It's that back-to-school haze where I feel like nothing much is getting accomplished except the fairly herculean task of establishing norms and protocols for a great school year. Also this year, my sister is getting married on Saturday. So, lots going on in many a department, but it feels like not so much in reading. It feels like that, but actually I'm reading a super buzzy thriller by Noah Hawley called Before the Fall, and also reading with Shef a funny and true high school story called We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielson. And, in my earbuds, I've got Just Kids by Patti Smith. Here's what I'm learning:
- Both Before the Fall and Just Kids are about commitment to art. I can't help but think about how different Patti Smith and I were in our early 20s. Patti made art at all costs, living on the street and going without food in order to write poetry and support her partner's creativity. I did not make art in my early 20s, but rather worked long hours in my classroom and made contributions to my 401k. I went on dates with my now-husband and we talked about buying houses and stuff. Smith's partner, Robert Mapplethorpe, spirals into sometimes life-threatening reveries during which he produces overwhelming visual instillations. I'm awed by Smith's decisions. They worked out for her, as now she's a famous musician and prize-winning writer.
- In Before the Fall, a fictional painter's work mirrors his own dangerous entanglement in what might be murder. Here's an excerpt from the description of Painting #2
"Now you look back to the girl, eyes widening, hand rising, not to pull the hair from her face, you realize, but to shield her eyes from the horror. And then, hair rising, you look past her, to the house, but more specifically to that tiny storm door, that black pit of salvation, and within it a single man's arm, his hand grasping the the frayed rope tether. And this time, as you take it in, you realize - He is closing the storm door, shutting us out."So the bottom line? Maybe I didn't make art at all costs in my early 20s, but I did establish a long career that might now allow me to make art without living on the street and contracting trench mouth. Also, I still like mysteries and thrillers. I always have, ever since middle school.