A Pairing: Emily Dickinson + Lesley Dill

throat

Lesley Dill, Throat (1994)

 

I am afraid to own a Body—
I am afraid to own a Soul—
Profound—precarious Property—
Possession, not optional—

Double Estate—entailed at pleasure
Upon an unsuspecting Heir—
Duke in a moment of Deathlessness
And God, for a Frontier.

– Emily Dickinson

A Pairing: Zhang Daqian + Carl Adamshick

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Zhang Daqian, Peach Blossom Spring (1982)

I love incorrectly.

There is a solemnity in hands,
the way a palm will curve in
accordance to a contour of skin,
the way it will release a story.

This should be the pilgrimage.
The touching of a source.
This is what sanctifies.

This pleading. This mercy.
I want to be a pilgrim to everyone,
close to the inaccuracies, the astringent
dislikes, the wayward peace, the private
words. I want to be close to the telling.
I want to feel everyone whisper.

After the blossoming I hang.
The encyclical that has come
through the branches
instructs us to root, to become
the design encapsulated within.

Flesh helping stone turn tree.

I do not want to hold life
at my extremities, see it prepare
itself for my own perpetuation.
I want to touch and be touched
by things similar in this world.

I want to know a few secular days
of perfection. Late in this one great season
the diffused morning light
hides the horizon of sea. Everything
the color of slate, a soft tablet
to press a philosophy to.

– “Confessions of an Apricot”, Carl Adamshick (2011)

Book Review: The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts, Maja Säfström

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If you’ve been following along for a while, you know how much I love animal facts, illustrations, and reading nonfiction. The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts caught my eye the moment I saw it online. Maja Säfström is a Stockholm based architect and illustrator, and her style consists of fun, simple black and white drawings. Her new book is 120 pages of black and white illustrations accompanied by some facts, about 2-3 facts per animal. If you read as many animal facts as I do, you probably won’t learn anything new from this book, but to be honest, this isn’t the kind of book that you pick up to learn new things. I did learn a few new things though, like did you know that cockroaches don’t like to eat cucumbers and bees don’t sleep?

I think this book could actually make a pretty fun coloring book, so I will probably plan on doodling in it or maybe giving it to a friend’s daughter. Säfström also sells greeting cards, postcards, tea towels, etc, with her illustrations. I’m not a huge fan of decorative books or coffee table books, so I would recommend buying other things over buying her book since they also have a practical aspect. But if you’re a fan of looking at pretty things, this may be right up your alley.

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I’d recommend this book to people who like trivia, people who follow illustrators on Instagram, and people whose living rooms look like an Ikea catalogue.

Additional Resources:

  • I would like to thank Blogging for Books for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
  • Check out Maja Säfström’s website here.
  • Buy the book here.

 

A Pairing: Hieronymus Bosch + Linda Pastan

garden of earthly delights

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-1515)

 

In the end we are no more than our own stories:
mine a few brief passages in the Book,
no further trace of plot or dialogue.
But I once had a lover no one noticed
as he slipped through the pages, through
the lists of those begotten and begetting.
Does he remember our faltering younger selves,
the pleasures we took while Adam,
a good bureaucrat, busied himself
with naming things, even after Eden?
What scraps will our children remember of us
to whom our story is simple
and they themselves the heroes of it?

I woke that first day with Adam for company,
and the tangled path I would soon follow
I’ve tried to forget: the animals, stunned
at first in the forest; the terrible, beating wings
of the angel; the livid curse of childbirth to come.
And then the children themselves,
loving at times, at times unmerciful.
Because of me there is just one narrative
for everyone, one indelible line from birth to death,
with pain or lust, with even love or murder
only brief diversions, subplots.

But what I think of now,
in the final bitterness of age,
is the way the garden groomed itself
in the succulent air of summer—each flower
the essence of its own color; the way even
the serpent knew it had a part it had to play, if
there were to be a story at all.

– “Eve on Her Deathbed”, Linda Pastan (2010)

A Pairing: Winslow Homer + E.E. Cummings

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Winslow Homer, Incoming Tide, Scarboro Maine (1883)

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

- "maggie and milly and molly and may" by E. E. Cummings (1956)

The Watercolor Course You’ve Always Wanted

watercolor

I’ve dabbled a little in watercolors for a few years and really enjoy them, but I’ve never had guided lessons or a book to follow until recently (Jessica bought me some great books for my birthday last year). I’ve always thought I could make faster progress if I had some instruction or guidance, so I was naturally interested in this book.

The Watercolor Course You’ve Always Wanted is by Leslie Frontz, an experienced artist and teacher who says the book is to be like a workshop in book format that

… guides everyone – absolute beginners as well as seasoned artists – beyond the basics.

The title of the book along with that introduction gave me pretty high expectations and as a result, I was a little unimpressed with the content. The book is divided into several chapters that the author suggests you read in sequential order, but if you aren’t a total beginner, I’m not sure it’s necessary. The seven chapters cover topics such as materials, shapes, values, colors, ‘the fundamentals of line’, textures, and mood.

Continue reading

A Pairing: Jack Gilbert + Sarah Charlesworth

sarah charlesworth.jpg

Sarah Charlesworth, Doubleworld, 2015 (photo: Benoit Pailley)

 

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Jack Gilbert, Failing and Flying

A Pairing: Diego Rivera + Jack Gilbert

calla.jpgDiego Rivera, Nude with Calla Lilies, 1944

I came back from the funeral and crawled
around the apartment, crying hard,
searching for my wife’s hair.
For two months got them from the drain,
from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,
and off the clothes in the closet.
But after other Japanese women came,
there was no way to be sure which were
hers, and I stopped. A year later,
repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find
a long black hair tangled in the dirt.

– Jack Gilbert, Married

The Pulitzer Project: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (1921)

the pulitzer project

I’m reading my way through the Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists! I’ve just recently finished reading The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, the recipient of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.

This award was quite controversial, because the Pulitzer Jury did not actually recommend this book as the winner. The Jury discussed Sinclair Lewis’ book Main Street, but the chairman deemed it to be too vicious and vengeful. Instead, he proposed giving “no award” because he said “All the novels I have read recently are lacking in style, workmanship. I cannot vote a prize to any of them.” However, the Board disagreed and decided by a split vote to award The Age of Innocence, which was had been very intentionally passed over by the Jury. Although the public was outraged at the time, I think The Age of Innocence has stood the test of time, and I found it a worthy recipient of the Prize.

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A Brief Summary*: This book follows Newland Archer, a young man in New York’s high society. Newland is to be engaged to May Welland when May’s cousin, Ellen Ollenska, arrives in New York followed by scandal and gossip. Newland becomes intrigued by Ellen, “who flouts New York society’s fastidious rules. As Newland’s admiration for the countess grows, so does his doubt about marrying May, a perfect product of Old New York society; his match with May no longer seems the ideal fate he had imagined.”

Fun Fact: It is thought that the title of the book was inspired by Sir Joshua Reynold’s 1785 painting, The Age of Innocence.

The Age of Innocence ?1788 by Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792

Setting: New York City

Time Period: 1870s – 1900s

Review: I found this book much more enjoyable than my first attempt at reading Edith Wharton earlier this year (I read Ethan Frome). The characters were much more human and fully developed than in Ethan Frome. Also, unlike the previous two winners of the Pulitzer, I didn’t think this book was too didactic or over-the-top pushing any type of agenda. Instead, I found The Age of Innocence a smart social commentary that examines the constraints of society in the 1870s. It’s a lovely time period, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the outings, opera, and houses.

I especially liked Ellen, who is a tragic but powerful figure; she rebukes the rules of society and has to live with the consequences.(It seems like Ta-Nehisi Coates really liked her too!) I think she is one of the original bad-ass feminists. I have even been thinking a little about whether she helped lay the foundation for the stream of “manic-pixie-dream” girls that have flooded literature and movies today. I don’t know a lot about this trope, but I think Ellen is more human and fully realized than a stereotype. I have a hunch that I’ll be thinking about this for quite some time.

NYTimes Book Review: Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Maybe Ellen Olenska from “The Age of Innocence,” who so understands the tragic limitations of the world, who understands that there is gravity in human relations. “Oh, my dear,” she tells Newland Archer after he proposes flight to another life. “Where is that country?”

I wrestled with whether or not I liked the epilogue for the past week, but I think it works, even if it is not ideal. Without giving away any spoilers, the epilogue flashes forward about twenty-five years and shifts from a very narrow third-person POV to a much wider one. While it threw me off, I think it tied everything together and gave me a lot to think about after I closed the book. However, I don’t think I would call myself an Edith Wharton fan, and I am looking forward to getting through this decade of the Pulitzer winners (is that a terribly harsh thing to say?)

I’d recommend this book to people who liked Anna Karenina but wished there was just a slightly less tragic ending, who like reading books that take place in New York City, and who are always looking for books that realistically portray relationships and the constraints of society.

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Additional Resources:

A Pairing: Leonardo Da Vinci + Ross Gay

da vinci study of horses

Leonardo Da Vinci, Study of Horses, circa 1490

It was dragging my hands along its belly,
loosing the bit and wiping the spit
from its mouth made me
a snatch of grass in the thing’s maw,
a fly tasting its ear.  It was
touching my nose to his made me know
the clover’s bloom, my wet eye to his
made me know the long field’s secrets.
But it was putting my heart to the horse’s that made me know
the sorrow of horses.  The sorrow
of a brook creasing a field.  The maggot
turning in its corpse. Made me
forsake my thumbs for the sheen of unshod hooves.
And in this way drop my torches.
And in this way drop my knives.
Feel the small song in my chest
swell and my coat glisten and twitch.
And my face grow long.
And these words cast off, at last,
for the slow honest tongue of horses.

– Ross Gay, Becoming a Horse