Monday, November 10, 2014

Lust, Lecherousness, and Love

by Gregg Chadwick

Peter Clothier's scurrilously witty new novel "The Pilgrim's Staff" explores lust, lecherousness, and love through the voices of two men from two disparate centuries. David Soames, a contemporary figurative painter living as an ex-pat in Los Angeles, receives a curious package in the mail from an English cousin. Wrapped in layers of tape and memory is the two hundred year-old journal of an English gentleman, who begins his tale with the words,"I am no Rake!" "Rake" is a wonderfully antiquated word that refers to a man caught in the snares of immorality, particularly concerning the charms of the opposite sex. 

William Hogarth
A Rakes's Progress:3
The Rake at the Rose Tavern
62.5x75.2 cm oil on canvas 1734
Collection Sir John Soane's Museum, London

Writing this on the 10th of November, in a coincidence worthy of Clothier's novel, I am reminded that the 18th century English painter William Hogarth was born on this day in 1697.  Hogarth's pre-cinematic series entitled "A Rake's Progress" immediately comes to mind.  Reflecting his own deep history in the arts as both writer and arts administrator, Clothier deftly weaves artistic concerns into "The Pilgrim's Staff." In Clothier's novel both men richly voice their own sexual histories with honesty and quite a bit of humor that echoes the satirical artworks of fellow Englishmen Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, and George Cruikshank. 

Clothier's "The Pilgrim's Staff" is not a mere romp. The novel also explores the destructive potential of family legacy and the clouded history of power, abuse, and sexual slavery in 18th century Imperial England as well as in our contemporary world. "The Pilgrim's Staff" is a book about sexual pleasure and also a cautionary tale that reminds us not to lose the love as we lust. Highly recommended!

Notes on Peter Clothier and "The Pilgrim's Staff"

Peter Clothier learned about masculinity the British way: boarding school and Cambridge--and spent twenty years in recovery in men's group work. 

Previous books include two novels, a monograph on David Hockney, and a memoir, While I am Not Afraid: Secrets of a Man's Heart. His recent book, Persist, was acclaimed as the "ultimate survival guide for any creative artist." 

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Shout Out to Peter! I am honored that my painting, The Embrace, and my studio are featured on your cover. Bravo on your new book!

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