Books: I’ll Give You the Sun

July 20, 2016

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson was July’s selection for our book club at the library. I always wonder, when we get the next month’s book, whether I’ll like it. There has been a lot of variety in the books we’ve read over the past two years, and some have taken much more effort to finish than others. (One I just refused to read after the first twenty pages. As it happened that month’s meeting was cancelled anyway.)

I had left this one to read over the July 4th weekend, reasoning that I would have plenty of time to read and it would be easier to get through a book when I had fewer demands on my time. As it turned out, it was a very easy read, and I got interested enough in the characters that I somewhat reluctantly set it aside when the parade started. (With a son in the marching band, we had to get there way early. Naturally I had a book to read while we waited.)

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Books: The Art Forger

May 8, 2016

I checked The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro out of the library without taking much time to see what it was about, but it was a great choice. I really enjoyed the story, and learning about art along the way.

I probably would not have picked up a book to read about Degas – I’ve never been much of a fan of his paintings. And I had no reason to be interested in the history or methodology of art forgery. I knew that painting styles had changed over time, but I had thought of it primarily in terms of the kind of image created, not the way the brushstrokes are applied.

But I enjoy mysteries, and a mystery involving paintings seemed like a nice change after reading one involving human trafficking. And I’m always interested in learning something new, especially if I learn it in the course of listening to an entertaining story. (This was an audiobook, as a fair number of my book choices are these days.)

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Books: Lisette’s List

September 9, 2015

Having enjoyed Susan Vreeland’s novel Clara and Mr. Tiffany, I decided to try another, Lisette’s List. It is interesting for its depiction of life in a rural village in southern France during the 1940’s, but it did not engage me emotionally nearly as much as Clara and Mr. Tiffany did.

I’m not sure how much that is because of the strong emphasis on art. In Clara and Mr. Tiffany, the art of creating masterpieces from pieces of glass was more about the characters and their love of their craft than it was about the art itself. In Lisette’s List, appreciation of art itself is a major theme.

Perhaps I just find it hard to share the extreme devotion Lisette has to painting and everything to do with it. Perhaps it is because the artists featured in this novel are some whose styles I have trouble appreciating.I don’t dislike the Impressionism of Pisarro but I am not as attracted to it as to some of the older styles. I like some of CĂ©zanne’s Post-Impressionist landscapes but I am unmoved by his still lifes. Read the rest of this entry »


Books: Clara and Mr. Tiffany

December 21, 2014

Trying to decide what to check out next from the library, I read the back of the audiobook Clara and Mr. Tiffany and saw “Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.” As I was not particularly interested in either Tiffany or romance, I looked for something else to listen to during my commute.

But the next time I was back looking for another audiobook (a typical audiobook takes me about two weeks), I decided to give Clara and Mr. Tiffany a try. I’ve been finding most of the historical fiction I’ve been reading (or listening to) quite interesting, including people and period I hadn’t thought I cared about.

So it was with Tiffany lamps and the little-known woman who designed them. Clara Driscoll finds great fulfillment in her work turning Tiffany’s designs into beautiful leaded glass windows. She would also like to find fulfillment in marriage, but Mr. Tiffany has a strict policy against employing married women. So Clara has to choose between love and art.

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Books: People of the Book

October 11, 2014

I looked at this audiobook on at least two other occasions before finally deciding to check it out from the library. I’m not sure what made me hesitate – perhaps the phrase “intimate emotional intensity” on the back of the case.

There different kinds of intimacy and different kinds of emotional intensity, some much more pleasant to read about than others. Some books get too intimate, and even with those that are a level – and kind – of intimacy that I would want to read about, sometimes I shy away from because I want to enjoy my commute, not find myself drawn into the wrenching emotional upheavals of someone else’s life.

But I enjoy historical fiction, and I enjoy books about books. I liked the idea of a mystery surrounding a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript, and the different places in Europe where the book had traveled during its long history. I decided People of the Book was worth checking out.

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I want an ideatriever

May 2, 2014

I always like seeing the entries in Google’s annual Doodle 4 Google contest. This year my attention was drawn to the contest by a facebook post about the entry chosen by the guest judges as the winner for Iowa.

Usually I choose not to participate in online public voting for a favorite – whether it’s helping a student win an art contest or a charity win money. Using social media to attract votes – especially where you can vote over and over – seems to make the contest less about the merit of whatever is being voted for and more of a popularity contest. Even if I like something, I prefer not to participate in that kind of voting.

But I do like to vote for these Doodles, and I would have done it without the facebook post if I had come across a link to the contest elsewhere. (In past years I’ve found it on Google’s search page, but I didn’t notice it this year when public voting started two days ago.)

And I like the Ideatriever Doodle. I like the artwork, and I like the idea behind it, better than the other entries in this age group. I like ideas, and I really like the idea of being about to retrieve ideas that have escaped me. I’ve come up with lots of ideas of things I’d like to write – whether for a story, a blog post, or a speech for Toastmasters, but then by the time I have a chance to write the ideas down I’ve forgotten what seemed like the best of them.

Have fun looking at the different Doodles. And sure, go ahead and vote. Nothing wrong with public voting, if you vote for what you think is best rather than whatever your friends urged you to vote for.


Kitsch or art?

April 5, 2014

I enjoyed reading in the American Profile insert in today’s paper about the sculptures of Seward Johnson. I didn’t even notice, as I was reading, that the very first example is located in Hamilton, New Jersey, where we lived for eight years. Only later, as I was searching online to find out where more of his work is located, did I remember the sculptures outside the public library in Hamilton.

I also realized, as I surfed the web, how much opinions differ about Johnson’s work. The article in American Profile had mentioned that “art critics called his work kitschy and unoriginal,” but that sounded merely dismissive. If something is kitschy, it seems to me that the artist or art critic can simply ignore it.

But I guess art critics are bothered by how much ordinary people like Johnson’s work. Is it because that means less money – and perhaps prestige – will go to those the critics consider true artists? Do they think the public will be less likely to recognize the merits of what they (the critics) consider good art?

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