Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Literarymadness and What I Did During the Holidays

The holidays this time out were extremely refreshing. A good mix of family, friends, and lounging about. We did miss seeing some of our out-of-town friends but with luck they'll come to Edmonton in summer when it's not necessary to wear extensive layers and when the Sorels can rest safely in the closet. (Not that I don't think my hounds tooth Sorels are quite the fashion statement - they certainly are). The dog had us out in the cold, every day, three times a day. The good news is that with regular exercise he refrained from eating the Christmas tree. One brilliant moment was out at Laurier Park with a friend and her dog - we came upon this tree near the river, lovingly decorated. You can't tell in the photo, but it was snowing those big, gorgeous, movie worthy, fluffy flakes. Truly exhilarating - a magical moment indeed. My best read of the season? Manhattan by Helene Cixous. Sometimes, it's just one sentence that you need to read to get you writing again, and I found mine here. "each time I've wanted to get back to writing and I've wanted to write at all costs I have left the book behind, I have even left my own life behind and entered a country I didn't want to be in," (The sentences are really more like poetry, they risk running on, ending on commas, forgetting punctuation in their speed and sustenance...). She says that her "Tale" "could be contained in two words: literary madness or more precisely bound in in a single one: literarymadness." I believe that the year 2008 will be the year of my proper literarymadness....

A couple of other books that wowed me over the season: Divisadero by Ondaatje. (I was worried - people I admire had been so lukewarm on it. But no - brilliant, I say. On the way to becoming my most dogeared and scrawled upon copy of an Ondaatje book yet). The other book is Wonder, the Rainbow and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences by Philip Fisher. Mainly the book flies over my small brain, but the last chapter, a reading of Cy Twombly's painting, Il Parnasso, utterly blew me away.

In addition to reading, walking the dog, keeping the child amused, and sipping wine (not necessarily in that order), Rob did a fair bit of painting. He's continuing with his History of Still Life Series and worked on a really brilliant version of a Willem Kalf painting which I shall post soon, but for now thought I'd put up one of my favorites - this version of a Goya. In a book on the Spanish Still Life from Velazquez to Goya, it is noted that "Goya's still lifes represent a rupture with tradition as abrupt and shocking as that produced by any aspect of his work. They are at once beautiful and poignant objects; all but one depict dead animals. Not the courtly game of a hunter's trophy, nor the meat on a butcher's stall, nor the dead beasts traditionally symbolising life's brevity or Natures' bounty - but animals that have been slaughtered, from whom life has been violently torn, in whose images there is a depth of pathos as life-affirming as anything to be found in the greatest works of Velazquez or Zurbaran." The fact that we are so accustomed to images of blood and gore yet fairly removed from the slaughter of the animals many of us eat on a regular basis is a strange thing to contemplate in the context of this painting.

Perhaps due to the wine sipping sessions, I got the idea in my head to learn to embroider. My first effort is a pillowcase for Chloe. I learned the stitches as I went, which is fairly evident. I shan't quit my day job....but I have to say it is a great deal of fun. Completely takes you out of yourself.