Monday, 14 July 2008

Dirty Books and the Great Wen

Just back from a week in London, part-financed by my and J's very good friend K, who is lavishly generous and splendid and brings a better world with her wherever she goes (one part Wodehouse, one part Dion Fortune, one part The Saint, one part Emma Goldman, shake, pour over ice, and serve with a sprig of fresh mint). She said she was giving us the cash so we could tell her what we thought of Kipling's house at Bateman's (any excuse, honestly, that K), so we went there, and it was splendid. (I really like Kipling. I don't mean to downplay the sexism - he was deeply opposed to women's suffrage - and the imperialism and the racism, but so much of his stuff is just great: his use of language is beautiful and he gets at some of those tiny, hidden feelings and relationships and ideas, mining them out of experience into language. Thorts into Stuff, as Una says. And those bits are relatively detachable from the power and the privilege and the White-Man's-Burden stuff, which isn't true of all writers, or at least I think so.) I was going to put up some pictures from our trip, but naturally I can't find the cable for my camera, so that'll have to wait.

Other things I did included speaking at the Dirty Books event at the London Literary Festival last week, where I enjoyed myself thoroughly and may possibly have referred to slash as 'a feminist utopia of porn'. It was a slightly odd event overall, containing rather more straight women than I'd expected from a queer event, including one who felt the need to inform us on about five occasions that although she did have sex with women, she didn't really enjoy it. But from the extract from her work she read, she didn't seem to enjoy sex at all, so perhaps I shouldn't have felt so ruffled at her presentation of f/f sex as oh-so-thrillingly outrée but ultimately not real sex. The highlight was probably the very impassioned and lovely defense of erotic writing by the organizer, Rupert Smith aka James Lear. (Actually, this was a bit of a theme of the week: I also went to see Alan Moore and Melinde Gebbie talking about Lost Girls, their 'pornographic novel about pornography', which was fun. It was the first time I'd ever been in the same room as Alan Moore and his splendid beard.)

Oh! And we went to see the Magnetic Fields in concert, which was great. And! We saw (some of) the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project, which may be the best thing that has ever been in the world. Slightly-simplified-for-feminist-squee account of the project:

Geometers used to think there were only two types of space in which you could do geometry (Euclidean flat space and spherical space). There was a possibility of another kind of space, hyperbolic space, but for many reasons - including the difficulty of physically modelling/visualizing it - its feasibility was disputed for, like, hundreds of years.

AND THEN A FEMALE MATHEMATICIAN CROCHETED IT. And she came and presented hyperbolic space in the form of crochet to the Royal Society of Geometers* and they were like, whoa.

And then - because hyperbolic space also exists in coral reefs - the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project came into being, whereby people (mostly women) from across the world crochet coral reefs and exhibit them. It is craft + female-flavoured community + maths + conservation/ecology. I don't see how it could possibly be a better thing. And, it's free! At the Hayward! Go and see it if you are in London, or if it is on tour near you ever.

*or something


sorenson said...

That mathematical crochet coral reef might just be the coolest thing I've heard of all year. Now I want to crochet some coral! (I did a rat the other night - does that count?)

Charlie Butler said...

Kipling's the only writer I know who actually makes me dizzy, he's so subtle. He doesn't look like he ought to be - unlike Henry James, say, who advertises his psychological complexity with equally complex grammatical constructions, like a wasp advertising its sting with Nature's Warning Colours. Kipling looks like he ought to be a galumpher, but then he does that {whatever it is he does} and leaves you reeling.

Ika said...

Sorenson - just found a better link for the crochet coral reef - here, and yes that first picture is crocheted. You can just email them and send them your work - everything I've seen has been really carefully credited. It's just amazing.

Charlie - ooh. I think I have a more binary thing with Kipling, as in I tend to either get him (and wallow) or not (and furrow my brow in confusion) - the main plot of 'Regulus' is too subtle for me to follow, or possibly relies on particular ideas which were clear between the lines to Kipling and his original readers but aren't any more to me. Or wasn't that the kind of thing you were thinking of?

Charlie Butler said...

I enjoy, but I can't get quite comfortable enough to wallow. But for me, the not quite getting it is part of the pleasure: I love to "pursue my reason to an O, Altitudo!" - and that's a pleasure/frustration Kipling offers as few others do. Especially, as I say, as he creates his hyperbolic space from such apparently homespun materials.

Una said...

Like, whoa!

Ika said...