.

I'm floored by Peter's stunning performance, and I also think that Dave was at the top of his game on this one.  I was moved by his personal perspective on these ideas, and wasn't expecting the Van Gogh quote at the end, which got me sniffling all over again.

I've never paid too much attention to genre or subgenre boundaries, so I don't know whether someone would classify this story as "fantasy", "magical realism", or chopped liver.  I do think, however, that the "coded" language is there if you look for it.  (There's lots of hidden stuff in the characters' names,  for example...)

What I was mainly after was the dissonance between the narrative voice and the reality of the events in the story.  I wanted the reader to become increasingly uncomfortable with the curator's cluelessness about what was happening to Latimer, especially the superficiality of his (I think of the curator as male) understanding of her emotional life.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses!
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Liminal
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« Reply #17 on: July 25, 2013, 09:17:32 AM »

I'm floored by Peter's stunning performance, and I also think that Dave was at the top of his game on this one.  I was moved by his personal perspective on these ideas, and wasn't expecting the Van Gogh quote at the end, which got me sniffling all over again.

Gee, thanks! I am so very happy you feel I did right by your story.

BTW, my folks live in RI and I used to live in Providence so I loved narrating a story where I could envision, so clearly, some of the settings. Next time I'm visiting, I'd like to buy you a drink of your choice.  Smiley

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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2013, 05:32:06 PM »

What I was mainly after was the dissonance between the narrative voice and the reality of the events in the story.  I wanted the reader to become increasingly uncomfortable with the curator's cluelessness about what was happening to Latimer, especially the superficiality of his (I think of the curator as male) understanding of her emotional life.

I can't say that I had any particular sense of the curator's sex, and didn't see it as particularly relevant. Frankly, I thought that the curator's understanding of Latimer's emotional life was perfectly reasonable... assuming that Latimer was merely an ordinarily eccentric artist, rather than someone communicating an extraordinary, extra-normal experience through art. Having escaped an abusive family, myself, I thought that Latimer's art was very consistent with that kind of upbringing, and the curator seemed to understand that. What the curator didn't get, though...

Is exactly what I want to ask you about!

I kind of doubt you're going to answer this, but now that I've experienced the story without the taint of your outside opinion, what did you imagine was going on with Latimer? Or was this story all evocation, with no tale at the heart of it?
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« Reply #19 on: July 25, 2013, 06:27:47 PM »

I recently read the Tigers Wife as part of a book club.  It has
magical realism, yet you will find it sitting by near unanimous agreement in the literary fiction section.  Cryptonomicron by Neal Stephenson on the other hand has only the faintest hint of fantastical or sci-fi elements to it and is, as far as anyone is concerned, solidly sci-fi.  I can't recall who pointed it out to me, but often times a lot of what divides genera fiction and literary fiction is that genera fiction feels compelled to have a driving plot that is used to explore an idea, while literary fiction can have a weak while focusing on exploring inner space.  Cryptonomicon is sci-fi because it explores contemporary technology and has a driving story.  Tigers Wife sits comfortably in literary fiction because fantastical elements aside, there is no driving plot (though it has some great storytelling) and it is an exploration of inner space.

I personally appreciate both literature and genera fiction, but I couldn't but help scratch my head as to why this is on PodCastle.  To me, this piece was pure literature by nearly every conceivable definition.  It was like reaching for a beer and finding out that I was eating lettuce.  If you squint really really hard and go cross-eyed, maybe you can squeeze a drop of extremely light magical realism out, but it doesn't do anything else to nudge it towards genera fiction of any flavor.  It isn't an "is this fantasy" question.  Normally I can at least see both sides of the question, even if my personal answer is "no".  My response was more "what, wut?"

All of that said, I liked it.  I would be annoyed if PodCastle switched my beer for lettuce too many times, but the reading was fantastic and the dissonance between the intro to art 101 "I am going to force my opinion down your throat with an inane questions" and the images described was pleasant and interesting.
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