Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Me Bad

I’ve been back from Paris for over a week and still haven’t posted anything here. We had a great time, though I’m not sure to what extent any of it will ever show up in my poetry. In some ways it was a vacation from writing, although I did finish reading the second volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time on the hellish 12-hour plane ride home (more on Proust in a future blog). My favorite day in Paris may have been the day we visited the Marmottan Museum, which has an amazing collection of Impressionist paintings, especially Monet (the images on the website, by the way, do not do it justice). If you visited Paris and missed the Musee Marmottan, you blew it.

The Musee Marmottan is a small museum off the beaten track on the west end of Paris near the gorgeous park the Bois de Boulogne, and combining the museum with a long walk through the Bois de Boulogne makes a beautiful day. Visiting the park also gave me an opportunity to try out my primitive French, which apparently I knew just well enough that when I asked people for directions on how to get to the Bagatelle Gardens, they seemed to think I knew what I was doing and in a very helpful, friendly way rattled off five minutes of directions in French that were incomprehensible to us.

What struck me most, I think, was the vast emotional range of Monet’s paintings, despite (or because of) their narrow range of their content. How much complexity and depth was plumbed in painting after painting of the waterlily pond and rose arbor in his garden! What began as almost a scientific experiment on capturing the varied effects of light on water became in some paintings an evocation of deep beauty and peace and, in others (often those painted during the horror of World War I), an almost abstract blaze of violent passion. The rose arbor becomes a tunnel of fire with no light at the end. The peaceful blues and greens of the Japanese footbridge become a Jackson Pollock-like explosion of yellows and reds of a bridge going nowhere. Perhaps Monet was responding to what was going on in the world, perhaps he was simply going blind, or perhaps both, but it’s amazing how much he was able to express by his obsessive focus on a few simple images.

Meanwhile, I had a long talk with my editor on Sunday going over the final corrections to my book manuscript. Supposedly the book went to the printer on Monday and I should have books in my hand in a couple of weeks! I’m awfully excited, but also anxious because . . . I still haven’t seen the book cover, although I know they’re using the photograph I selected. I’m not 100% sure the book has gone to the printer, though; there may be some last-minute kinks to work out on the cover design. The suspense is killing me!

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