There’s no accounting for individual tastes

In Artists, Current reading, photography, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Scene Prep, Sundays, Visual artists on August 23, 2015 at 7:23 am

I don’t lend out my personal copies of books much – not only because it’s a fabulous way to lose them. In losing them, I also lose the markings, underlinings, and notes to myself a good book provokes. A bad one too, come to think of it.

My copies aren’t as marked up as Nabokov’s teaching copies, as evidenced by reproductions in Lectures on Literature. They’re more in the nature of agreements or disagreements with a specific comment, or a riff inspired by something on the printed page.

For instance, Nabokov, writing about Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which he later compares to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis). Brought to mind Jim Harrison’s The Games of Night, a novella published in a book titled The Farmer’s Daughter (another novella) which, to my mind, takes the Jekyll/Hyde notion up several levels.

Some books I cannot lend, given the thorough job of coloring, outlining or framing I’ve done on favorite passages. Others I must keep because a character has identified with that book and done his or her job of coloring, outlining or framing.


Walking along the upper town’s main shopping street yesterday, I look up. A woman stands on her balcony and invites me in for tea.

In typical French fashion, the façade of her home, although elegant, doesn’t whisper a thing concerning the enclosed garden in the back. I admire. With her permission, I photograph. She scoffs. She’s let it go. Tired with plants, tired with people. Art is a sinister farce nowadays, our world is headed straight into the wall and this just might be what we deserve, she says. I don’t know how many of her eighty-eight years she has now lived alone in her elegant, art-filled home.

One memory brought a smile back to her face: summer holidays at her grandparents’ home. They were small-time farmers. Owned seven cows and a flock of geese. Her sister tended the geese and had them march by twos or threes. She kept an eye on the cows. As she recalls, for the most part, the job consisted of lying in the grass and gazing at the clouds, or sitting up for a view of the mountains.

I left with the gift of a photo titled Mahatma and the Masters – a large format post card used by a gallery in Brussels as advertising for an exhibition by someone named Atul Dodiya. “This is what they call art now?” she said. “You like this? Really? Take it. One less thing to throw in the recycling bin.”

I like it. In fact, the old woman’s dislike adds extra oxygen to my appreciation of the Mahatma’s bald head glistening under the Indian sun as he bends out of a van top-heavy with luggage and cooking pots.

The relation of any of this to the draft growing by slow increments? Unpredictable, at best.



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