The Life of Henry Fuckit
8 Aesthete in slip-slops
He also perceived that giving up singing deprived him of a special kind of artistic experience. Each of his three mentors claimed to have developed their own theory of aesthetics and it was a topic of discussion that often found its way onto the daily agenda. As a result, Henry was aware that the creation, appreciation and criticism of Art comprised a richly complex area for intellectual exploration. Already he was busy with his own fledgling aesthetic.
"What you want to sit there looking at that crap for?"
"Yah, man. How can you just keep staring at that old fart-face? Shit, man, just look at him!"
Henry closed the book. For the last hour he had been poring over the Rembrandt self-portraits. He sighed and looked at them with pity. "To throw pearls before a pair of swine like the two of you would amount to an act not only of futility but also sacrilege. How can I communicate with you when I dwell on the mountaintop and you root about in the foetid boglands far, far below? Do you want me to try and enlighten you?"
"No. Put the book away. Kick-off's at three-thirty and we got to warm up. You know what happened last time we played Tottering Hotboys."
"You can tell us about this mountaintop crap on the way over. Let's go."
That very morning Witherspoon and Friedemann had been discussing Aristotle's views on the art of fiction. Because this was still fresh in his memory he agreed to adopt a peripatetic style of instruction. As they strode three-abreast down the dirt track towards the sun-baked clearing that served as a soccer field he expounded, all the while imagining himself to be in the company of two fellow-Athenians on their way to the Lyceum.
"Let me start by giving a brief answer to the question 'Why do I spend so much time contemplating art?' I contemplate art in order to enhance my experience of life. That's the concise answer. But, I hear you say, and quite justifiably, so concise as to be elliptical. This amounts to little more than saying, 'I like it because I like it.' Allow me to dispel any suspicion that I might be a tongue-tied ignoramus, and offer you a more detailed yet condensed analysis. Feel free at a later stage to return to any of the points that I am now about to make. Once we have tested our athletic abilities on the Olympian turf we shall have the opportunity to do justice to this topic. In the meantime let me say the following: art is multifaceted. Like a compass it has eight cardinal points. The first is its ability to enhance the…"
"Hey, hey, hey. Not so fast, Picasso. Any bloody idiot knows the compass has only four… He obviously hasn't the faintest idea where he is, hey Friks? Ha, ha, ha."
"Contain the merriment, Albertus. When I say cardinal points I mean to include the subcardinals: northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest. Four plus four equals eight. The first, as I was saying, is the ability to enhance the thought processes. Secondly, it offers one sensual delight, sometimes in the form of erotic pleasure. Thirdly…"
"You mean when you're looking at that miserable old guy you're sitting there with a cockstand?"
"Don't be so base, Frikadillus. Your father is right. You'll end up a wheel-tapper on the Railways. Thirdly, art promotes a sense of cultural community and historical continuity. Fourth, it instructs, having the capacity to inform, moralise and propagandise. Five, art can be most therapeutic and soothing. Six and seven, it provides an escape from reality and it is a consolation in the face of reality. And finally, art offers us a glimpse of a higher reality: something to inspire us and uplift us and give us hope. That is the general theory. Now let us turn our attention to the specific art of Rembrandt van Rijn as embodied in his series of self-portraits. The progress from…"
"Where are your boots? Christ, man, where's your BOOTS!?"
"Boots? Oooo. Yissis!"
The three of them had halted in the track. They were all looking at Henry's feet, size eleven, which were shod with a pair of blue and white rubber sandals of a very simple open design, known as "slops". The urgent ring of a bicycle bell sounded behind them and Joseph, Ingachini United's star on the right wing, skidded to a halt, his back wheel throwing up a cloud of dust.
"Joseph! My brother!" Albert saw the solution immediately. "Hey, man, we need your help. This makulu mampara, haikona futbol skatula. Hai! Stupid bastard! He take your bicycle. Maningi tshetsha. Hamba tata skatula. Niga wena five Lucky Strike. OK?"
And thus Henry's dissertation had been brought to an abrupt close. He was unable to explain how the self-portraits were enlivened by his aesthetic awareness, and how the loss of his singing voice had deprived him of a vehicle for artistic expression and enjoyment.
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