Thursday, April 29, 2010

A busy night last night with a talk by art historian John C. Welchman on Paul McCarthy at the Church of Jane and Ross (sponsored by Fillip Magazine and the CAG), and later, at Main and 15th, a massive Talon book launch, this one featuring eight authors, all men.

Welchman’s talk was a standard academic lecture, beginning first with a detailed description of the Los Angeles-based McCarthy's Caribbean Pirates (2001-2005), some historical scholarship on 17th century sea piracy (a reaction, Welchman argues, to a state structure increasingly concerned with the protection and promotion of private property), before concluding with McCarthy’s numerous purpose-oriented studios.

The art historian was quick to draw a parallel between McCarthy’s project and Hollywood’s first post-9/11 billion dollar franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2011), and he could have extended that parallel to McCarthy’s numerous artist studios in relation to Hollywood’s own. Indeed, just as the adult film industry provides a burlesque of mainstream Hollywood, so too does the work of McCarthy.

My favorite part of the Talon launch, besides catching up with writers Ken Belford and Renee Rodin, was Karl Siegler’s introduction. Listening to Siegler, one might have thought he was working from a script – only in this instance he began by addressing a comment made within minutes of taking the stage, when Judith Copithorne asked, “Why are there no women on your spring list? What sprung from Siegler was a response so careful, so methodical, one might have thought he had been asked to speak on the topic last year. I won’t go into everything Siegler said, but his short answer was this: not a single woman submitted.

The best part of Siegler’s intro was his recognition of our current literary moment as one of constraint (contrast that with the work of McCarthy, where excess is everything). Though he did not provide examples, I am sure many in the room thought of Christian Bok’s Eunonia -- but to many more outside, Twitter’s 140 word maximum. Siegler went on to say that he has taken "great delight" in writing book synopses of exactly 300 words for his Canadian catalogues and exactly 90 words for his U.S. versions. “If I cannot say all I need to say about a manuscript in 300 words, it will not be published by Talon.” At least not in Canada.

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