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Picturing a World

Happy New Year's Day

On this first day of January, would that we could all be sitting, smartly dressed, in a Parisian garden-café or brasserie!

When I first saw Manet’s painting early in my writing of Where the Light Falls, I did a joyous double-take. Here was Jeanette, or at least the fashionable young Parisiénne she would aspire to become. This face influenced how I visualized my character (she even has the bangs). Moreover, although shopping for a black hat never made it into the text, believe me, finding the right one and wearing a neck-scarf with just this insouciance were a part of Jeanette’s two years in Paris.

Yet the more I study the painting, the more mysterious it becomes. Sometimes I see the woman as innocent, sometimes as knowingly sophisticated. Is she alone, and if so, what does that imply? Has Manet painted her but not a companion facing her? Is her mind on her magazine or the people watching her? I don’t know what questions are in vogue these days among art critics and historians; but for writing fiction, what matters most is where a picture sends the imagination. May this new year bring us all encounters with wonderful art, both written and graphic!
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