Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-05-31 - 10:39 p.m.
Cutting things in the garden over the Bank Holiday - also reading recent history of radical thinking about art - also watching John Martyn in Dublin in August 1987 - dueting with D Thompson. Highly recommended. Not really the 1980s although the music over the credits is a Smiths instrumental. Solid Air Inside Out Bless The Weather One World. He uses his voice very ambitiously and to great effect.
KK has had a good month - looks as if it will be at the same level as April.
More on BNW and DHL. Huxley was captivated by Lawrence as indeed was B Russell. Russell and Hux were aware of living too much in the head and using sex as a antedote. So the DHL message that sex could be different was likely to appeal. DHL was physically weak and indeed the weakness led to his early death which Hux and wife nursed. I think the close focus on his friends death had a big effect on Hux and he could not but see the irony of DHL and his life-philosophy being snuffed out. This was esp so as Hux suffered as a teenager both the death of his mother and the assualt of some germ which left him half blind.
The others side would be Hux’s deep understanding of the biochemical paradigm. He would know that the leading edge scientists were on a path which would lead to biochemical fixes for a lot of problems - his bro was up with the best and Hux liked to hang out with the scientists and keep up to date. This biochemical familiarity also explains why he would trust LSD or mescalin later on.
Besides taking drugs Hux is often lampooned for his mysticism. This grew out of the quantum-relativity etc and Hux was only one of many who thought that there was something beneath the biochemical story. Since the bio story is about molecules - you have to go to a lower level and once you enter the sub-atomic level then all sorts of strangeness is to be found. There are any number of books around today that argue in the same way. The mysticism begins to surface in the mid 1930s - after BNW - and at this point the conflict between totalitarianisms is shaping up - Hux’s evolving thoughts are massively out of step with where everyone else is going.
There’s an interesting nexus around English culture in the 40s. Given it now seems that the UK stance in 1940 is pretty noble - what were the cultural manifestations (if any). The easy line is the one taken by many poetry critics that the 1940s is the decade that taste forgot. That the nobility of the national stance did not translate easily into available poetic forms. The opposite is true of sculpture - if the land is under threat you can do land art.
There s a second stream which I have run into now and again about the Bohemian world - esp in 46 and 47 when there were a lot of young people in London who had had a rough few years and wanted to go back and have a bit more fun. The main musical focus seems to have been New Orleans jazz. I was taught jazz by someone from that era who was subsequently given the freedom of New Orleans. His jazz code was severely practical - how to run a jam session. In parts of the jazz world there was also painting - Bacon is the obvious case - and his life-style exemplifies the harsh way that Bohemianism worked out. You get a bit of this is early Iris Murdoch novels.
But its hard to follow the threads through except for Dick Heckstall Smith who was in the band which won the University jazz-band competition in 1953. One can imagine that the urban jazz scene gradually found an echo in universities in the next few years. Actually there s another thought - Ronnie Scott and his mates were teenagers during the war and they would go out in air raids - for the random adrenalin rush. You can see how this might lead on to an interest in be-bop.
I suppose the other obvious place to look is at Larkin and Amis - not least because their correspondence is preserved - you might say that their attitude is basically punk - they are against everything and enjoy being rude. So there is a lot aggression around - no surprises there - and not many places for it to escape to. Unreformed gender attitudes too. This is now a stream in its own right - think of Little Britain.
Angry Young Men would seem to be the cork finally being blown out the top of the bottle after 10 years fermentation. A few novels start to appear outside the AYM brand - Murdoch, Spark etc. But as I have said before Plath and Hughes in Cambridge don’t have much new culture to plug into - they go to the pub and sing folk songs and watch people doing funny dancing to trad jazz.
Hux in LA hanging out with Stravinsky and T Leary at this point is clearly on another planet - one which we understand much better from our current stance.