This weekend I went to the annual Omaha (Downtown) Lifest with the theme Nervosa: Science, Psych & Story featuring a number of local, regional and national authors. I really enjoyed last year's Litfest, but this year had to stick to my budget, which meant just listening in, writing down titles and choosing only one book to take away with me. (That's what wishlists are for, right? And libraries?). You'll have to forgive the very brief overview of the panel discussions as I didn't pull out a notebook for note taking until the very last one--it was too absorbing just listening.
Unfortunately I missed most of the first panel discussion on "Diagnosis", so I caught only the tail end of the question and answer session. It featured authors Bud Shaw and Lydia Kang. Shaw is a doctor who wrote Last Night in the OR: A Transplant Surgeon's Odyssey, and Kang recently released a YA novel, Catalyst.
I found the discussion about the third panel, "Empathy", most interesting since the topic of women's writing and how their books are marketed came up during the Q&A. Each author in this session also read from her book--Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge, How Winter Began: Stories by Joy Castro and Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya.
The last panel was a Q&A/conversation with Emily St. John Mandel about her novel Station Eleven (which I was very impressed by when I read it earlier this year--and alas the only book I had read before hand). The theme was "Health, Illness, and the End of the World". Halfway through the session I did jot a few notes down. Emily St. John Mandel is a very articulate, soft spoken speaker. She seems very modest about her success and the awards she has won.
She read the first page or so of chapter 11 of her book, which I was also quite struck by when I read it.
I thought it interesting that one of her favorite books is Donna Tartt's The Secret History. I got the sense it is the sort of novel she would like to write--one with a literary sensibility yet a good story. And someday I am going to read the Tartt book! I'd say St. John Mandel did a most excellent job of combining good writing with excellent plotting and well developed characterization.
A few bits and pieces that came out during the Q&A: she wrote the book in scenes rather than as a linear, straightforward narrative (that's one way of never feeling bored by whatever part of the story you are telling), the novel began as a story of a traveling Shakespeare troupe and the end-of-the-world twist came later to the story, she was more interested in telling a story about 'what came after' the collapse rather than the actual epidemic. She didn't want to focus on the horror of the sickness and so didn't dwell as much on that as what life was like once 90% of the population was knocked out. She was interested in writing about technology, but wanted to do it from the perspective of life without it rather than with it, which I thought very clever.
She doesn't like being pigeon-holed into one category (and doesn't like that compartmentalization of literature generally), and now that she has written in a variety of styles and genres (now I must read some of her other work!) she feels fairly liberated to write as she likes in her next book.
At the moment she is working on the 'script' (not sure what the proper term is) for a possible graphic novel--the story of Station Eleven that was a comic book within the book. She said it is like writing a movie script--describing the panels and writing the text. The illustration would come later. I hope that this is a project that see fruition--how cool would it be to read those comics from the novel?
And how cool is this wire art? The sculptures were made by local artist Jay N. Cochrane, and these are a few of my favorites. They were made for the Litfest "using hundreds of yards of metal wire and a crochet-like looping technique". And you will be happy to know that no book was harmed in this process. Each can still be read and enjoyed!
I didn't forget about my nonfiction/art reading last week. It was just too hot and humid for me to write proper posts. It's still too hot and humid (and I am sorry to say this, but I am ready for summer to be over--at least the sticky weather--bring on August please), so rather than tell you all about those very important pre-Impressionist era painters who rocked the world of art, let me share a few of the paintings that we accept now as a 'given' of genius, but at the time were quite shocking!
"The Raft of the Medusa" by Théodore Géricault (1818-1819)
"Géricault renders the grim human catastrophe of the resulting shipwreck (the captain sailed too close to the shore off Senegal) with unflinching detail. He ups the ante by using a theatrical style of painting much favored by the likes of Caravaggio and Rembrandt called 'chiaroscuro', where bold contrasts between light and shade are accentuated to dramatic effect."
He used as his model Eugene Delacroix--an artist from the upper echelons of Parisian society.
"Liberty Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix (1830)
Did you know that this Liberty is the one the Statue of Liberty was based? At the time the pro-republican message would have been quite inflammatory.
"Instead of depicting her body with classically clear clean lines, he added great tufts of underarm hair, a touch of truthful representation that is likely to have had the academicians reaching for their smelling salts."
"Liberty Leading the People is a virtuoso display of modern painting techniques with its vivid colors, attention to light, and brisk brush strokes, all of which would be central elements of the Impressionism movement some forty years later."
You can see Gustave Courbet's "Origin of the World" here. Not to be a prude, but to avoid raising any eyebrows (the sexually frank painting wasn't even exhibited in public until 1988), let me just tell you what Will Gompertz had to say about it. You can go look at your own risk.
"Delacroix's Romanticism had introduced vivid color and flair to painting, while Courbet's Realism brought unfettered, non-idealized truth about ordinary life (he boasted he never lied in his paintings). Both artists rejected the rigidity of the Academy and the neo-classicist Renaissance style. But the conditions were not yet right for the Impressionists."
Enter stage left, Edouard Manet! "Olympia" (1863)
"The year 1863 was a breakthrough one for modern art. The Salon des Refusés (an officially sanctioned exhibition of paintings rejected from the official Salon), Manet's Olympia and the first stirrings of an artistic counterculture all helped to create an environment where the ambitious young painters living in and around Paris could break free."
Along with these artists, it was Baudelaire who put into words what the artists were feeling and he supported them when everyone else seemed against them. I think I will have to look for Baudelaire's groundbreaking essay, "The Painter of Modern Life", this week.
" . . . it was Baudelaire who demanded that art of the present should not be about the past, but about modern life. Many of the ideas he set out in The Painter of Modern Life went on to be embodied in the founding principles of Impressionism. He claimed that 'for the sketch of manner, the depiction of bourgeois life . . .there is rapidity of movement which calls for equal speed of execution from the artist'. Sound familiar?"
This is a really fun and informative book, easy reading that puts it all into perspective. This week I'll be reading about the Impressionists (1870-90). Lots if -isms to get through until I get to "Art Now"!
I found a copy of Will Gompertz's What Are You Looking At: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art at my own local art museum. I always take a quick turn around the gift shop (museum gift shops are really dangerous places, don't you think?) when I visit. I love to look at all the art books and lust from afar (because art books are almost always so pricey), but this time I knew I had to have it. My degree is in Art History, but I have never put it to any good use and now so many years have passed I feel completely out of touch with the art world. I still look at art a lot, but I have not read very much, especially in the last few years.
It was an idea in the back of my mind (still . . . even though we are midway through July) to have a little project going to read about art--nonfiction, essays, maybe even literature. But it is a plan I have yet pursued. As I was thinking of how to get back into the routine of reading nonfiction and was perusing my stacks of books, this one jumped out at me. Gompertz is the BBC Arts editor and was a board director for the Tate Gallery. He has also done stand up comedy. Stand up comedy as relating to art. What a combination, right? It seemed like not only a really fun book to read, and maybe even a little irreverent, but also filled with facts and information and history and hopefully lots of practical explanations.
I don't know as much as I should about modern and contemporary art as I should (my own personal interest when studying was early 20th century Austrian and Russian art), but I find it quite interesting often very thought provoking. But what does it all mean? Maybe Gompertz can finally help me suss it all out in an easy and understandable manner. He notes in his preface that this book is not meant to be a scholarly or academic work, rather "a personal, anecdotal and informative book that undertakes to tell the chronological story of modern art from Impressionism to now." In twenty chapters he undertakes the task of writing about writing about successive chunks of time focusing on all the various 'isms' and artists who have helped transform the art world.
I'm not alone in trying to understand what artists are trying to do. Is it art? What makes it great? In the introduction he offers some ideas to many art lovers' bewilderment of modern and contemporary art.
"The problem this new audience has faced, the problem we all face when encountering a new work of art, is one of comprehension."
Even trained academics and those who work within the art world at museums or galleries often feel daunted when seeing a new work for the first time and can feel intimidated by it. Gompertz says the real issue isn't whether a work of art if "good or bad--time will undertake that job on our behalf."
"It is more a question of understanding where and why it fits into modern art history."
The key to understanding and appreciating modern (spanning 1860s to 1970s) and contemporary art (art being produced by artists who are still alive) is seeing how it all fits together and how it evolved over time.
"Each movement, each 'ism', is intricately connected, one leading to another like links in a chain. But they all have their own individual approaches, distinct styles and methods of making art, which are the culmination of a wide variety of influences: artistic, political, social and technological."
I think art parallels literature and music, too, and it would be interesting to see how everything even relates to each other (but that is a whole different project, I think). Gompertz begins with Marcel Duchamp's famous 1917 'readymade' sculpture, "The Fountain". In a very breezy and chatty (and wholly accessible) way, he explains why Duchamp's urinal (keeping in mind that the artist liked to play on words and poke fun at the pomposity of the art world) has become "the single most influential artwork created in the twentieth century."
Duchamp was poking fun at the establishment, at the rules laid down by them, at the conservatism of attitude towards modern art. He wanted to enter it into the 1917 Independents Exhibition (Duchamp was himself a member of the organizing committee), but he entered it under a pseudonym. Fountain was meant to be confrontational and stir up how art was made and thought of.
"Duchamp thought it was for artists to decide what was and was not a work of art. His position was that if an artist said something was a work of art, having influenced its context and meaning, then it was a work of art. He realized that although this was a fairly simple proposition to grasp, it could cause a revolution in the art world."
Hence his buying something so mundane as a porcelain urinal and attempting to enter it into an art exhibit. The medium was secondary to the idea behind it. Previously the medium came first and an artist would project his or her idea on to it through painting, drawing or sculpting.
"The Art is in the idea, not the object."
The amusing thing is that original urinal was rejected as an entry and no longer exists. It (or a quickly made reproduction) was photographed by Alfred Stieglitz and so the idea was out there and could not be unmade.
"Duchamp redefined what art was and could be."
So . . . revolutionary! Duchamp may have had a hand in changing the course of art history, but he didn't start it. For that we need to back to the pre-Impressionists, which is where the next chapter will take me. And if I get to it in the coming week, on to the Impressionists. I'm hoping to read a chapter or two each week and then write about my readings in some way--mostly for myself to sort out all those concepts and ideas and maybe help keep them straight and firmly planted in my mind. I think it is going to be a very interesting journey.
For me art is like books--how could I live without them? There is something soothing to spend time in a gallery filled with beautiful, interesting, provocative (well, fill in the blank since there are as many types of works as their are stories in books). I need a break--some sort of mini vacation, but as I am not about to have one soon, looking at art is almost just as good since it takes me outside of myself for a little while.
I spent a little time in the gift shop as well and came across their display of upcoming reads for their Visualizing Literature book club. I attended one of their meetings last fall and was hoping to continue on but they no longer meet in the evenings and only in the mornings when I am at work, which is such a pity as I really enjoyed the discussion. I can still take advantage of the books they select and maybe read along on my own. In May they are discussing The Other Rembrandt by Alex Connor, which sounds like a fun thriller. In September What Are You Looking At by Will Gompertz (and which I think I may have to buy after reading about it) is their choice and in November Tara Conklin's The House Girl, which as you see I brought home with me along with the exhibit catalog.
The Conklin novel will come in handy as I am working on a few summer reading plans (I'll be telling you about them soon), and The House Girl will fit in nicely.
I do plan on attending a lecture later this week that sounded interesting, The Coming Storm: The Civil War and American Art, which happily is taking place in the evening. Something to look forward to. A little perk of being a member is being able to attend all of their talks and events for free.
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I just discovered that Downton Abbey is now filming season six, which is to be their last season. While there is much to be said about knowing when it's time to leave the party, I will be sad to see it end.
Last night the first episode of Wolf Hall, which is based on Hilary Mantel's books (as yet unread by me) aired. It looked good, though I was trying to finish other things so I only watched with half an eye and ear and missed much of the detail. I had wanted to read the books first in any case, but I suspect it won;t really matter if I have seen the TV adaptation before reading the books.
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I'm afraid it is going to be another busy week, and I feel like I am starting it off already tired (shouldn't weekends be all about resting and catching up on real life? What happened!). A vacation day or two might be in order soon. A lazy day filled with books. If you saw the state of my reading pile, you would understand just what an understatement that is.
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One more question. The absolute last thing I need to even consider is picking up a new book, but in anticipation and thinking about new reads is really okay . . . Can someone suggest a good book that has romantic elements, a love story as part of the plot but isn't a Romance? I don't tend to read Romance novels, but I am very much in the mood for a story along the lines of something that Clare Chambers, or Chandra Prasad or Eva Rice has written. I could just reread one of these authors but it is always nice to discover new stories.
I love the idea of graphic novels but for some reason I rarely read them. When I discovered that my local art museum not only has a quarterly bookclub, Visualizing Literature, that crosses art with books and that they were reading Art Spiegelman's Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to read along. I'm so glad I did--both to read a classic of the genre as well as a prize winning story (Spiegelman won the Pulitzer for the second book--the first graphic novel to do so) but also to compare the book with artwork that is on display in the museum. How cool be able to enjoy and appreciate two things I love most. And as art and literature are in so many ways related and intertwined anyway the experience of both is all the more rich.
The group met last week and as it has turned bitterly cold here so quickly, there were only a few readers in attendance but the discussion was a good one. Maus is such a groundbreaking book (rather set of books) in so many ways. Spiegelman began the comic strip in the late 1970s. I believe he published a shortened version of his father's experiences during the Holocaust in comic book format in order for him to come to terms, to try and understand what his father went through as well as try and understand his own emotions. It seems as though Art had a somewhat rocky relationship with his father, and that is quite apparent from the 'characters' in the story. Is this purely biography? That is how it seems to be categorized, but with so much nonfiction I think surely there must be other fictionalized elements in the storytelling as well. I say characters, but they are based on actual people, but using animals to depict the various groups of individuals.
The comic strips were serialized and published as an insert in Raw and then later published as a book and then a sequel in the 1990s. I think it must have been one of the first graphic novels--and perhaps one of the first to be used as a text in schools. Now graphic novels are commonplace and are a thriving genre of their own. It was noted in our discussion as we were looking at the artwork on display that graphic novels differ from comics in that the story is complete in itself. It tells a full story, whereas comics are serialized with each brief story ending in a cliffhanger in order to draw the reader back again and again.
I suspect I am coming to these books very late in the game and many of you will already have read the novels or be familiar with them. Maus covers the period just before WWII and as the war began. His father was born in Poland and had a thriving business when war broke out. He was married and they had a child, a son. For some time they were able to continue their lives but as the war continued it became increasingly impossible for Jews to live any sort of life. The Spiegelmans tried to hide but eventually were caught and sent to concentration camps.
In Maus II the years they spent trying to survive in the camps and their lives after are the subject. The telling of the story by Art is part of the story, his search for answers to what his parents went through. So this is almost a story within the story. He captures everything so well--his own confusion as the son of a survivor, and the son of a man with a difficult personality. The two often clashed. And I don't think I am giving anything away--Art was also trying to come to terms with his mother's suicide. He captures it all so very well--those uncertainties, the horrors of the war, how his parents managed to survive against all odds. He moves between past and present, telling the story of how he tried to learn about his parent's history, his writing of the 'cartoons' and the struggles he had with his father.
It must have been an unusual way to tell a story of the Holocaust when it first came out, but it is also a very accessible way as well. The visuals add to the storytelling, and it's all the more telling in the animals he choose to represent the people--the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, non-Jewish Poles as pigs and so on. Those visuals tell a story in themselves. It's a perfect book to choose for a bookclub as there is so much about it to discuss and think about. The lady who led the discussion had read parts of MetaMaus: A Look Inside the Modern Classic, which is the story behind the books, which added to the discussion. Now, of course, I have to get my hands on that book as well.
I suspect it was planned, but the discussion coincided with a current exhibit that just opened at the museum, Bam! It's a Picture Book: The Art Behind Graphic Novels. I took more pictures (I stopped by the museum over the weekend to spend more time checking out the whole exhibit) than I can share here, but I do have a few highlights.
All the graphic artists in the Bam! exhibit are great, but I have to share Jarrett J. Krosoczka's wonderful Lunch Lady series of books which feature a crime fighting lunch lady and as you can see in the upper photo, one of the stories takes place in the school library. I thought you would appreciate that one! (You know I'll be checking these books out).
Next we moved on to some works in the permanent collecting starting with John Steuart Curry's 1931 painting "The Manhunt".
And compared and contrasted it with Grant Wood's very idyllic 1930 "Stone City".
And then on to a sculpture I have walked past many, many times but must admit have never stopped to look at properly, Solon Borglum's 1901 work "Our Slave". (I think I have always thought this one was so painfully sad which is why I don't stop to spend time with it).
And finally to Roger Shimomura's 1985 "Untitled", which I believe is a fairly recent acquisition and is one of my favorite (and I have several and often go "visit" them) works. We talked about how each related in different ways to Art Spiegelman's books--either because of theme and subject matter or style and technique.
It was such a different way of reading a book and thinking about meaning and how an author expresses him or herself and how it relates to our culture and beliefs and ideas. Needless to say I really enjoyed this experience!
The museum has all sorts of excellent cultural events and I try and take part in them as often as I can. In March the bookclub will be reading Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollack by Henry Adams and I will definitely be reading in anticipation for the next discussion. I've been looking for a way to incorporate my interest in art with my reading and this seems a perfect way. I might even look for other 'extracurricular' books to read in the interim.
Do you remember last month when I was in Fort Worth, Texas I mentioned I saw a really fantastic exhibit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art called Art and Appetite in America? I bought the exhibit catalog (which I have not yet had time to begin reading) and I like to leaf through now and again taking in the works of art. I discovered the artwork of Doris Lee (1905-1983) when I was in Texas. Her 1935 painting Thanksgiving was prominently placed in the exhibit and caught my eye.
I'm not sure what it is about this particular painting but I love it. It is warm and homey and maybe it is just my own fondness for the holiday that makes me return to it again and again. It was this painting that brought her work to attention back in the Thirties. It won first prize at the Art Institute of Chicago. Apparently the wife of one of the benefactors was critical of it. So what did the Art Institute do? They acquired it for their permanent collection. No doubt that helped put her on the map (and it just goes to show you that maybe all publicity (even of the bad sort) really is good publicity.
I have not been able to find very much written about her or any books solely about her art--other than a small exhibition catalog and a children's book she illustrated. I have amassed my information via interlibrary loan and as most of the material is due to be returned, I thought I would share a little of what I found (and have a nice record of it all for myself here).
Top: Under the Royal Poinciano Tree Middle: Spring Dancers Bottom: Fox and Geese
Aren't these great? They are a bit folksy-ish in style, of which I am a great fan. I have not found much written about her, but I did come across this:
"Doris Lee is a well-known realistic painter whose name is associated with the Woodstock art colony--she was president of the Woodstock Artists Association in 1952. Lee acquired early recognition as an aritst in 1935 when she received first prize and the Logan Gold Medal in the American Artists Annual at the Art Institute of Chicago and won two mural commissions in the first competition sponsored by the United States Treasury Department." (from American Women Artists 1830-1930).
My search for her work and for writings about her and her paintings shall continue!
You probably already know this, but art books? Even when they are paperbacks, they are really heavy to carry. If I had room in my suitcase I would have packed them away, but I had already stuffed my class binder into my luggage, so my backpack had to do extra duty carrying all the books I bought. I shouldn't have but I did, and now that they are safely here at home with me I am glad I did.
I loved the museums so much that I had to bring home mementos as I am not sure I will ever get another chance to go back. Most of the books came from The Kimball Museum: Kimball Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection, A Time and a Place: Near Sydenham Hill by Camille Pissarro by Kathleen Adler, and they gave me a freebie booklet, The Kimball at 40: An Evolving Masterpiece which is from an exhibit a few years back. The handbook is a guide to the collection though it gives only the briefest overview of the architecture (which I want to read more about). The Adler book is about the Pissarro painting Near Sydenham Hill, which is lovely (why didn't I take a photo of it?).
I don't often buy art books these days, so these were a real treat for me.
These are the sorts of books I buy these days. I bought them at the Tattered Cover in the Denver Airport. I have always wanted to visit the Tattered Cover, but so far this is the closest I have come. Does four books seem like a lot? It probably is, but I left with an even longer list of books to add to my wishlist.
I read and enjoyed The Magnificent Ambersons several years ago so was tempted by the reissue of Alice Adams set in "a small Midwestern town in the wake of WWI". I might have to read this next. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman's Charleston setting was the selling point for this book. Actually it is set in Charleston (a city I loved when I visited some years ago--have always wanted to go back) and rural Kentucky. A political thriller set in London's financial district? Caught my eye, House of Cards by Michael Dobbs (which I see is a Netflix series). And another blogger suggested Deborah Feldman's Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots to me. I see she has a new book out, too, but I will start with this memoir.
I shared the books I was taking with me, and save for the book by Louise Doughty (which I decided not to start after all), I managed to make progress in the other books that tagged along. I am making slow byt steady progress in Balzac (finally have started part three), am working on Burial Rites still, but mostly read Jojo Moyes's Me Before You. I have to admit that I was expecting something light and fluffy, but it is turning out to be a much more somber read than I expected. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it, as I am now expecting the ending to be bittersweet rather than cheery and uplifting (perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised?). Of course I think, too, the story is getting tied in my mind to my feeling of malaise while I was away, which is unfair to the book, but whatever the outcome the writing is good as is the story--very engaging and a page turner.
Oh, I even managed to do a little bit of stitching while away. I am even going to share a little something with you tomorrow. Hopefully by week's end I'll be all sorted out. I must say, however nice it is to travel and see new things, I am happy to be home again amongst my piles of books.
I'm back from Fort Worth, Texas where I was attending a library conference. This is a mural in Sundance Square in Downtown Fort Worth, a really lovely area where I walked every evening window shopping and just enjoying the nice weather (I expected it to be really hot, but it was unseasonably cool--meaning it wasn't in the 90s every day).
That's the upside of my trip. The downside is that Friday-ish I was hit by a stomach bug from which I have unfortunately not yet recovered. Thankfully I was able to attend my class with no problem as it took place earlier in the week. I managed to attend all the conference sessions I wanted to, but traveling home on Saturday was absolutely miserable. It is no fun flying when you are feeling nauseous.
Best not to dwell on that. I have a few photos to share, though. I'll be catching up on comments and emails in the next few days. And hopefully the gurgling in my stomach will cease very soon and I can get back to my bookish posts as I have several books I want to write about.
I got a kick out of this guy. Considering how many stores selling cowboy gear I saw in their downtown, he fit right in with the area.
Thanks to Iliana for suggesting I visit the local museums in Fort Worth. They were indeed amazing and so worth seeking out. I didn't have a lot of free time so had to choose carefully what I could go see. In their Cultural District are several museums very close together. This (above) is the Kimball Art Museum. The building was designed by Louis I. Kahn, and I think the space is really gorgeous. It's very light and airy and very inviting. The sculpture above is by Joan Miró called "Woman Addressing the Public". Isn't she great?
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is amazing, too. I could have spent a whole day there, though the gallery is not overly large. They have a wonderful collection of art, however. The main exhibit, which I was so happy to see, was Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture and Cuisine. It was fascinating to see the juxtaposition of so many different paintings over the centuries and see how food is viewed and what it means from both artistic and sociological perspectives. I walked through the exhibit three times! Unfortunately photography was not allowed in the exhibit, so the photos above are from their galleries of permanent art.
And last but not least is the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which I wish I had had more time to spend looking around. I was introduced, however, to a new-to-me artist, David Bates, who I now need to read more about. There is a pond outside the museum and I also saw a raft (is that the proper term for a group?) of ducks--the momma and her newborn ducklings, which was somehow very fitting (and way too cute).
Despite bringing home an unwanted bug, it was a good experience and I had a mostly really good time in Fort Worth. And I shouldn't have, but I did . . . are you curious if I brought home books? Dare you ask? Of course. I'll save those for tomorrow.
Over the weekend I visited my local art museum to see an exhibit of ancient Greek artifacts called Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult and Daily life, which was excellent. I happened to arrive just as a tour was beginning. It's amazing how much more you can get out of an exhibit to hear the museum docent talk about the art. I enjoyed it so much I couldn't resist buying the exhibit catalog. The essays in it look really interesting, plus there are loads of photos not just of the pieces included in the exhibit but also of where they would have been found and how they would have been used.
This is my favorite piece. It is a Black-Figure Lekythos: Octopus and three dolphins, flanked by kneeling man and youth, Sphinx between youths. Greek, Attic, ca 540-530 BC. It's smallish, only 17 cm. tall. I think it would have been used for oil or for garum perhaps? Garum was hugely popular with the Greeks--it is a fermented fish sauce--fish being the staple in the Greek diet. (Garum doesn't sound all that tempting to me, but I guess it was very healthy and protein-rich.
I also love this vase, Black-Figure, White-Ground Hydria (Kalpsis): Theseus slaying the Minotaur, Greek, Attic ca. 490-480 BC, 20 cm. The docent talked about the myth it depicts, which I remember from my own reading a couple of years ago. It certainly brings literature and Mythology to life--very cool to see something someone made and used thousands of years ago.
I was tempted by other books in the museum gift shop, but I contented myself with writing down titles and then ordering them online with a gift card. I now have Mary Renault's The King Must Die and The Library of Greek Mythology by Apollodorus winging their way to me. The former is a retelling of the Theseus myth and the latter is a work from Classical Antiquity, which is a sourcebook of Greek Mythology--and hopefully won't be too hard going--I'm not sure I have ever read anything that old.
I'm very excited about my finds and the exhibit catalog. I plan on going back through the exhibit again a few times as it will be here through May. If nothing else than to visit my little Octopus vase. Reading the essays in the catalog, too, will make my visits much richer and shed more light on what I am seeing. Somehow this makes me feel a little nerdish, but in a good way.
Poseidon was interesting, but snow? Not so much. I don't have a very nice view outside my window. My neighborhood is pretty shabby really. I would have gone in search of something more appealing to look at, but it was just too cold. Although we didn't get as much snow as was forecast (thank goodness for small favors), we have not escaped the cold.
Here's a view outside another window. I assure you there really is a view! But you wouldn't know that as it is so cold the window (facing northwest) is completely frosted over. Brr. I only left the house to drop recyclables into their bin yesterday. I wish I could show you something prettier. And maybe green. I don't know about you, but I am tired of grey, dreary days. Someday soon I am going to buy myself a pot of tulips.
Here is a much more satisfying photo. I stayed inside for much of the weekend. After my museum visit I played the homebody and actually it was sort of nice. I did lots of reading. Short stories, a few books from my night table pile, and even started an ARE that I think is going to be a very good read. The New York Review of Books and TLS both had lots of good articles--newly discovered works by Katherine Mansfield, works by Fay Weldon (high on my list of authors to try), Scottish Independence (am very interested in this but have heard not read much about it in the blogosphere), an essay by Michael Dirda, retellings or books about One Thousand and One Nights (a book I really want to read someday) . . . I love both newspapers and wish I had more time to devote to reading them cover to cover--mostly I just cherry pick the articles that looks most interesting and do lots of skimming otherwise. I usually can't bear to recycle them (until the piles get too cumbersome).
And then there are always new books. Is it possible to think about books too much? I probably do so. I think about what I've finished reading, what I have going, and what I want to read soon. As a matter of fact it is a continuous migration of books in my house. From bookshelf or bookpile to nightstand, kitchen table, desk where my computer sits . . . sometimes a book gets slipped into my bookbag to accompany me to work. Not sure which new books I might start this week, but I always have a mental list going. Since it is March I want to read something "Irish" and as Margaret Atwood is coming to Omaha next month I should really read something by her in anticipation. It's weekend like this one that make Mondays so bearable!