Vulgarity and Venus Bear

Things slip. Frogs from mossy rocks. Lies from politician’s lips. Promises from our minds.

Had this blog an army of readers they might have noticed my neglecting to follow up a shoal of issues brought up by a large proportion of my posts. Fortunately it hasn’t – and loose ends have been allowed to remain untied. And for this I praise the gods (and all their horses too).

Nevertheless, I may as well take the time I find today to trudge back in the direction of an earlier interest or two. About a week ago I posted (mostly here) on the subject of a certain folk-tale known as La Chauve-Souris et le pot de chambre – a story I thought to have inspired the work of Kirios Quebec. In a pre-meditated response to this post – and to Quebec himself – I also received a brief complaint from the affable Mr. Andrew K – who doth appear to shake his head at the ‘vulgarity’ of these bat-genitalia-related literary matters. “Such subjects should surely and literally be left beneath the bed of obscurity” he argues.

Well, indeed. Perhaps I ought to have stated, in response to this, that other versions of this tale (of which there are no less than eight) are much less vulgar than the one I posted. I ought also to have noted that there is much less vulgarity hanging about the side-streets of European literature (or my version of it, at least) than he may imagine. Despite the eternally spurious reputation of the genre, you may find that my list of Great European Novels is in fact relatively unplastered in smut. And oo too, I would say, is the work of the example he gives: Mr Kirios Quebec.

As has often been noted, Quebec is what we might call a philoprogenitive fellow. His fecund personality and pen produce work of many colours, some less vulgar than others. Indeed, in an even earlier comment Mr. K himself brings to light a Quebec story that is not the slightest bit vulgar at all. I refer, of course, to that amiable short story The Loudness of the Humming-Bird Meets the Silence of the Ghostdriver, which Mr. K correctly – and charmingly – associates with the work of the Peruvian Pre-Raphaelites.

For those unfortunate enough to have received a ‘proper’ education, you might like to be reminded that the Peruvian Pre-Raphealites were a ever-changing group of Lima-based artists centred around Nolberto Çinto, who in last two decades of the nineteenth century created a strange collection of paintings, mostly inspired by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais (though in some works I also see the influence of the celebrated ‘insane’ painter Richard Dadd). The most famous – and weirdest – of their works is undoubtedly Çinto’s 1897 work Venus Bear, a near copy of Rossetti’s Venus Verticordia, substituting the woman for a, well, bear (I should love to share this wonderful image with you – but as yet I have been unable to find one).

An obsession with detail, a propensity for whimsy and an moderate interest in the intensity of colour – all these attributes of the Peruvian Pre-Raphealities are utilised to great effect in Quebec’s story, which is (for those who do not know) thought of by most Quebecian scholars to be an early study for the later novel, Sounds of Copulation, a work described by one critic as  ‘a love story which stops in the middle of the first sexual encounter and has two hundred more pages inviting the reader to finish the story and bring it to some suitable climax’.

So, like I said – not the least bit vulgar.

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