Immortals.

Above the faux fireplace in our living room, in the house I grew up in, hangs a large reproduction of Vincent Van Gogh’s, ‘Wheatfield with crows’. Day and night, those fields glowed, and glow still. They glow and rustle their way into our hearts and consciousness.

There was also a Degas, a Toulouse-Lautrec, a Renoir…all reproductions of course, but, what a feast for the eyes! Every single day! And what a gift to receive from one’s father! An introduction to all these giants of the art world. And also, of literature. W. Somerset Maugham, A. J. Cronin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Orwell, James Herriot, Irving Stone…to name a few…

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Image through a Google Source

He introduced me to art and literature (for that, among many many many other things, I will be eternally ETERNALLY grateful to him). It was he who handed me a copy of ‘Lust for Life’ by Irving Stone. Oh dear Lord, I simply devoured those pages!  I fell instantly and irrevocably in love with it. And with, Monsieur Van Gogh.

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He burned through those pages, all fiery and alive, just like the paint on his canvases. Bold, vibrant, saturated, and trembling with vitality.

What a man! What a soul! To live with such burning desire, with such a tempest in one’s soul. To perceive the sun melting into the earth and the earth rising through the feet and the body of the peasant that tilled the soil. To see it all as one fiery, pulsing mesh, everything a part of it and it a part of everything else. Alive! Alive! And to pour all that wisdom onto the canvas in a mad frenzy, like one possessed. He laid bare the soul of the Universe through his brush strokes. What a prayer, no? What a gift to leave behind for all of humanity. If only we could all see the world through his eyes. What an infinitely better place it would be.

I just finished reading that book again. There is such anguish in my heart, such love, and compassion, such a welling of profound gratitude for this man, this soul, this immortal.

This world is a blessed place for having a Vincent Van Gogh in it.

Counting by 7s

Counting by 7s

“I was taken to see an educational consultant that autumn and the woman did an evaluation. She sent my parents a letter.
I read it.
It said I was “highly gifted”.
Are people “lowly gifted”?
Or “medium gifted”?
Or just “gifted”? Its possible that all labels are curses. Unless they are on cleaning products.
Because in my opinion its not really a great idea to see people as one thing.
Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.
We are all imprefect genetic stews.”

So says Willow Chance, a 12 year old ‘genius’ of a girl, who is obssessed with germs, growing plants, diagnosing strangers and making varied yet profound observations through out this treasure of a book.

The voice of the book, like most of its characters is very observational, matter of fact, it cuts through the chase. The profound tragedy is neither overwrought nor is the kindness overly gush-ied. And yet one is left feeling deeply moved.
Its that very simplicity that gets to you.

The characters do not endear themselves by burrowing into our hearts but by leaving us with a marrow deep conviction that it would be an absolute blessing to have such people in our lives. People who walk the walk. And they walk it not because its expected of them but because its who they are.

“I realise now that I am worrying about all of them.
Its better than worrying about myself.
This is one of the secrets that I have learned in the last few months.
When you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your own drama.”

On a lark..

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Do you know how sometimes, one trails one’s fingers along the spines of books at the library, in a slightly dreamy state, but mostly excited about what one might read next, trying to gauge what one is in the mood for, a romance, a mystery, a thriller or drama perhaps, passing by all the well known and not so well known names and titles and then suddenly, for whatever reason, your finger stops and lingers on the spine of a certain book, author unknown (to you of course) and your mind which has kind of traipsed along ahead, doubles back and tries to focus on the title and make sense of it.

….hmmm…Humboldt’s…what again?

And then you pull the book out, slowly, ponderously, and pretend to read the synopsis knowing all the while, in your gut and the excited beating of your heart that, this is it! This is the one to read! You’ve found it, or maybe, the book has found you! And you cannot wait to get home and begin the journey…

Well, that is how I found the book I am going to read next.

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Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

On a lark. Sometimes, that is how one finds the best of things, isn’t it?
On a lark?

An excerpt from the book….

He lived on Bedford street, near Chumley’s. First he gave me black coffee, and then poured gin in the same cup. “Well, you’re a nice looking enough fellow, Charlie,” he said to me. “Aren’t you a bit sly, maybe? I think you’re headed for early baldness. And such large emotional handsome eyes. But you certainly do love literature and that’s the main thing. You have sensibility,” he said. He was a pioneer in the use of this word. Sensibility later made it big. Humboldt was very kind. He introduced me to people in the Village and got me books to review. I always loved him….”

A Sunny Sunday.

Its a sunny Sunday. I am trying to make short work of my chores, which, being a Sunday aren’t that many. Just a bit of pick-me-up-here, tidy-me-up-there kinda stuff.

The sun has cut a big swath of warmth across our deck that beckons and promises an afternoon of coffee and books and sweet laziness. And I cannot wait to hop on over and make the most of it.

The book I am reading, The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez – Reverte, is puuur-fect for this afternoon. Its a book about books which is a genre that I simply cannot resist. And as you have rightly guessed, this is based partly on Dumas’s famous novel, The Three Musketeers, which incidentally I read a month or so ago and so is fresh in my mind. I love how these things work sometimes, don’t you?

Anyway, the book begins with a death that is shrouded in deep mystery. The detectives have been unable to determine whether its a murder or a suicide and therefore the reader is in the dark. The protagonist, Corso, has been handed a part of a manuscript supposedly written in Dumas’s own hand and he has to authenticate it and at the same time another plot unfolds about a book called The Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows written by none other than the dark, the evil, the fallen, Lucifer himself. Ooooh…how intriguing!

But what makes it down right fascinating is that there seems to be a connection between the two mysteries. Double whammy!!

There are a lot of juicy tidbits about Alexander Dumas, Rochefort, Richelieu and D’Artagnan sprinkled through out the first half. And there is a vague suspicion that some of the characters from the literary past have stepped through the pages of the book and time, smackdab into the middle of 1930’s. Could the mysterious stranger with the scar on his face indeed be Rochefort? And if he is, what could he possibly want from Corso and even more perplexing, why is he trying to kill him? And what could all this have to do with the book that contains a method to raise the Devil?

Dark, rich and utterly fascinating, the book is steeped in the occult and I cannot wait for it all to unfold so that I may breathe again.

Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D’Artagnan..you sly bullies you…

The first time I read The Three Musketeers, I read it through a child’s eyes. They rode through those pages and straight into my heart with their swashbuckling, sword wielding, devil-may-care ways. They were my heroes and could do no wrong. I was wide-eyed and breathless with all their adventures and their daring-do’s. Their courage was awe-inspiring and their motto, ‘One for all and all for one’, absolutely posh.

The second time I read this book, it was through ‘grown up’ eyes. (As grown up as I can be that is. Which is not much.) But this time around it was a wee bit different. This time around I realised, much to my chagrined amusement, that Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan are/were in fact, bullies, not to mention, a bit savage. And I say this in an indulgent kinda way, as a mother of willful and naughty sons might say, “What can you do? Boys will be boys.” They robbed, they cheated and they killed their way through to the happy end. And they were remorseless. But I suppose they couldn’t help it either because it was either kill or be killed, cheat or be cheated. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground. Am I making excuses for them? Absolutely! Could they have been better people with better morals? Absolutely! But then, they wouldn’t have been the three musketeers would they?

So, does this ‘new perspective’ change the way I feel about the book? Nope! I was just as enthralled by their swashbuckling ways as I was all those years ago. The only difference was, this time I wasn’t just the gawking kid on the sidelines, I was an unrepentant and wily participant. I, was the fifth musketeer.