on cy and elias, death and a new novel

Suma Cy Twombly 1982

Cy Twombly was on my mind only last week as I worked on a short review of Elias Khoury’s new novel, As Though She Were Sleeping [MacLehose Press]. Khoury’s writing is highly distinctive and there are good literary cultural reasons for that, reasons I sketched in an interview based piece in 2005 for The Independent. Reasons I can’t keep on repeating, so I was trying to think of another way to describe his scratchy seeming but endlessly recircling, reconfiguring, rhythms of ideas, lines and words and a particular image of Twombly’s would not leave my mind.

I’m always loath to resort to references of this kind but it made it through my deadline Friday because it so perfectly represents both the working of Khoury’s prose but also it’s potency; the vividness of its presence. My review will run shortly in The Independent, but meanwhile, my point really was that reading Khoury is ‘like’ watching a drawing like this one of Twombly’s emerge on paper and end up with such knotty vitality.

Twombly’s death is shocking; early-seeming for someone so urgently alive and working. There are plenty of considered thoughts to have and now plenty of time to have them. But Tate Modern’s retrospective of his work in 2008 was one of its most substantial successes, easy-seeming, tough to deliver [is his brilliant Quatro Stagioni on permanent display there?].

To see so many of his works in one place, especially in my case those from the 1950s and Rome is something I’ll always appreciate. Oh and the sculptures! Don’t restrict yourself to the paintings and drawings, even the book of the sculptural work is an astonishing thing in itself, Agamben’s little intro. text worth tracking down if you haven’t yet.

Meanwhile, let this by my little nod to a man who was at the front of my mind on Friday and died on Tuesday.

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