January 11, 2012 § 3 Comments
This week, I have been mostly thinking about a) Postmodernism, and b) how to rebuild my chest, and c) The Death of King Arthur. The following is about all three and concludes with a very poor and rather predictable attempt to link these things together. I will stop doing this soon as I know it’s getting dull. Not everything is linked and certainly not to stupid old breast cancer.
Actually, I haven’t been thinking about Postmodernism too much. I did go to the V&A’s exhibition, where I learned “postmodernism was an unstable mix of the theatrical and theoretical,” that the “postmodern object seemed to come from a dystopian and far-from-perfect future,” and that “we can learn a lot from postmodernism’s fatal encounter with money.” There were some nice chairs, a great explanation of that amazing photo of Grace Jones (which reveals her to be more like the rest of us than you might have imagined) and a whole bunch of “remember that” album covers. (If you’re interested, hurry along. It ends January 15th.)
I’ll return to rebuilding my chest.
Simon Armitage has translated the anonymous medieval poem, The Alliterative Morte Arthur and this week he was at the British Library, reading from and talking about his work, The Death of King Arthur.
I like Mr Armitage. He seems serious but also like someone who would fetch the fish and chips. I’m not a big fan of alliterative verse, but I enjoyed hearing him read and thinking about all that Arthur business again – battle, betrayal, friendship, ogres, the usual.
To be honest, though, it’s the rebuilding bit which has really been on my mind. In brief, because I have the inherited BRACA1 gene, I am having a preventative double mastectomy, together with reconstruction. If I haven’t polled you yet as to whether you’d have implants or an enormous tummy tissue transfer, you’re one of the lucky ones. I’ve been forcing people all over the show to have an opinion on this, whether they want to or not. Apologies for that. Probably some of you would rather not have discussed my future breasts over tea and scones at one of Britain’s top museums. However, after much to-ing and fro-ing, gathering of opinions, experiences, culminating in a long discussion with the very patient surgeon yesterday (“Ooh the blood vessels in the right side of your stomach are wonderful; the one on your left side – mmm, a bit ropey”), for those still with this saga (and I do appreciate that you all have lives and other things to think about than my chest), I’ve rejected the eleven hour surgery involving a whole other area of my body, together with the side benefit of a tummy tuck, in favour of implants, of the non-french, non-mattress-grade quality, I am assured.
And, for want of anything better to do, here are some ways of wrapping up these three things.
1. Breast cancer is very postmodern – “a dystopian and far-from-perfect future.” The double mastectomy feels more like it might provide a way to return to the order of modernism – opening “a window onto a new world,” as the V&A folk might say, something more progressive. At the very least, I’m hoping my surgeon will be fully modernist, demonstrating a “machine-like perfection.”
2.The Death of King Arthur starts with the Knights of the Round Table celebrating Christmas. Many of the legends, including that of Sir Gawain (also translated by Simon Armitage) which begins with a News Year’s Eve feast, open with a general scene of merriment and happiness. Things are good. There is order. The story only beings when something or someone comes to disrupt this order. In the case of Sir Gawain, it’s the Green Knight; in The Death of King Arthur, it’s an emissary from Rome. I’m thinking that breast cancer is a bit like that bloody emissary or the Green Knight. You’re just enjoying a quiet revel with your knightly chums, when wham, bam, there you are, all challenged and miserable. No one invited these guys in. They just turn up and expect a person to deal with them.
3. Simon Armitage talked about Lady Fortune and her wheel. King Arthur, with this military victories and his chivalric codes, his gang of knights and his fine round table, is a the top of that wheel. Of course, being at the top means there is really only one way to go – down. The Death of King Arthur is the story of that decline. I am very much hoping it works the other way too. If you’re at the bottom of Lady Fortune’s wheel, surely, in the words of Yazz the only way is up.