Sunday, 30 June 2013

ARC - At Swim 2 Birds

I can't believe it's already the end of June and time for the Artful Reading Club hosted by the highly creative. Darcy. Please click here for more details of this opportunity to catch up on books that you had lying about and always intended to get down off the shelf, and then to create and share art inspired by them and see what other readers and artists have been discovering on their book-shelves. I had planned to read Flan O'Brien's 'At Swim Two Birds' for years and I was expecting to be impressed. Well, it's certainly a clever book, sometimes a funny one, though I'm sure I don't get half the jokes, but it's a book that makes me feel 'locked out'. Some books just draw you in: it might be from page one: you find yourself  believing in the characters and caring passionately about what happens to them. Then there are books where you feel that someone somewhere, possibly many someones are loving this and participating in a party to which you are not invited: you gaze on from the sidelines or from the street outside and you feel very lonely indeed. For me this is 'At Swim Two Birds'. It's beautifully written and it plays cleverly with the idea of the writer as puppet-master, but I found myself longing for characters that I could believe in and empathize with and - although I could admire the writer's wit, skill and imagination - not to mention his erudition - I had to really force myself to read to the end. So many people love this novel I am beginning to wonder if it's something lacking in me that I just couldn't feel totally absorbed by it. I can see its merits, but 'At Swim Two Birds' is not a novel I would wholeheartedly recommend. I wondered desperately how I was going to create anything inspired by a novel that made me feel inadequate. Then I thought about the role of the writer as puppet master and this little piece grew out of that thought.
 O'Brien's novel contains stories within stories; he plays with intertwined plots that sometimes dove-tail into each other and characters that rebel against authors who condemn them to act out plots over which they are supposed not to have any control. I thought about Punch and Judy on the beach when I was a child: poor Judy and the baby always doomed to be whacked by Mr P's stick and Mr Punch having to go through the same routine of whacking everyone in sight. Although it was such a violent show, I loved the colour and the miniature world of the puppets. I had a little pewter Punch, but because he had articulated limbs that made him very floppy and difficult to display, I'd never been sure what to do with him. I decided on painting this hand shrine from Retro Art Gallery with Paper Artsy Fresco paints and turning it into the hand of the writer/puppet-master and a home for my little Punch figure. This was quite a difficult piece to photograph with all the tiny details. Please click on the photos, if you would like to see it the images more clearly.
 He holds Mr Punch's tiny world in the palm of his hand. The die in the tiny hand represent the power the puppet-master has over the lives of his characters, he throws the dice and their fate is set. All the tiny minis are from Retro Cafe Art Gallery.
 'Swim Two Birds' is a place in the novel, where Sweeney, a mad Irish king flutters from tree to tree like a bird. I have played with the idea of two in my piece: two birds, of course, but also two die each showing the number 2; two butterflies and two gems in the palm of the tiny hand.
The cycle of life is represented by the moon on the hand's index finger and a little sun painted inside Mr Punch's mini-house. A Lynne Perrella stamp on shrink plastic with a Glossy Accents glaze represents Judy/female characters in Mr Punch's life.
The female characters, if they can be called that, in this novel are very much sidelined - we hear a little about them, never really from them. Maybe this also affected my enjoyment of this novel. I could see the influence of James Joyce on O'Brien who often parodies Ulysses but regrettably there is no Molly Bloom in this novel! As I read on, I did come to gain pleasure from the language and the sheer quirkiness of it, but I still felt I needed more - perhaps I've come to rely too heavily on empathizing with characters and lost my fascination for the experimental!
I thoroughly enjoyed creating my puppet-master's hand, though. I can display this and remember the thoughts I had as I created it about stories, character and story-tellers. This - and the novel, I suppose - did make me think about what I go to novels for and how much power the writer/creator has over his creation. Ultimately, though, it is the reader's recognition of the world he or she creates that matters. Thank you for stopping by listening to my ramblings and looking at my art. I am now off to explore other reviews and art work, always such a pleasure!

13 comments:

  1. A clever piece of representitive art, Julie Ann...soooo much detail. Glad you explained it all. It doesn't sound like a book I'd enjoy...glad you got through it, though!! At least you found something to do with your little figure!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is such an amazingly indepth piece of inspiration!!! Your shrine is just awesome!!! As to the issues you feel you have with the book, try to remember that their are many people in this world only to happy to be lead by the puppeteer. Like the story of the emperors new clothes...maybe a lot of those who claim to love this book are just doing so to be seen to be clever, and don't "get it" any more than you did. Whatever the reason you found this a difficult book to get to grips with, it certainly inspired you to "look deeper" :D XXX

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gah...can't believe I put "their" instead of "there" lol

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's a shame that you didn't enjoy the book after looking forward to it so much, but if it inspired this brilliant piece of art then it was worth it - it's wonderful! I've read books that make me feel that way too - I think maybe Gina's right - the Emperor's New Book :o)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know exactly what you mean, it feels like yesterday it was just January!

    Now, I can't stop staring at your art. At first, I didn't realized the figurine was inside the hand. Wow, that's tiny and lovely. And very whimsical...

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a FANTASTIC assemblage. You make beautiful and heartfelt art. For feeling out of sorts with the book, you would never know it from the art. I can't say enough about this piece. Again, fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I forgot to mention that I have HEARD of Punch and Judy, but have no idea what the subject matter was. Glad to know a bit about it. Is it a British book, or did I just sleep through it here in the States?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love Punch and Judy imagery - and your little shrine is brilliant - the hand of the puppeteer indeed. Sorry that you didn't enjoy the book as much as you hoped you would, but I am glad that it inspired such a cool creation

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sorry the book made you feel like you did. However it certainly inspired an awesome piece of art work. The hand and punch shrine are wonderful.
    Jen x

    ReplyDelete
  10. BRILLIANT so cleverly illustrated, so thought provoking,the hand with in the hand , I love that, you have created a brilliant visual story. I love to read, I have to fall in love with the characters and plots. I get all my books from the library, it's one of my trips out of thenest. Get some books, go have a tea at the coffee shop, skim them, decide which to read first, I used to read 5 books in 3 weeks, now 1 lots of creating these days. I like historical romance in UK, fantasy, one of the best series I have read is Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel's Legacy, there are 5 books and I read them twice. Carey introduces you to a new world, with amazing characters and I got lost in it twice :):
    Any who my dear wonderful post love your rambling it was very thought provoking, thanks for sharing, hope you find a fabulous book to read and enjoy, have a wonderful week, I'm working on the key chains :O) having lots of fun..

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a lovely little Punch to display and the way you explained your art makes everything very clear (love it BTW) the book not so much. I haven't read this and will stay well clear of it doesn't sound like it's for me at all. Sorry you didn't enjoy your read but I can see you certainly enjoyed the art part such a lovely piece of art. Happy ARC Dxx

    ReplyDelete
  12. It doesn't do that we should all like the same things. You are obviously discerning and an original thinker. Your review was very thoughtful and I enjoyed reading what you had to say. Brilliant piece of interpretative art. Such a lot to see and so well done!

    Janet xx

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow, I'm so glad I took this last day of the month to check out the review. It would have been so sad to miss such a piece of art...
    You are such an artist! It's so original! And there's so much to look at and wonder about... Awesome!!! ♥♥♥

    ReplyDelete

I really appreciate comments so please let me know you stopped by.