Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Loathly Obituary

Was he plain? How much did he weigh?
When Picasso died, I doubt anyone wrote about his weight or his looks. It was about his work. Picasso is Dead in France at 91
At the end of his obituary, there is maybe a hint of his womanizing ways and that was it.
When William Faulkner died, Faulkner was known to have had several extramarital affairs." and "a lifelong drinking problem"
nothing about it was mentioned here and nothing about his looks either; Faulkner's Home, Family and Heritage Were Genesis of Yoknapatawpha County
 When the controversy broke out about writer Colleen McCollough's death and Rupert Murdoch's rag wrote an unflattering obituary  about her being so-called, "Plain of feature, and certainly overweight,"
My first thought was this, an accomplished woman like her, probably didn't give a damn what anyone thought of her weight and looks. She was 77 years old for crying out loud, I mean is there a standard for how you are supposed to look, at 77?
There is really nothing like celebrity culture with their Botox, plastic surgery, Liposuction, we don't really know what it looks like when people get old anymore because these images aren't presented to us in any real context.
One of the great things about being an artist or a writer is that your physical presence isn't required. It's the work that matters. But I think Murdoch's characterization of  McCollough, goes back in time;
 The Loathly Lady. I think here we have an archetype for women, who have something special, that is their own "sovereignty" I do believe Colleen fit's the bill. Perhaps on the outside unattractive, but beautiful in other ways. At the heart of this story of the Loathly Lady, who marries in one legend Sir Gawain, there is a choice that he must make should she be ugly by day, beautiful by night, or the other way round? In the end he tells her it must be her choice. She has the right to choose. Clearly, McCollough herself, chose to look the way SHE wanted to look or not look, not the way Mr. Murdoch would want her to.
Moreover, this woman, this artist, transformed herself from neuroscientist to writer presiding over her own realm of characters, she had her own wealth and power and was beholden to no one. She was a success through her own creativity and special talent.
She chose to keep it real and wasn't willing to part with the face she had to become a frightening parody of herself. When the perception is that artificial means of  maintaining whatever standard of beauty is admired and what shape we have is the result of hours in the gym, starvation and medical body sculpting, that only the wealthy can afford and as wealthy as McCollough was, she didn't give a rat's ass about any of it.
I am sure the people who loved her didn't either. I read her book and never once in my mind did I wonder what she looked like, I only knew her writing could transport me to another world. I never cared what Picasso looked like, it was his paintings I admired. That  is the real power of art. In the end it isn't about anything more than the work and the work stands.Colleen McCollough, was an authentic artist, a genuine person, with an independent spirit, many times for a woman, that can be more than enough to be a thorn in some peoples sides.


  1. Well-said.

    Though you never know, Fox News might have gone after Picasso had it been around then. The guy was a lefty, you know.

  2. He was a communist, the left of the left! Fox News, reporting on art or artists. Not sure about that, but it's funny to think about!

  3. I never knew what McCullough looked like, nor did I care much, until I saw the photograph in your post just now. She's not bad looking. But that book that goes on, and on, and on....yecch!

    Yours very crankily,
    The New York Crank