When I heard it was the centenary of Durrell's birth, I didn't think of the dense soaps and dreary travelogues of his later writing but of this dark little kernel, The Black Book. To re-read it in adulthood may make its livid prose fall limp, though as a teenager I'm not sure what thrilled me more; to recogise familiar places (in south London) or to have them peopled by such unfamiliar characters. Once championed by Henry Miller and T.S. Eliot, you can pick it up these days for a penny.
I hadn't realised The Comedy Theatre had changed its name, last time I was there was probably 10 years back watching old friend, Jonathan McGuinness, in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Brilliant. Now it's called The Harold Pinter Theatre and, post production, they flog their props on eBay. This big rug was an even bigger bargain and recently appeared beneath Thandie Newton, you know. Death & the Maiden received favourable reviews but no special mention for the carpet. Judging by the cat's expression, she's not too sure... suddenly everyone's a critic.
A glutton for punishment, I've been reading seasonally themed books of late. First up was Veleda Vida's Let the Northern Lights Remember Your Name (there must be some glyph I could insert here to imply indifference, a typographic shrug of the shoulders), followed by To Siberia by Per Petterson.
As I read both my mind wandered to a third chilly tome, 12 Days on the Norwegian Coastal Steamer, an old travelogue I picked up from Charing Cross Road. Reidar Johan Berle's illustrations are just-the-ticket!
There's quite a large series of these studies from Francis Picabia's mid-career and they're all equally astonishing. If you care to, you can see more here, here, here, here, or even here... though my personal favourite can be found here.
Hope you have your own ecstatic embrace this Valentine's Day.
• Francis Picabia, The Kiss, 1923
The UK will be looking quite white to orbiting satellites this morning but you'll find no photos here, I'm staying indoors with the cat. You can have this very pretty picture by Vera Spencer instead. In fact, if you've got a spare £2,850 you could buy the original.
• Vera Spencer, View Through a Window, watercolour on paper, c1940
There are certain forums where joining the throng is a positive exhilaration and, though experiencing art doesn't number among them, I'll occasionally be tempted by a blockbuster exhibition (Hockney at the RA, say, or Freud's portraits at The National). Ultimately the 'Book now' tag on the poster sounds the final death knell and I'll see a handful of smaller shows instead. A pity then that a recent trip into town didn't quite allow for a quick flit east to take in Renee So's show. Maybe next time.
• Captain, 2010, wool, acrylic, oak
• Bellarmine IX, 2012, ceramic
Renee So, 18 Jan-25 Feb, 2012
Kate Macgarry, 27 Old Nichol Street
London E2 7HR