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Picturing a World

Letters to Camando

Cover, Letters to Camando (2021)

Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal, the July selection for my public library's book club, is a book about archives and memory, memorials and loss. I read it a first time with interest. A second reading to formulate discussion questions (see below) deepened my interest to admiration, sorrow, and gratitude.

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Planting a tree in Paris

A blog post, The Spectacle of Paris Streets, has just alerted me to a book I wish I had known about when I was researching Where the Light Falls: A Travers Paris par Crafty. For instance, I'd never thought of large trees being planted on a Parisian boulevard until I saw this image. It's the sort of sight that could cause a character to loiter, or spark a train of thought, or even somehow play into the action of a story. Or it could prompt an imaginative excursion: what if there were a world where a steampunk technology was used by trees to facilitate their own migration? The whole book is worth exploring.

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Six feet apart

Okay, a follow-up to the follow-up. When I was looking at Šimon's prints of Paris, I chuckled over this one as an example of, what?—early Parisian "social distancing"? Notice that not only are the people in the picture widely spaced, but we're looking at them from waa-aaay across the street. Anyway, that set me thinking how much I dislike the phrase social distancing. It's so vague! Six feet apart is explicit and emphatic. Say it and mean it: the more we keep six feet apart now, the sooner we'll be filling up those empty streets again.

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Paris Booksellers

Yesterday, I was tempted to illustrate the post on Bookshop with an image of Paris booksellers along the Seine but couldn't think of a particular one, so I went with the organization's logo instead. But isn't this print by Tavik František Šimon a lovely follow-up? If my character-in-progress Mattie went to Paris in 1908, she would find such a scene, which would have little changed from when Edward browsed there in Where the Light Falls—and booksellers on the quai are still there, for that matter, in the real Paris, not fictional at all. Since it may be a while, however, before any of us are traveling much except in imagination, try browsing the graphic art of Tavik František Šimon as if you were at a print seller's stall.

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Prévost’s panorama of Paris

Sketches in gouache and watercolor by Pierre Prévost for his panorama of Paris were auctioned on October 23, 2019, by Sotheby's. I love being able to zoom in on the catalogue essay for details like the one shown here. The location of the Académie Julian in Paris's Passage des Panoramas had sent me to 19th C panoramas years ago when I was researching Where the Light Falls. At that time, I had read about Prévost in The Painted Panorama by Bernard Comment (which has lots of fold-out pages). Now, as a stimulus to building a world in historical fiction, just look at the washing on the houseboat, the cabs, and the lamps strung across the bridge! Much, much more available at the Sotheby's site.

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