The highlight of my listening week has been the excellent Grayson Perry doing the Reith Lectures. It’s worth sitting through the unbearably pompous Sue Lawley’s introduction to hear him (though if you listen on iplayer you can skip that). To cut a swathe through the crap that is talked about art; from the ‘anything goes, so if I say the froth at the bottom of my coffee-cup is a work of art then it is’, to the classical ‘only traditional paintings hung on walls are art’ – and, worst of all, the ‘if it’s worth a lot of money then it’s art’ – theories of art: to cut a swathe through all that and talk some sense, is no mean feat.
Perry deconstructs this for us in a highly sensible* way. He is both down-to-earth and intellectual and his manner is conversational, witty and unassuming. So I urge you – if you have any interest at all in art – to listen.
He’s wearing a stunning dress there, too. Although it does look as if he’s Sue Lawley’s puppet…
I’m glad we don’t have these arguments in writing. Nobody says of a piece of work, ‘but is it writing?’ Yes, there are debates about what constitutes literature, and especially about what constitutes a poem, but people don’t seem to get to wound up about ‘what is literature?’ as they do about what art is. And I suspect this is because there is something fundamentally democratic about writing. Every copy of a book (first editions notwithstanding) is worth the same as every other copy. And that’s what I like about it.
So, after all that I needed some light relief: and what better than Jennifer Saunders’ autobiography? Starting quite literally with an egg, she tell the story of her career; meeting Dawn French and writing Ab Fab; going inappropriately dressed to awards ceremonies and making up speeches with Joanna Lumley; not getting rabies in India with Ruby Wax – it’s all terrific fun and very listenable.
So go listen.
*in both meanings of the word