Thursday, August 16, 2007


more books and art addicts

ah books, books and more books. i'm living in paradise. my head is my paradise. paradise is in my head. if only i have another hundred years....or a thousand.

bought some great titles again in the past week or so, and let me name a few..

1) fateless by imre kertesz (2002 nobel prize winner for literature)
2) this blinding absence of light by tahar ben jelloun (2004 IMPAC winner)
3) in siberia by colin thurbon (travel)
4) the emperor by rhyzard kapuscinski (biography of haile selassie)
5) living to tell the tale by gabriel garcia marquez (autobiography)

so many to read but which to choose first, and thousands to choose from...a nice dilemma, a pleasurable headache. ..

i've been waiting to get 'the emperor' for so long and now i have it i guess i'll read this first , and i've read the first thirty pages or so of this fascinating and remarkable story but wait, i'm also an art addict and so happened that i also found this book 'peggy guggenheim' :the life of an art addict by anton gill and if this very interesting review in the new statesman is anything to go by, i must read this book first.

i've actually read a bit about peggy guggenheim a long time ago. The only thing i remember of my train trip from london to somewhere north (edinburgh? or was it newcastle?) a long time ago was me sitting opposite this jewish boys with their black coats and jewish hats and i was reading peggy guggenheim's autobiography but couldn't concentrate very much because that was the first time i ever saw jews and i knew them to be jews because of their clothing and i was fascinated and observed them all the way to edinburgh (or was it newcastle?) and i was thinking... so these are how jews look like? why are they hated so much in the world? that sort of thoughts. the irony was not lost to me that at the same time i was reading about a jewish art addict....

and i visited her art collection in Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice many years ago. and that was the first time if i recall correctly i saw henri rousseau's 'surprise' but my head must be muddled because this picture is supposed to be in NAG london now and i may have seen it there too. after seeing thousands of familiar paintings in so many museums and art galleries, i can't blame myself for being confused. i'm not an art scholar but just happened to like watching pictures.

the only reason why i mentioned this picture is that i liked it so much that at one time i used it as my computer wallpaper. and i love rousseau ever since.

the funny thing about peggy guggenheim was that some months back i was in the usual payless booksale and found this little book a memoir ''the autobiography of alice b. toklas'' by getrude stein and i immediately grabbed it thinking oh a book by the art addict peggy guggenheim. which isn't too far off the mark because both ladies had remarkably similar lives especially in their love for paintings and the mileu they moved in . and getrude stein who was also jewish had a very interesting and remarkable life as her memoir amply illustrated.

and so happened that around the same time i was watching the 2 DVD set on Picasso:the full story, a truly remarkable potrait of picasso and his paintings and you'll see his pictures with new meanings after viewing this. and the resason i mentioned this is that getrude stein was a good friend of picasso and he used to come to her salon and dinners and he once painted her. according to this video documentary she had many sittings but picasso couldn't get the painting right and in the end completed the painting in his studio and you can see this painting , the famous getrude stein with lidless eyes in the MET nyc. and so happened that i saw this when i visited the met in feb this year. and here is the picture which i took in the museum. (by the way, in case you don't know, many famous museums allow taking digital pictures without flash now- the louvre, muse d'orsay, the MET, pompidou centre etc...but some still prohibit due to copyright reasons,...NAG, national potrait gallery of london etc)....i was in the pushkin museum moscow several years ago and i was not supposed to take pictures but the babushkas working as musuem guards were quite nice and allowed me to snap some pictures here and there....

but coming back to getrude stein, or rather alice b toklas her companion in whose name she wrote the memoir mentioned above, well this shows the power of books... one vietnamese born lady was so smitten with alice b toklas and getrude stein's memoir that she wrote a a whole book and went on to win several awards including guardian first book award, named by NYT as best book of the year and etc. i happend to come across this book in payless sales (again) and it's "the book of salt" by monique truong.

the book is described by new york times book review as ;

"a lush , fascinating first novel (about a) cook who works for getrude stein and alice b toklas."

May be it would a nice encore for me to read this after completing stein's memoir (which talks a lot about her cook -who wasn't vietnamese) . Based on this essay by her in TIME magazine i'm quite sure that almost nobody in vietnam know or care about this writer and that reminds me; same thing happens here. hardly anybody is really proud or cares very much about malaysian born writers like tash aw or tan twang eng because they are not considered to be writing that malaysian novel...unlike say ali and nino which all azerbaijanis are proud to call their national treasure.... but, enough, that's for another time....oh, such is the power of books, tom reiss was so smitten by ali and nino that he went on to write the critically acclaimed and bestseller 'the orientalist'...but, enough of that too...that's for another time too....

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?