Perhaps art is really a proposition. I’m not sure there’s much difference between the approaches we make to one another in our discourse or our intercourse, particularly when so many of the words we use for one, apply to the other.
I recall an amazing conversation I had long ago with a director who had begun to speak retrospectively as if taking a long valedictory victory lap, enjoying the sunshine before the expected onslaught of a major illness. He explained that he got into the theatre because there was someone he wanted to fuck, and yes that’s exactly how he said it, and he was sure that lots of people were in the arts for the same reason. At the time I giggled a little bit, to conceal my surprise but as the years have gone by I’ve started to notice that his statement has more than a little truth to it.
That conversation came back with a vengeance while reading All That Sang, Lydia Perović’s recent novella. There’s a chicken-and-egg quality in some relationships, as we may wonder: did that couple become intimate first and collaborate later, or were they working together and only later ended up in the sack? The happy oblivion of desire means that people don’t necessarily do what logic or planning would dictate.
That I am speaking this way of All That Sang should tell you that I am fully engaged in its world and its loves, having bought into its narrative, fascinated by the way the book unfolds.
I am reminded of a conversation I had back in university, one that I recall regretting for how it showed my naivete. I’d read a short story about a cellist, and told the writer “I didn’t know you played the cello”.
“But i don’t” he told me matter of factly, while I picked my jaw up off the floor, and realized, oh yes, that’s why it’s called “fiction”, that’s what’s known as “writing”. I think the first mistake I’d made was in under-estimating that writer, someone I’d mistaken for a rock-n-roller without depth. Or maybe the problem was that at this point in my life, I casually underestimated lots of people (rockers and cellists alike), and needed to look deeper, and seek to understand.
I am taken back to this story because in reading All That Sang I recalled the expert descriptions of how to play the cello, and wondered whether I should assume it was all from a kind of expertise. Of all the different sorts of prose in All That Sang¸ I don’t doubt Perović’s authority and expertise in the explorations of lesbian eroticism, both because she has more or less told me –excuse the euphemism here—that she plays the cello, and also because Incidental Music (another of her books) also demonstrated a comparable virtuosity.
As with Incidental Music, All That Sang takes us into a world that seems to be within Perović’s comfort zone. This time we’re not in the realm of opera but instead the symphony, but every move in the milieu into which we’re taken is made with confidence. This is a work of great self-assurance.
Every note is played with conviction, every word significant. But it’s a lightly Apollonian exercise, less Mahler than Satie, and one that leaves you in your right mind rather than stirred or intoxicated. All That Sang calls for admiration, leaving us with a strong sense of skill and the clarity of Perović’s purpose.
I keep coming back to that notion that there is an intersection in our second Chakra, that creativity and procreativity are related if not actually the same thing. All That Sang takes us to the ambiguous and conflicted heart of passion and amorous vulnerability, not flinching from the unpleasantness we sometimes encounter. I’m reading it a second time, discovering additional depths and nuances.
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