Thursday, January 2, 2014

A thousand words

Coming in May 2014 (I can't wait!)...

Described on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for pre-order customers:  Girls Standing on Lawns is a unique collaboration between renowned artist and bestselling children’s book author Maira Kalman and New York Times bestselling writer Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket. This clever book contains 40 vintage photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, more than a dozen original paintings by Kalman inspired by the photographs, and brief, lyrical texts by Handler. Poetic and thought-provoking, Girls Standing on Lawns is a meditation on memories, childhood, nostalgia, home, family, and the act of seeing. The gorgeous visual material sets the stage for what Handler succinctly describes as “a photograph, a painting, a sentence, a pose.” Girls, women, families, and even pets from days gone by grace the pages, looking out at us, enticing readers to imagine these people, their lives—and where they have gone.

I love the idea that a picture (photograph or painting) often contains a moment, a story, an entire world. I bought a book years ago, Transforming Vision: Writers on Art,  a delightful collection (pub. 1994) of poems and prose, inspired by familiar art from our country's finest museums. Joyce Carol Oates wrote a wonderful piece on Edward Hopper's painting, Nighthawks:

Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, 1942

Joyce Carol Oates

The three men are fully clothed, long sleeves, even hats, though it's indoors, and brightly lit, and there's a woman. The woman is wearing a short-sleeved red dress cut to expose her arms, a curve of her creamy chest; she's contemplating a cigarette in her right hand, thinking that her companion has finally left his wife but can she trust him? Her heavy-lidded eyes, pouty lipsticked mouth, she has the redhead's true pallor like skim milk, damned good-looking and she guesses she knows it but what exactly has it gotten her so far, and where?--he'll start to feel guilty in a few days, she knows the signs, an actual smell, sweaty, rancid, like dirty socks; he'll slip away to make telephone calls and she swears she isn't going to go through that again, isn't going to break down crying or begging nor is she going to scream at him, she's finished with all that. And he's silent beside her, not the kind to talk much but he's thinking thank God he made the right move at last, he's a little dazed like a man in a dream--IS this a dream?--so much that's wide, still, mute, horizontal, and the counterman in white, stooped as he is and unmoving, and the man on the other stool unmoving except to sip his coffee; but he's feeling pretty good, it's primarily relief, this time he's sure as hell going to make it work, he owes it to her and to himself, Christ's sake. And she's thinking the light in this place is too bright, probably not very flattering, she hates it when her lipstick wears off and her makeup gets caked, she'd like to use a ladies' room but there isn't one here and Jesus how long before a gas station opens?--it's the middle of the night and she has a feeling time is never going to budge. This time though she isn't going to demean herself--he starts in about his wife, his kids, how he let them down, they trusted him and he let them down, she'll slam out of the goddamned room and if he calls her SUGAR or BABY in that voice, running his hands over her like he has the right, she'll slap his face hard, YOU KNOW I HATE THAT: STOP! And he'll stop. He'd better. The angrier she gets the stiller she is, hasn't said a word for the past ten minutes, not a strand of her hair stirs, and it smells a little like ashes or like the henna she uses to brighten it, but the smell is faint or anyway, crazy for her like he is, he doesn't notice, or mind....She's still contemplating the cigarette burning in her hand, the counterman is still stooped gaping at her, and he doesn't mind that, why not, as long as she doesn't look back, in fact he's thinking he's the luckiest man in the world so why isn't he happier?

1 comment:

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