Five Transactions with Beauty
This is part of a series – five transactions with beautiful things – art, music, poetry etc – to help you infuse your day with beauty.
1. The Needle's Eye by Margaret Drabble
Do you know how you sometimes have the thought that you wished you'd saved a Jane Austen novel or a Woolf volume or whatever book from the oeuvre of one of your favourite authors to read? But of course you didn't know what you'd be wanting in your 50s or if you'd even make it that far, so you read them all as you discovered them. Another nice and lovely thing, though, is discovering an author who has been just vaguely in your radar and finding that you love their writing. This happened to me lately with Margaret Drabble. I sort of knew who she was, sister of A.S. Byatt, etc etc. I knew that Kerry Clare admired her, which is usually enough for me to hurry up and read something by an author.
I don't even know how I chose The Needle's Eye as my first Drabble to read. The novel begins with lawyer Simon Camish on his way to a dinner party.
"He stood there and waited. He was good at that. There was no hurry. There was plenty of time. He always had time. He was a punctual and polite person, and that was why he was standing there, buying a gift for his hostess. Politeness was an emotion – could one call it an emotion, he wondered? That was how he regarded it – an emotion that he both feared and understood."
The description of the dinner party is just sheer genius – wonderfully insightful into people. I didn't expect to be underlining a thing in this book – I bought it as a summer escape type of book (Who knows why I thought it would be that?) – but I ended up underlining throughout. I'm going to ration the books by Drabble, though they are quite numerous.
Pleasingly, when Margaret Drabble was interviewed by The Guardian, this was the exchange:
Of which book are you most proud?
The Needle's Eye, for most neatly getting across what I was trying to say about equality and the human condition.
2. The Seasons in Quincy
As a huge and longtime fan of both John Berger and Tilda Swinton, I have been waiting to see this as soon as I heard about it. The Seasons in Quincy is not a conventional film but a sort of documentary in four parts, four separate essays. I was captivated and delighted. The apple peeling scene at the beginning was so unexpected and warm. I was pleased that my own library had copies, but it's very much worth tracking down wherever you happen to live.
3. Adobe Spark Video App
As part of some new learning for my work at the library, I downloaded the Adobe Spark Video App. It really is easy to use and fun. You can also get it for your desktop, if you'd rather. So I made a (really) quick video using photographs, just to see how it works, and then uploaded it to Vimeo, also to see if I could do it and how it's all done. It's not a work of art, but was fun to do, and completely sold me on the app.
4. Daisy Makeig-Jones
Recently a photograph of a piece from Daisy Makeig-Jones's Fairyland Lustre Pottery series appeared on my Twitter feed. (via #Womensart). The colours and intricacy of the piece immediately caught my attention and I wanted to know more about her. This following is from an essay via Antiques Roadshow:
"The story begins in 1909, when Makeig-Jones asked Cecil Wedgwood, an heir of Josiah Wedgwood and a partner in the firm, to hire her as an apprentice painter. Two years later, Makeig-Jones, clearly talented, began to design tableware, and her attraction to the fanciful quickly became clear. In 1913, she produced Oriental dragon patterns. She went on to design lustre patterns of fish, hummingbirds, fruit, and other natural subjects, and then she moved on to her flamboyant Fairyland Lustre design, released in 1915, a year into the war then raging in Europe.
That line included wild combinations of bright colors, including greens, oranges, blues, deep purples, and ruby reds. She would up the intensity of her colors even more with a subsequent line, known as Flame Fairyland Lustre. These lines were just what were needed at Wedgwood, which was in a slack period when the Fairyland series was released. "Many Europeans were looking for something to escape from the horrors of war," explained Nicholas, who describes the goblins and floating fairies in the pottery's neon landscapes as "escapist stuff, real fantastical.""
You can view more of her work on ArtNet. I saw the second image below before the horrors in Charlottesville, and when I went back to it, I was taken aback a little by the white cloaks and torches, which previously I'd read as intended – ghostly spirits in a fairy world. But fairies they are, indeed.
5. Maira Kalman's Elements of Style
I've just read on The New York Times that there is a Maira Kalman exhibition of her illustrations of The Elements of Style at Julie Saul Gallery in Manhattan through until this September 16, 2017. I can't tell you how desperately this makes me want to drop everything and pack my bags for NYC. You've probably read her The Principles of Uncertainty? If not, I dearly recommend it.
What I love about her work is that at first glance it might seem sweet and even naive. But, well, no. It's sly, clever, a little irreverent. The work references art history in a delightful manner, and is no less than "beguiling" – as the NYTimes reviewer says. Whatever your views on The Elements of Style, the book with illustrations by Kalman must bring pleasure.
Just a quick reminder that there are many ways to support this blog. On the sidebar and below each post is a "support" button where you can donate the amount of a cup of coffee or tea (or more) to keep this labour of love flowing. A huge and heartfelt thanks to those who have already done so, some of you on more than one occasion. You can buy one of my books – always appreciated. Check out Rumi and the Red Handbag on the sidebar of the web version. You can like and share this post, leave a comment on the blog, on Facebook or Twitter. Or you could send the link to a friend via email. As well, when you buy a book mentioned here through the affiliate link given, I receive a small percentage. Thanks everyone, and happy weekend to you all.