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June 08, 2006


Bunny Smedley

What an absolutely excellent post. Further instalments will doubtless be worth the wait.

Those who haven't read Fuller 'in the orginal' may need something footnoted for them here, which is that whatever his other qualities might have been - and one has to wonder whether this isn't, to some extent, a sort of Freudian assault on Berger - he was often an almost painfully clunky prose stylist. And not in a good way, either, as in Greenberg's prose, where the simplicity, even where it looks laboured, is making a worthwhile statement in its own right. With Fuller, it's often just - well, clunky. And yours isn't.

Not that the intelligence, sensitity, genial sense of humour and kindness present in your reading aren't something Fuller deserves - I feel sure they are. It's hard to think of anyone else, in Britain anyway, who was writing anything so fresh and important about art in recent memory. But - well, there are certainly advantages, aesthetic as well as otherwise, to reading your account of Fuller, rather than the real thing!

Bunny Smedley

Actually, while we're on the subject, do you have any idea what on earth Fuller was on about in the final paragraph you quote? I mean,

the latter will have to be incorporated into our productive life in a much more radical way than that permitted by leisure, hobbies, or the Fine Art enclave itself

- what does that look like when it's at home?

I only ask because Fuller's stated views on politics, like his understanding of religion, were all over the place. The influences are often all too clear - but his distinctive take on them, often less so, in part due to the problems with his prose outlined above.

The 1983 gestation is worth highlighting. This was three-plus years after Mrs Thatcher was elected, but only a few months before the Miners' Strike. If there was ever a time when, here at least, it seemed possible to create a new [fiscal] heaven and a new [microeconomic] earth, especially for a semi-recovering Marxist, those were the days! You, JL, have Billy Bragg, if not Mr Cowling, to tell you this, but I fear that others may not realise what this date meant in the UK. There really was all to play for, and whatever the future may have looked like, it wasn't exactly beautiful.

Only a couple of years before, sane people in all parties in Britain had worried that some sort of revolution might be at hand. No, really! This is worth noting, if only because otherwise, one might not realise how possible other ways of living may have seemed. But what I don't quite see is exactly what Fuller imagined. A sort of post-industrial feudalism? But how would that have worked without religion? What did he want, really? Genuinely, this is something about late-phase Fuller that I have never understood. The main point, though, is this - that whatever he wrote, he probably meant it more literally than we might credit in these bland, consensual, milk-and-water hours.

Direct rule by the Prince of Wales would certainly have struck a chord with me, but I do recognise that this is a minority taste.


Wow, thanks. A couple of quick responses before I have to run: I remember picking up the newspaper in 1981 and seeing a picture of a black London sky filled with smoke, below the headline, "Britain's Agony". All to play for indeed.

As for that particular line, that's what I'm wondering. One thing I thought of, hence the reference to Cage and others, was that he was imagining that art could be freed from the narrow area of leisure, the art world, etc., and become integrated into all aspects of life. Perhaps here it might be better to follow Huizinga and speak of the "play element" of art--Fuller also connects art to play, and it seems to be what he's after.

But really, I have no idea. And when even a lapsed Marxist starts to talk about the need to do anything more radically, especially if it involves some vague notion of economic reoganization leading to a new society, I get a little uneasy.

Bunny Smedley

Cut the poor thing a bit of slack, JL ... Fuller was a lapsed Marxist who'd spent three years at Peterhouse. feasting with Maurice Cowling. I rest my case.

(Seriously, though, I am sure you are right about Cage etc., and even Huizinga and all sorts of haptic fun. That one line just sounds way too political to me, and I'd love to see it unpicked in full.)

Apropos of very little, it worries me that the distance separating my toddler son from 'Reaching to the Converted' is not that far removed from the distance that once separated me from my mother's Spanish Civil War fundraising LPs. I feel a bit old.

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