Friday, September 30, 2011

Two Artists

These two novels by Susan Vreeland are fictional glimpses into the lives of two very different painters.  The Impressionist Auguste Renoir, painting in late 19th century France and Artemisia Gentileschi ( 1593 - 1653), one of the few women painters of post-Renaissance Italy to achieve success in her lifetime.

The Passion of Artemisia is the story of a young woman who, in spite of rape, betrayal, and  discrimination, makes her way in the hitherto all-male world of painting.  It's a compelling account and helps to explain the violent subject matter of her most famous painting, 'Judith slaying  Holofernes.'
Artimesia's story has the drama but Vreeland's account of the creation of Renoir's best known painting, 'The Luncheon of the Boating Party,' made me smell the oil paint.
 As I followed Renoir through the difficulties of assembling so many people to pose for this picture and the different choices he made in the composition, as well as  the various stages over a period of weeks of completing this piece, I became familiar with each face in the painting, with the clothing, the food on the table, even the shades of color in the white table cloth. 
This is a wonderful lesson in how to look at a painting and I recommend it enthusiastically!

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Cry Chaos

More serendipity in my life. I received a copy of this recently released novel, sent, evidently by an intern who was using last year's list for the Edgar committees. As a person who's just admitted to reading crummy books picked out of the recycling, of course I gave this one a try.

All Cry Chaos is the first of a series featuring veteran Interpol agent Henri Poincare ( great grandson and namesake of the famous mathematician.)
Library Journal says: "Weaving fractals and chaos theory into an international mystery that also confronts great moral and theological questions, Rosen crafts a literate, complex tale. Highly recommended."

Oh, yes! I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more in the series. And although I am totally not a math type person, I do love learning new things. I was enchanted with the peek at fractals  -- a concept I'd only heard of. So enchanted that I'm looking for them everywhere now -- in ferns, in the patterns atop a pot of broth. . .

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Call It Serendipity . . .

when I use the wrong camera setting and get a picture that is a black oblong . . . 

but which, tweaked with Fill Light and Auto Contrast,

turns out to be something strange and lovely. . .
perhaps a fairy's-eye view of Nature.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Dumpster Reading

At the dumpsters (aka Recycling Center) last week I was putting my mixed paper into the big bin and right there on top were some books.

I couldn't resist.

First of all was my old friend Nancy Drew who, in this incarnation has teamed up with the Hardy Boys and they, along with her ever-faithful boy friend, Ned Nickerson (those two have been dating since the 1930's and I don't think Ned has gotten to second base yet,) and her girl pals Bess and George are having a beach party on Padre Island.

I grew up on a combination of the early Nancy Drew's along with the Fifties version and I was a little surprised by the romance novels elements that have crept into the 1989 version. Nancy, that minx, has unresolved feelings toward one of the Hardy boys and is a bit of a flirt with another guy. The cover should have been a giveaway. 
Then I picked up a little clutch of Christian apocalyptic books.  W. G. Heslop was predicting doom back in 1937 (if I'm reading those Roman numerals correctly.) Ron Parsley's books are more recent --1990 and 1992.
But what I want to know is why these books were discarded rather than passed on to someone who might be receptive to their message.  Did the previous owner decide the books were useless? Or was he/she caught up in a kind of pre-Rapture Rapture and the books tossed in the recycle bin by skeptical family members who were left behind.

Inquiring minds want to know...

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Early Autumn Colors

Oak leaf
Tulip poplar leaf
Pokeweed berries
Maple leaf
Swallow tail Butterfly on Lobelia

Pineapple Sage bloom (below)
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Living Language

"The living language is like a cow-path: it is the creation of the cows themselves who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to their whims or needs. From daily use, the path undergoes change. A cow is under no obligation to stay."

E.B White

I love White's image. As a writer, I find that I need to travel many paths in order to tell the story as it should be told. The main path -- that well-traveled one labeled Correct English Usage -- is the one I try to stick to for the narrative portions of my writing.

I may unintentionally stray now and then, as I slip into the comfortable Southern idiom of my upbringing, but generally I aim for the English teacher's ideal -- grammatical, with word usage and punctuation as close to standard as I can make them.

Occasionally I rebel. For example, my spell-checker, my dictionary, and my copy-editor all tell me that Realtor must always be capitalized. I disagree, feeling that it gives the word too much importance in a sentence (sorry, Sallie Kate) and continue to make it lower-case.

When I'm writing dialogue, those alternative paths of slang and dialect are crucial to making characters, with all their differences of age, education, and upbringing, come alive. I dearly enjoy exploring those side paths of language. Here again, I test my copy-editor's patience with my use of the North Carolina mountain talk as I've heard it.

The dialect is not one-size-fits-all -- some older characters may use atter and hit, their children will say after and it, and both generations will say you uns. Or perhaps y'uns -- it seems to differ from family to family. Elizabeth, from the South, though not the mountains, says you all (which my poor long-suffering copy editor wants to hyphenate or change to y'all.

I just change it back, being, as White says, under no obligation to stay.

This is a repost from 1/08.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Autunal Equinox

Sun rise at center 
Of the eastern horizon. . .
Day and night balance . . . 

A fleeting moment
On the celestial scales . . .
The great wheel creaks on.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Questions Remain

After a last minute delay of the scheduled execution, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal for a stay of execution for Troy Davis.
The questions remain... about this case and about the death penalty in general. 

 Interesting company the US is in.

"An estimated 139 countries have completely abolished the death penalty. China has by far the most number of executions annually with estimates running in the thousands, although the exact number is hard to pinpoint because of the country's self-reporting mechanisms, Amnesty International reports. Number two on that list is Iran, which executed more than 380 prisoners in 2009. The U.S. comes in fifth on that list, behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia."
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


 In all probability, Troy Davis will be executed tonight. Amnesty International and numerous others have called for clemency, citing the weakness of the case against him.  Nonetheless, Georgia's State Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied the petition.

There have be far too many cases in the USA of innocence determined after execution. Will this be another?

A dark day for the land of the free --  'with liberty and justice for all.'
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