Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Glass Room, Pt. 2

"In the past houses have grown organically, like plants, from the ground upwards. But this house is different: it grows from the frame outwards, like an idea developing into a work of art from the central core of inspiration out in the material fact of realization. Cement mixers churn and vomit."
- Simon Mawer, p. 46

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Speaking of normal artists...

I am not sure whether or not I have posted here about Penelope Fitzgerald before, but I need to do so again regardless.
She has won the Booker Prize and has been nominated for it four times in total. I discovered her entirely haphazardly. I was browsing a used bookstore and picked up a paperback by the same publisher that publishes Byatt's fiction. I looked down and there was a laudatory quote by Byatt for this author. I bought the book. I tried reading it several times over the next four or five years, but could never get into it. Later on I found more mentions of this Penelope Fitzgerald, so I tried to give her another chance with another book of hers (The Bookstore). I LOVED it. Since then I have become a fan of her fiction, without knowing much about her as a person. 

Recently I picked up her published letters, So I Have Thought of You. I have so far read the two introductions and just begun the letters themselves, but am already dying to read the rest. 

Her son-in-law is the compiler and editor of the volume. He writes:

No woman is a hero to her son-in-law, and yet, when I first came across this book [The Bookshop, Pf's first novel] (till then unaware of its very existence) lying in bound-proof form on her kitchen table, where it had been written, and tool advantage of Penelope's temporary absence to read it in one sitting, I did have a sense of 'What? And in out house?' I had no doubt that this was the real thing, and still feel grateful for the stole privilege of being one of the first people to read it. Ever after that Penelope had an extra dimension of mystery to me. I immediately wrote her a note to express my amazed and delighted appreciation; it would have been too embarrassing to confess in person. I was touched, much later, to come across the never-referred-to note among her papers in Texas. 

I thought this was a particularly English (and hysterical) note. But he goes on to describe PF as predominately concerned with her family, and her struggles as an artist of integrity. 

She wrote this beautiful poem for her daughters when they both left for university:

'Autumn: Departure of Daughters'

Oh my dark & light brown daughters
When you go to find new faces
Our place & me are put in our places
Our place my take what name it please --
It stares & stares, and all it sees is
That it is not a home. 
Oh my dark & light brown daughters
When you go to find new places
Our place must face that it has no faces --
Tidiness, emptiness and peace is
All it has, and all it sees is
That it is not a home

PF is delightful, terse, witty, and unflinching. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Portraying the Gilded Age

My mom and I recently attended the Smithsonian Resident Associate program entitled, "Portraying the Gilded Age." It was hosted at the Willard Hotel in DC, and featured a themed luncheon as well. The hotel was the perfect place to host the lectures, as it was built at the height of the Gilded Age, and is still a gorgeous example of that sort of architecture. (Btw, it would also be an awesome place to attend a high tea). It was quite interesting. The artists featured were  William Merritt Chase, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Cecilia Beaux. I realized, after speaking with the others at our table, that everyone's favorite is Sargent! Most fascinating to me was actually William Merritt Chase. I don't know much about him, but what was of particular interest (besides his beautiful paintings), was the fact that he was happily married with children! I always like to find examples of normal artists! haha.

[Props to my rockin' husband, btw, for taking all three kids for the entire day, and to the wonderful people at the Willard for providing me a private place to pump!!]

Friday, April 16, 2010

English Home Magazine

After the demise of Domino, I have been in search of a new decor magazine that inspired me. I finally found it. It is The English Home, American edition. I picked up a bunch of magazines for my recent time in the hospital, and this was one of them.

I thought it would just be a pastoral look-through, but I began reading the articles, and found  myself reading every single one. Unlike most American design mags, the pictures are actually supplemental to the very interesting and articulate articles (instead of being almost entirely the point). Even articles that would have been consumerist filler in other home magazines, were actually fascinating little pieces--it took me quite off guard. For example, an article on the development of 1950s design and colors was not just an fluffy homage to trendy mid-century pieces, but an actual discussion of the place, & technical and economic development of design after the war.

Currently they are publishing a series on the use of specific colors and their design history (including the development of pigments, dyes, and other mechanical reproduction of colors for cloth and paper). The feature historic houses and current uses of the color, as well as their affect on other colors. They have done green and yellow so far.

(I will say however, it still does not replace Domino really! for new ideas, and inspiration. I am learning a lot though).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Snack Time

So G loves listening to books and stories on cd in her room (it's a great break for me as well!), but we have gone over and over the ones that we already have--so I went searching for some of the stories that I remember from when I was growing up.

Susan Hammond has recorded some great stories featuring classical music composers in stories (called "Classical Kids"). They are really fun stories, with kids as the main character, and get at the time period and play the composers music. It may seem uber-educational, but they are not--they are really just fun dramatized stories. My favorite is Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery. Also great is the Classical Kids Christmas (It retells the Christmas story, as well as many other classic folk tales related to Christmas-time, including the World War I story of Joyeux Noel). For some reason Amazon only has the cd format. However, iTunes has all of the titles available for download in MP3 format for $9.99.

I am still looking for the Scheherazad that I grew up on!

Bare Naked Ladies' Snacktime is really a fun find. It's classic BNL--with their hysterically witty lyrics and same BNL sound. My favorite song so far is Ninjas. ELRJ reviews a kids' jazz cd here, that I have not yet picked up.