A Sassenach Soliloquy

Saturday, September 4

"You want to kiss me? Are you drunk?"

It’s been a busy and fun week: Frisbee on Tuesday, Edward Hopper and proper beer on Wednesday, live Jazz on Thursday and drinking and dancing with students on Friday. It’s the sort of week I like, especially when I’m enjoying the day job at the same time. Pity it doesn’t pay well.

I was particularly pleased I went to see the Hopper exhibition at Tate Modern on Wednesday. It was very enjoyable, and, I think, the first time I realised how much a collective body of work can be (far) more than the sum of its parts. Credit to the curator.

I’ve viewed Hoppers in the past, most recently just a few weeks ago in Berlin, and, like everybody else, I’ve always taken away a sense of isolation and independence. They’ve always seemed decidedly, almost fiercely, neutral, with no perojative comment attached to the lives and the society depicted. However, as I proceeded through the exhibition those common themes articulated themselves; where previously an personal reading of a given piece was possible, it became clear - through the repeated strands - that the characters are suffering: from existential angst, from purposelessness, from emptyness and from isolation. These notions, and Hoppers representations and metaphors of them, became well established as the chronologically-arranged exhibition progressed. And then, in the later works, Hopper stripped his pieces down to their minimal, largely symbolic elements, and appreciation of that work would have been largely impossible without what had gone before. Excellent stuff.

Down from high culture, yesterday evening I went to a well-known chain of pubs-with-a-dancefloor in Soho with the students. It reminded me of my undergraduate days when I loved the tacky fun of those places, and I had fun this time too. The biggest difference was that I had no urge – indeed, didn’t want – to drink. But I was still asked “Are you drunk?”, and that’s the second time a girl has asked me that when – sober – I’ve gone to kiss her. Would you believe me if I said I was only doing it in the name of social research? For the record, what I found out is that it is true: Japenese girls really are very shy.


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