Monday, June 13, 2011
Summer Reading Part Un
I just finished reading a book that has been on my shelf for longer than I care to admit, Depths of Glory, A Biographical Novel of Camille Pissarro by Irving Stone. As much as I love art and the French Impressionists, its 614 pages were daunting for someone who, during the school year, manages to read primarily right before falling asleep (although I have been known to read way past the time when I should be sleeping). I am very glad that I recently pulled it off the shelf, dusted it off, and dug in. I have admired Pissarro's painting over the years, admittedly, though, sometimes barely glancing at them on the way to a Monet or a Van Gogh. I will now see them with a new eye after reading his life story. I found several videos of his work on YouTube. (I have successfully imbedded a YouTube video for the first time, I hope. I spied one work in there by Monet, the infamous Impression: Sunrise, though.)
I knew that Stone's writing would be superb. He is, after all, the one who caused me to fall in love with Vincent Van Gogh while reading Lust for Life, Stone's first novel, published in 1934. I have a sneaking suspicion that The Agony and the Ecstacy, the story of Michelangelo, is somewhere in this house hiding in one of our six very full bookcases. Depths of Glory was his final novel, published in 1985, four years before his death. While full of descriptions of the artist's works, his life, as well as the lives and works of his contemporaries, Courbet, Corot, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, and others, is told in a way that made me realize they were, above all, humans. There is even a brief appearance by Vincent before he left for Arles and then again when he moved to Auvers-sur-Oise. Their hopes, disappointments, emotional and financial struggles, and sense of camaraderie as artists is told beautifully.
Another recent read is Everything on the Table: Plain Talk About Food and Wine by Colman Andrews (1992). Andrews pleads the case for a return to eating well in America. By well he doesn't mean shopping only from the gourmet section of a supermarket, claiming that "there is no such thing as gourmet food." "The genuine goodness or worth of any dish or culinary raw material has little or nothing to do with its price or rarity or refinement." It was at this point, very early on in the book, that I borrowed a highlighter from my son and kept it with me while reading. Andrews' definition of a gourmet is "simply a person who cares about what he eats." I was hooked from there. He supplies ample recipes and personal anecdotes. A google search for Andrews lead me to a website called The Daily Meal. I must check this out further to see what's there.
I've also read Mademoiselle Benoir, a novel by Christine Conrad. It is the story, told through letters, of a 35-ish American who moves to France, buys a run down farm and falls in love. It is the type of book that makes me turn a shade of green to match my already green eyes. According to the book jacket, it was inspired by a true story. When I started reading it, I really wanted to dislike this guy who doesn't work but somehow has the means to buy a house in rural France, specifically in the Lot region, not far from where the Arles 6 and I spent a glorious week in 2008. However, I just couldn't help but like him. It is a beautiful story and gives very interesting insights into the French way of life and thinking. And I am endlessly curious about every aspect of France and French life.
So, now what? It is almost bedtime and I need something to read...
Bon appétit, summertime and summer reading!