Embattled and arrogant, the novelist and painter Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) was deeply immersed in Modernism even as he sought to blast it apart. He was the type of person who would rather hate a club than join it – and while his taste for the attack led to his marginalization, his undeniable genius made him impossible to ignore. Eventually, his misanthropic views led him down some dark paths, as the freedom and energy of the early twentieth century gave way to totalitarian regimes and the horrors of modern war. Professor Paul Peppis, an expert in the politics, art, and literature of the Modernist era, joins Jacke for a discussion of Wyndham Lewis and his leadership of the thrilling, doomed artistic revolution known as Vorticism.
As regular readers know, I’ve been posting a series called A History of Jacke in 100 Objects. These short stories are fictional versions of things that have happened to me. Like most fiction, they’re based on real-life experiences and drawn from people I’ve known, though the characters are typically exaggerations, or composites, or both.
The stories have been popular, and I’ve been pleased by how wide their appeal has been. That was my intention, of course – not just to share with those who were there, but to express something recognizable to those who were not. So I’m grateful when people I’ve never met tell me they knew coaches like the ones in #1 – The Padlock. Or that they’ve felt the same way as the father in #8 – The Burger Car. Or that they were inspired by the teacher’s triumph in #10 – The Spitwad. Even the ones who say they smiled at my battle with Jerry Seinfeld in #3 – The Blood Cake.
One post in particular, #7 – The Keyboard, about a young boy and his burnt-out music teacher, seems to have touched a nerve. And it has led to a couple of follow-up moments that left me shaking my head with wonder.
The first was from a music teacher who, like the narrator, was given a paper keyboard on which to practice as a young child:
Very, very moving, Jacke, and indirectly very nostalgic for me too. When we lived in Hong Kong in the 50s my parents tried to persuade a Russian piano teacher to take me on when I was four, again even though we didn’t have a piano. Too young, she assured my parents; instead, a dummy keyboard made from black and white paper strips glued to a cheap table was advised, on which I practised for a few months. Then we went abroad.
Fifteen months or so later we returned from the UK, and I was interviewed again and allowed to actually play on a real piano. Said teacher was amazed. “Why didn’t you bring him to me a year ago?” Clearly a few thousand miles was no bar to starting lessons properly. I haven’t looked back, and still teach and accompany now six decades on. Luckily for my students, I’m no Miss Steiner in my approach to pedagogy.