VisuelImagen: Simon Lane

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The French Internet site visuelimage.com is hosting a compendium of memorials to Simon Lane organized by Gerard-Georges Lemaire. At the request of Gerard-Georges, I willingly added to this group of memories about Simon which was translated into French on the Visuel Image web site. Below is the original English text.

-Steve Miller

Simon also wrote one of my catalogs for my 1993 solo Paris exhibition at A.B. Galeries. This exhibition included a portrait I made of “Simon Lane” 1993. acrylic and silk-screen on canvas. 40 x 54 inches, 138 x 102 cm. private collection, Paris.

I first saw Simon Lane at the bar of the Chelsea Arts Club in 1988. The next night, by chance, we met in Paris. We became life long friends. Between that night in Paris until the end, were a plethora of escapades in Paris, New York and Rio. In Paris he owned the town; Balzar, Cafe de Flore, Chez Omar. In the Hamptons he held court at a local writer’s haunt, the American Hotel. We endured a winter of snow, our work and an aging fleet of vehicles long past retirement. Eventually the party moved to Rio. The Paris cafe, where we always met, was replaced by a kiosk on the shores of Sao Corrado for coco gelo and a beer. Simon my guide to Paris was now the concierge of Rio. He generously introduced me to my Rio gallery, Galeria Tempo .

There was no more fun person to be with than Simon. The evening could end in disaster or triumph and I experienced both. Unfairly handsome beyond reason, a ladies man, a wit, a performer with a passion for life that knows no rival. He had the MOST positive attitude and optimistic outlook. He was a total gentleman of the old world and loyal to the end. His last illness was Simon’s 3rd time with cancer. He was grateful to be alive and knew for several years he was living on borrowed time. I never saw pity or regret.

I can proudly say, I have probably read everything Simon has written including all of his novels, the elusive “Slap Shield Saga” and a few unpublished works. When I was enchanted by “Still Life with Books”, I passed it, with great enthusiasm, to Warren and Barbara Phillips who published it along with his next book, “Fear.” Now, I am deep into Simon’s last book, “Brazil, Eternal Promise.”

Brazil is full of mysteries which only Simon could excavate with his keen ear, an astute eye and a brilliant quill. His previous life in Portugal gave him a head start on his language skills in Brazil as well as an understanding of the European source of the Portuguese influence on the history of Brazil. As a frequent visitor to Brazil, I received Simon’s guidance to the nuances of the culture, by teaching me useful Portuguese phrases (mostly to flatter the opposite sex) as well as the intricacies of trying to get a cell phone, which was a lesson in patience. That was a two day adventure ending up at an Oi (Brazilian telephone company) store in Sao Corrado having the female Oi representatives rolling with laughter but, alas, no cell phone. He was the king of the local churrascaria, a Brazilian eating experience unknown to me. There is a protocol to ordering the food and how to have the unlimited supply of meat served to you until you beg for the end of the meal with a cafe or digestif.

On a deeper level, Simon was a poet and immersed not only in the Portuguese language but the poetic tradition of Brazil’s greatest writers starting with Luis de Camoes. Through his friendship with Tunga, Simon met Gerardo Mello Mourao one of Brazils finest poets of the 20th century. He introduced me to several Brazilian writers and I could hardly put down the books of Jorge Amado. I read one every year on the beach in Bahia where I stayed not far from Amado’s home in Ilheus. Simon also gave me my introduction to the history of Brazil and the intriguing story of the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Court in 1808. He never stopped studying the great Brazilian poets and respected them for creating the doorways through which a true cultural understanding could be achieved.

Another of Simon’s entry points is through the music of Bahia and particularly Caetano Veloso. Samba, Bosa Nova and Tropicalia are born from the depths of slavery, evolve in Rio’s favelas and eventually emerging as political protest in the Tropicalia movement. This musical tradition is one of Brazil’s great gifts to the world. Indeed, Simon gives credit to Caetano and asks his permission to use “Brazil, Eteral Promise” as the title to his book. With this base of knowledge and over a decade of living in Brazil, Simon gives the reader the privilege of a heartfelt connection to a vast nation with the poet’s eye to observe and hear the language, study the history, the customs and reveal the sensual tropical surrealism that makes Brazil a fascination for the world.

What distinguishes “Brazil, Eternal Promise” from Simon’s other books is his replacement of a fictive narration by an astute and personal commentary. His clear voice captivates as it illuminates. The structure is a collection of vignettes that could be read in any order. It is easy and compelling to keep going back and rereading previous passages. The pleasure of reading is so great that you feel the need to read slowly and savor every word. I am reluctant to finish the book. As if it is impossible to say goodbye. Indeed, Simon clarifies this impossible gesture of “not saying goodbye” in the following passage from “Brazil, Eternal Promise.

“Parting under any circumstances here is essentially dramatic and filled with
trepidation, an inevitable and melancholy affair that is no less painful for being
drawn out over much time, so that an initial, tentative rise from the sofa to the
vertical followed by inevitable relapse to the seated position. Pursuant to further
returns to either the vertical and the seated, an almost infinite number of
backward steps must be taken before the visitor and host have gained the
vicinity of the front door, at which point a general stasis will be created, the
magnetic pull which is the implied exit countered by renewed manifestations of
affection and an almost unbearably poignant sequence of embraces, kisses to the
cheek and renewed laughter culminating in the final act itself, the door left open
so that either host or guest can summarily reunite on the threshold or back
within the house………Not so much sweet sorrow as sorrow postponed, for eventually
the whole process will be repeated and heavy hearts accompany all involved as the party,
alas, becomes something no longer to be enjoyed but simply remembered, until the next time.”

And so I read this book slowly, reading the same pages over again to hear Simon’s voice, to keep him near, to get up from the sofa and say goodbye only to sit down again and have another sip of poetry. And while I am almost coming to the end, I cannot bear to finish it.

Visuelimage