This month's guest edit by Mary:
As we hovered in the moonlight outside Dave’s mews house, reluctant to leave after another great review, AC dropped the final big question of the evening. Ever had yeasty fanny? The girls piped up unreservedly after a few bottles of fine pop. “Duh! Course... ” came the reply. After a moment AC said, “I was actually asking Bruce.” And so the evening ended as it had began, with fanny-related misunderstandings thanks to Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body.
Basically the boys, except for Ian, never got the plot of the book, in that they thought the narrator was a bloke. Dave was literally in the dark until half way through the main course, while Bruce found it “generally confusing”. AC, who was gob-smacked by the boys inability to identify the gender, pointed out that “a bloke’s stream of consciousness would have been much more straightforward.” Ian, who had recommended the book, felt that maybe it wasn’t as groundbreaking as it had seemed 18 years ago, when he first read it. Why was that we wondered?
We all felt that Winterson’s writing was annoyingly self-indulgent. Perhaps it would have seemed brave and radical in the early 90’s? Ian certainly remembered being more moved by it back then. But Juliet felt some parts really did work. Winterson’s description of contentment as 'the positive side of resignation' summed up the general fear of commitment which pervaded all the relationships within the book; ‘it’s no good wearing an overcoat and furry slippers and heavy gloves when what the body really wants is to be naked’. Juliet read the passage out loud and we were left contemplating our own states of contentment.
Michelle hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that the main problem with the book was that there was nothing “fanciable” about the narrator. We all had a soft spot for ‘old slag Gail’, who 'smelt of dry rot', and dropped lines like, '"this isn’t War and Peace honey, this is Yorkshire". Gail guided the narrator away from her own self-centeredness and although it came a tad too late for some - AC dropped off around page 150 - it provided a welcome respite.
But most importantly, for a book with lots of sex in, no one in the group got even a teeny weeny bit turned on by any of it. Lara even found a few sections in the book made her want to puke. It was clearly time to change the topic of conversation as Dave’s lemon surprise arrived.
It would be fair to say that at first few seemed as moved or amazed by the fruits of Yayoi Kusama’s mind as they did by Dave’s dessert. The very fact that there was a dessert threw a few reviewers totally off track. Dave’s dinner had already raised the bar to a new and unsurpassed level, what with the freshly picked coconuts from his palm tree and freshly plucked chickens from the back yard.
We rapidly descended into a state of lemony cheese-headedness, which one would have imagined to be the perfect mental state for contemplating Kusama’s papier-mache phallus’s and cosmic dots. But alas we all became increasingly soporific as Michelle administered deep tissue massage to Lara’s aching lower back and the rest of us attempted to guess the desserts incredibly sweet, but "virtually sugar-free" secret ingredient.
When the last spoonfuls had been shovelled in, we managed to focus briefly on the task at hand. AC loved the huge white Infinity Nets and the phallus-covered rowing boat rocked most of our worlds. As an exhibition I felt it offered more of a journey into the mind of the artist than many. And while we all agreed that Kusama was clearly a little dotty, her work was likeable and full of playfulness. Despite her psychological difficulties, we all agreed that it was hard to not feel uplifted by her final installation. Her mirrored world of fairy lights, played with ideas of darkness and light cast against one’s own self-image. People were clearly lingering in this magical world, reluctant to move on.
And so the evening came to a close with Dave summing up the exhibition in his own unique style. It was, he felt, much better than the Hockney. The group nearly fainted in unison before someone asked “why Dave ,why?”. “Less people” was his main reason and we had to agree. There was very little hype about the Kusama exhibition and therefore the viewer’s journey was one of self-discovery with unexpected twists and turns. If Hockney had filmed himself painting a penis with blue polka dots the whole world would have known about it. Yet few could even recall the name of Japan’s best known modern artist, or visualise any of her work despite a career spanning more than 50 years. Kusama’s retrospective was full of surprise and wonder, and for that alone we had to love it.
Other highlights of the evening included Bruce’s tales of how he travelled to the Tate by foot from Willesden Junction, the naming of Lara’s new baby (Chicory Hix), and in case anyone was wondering why we all went rushing up and down the corridors and stairs at the end of the evening, the secret ingredient was condensed milk (only 40% sugar per can). Dave, you are the original, one and only man of mystery….