Once I picked up Richard Powers' new novel, Bewilderment, it kept me reading compulsively at the expense of other things I ought to have been doing. Throughout, I was aware that Powers was building and interweaving scientific, philosophical, and literary patterns; but until I had finished it, I couldn't see just how strong the cumulative effect would be. Then this morning, I read the last ten pages.
Picturing a World
Website alert: Having borrowed Mrs. Hurst Dancing from the library, I was poking around the web for JPEGs of my favorite images and landed on Costumes in Emma. It will give you an explanation of the red cloaks, photographs of accurate period costumes, and insights into costumes for movies. And, oh, yes—the book is sheer delight.
Look! the Holy Austin Rock Houses that may well have inspired the invention of hobbit holes. It would have been more delicious to stumble across them unexpectedly on a walking tour of England, but I'll settle for glimpses on the web. You can find out more here. And visit what looks like a nearby troll hole here. As for today, Happy Bilbo and Frodo Bagginses' Birthday!
Website alert: This morning, my husband sent me a link to Old Book Illustrations, searchable by subject, artist, or book title. He has a special interest in William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites. I have a special interest in female illustrators. Put them together in a quick search and voilà: One of Florence Harrison's illustrations for Early Poems of William Morris. Have fun!
I had labeled this image, saved from a medieval moraized Ovid, as "Teeth in open mouth" because depictions of teeth are rare. What interests me now, however, is the expressions on the faces. At first glance, the wings seem to say "angels." But the lady is clearly up to no good, and the young man seems uneasy despite his crown.
As a follow-up to our writer in the library, Mrs. Sperling at her. needlework is another glimpse of Regency life. It prompts fewer ideas for stories, but isn't it cheerful? I love the way you look through the open French doors into trees, for instance. And it leads to Mrs. Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life, 1812–1823, with with all the freshness of amateur-artist Diana Sperling's authentic delight in the life around her.
Oddly enough, I remembered this watercolor as "Lady Pole in Her Library." Nope, the artist was Thomas Pole, an American transplant to Bristol, England, a doctor and Quaker preacher—no titled lady involved. Still, you know me: it's all about using images to prompt story ideas. And quiet as it is, In the Library has some suggestive clues.
Man, had I forgotten this one! But I see why I saved it. A 19th C artist, his studio, a lay figure, mirror images, picture frames—so much to linger over. An art-appreciation teacher might point to the way verticals and diagonals direct the eye, or the way the lighting picks out the gilding and that impressive mechanical figure. But what attracts a writer? What stories does His Favorite Model suggest?
Frankly, recent news for women, workers, minorities, and democracy has been largely discouraging. Still, let's buck each other up and remember the struggle is long. Happy Labor Day!
Via the National Archives.