‘Although the sphinx has leapt up on Oedipus and dug her lioness claws into his bare flesh, her face looks no more menacing than the young Queen Victoria’s as seen in profile on a coin of the realm. There is no sense that she is threatening his very life instead of one of his sartorial whims. As Degas said, “He would have us believe the gods wore watch-chains”. The background is made up of a “praline landscape” and a “rock candy mountain”.’ (White, 2000: 141)
Edmund White, The Flâneur
‘Anachronism is, on the contrary, a real and living thing, a thing having flesh and bones. It would be enough to surprise us in a moment of sentimental distraction in order to leave in our flesh and our memories a mark of the real bites of poetry, and in order to rip out from us, with the slashing claw of anxiety, one of the most nutritious pieces of our intellectual anatomy.’ (Dalí, 1998: 253-4)
Salvador Dalí, ‘The Latest Modes of Intellectual Stimulation for the Summer of 1934’ Read more →
I first stumbled on the (great) MacGuffin in 2005, when I was searching for a title for a piece of work that was then in production, a large scale ink and watercolour drawing that had occupied my attention for some months. I was still in the throes of making this work when I read Alfred Hitchcock’s account of the term in his seminal interview with François Truffaut. And I knew straight away that I had found not only the title for the work but also the name for its protagonist, the imaginary character (part human, part animal, part machine) with whose fortunes the drawing is principally concerned. The word itself struck me with its amusing lyric – or rather non-lyric -quality; I liked the heavy, cumbersome, down-to-earth sound. But the explanation behind the word was just as captivating.
‘MacGuffin’ is Hitchcock’s term for a pretext or plot device that in its typical and most intellectually satisfying form must always be radically under-explained within the diegetic narrative. In many cases it would not hold up to rational scrutiny if the audience subjected it to any attention. Thus in Hitchcock’s film Notorious (1946) we are led to assume that particles of uranium (viable for atomic capability) can be stored in wine bottles in the form of a crystalline black dust, hidden in the chief antagonist’s cellar. Read more →
Styrene de Bourgeois leaned on the Gallery of Rexecs and peered into the hall below. She turned and looked behind her; the last of many furtive glances to ensure that Trite was not observing her, and, satisfied that he was not (indeed that he was nowhere to be seen in the Club-Grande), she took a final galvanising breath, snatched up the folds of her capacious gown and fled the discino, as quickly as she could without stumbling on her heels.
Behind her the festive noise of the Corpus flowed and receded. The oother felt a stab of guilt as she descended the staircase in a panic. What if some kent should see her leaving? What excuse would she have for prowling about Abeatha while the rest of Com’s children were so piously celebrating?
She reached the foot of the stairs and, by weird force of habit, touched the coiled symbol of right-force that nestled there among the shapes carved in the balustrade; then, turning sharply to her left, rushed along the high-ceilinged hall that joined the southern wing of the fortress to the monagés’ private quarters. She was now quite safe from observation (and the noises from the Club-Grande were scarcely audible), but she kept on running, though she was short of breath and her retail was both tight and cumbersome. Read more →