Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917), Girl and Her Dog, (detail)

This and That

 

‘This and That’ is a miscellany of musings on whatever strikes my fancy at a given moment, a potpourri of ruminations in the spirit of Lennon’s ‘I read the news today, oh boy’, a grab bag of epiphanies akin to ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ (Lennon again).

You can listen to the tracks in full with a registered Spotify account, which comes for free. You’ll find the lyrics to the songs at the bottom of the page.

MODELS AND DOGS: ONLY LOVE, NO BULLSHIT

Daria Srokous and Hank

In his short story, ‘Investigations of a Dog’, Kafka’s hero (a dog of unspecified breed) conducts a philosophical investigation into food and eating. In the course of his research he reflects on his place among his fellows, raising questions such as ‘What kind of attempts do they make to manage to go on living in spite of everything?’. In this blog post I will not be so ambitious (therefore not so funny). Instead, I will explore a question that has given me much food for thought during the course of my research for Xenia (my next novel—heroine: a fashion model—story: top secret). And that question is: Why do fashion models seem to have a particular affinity with dogs? Indeed, check out the Instagram of just about any model and chances are you won’t have to scroll down very far to find the model out walking her dog or snuggling up next to it on her couch.  I am not a dog-lover. I like animals in the wild, not the domestic kind. Still, I’d like to explore this question: Just what is it with models and dogs?

Franz Kafka, Investigations of a Dog, tr. Michael Hofmann

Daria Strokous

First, credit where credit is due: If I have chosen to put an image of Daria Strokous at the head of this post, it is because she, in speaking of Hank, has given me its subtitle: ‘Only Love, No Bullshit’. For that, and because her intelligence matches her beauty, her humour her acumen, her eloquence her elegance. She also has distance (which is but a component, of course, of both beauty and intelligence), and that might explain why she knows not only how to be looked at, but also how to look. One only has to peruse her photographs—the ones she makes, as photographer—to see the excellence of her eye. And that is where I shall begin my investigation: with the eye, with looking and being looked at.

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, The Passenger, Jack Nicholson asks Maria Schneider: ‘What impression do you think you make on people when you first walk into a room?’. She answers: ‘They look at me—they think I’m all right… Nothing mysterious—you learn everything about me at one glance’. While she may be transparent to herself (a function of her freedom, perhaps, of her living her life on her own terms), to others everything about her is mysterious. Indeed, the Girl (the character Maria Schneider plays) is exceptional in that her attitude to herself is not influenced by the gaze of others. More commonly, we find that:

A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping.

She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another.

So wrote John Berger in Ways of Seeing (1972). Dated, you say?

Kazimir Malevich, Female Torso, c. 1930

Kazimir Malevich, Girl with a Comb in her Hair, c. 1933

John Berger continues:

Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The woman turns herself into an object—and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

Times have changed, you assert? I grant you that, but they haven’t in all dimensions: society has changed, but the psyche is stubborn. Consider this, from English psychoanalyst Darian Leader (for the reference, see the book cover image and the link lower down in this post):

A man is sitting in a café and sees a couple walk past. He finds the female attractive and watches her. Now, a woman in the same situation might well do something dif­ferent. She may be attracted to the man, but will nonetheless spend more time looking at the woman who is with him. In other words, what interests her is less the man or the woman than the relation between them. What does the woman have that has made this man her partner?

Now why, you may wonder, would the woman do this?

Simply because, in a variant of Kafka’s dog, she is searching for a way to be a woman, for ‘her place among her fellows’. Darian Leader explains:

There is no univocal concept of what it is to be a woman, there is no essence of womanhood. According to Lacan, a girl may become a woman, but there is no ready-made answer as to how to do this. In the psyche, there is no pre‑programmed representation of the woman. In the place of feminine identity, there is a gap. No answer is automatically available as to what a woman is. Hence the key question for a girl, ‘What is it to be a woman?’ Is it to behave like one’s mother or one’s mother’s friend? Is it to follow the current trend in fashion? Is it to have children?

So you see, then, there is something particular to women both in looking and being looked at. The deficit in self-confidence that many women experience is but a sign of that ‘something particular’ that characterizes their relation to looking and being looked at. Models, of course, are in the business of looking: to convey a ‘look’ they must attract a regard, and to keep their equilibrium they must not alienate themselves in it. Many models, in this respect, are particularly admirable; the irony that often characterizes their self-statements testifies to how successfully they walk this tightrope.

Kazimir Malevich, Three Women, c. 1928

Daria Strokous: ‘Saturday date with Hank’

‘Only love, no bullshit’: The reason models tend to be so fond of dogs, then, now seems obvious: a dog’s love is an antidote to bullshit, and models are subjected to more bullshit than most women. ‘Bullshit’, in the context of modelling, necessarily refers to the entanglements of the daring-glass (a trap, made of mirrors, to catch birds) and to the excesses of the desiring gaze. For models, I imagine, the social whirl is often a battle where self-belief and inner-direction wrestle with the temptation to internalize outer ascription. Every victory of inner-direction is a victory over alienation, and thus an affirmation of self-belief. This virtuous circle, of course, does wonders for a woman’s confidence. In this sense, in terms of the problematic of femininity, one can say that models have their cake and eat it too. A charmed life, some might say, yet among models there are those who seek, like Rimbaud, ‘the key to the old feast’.

Do dogs help models resist the snares of the daring-glass? Undoubtedly. And do they help them find Charity? Yes, when they’re no longer children (in addition to A Season in Hell—the opening is given below—see Jim Morrison and Leonard Cohen).

A dog’s love is direct—it isn’t filtered, as human love is, through the looking-glass of one’s past. Moreover, it is a pure love, unlike human love which, as anyone versed in psychoanalysis will know, is always and necessarily a mixture of love and hate. And finally, a dog’s love, as all dog lovers affirm, is unconditional, whereas human love (except in the case of the parent-child relation) lacks that unconditionality.

It’s easy to see, then, that to the working model logging up miles and miles of travel, engaging in relations that are largely transactional (often entailing a shift in position on the totem pole of fashion) and immersed in the artifice that is essential to art, being able to count on the loyalty of her dog—and the sign in his or her eyes that says ‘no bullshit here’—is invaluable.

With her dog, then, a model can let down her guard (cf. John Berger’s analysis) and she no longer has to wonder what it means to be a woman (cf. Darian Leader’s interpretation). In a word, in the battle between inner-direction and outer ascription, her dog is on her side: he or she increases the model in her self-belief.

Sacha Luss with her English setter and Corgi

Daria Strokous, Cannes 2018

If, one can argue, these dog-human dynamics apply to everyone, not just models, there is one domain where the dog-model relation is unique: models work in the beauty business and dogs, unlike the humans who interact with models, are not subject to the terror of beauty (cf. Rilke, the first of the Duino Elegies, of which the two opening stanzas are given below). To Hank, Daria would be just as beautiful sick-abed in her pajamas as she is on the red carpet at Cannes. And that, to a model, must come as a relief. Woof woof!

RIMBAUD: A SEASON IN HELL

Long ago, if my memory serves, life was a feast where every heart was open, where every wine flowed.

One night, I sat Beauty on my knee. —And I found her bitter. —And I hurt her.

I took arms against justice.

I fled, entrusting my treasure to you, o witches, o misery, o hate.

I snuffed any hint of human hope from my consciousness. I made the muffled leap of a wild beast onto any hint of joy, to strangle it.

Dying, I called my executioners over so I could bite the butts of their rifles. I called plagues to suffocate me with sand, blood. Misfortune was my god. I lay in the mud. I withered in criminal air. And I even tricked madness more than once.

And spring left me with an idiot’s unbearable laughter.

Just now, having nearly reached death’s door, I thought about seeking the key to the old feast, through which, perhaps, I might regain my ap­petite.

Charity is the key. —Such an inspiration proves I was dreaming!

“A hyena you’ll remain, etc….” cries the demon that crowns me with merry poppies. “Make for death with every appetite intact, with your egotism and every capital sin.”

Ah. It seems I have too many already: —But, dear Satan, I beg you not to look at me that way, and while you await a few belated cowardices­—you who so delight in a writer’s inability to describe or inform—watch me tear a few terrible leaves from my book of the damned.

 

This is the opening of the poem (the poem continues for many more lines). From Arthur Rimbaud, Rimbaud Complete, trans. and ed. Wyatt Mason (NY: Modern Library, 2003)

Daria Strokous, Witching Hour

RILKE: DUINO ELEGIES, I

Daria Strokous

Who, if I shouted, among the hierarchy of angels
would hear me? And supposing one of them
took me suddenly to his heart, I would perish
before his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror we can just barely endure,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrible.
And so I restrain myself and swallow the luring call
of dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we use then?
Not angels, not men, and the shrewd animals
notice that we’re not very much at home
in the world we’ve expounded. Maybe on the hill-slope
some tree or other remains for us, so that
we see it every day; yesterday’s street is left us,
and the gnarled fidelity of an old habit
that was comfortable with us and never wanted to leave.

Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind full of welkin
feeds on our faces—for whom wouldn’t it stay,
yearned-for, gently disappointing night
that wearily confronts the solitary heart?
Is night more easy on lovers? Ah, they only
hide their fate from themselves by using each other.
Don’t you know that yet? Throw the emptiness from your arms
into the spaces we breathe, so maybe the birds
can feel the expanded air, more ardently flying.

 

 These are the first two of the Elegy’s six stanzas. From Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies, tr. C.F. MacIntyre (University of California Press, 1961)

NINE MODELS

SEVEN WITH THEIR DOGS, ONE WITH A GUEST DOG, ONE WITH HER DESIRE FOR A DOG

Carolyn Murphy and her ‘boys’

Daria Strokous hosting Duke, Ginta Lapina’s dog

Francesca Summers and her Yorkshire terrier

Melissa Tamerijn, ‘Me and my buddy, happy home’

Iris van Bern, ‘My brother from another mother’

Vanessa Axente with Mr. Wilson

Ginta Lapina and Duke

Josephine Skriver, ‘Can’t wait to come back again’

Kris Krikaite: ‘I love dogs. One day I’ll have a four-footed friend.’

SPRAGUE AS A DOG IN ‘MARA, MARIETTA’

The amber eyes of the hell hound.

In all cultures, mythology gives us dimensions of dogs very different from the ones focused on in this post. Drawing on these mythological dimensions, here, from Part One, Chapter 13 of Mara, Marietta, are Sprague’s evocations of himself as a dog. Context: He has just made love with Marietta, as dogs do it, forcing from her the feminine. In the novel you’ll discover how this plays out, and if you’re interested in the theoretical underpinnings of this dimension of sexuality, see Jacqueline Schaeffer, Le refus du féminin. Alternatively, for a brief exposition in English, see Jacqueline Schaeffer, ‘The riddle of the repudiation of femininity: the scandal of the feminine dimension’ (in On Freud’s ‘Femininity’; see cover image and link below).

I am the object of God’s curse, I am a fallen angel: Wrapped in a houndstooth throw, a jagged check weaving promise and potential into the darkness of gestation, I lie on the floor listening to your life as a little girl. Woof, woof!

 

My teeth are the fixed stars, my wide-open eyes the colour of womanhood: Cloaked in my throw, I withdraw into myself: Myself where already you dwell. Woof, woof!

 

I am robed in ashes and mist, through darkness and death I guide your soul: Two over the warp, two under, advancing one thread each pass, the threads of my throw adorn the unadorned. Woof, woof!

Richard Jonathan, Mara, Marietta

Richard Jonathan, Mara, Marietta

The wanderings of the dead my tracks depict, I devour the stars and regurgitate the dawn: Four of day and four of night, alternating in both warp and weft, around my soul my throw interweaves intuition and reason. Woof, woof!

 

I know the way through the forest, I can see in the dark: I am wrapped in the outward show of my inner being. Woof, woof!

 

I am the haunter of cross-roads and graveyards, I am the initiator who sustains desire: Earthy, intuitive, maternal, the colour of death on my throw grounds the colour of passage. Woof, woof!

REFERENCES: FIVE BOOKS AND A FILM

Darian Leader
Why do women…

Jacqueline Schaeffer
Le refus du féminin

Richard Jonathan
Mara, Marietta

Michelangelo Antonioni
The Passenger

John Berger
Ways of Seeing

THREE FINE MODELLING & FASHION BOOKS FROM AN EARLIER ERA AND THREE EXCELLENT DOG DVDs

Inès de la Fressange
Profession Mannequin

Alicia Drake
The Beautiful Fall

Michael Gross
Model

Dog Days
Ulrich Seidl, 2001

Dogville
Lars von Trier, 2003

Dogtooth
Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009

FOUR WORKS OF FICTION AND TWO MEMOIRS THAT FINELY ECHO A DOG TONE

Mark Haddon
Dog in the Night-Time…, 2012

Breyten Breytenbach
Dog Heart, 1999

Alexandra Fuller
…Go to the Dogs…, 2002

Günther Grass
Dog Years, 1963

Paul Morand
Hecate and Her Dogs, 2009

Anton Chekhov
Lady with the Little Dog, 1899

THREE MODEL SONGS

Fascination | David Bowie

Got to use her

Every time I feel fascination
I just can’t stand still
I’ve got to use her
Every time I think
Of what you pulled me through, dear
Fascination moves, sweeping near me
Still I take ya

(Fascination) fascination
(Sure ‘nuff) fascination
(Takes a part of me) takes a part of me
(Can a heartbeat) can a heartbeat
(Live in the fever) live in the fever
(Raging inside of me?)
(Fascination) fascination
(Oh, yeah) oh yeah
(Takes a part of me) takes a part of me

David Bowie, Young Americans, 1975

(I can’t help it) I can’t help it
(I’ve got to use her) I’ve got to use her
(Every time)
Fascination comes around

Like a soul that’s calling
Like when I’m walking
Seems that everywhere I turn
I hope you’re waiting for me
I know that people think
That I’m a little crazy
Better sex is fun
I think I like fascination
Still, I take ya

(Fascination) fascination
(Sure ‘nuff) fascination
(Takes a part of me) takes a part of me

Mother of Pearl | Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music

Roxy Music, Stranded, 1973

Turn the lights down
(Way down low)
Turn up the music
(Hi as fi can go)
All the gang’s here
(Everyone you know)
It’s a crazy scene
(Hey there! Just look over your shoulder)
Get the picture?
(No, no, no, no)
Yes

Walk a tightrope
(Your life-sign-line)
Such a bright hope
(Right place, right time)
What’s your number?
(Never you mind)
Take a powder
(But hang on a minute—
What’s that coming round the corner?)
Have you a future?
(No, no, no, no)
Yes

Well I’ve been up all night (again?)
Party-time-wasting is too much fun
Then I step back thinking
Of life’s inner meaning
And my latest fling
It’s the same old story
All love and glory
It’s a pantomime
If you’re looking for love
In a looking-glass world
It’s pretty hard to find

Oh mother of pearl

I wouldn’t trade you
For another girl

Divine intervention
Always my intention
So I take my time
I’ve been looking for something
I’ve always wanted
But was never mine
But now I’ve seen that something
Just out of reach glowing
Very ‘Holy Grail’

Oh mother of pearl
Lustrous lady
Of a sacred world

Thus even Zarathustra
Another time-loser
Could believe in you
With every goddess a let down
Every idol a bring-down
It gets you down
But the search for perfection
Your own predilection
Goes on and on and on and on
Canadian Club love
A place in the country
Everyone’s ideal
But you are my favorita
And a place in your heart, dear
Makes me feel more real

Oh mother of pearl
I wouldn’t change you
For the whole world

You’re highbrow, holy
With lots of so

Melancholy shimmering
Serpentine sleekness
Was always my weakness
Like a simple tune
But no dilettante
Filigree fancy
Beats the plastic you
Career girl cover
Exposed and another
Slips right into view

Oh looking for love
In a looking-glass world
Is pretty hard for you

You throw away kisses
The boomerang hisses
Spins round and round
Fall on featherbed quilted
Faced with silk-softly-stuffed eiderdown
Take refuge in pleasure
Just give me your future
We’ll forget your past

Oh mother of pearl
Submarine lover
In a shrinking world

Oh lonely dreamer
Your choker provokes
A picture cameo

Oh mother of pearl
So so semi-precious
In your detached world

Oh mother of pearl
I wouldn’t trade you
For another girl

Walk on the Wild Side | Lou Reed

Holly came from Miami FLA
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows along the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
That said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side,
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side

Candy came from out on the island
In the backroom she was just everybody’s darling
She never lost her head
Even when she was giving good head
She said, hey man, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey pretty, take a walk on the wild side
And the colored girls go:
Do do-do do-do…

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay ’n pay pay pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City’s the place where they say
Hey man, take a walk on the wild side
I said hey girl, take a walk on the wild side

Lou Reed, Lou Reed Live, 1975

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay ’n pay pay pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City’s the place where they say
Hey man, take a walk on the wild side
I said hey girl, take a walk on the wild side

Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Looking for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo, you shoulda seen her go-go-go
She said, hey baby, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey man, why don’t you go take a walk on the wild side

Jackie, she’s just been away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then you know that she had to crash
Oh Valium woulda helped that bash
She said, hey man, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey baby, take a walk on the wild side
Colored girls:
Do do-do do-do…

THREE DOG SONGS

Diamond Dogs | David Bowie

David Bowie, Diamond Dogs, 1974

This ain’t rock and roll, this is genocide

As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent
You asked for the latest party
With your silicone hump and your ten-inch stump
Dressed like a priest you was
Todd Browning’s freak you was

Crawling down the alley on your hands and knees
I’m sure you’re not protected, for it’s plain to see
The diamond dogs are poachers
and they hide behind trees
Hunt you to the ground they will
mannequins with kill appeal
(Will they come?)
I’ll keep a friend serene
(Will they come?)
Oh baby, come unto me
(Will they come?)
Well she’s come, been and gone

Come out of the garden, baby
You’ll catch your death in the fog
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs

That Halloween Jack is a real cool cat
And he lives on top of Manhattan Chase
The elevator’s broke, so he slides down a rope
Onto the street below, oh Tarzie, go man go
Meet his little hussy with his ghost town approach
Her face is sans feature, but she wears a Dali brooch
Sweetly reminiscent, something mother used to bake
Wrecked up and paralyzed
Diamond Dogs are stabilized

(Will they come?)
I’ll keep a friend serene
(Will they come?)
Oh baby, come unto me
(Will they come?)
Well she’s come, been and gone

Come out of the garden, baby
You’ll catch your death in the fog
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs

In the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch
Sashay on the boardwalk, scurry to the ditch
Just another future song, lonely little kitsch
(There’s gonna be sorrow)
Try and wake up tomorrow
(Will they come?)
I’ll keep a friend serene
(Will they come?)
Oh baby, come unto me
(Will they come?)
Well she’s come, been and gone

Come out of the garden, baby
You’ll catch your death in the fog
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs
Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs

Fall Dog Bombs the Moon | David Bowie

Hope, little girl
Come blow me away
I don’t care much
I win anyway
Just a dog

I’m goddamn rich
An exploding man
When I talk in the night
There’s oil on my hands
What a dog

Fall dog is cruel and smart
Smart time breaks the heart
Fall dog bombs the moon

Devil in a marketplace
Devil in your bleeding face
Fall dog bombs the moon
What a dog

David Bowie, Reality, 2003

There’s always a moron
Someone to hate
A corporate tie
A wig and a date
Just a dog

These blackest of years
That have no sound
No shape, no depth
No underground
What a dog

Fall dog is cruel and smart
Smart time breaks the heart
Fall dog bombs the moon

A devil in the marketplace
A devil in your bleeding face
Fall dog bombs the moon
What a dog

I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind | The Doors

I can’t see your face in my mind
I can’t see your face in my mind
Carnival dogs consume the lines
Can’t see your face in my mind

Don’t you cry,
Baby, please don’t cry
And don’t look at me
With your eyes

I can’t seem to find the right lie
I can’t seem to find the right lie
Insanity’s horse adorns the sky
Can’t seem to find the right lie

Carnival dogs consume the lines
Can’t see your face in my mind

Don’t you cry
Baby, please don’t cry
I won’t need your picture
Until we say goodbye

The Doors, Strange Days, 1967

By Richard Jonathan | © Mara Marietta Culture Blog, 2017 | All rights reserved

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