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Picturing a World

Walter Gay interiors (4): Creative misprision

"Creative misprision" is a concept in literary criticism. Briefly put, an artist or a writer misinterprets someone else's work and takes off from there in a new direction. When I first saw this pastel drawing by Walter Gay, I thought the window looked out onto the brick wall of the next building. I saw the room as empty, dusty, and formerly grand but now hemmed in and down-at-heels. Maybe it could be the setting for a young protagonist who is thrilled to find a romantic apartment which is cheap because of the blocked view. Maybe it could illustrate a melancholy last view by someone moving out. The fact that the image is non-narrative in itself makes it more potent in a way for stimulating imagination.

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Rooftop dolls

Flat roofs on buildings have been used as living space ever since the first towns in the Mediterranean world. New York at the turn of the 20th C was no different. Tenants in the crowded tenements of the Lower East Side went to the roofs to cool off. Elaborate roof gardens graced hotels, theaters,  Read More 
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Lone tenement

The effects of rebuilding in Paris were very much in evidence when Jeanette arrived there in 1878. Even more visible were the effects of New York's growth in 1908. Read More 
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When I first started researching ANONYMITY, writer Polly Shulman suggested I look for Topless Towers, a 1921 novel by Margaret Ashmun. It is set in a Morningside Heights apartment building and gave me lots of leads for details of apartment life. It opens: Read More 
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