Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sickert and the Ripper Crimes

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A letter rejected by The Guardian newspaper - oh well better luck next time. Although a small publisher's lot is not a happy one. Your work can be ignored as 'genre' but when the self same ideas are picked up by a corporate author it suddenly becomes mainstream:

In his review of Sturgis/Walter Sickert: A Life (29.01.05) - Jad Adams makes the mistaken claim that the theory concerning Sickert's obsession with the infamous crimes is from Patricia Cornwell via Joseph Gorman (Sickert) - it is not. If anything the theory was first laid out in Jean Overton Fuller's 'Sickert and the Ripper Crimes', published by Mandrake in 1990! Mandrake is a small independent press which may account for this strange lacunae in Adams's and indeed Sturgis's research. Jean Overton Fuller is a national treasure and the basis of her strange book is the rumours amongst Sickert's artistic contemporaries. For example Florence Pash, friend of Jean's mother, was Sickerts business partner. Hints concerning Sickert's obsessive behaviour are dotted throughtout the earlier biographies. And who, ten years ago, was prepared to even admit that Sickert had created a painting called 'Jack the Ripper's Bedroom'?

Patricia Cornwell's book is a welcome entry to the debate - although due to the author's high profile, not to mention corporate clout - it has monopolised a great deal of the publicity. Cornwell did make a great deal of Sickert's assumed impotence. Accounts of Sickerts midlife philandering do undermine that contention - it certainly warrants another look. But the idea that Sickert couldn't have done it because he was 'abroad for _most_ of the _summer_ of 1888' leaves me wondering whether someone is not protesting his innocence a little too much. The first murder was in august, then the killing went on into the autumn of 1888, not the summer. Sickert was in Dieppe, abroad but still only a few hours away. Even if the Dieppe season were to be extended to the autumn, this is hardly a firm alibi is it?

Of course it leaves open the whole question of whether brainy people ever commit murder? You mean could someone like Caravaggio ever be on the run for murder and could it be reflected in his art?

Mogg Morgan

a comment:
LT said...
Thank you for this post. I just finished reading a new edition of Fuller's book in which she deals with Cornwell. To me Cornwell comes dangerously close to plagiarism because of the "evidence" and "deductions" she came up with that happen to be in Fuller's book of 10 years before. Whatever the merit of the theory, Cornwell has lost a lot of respect and credibility both for producing a shoddy book and not acknowledging her sources completely.

10:13 AM

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Smugness of Mainstream Authors

Jim Crace's 'The Secrets of My Success' (Guardian review 05.02.05)
has been running round in my mind all week. A few tips would be nice, like don't sign up for those proof reading courses - but apart from the idea that a little local colour makes up for zero research - eg in the desert one 'sleeps
like a donkey'. After that the article became an overlong if truish journey through the guy's own personal slush pile.

Crace, a 'modesty successful author' is blissfully unaware of the institutionalised corruption that helped make his name - whether he approves or not. I hate that - when those who have caught (or is it bought) the media ear - then turn round and criticise others who would like their own bite of the cherry. Like oh so radical Will Self, slagging off the internet - well yes - he doesn't need that type of publicity - so why he rants would anyone else? But maybe things are changing - journalists so love to build something up then tear it down. James Naughtie this morning (8.2.5) interviewing two rival publishers of hotel guides, one who charges for an entry, the other (The Good Hotel Guide) that does its own research. Icebergs and tips spring to mind. Or memories of a tourist board recommended guesthouse in Dorset where we were treated to an endless description of how nice the breakfast would have been had the dining room been open. And where the landlord started banging on our door from nine am sunday morning to make sure we knew we had to vacate by ten - yes we did know that. Businesses like that have to pay 'bribes' or they never get on.

Can it really be true that when you ask your friend or cousin to read your unpublished books ' . . . they will pretend they loved it or they will
affect amused indifference if your success would be threatening.' Umm, methinks another grain of truth there - friends can be jealous of each other's success? I've heard that a few times recently - maybe it was Gore Vidal who said that nothing was more pleasing than seeing great piles of your best friend's latest book in the remainder dealer's shop. - Mandrake