The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow is full of interesting discoveries and arguments. One idea grabbed my attention. Neuroscience, they say, seems to show that self-aware thoughts on a problem generally last about seven seconds. "[T]he great exception to this is when we're talking to someone else. In conversation, we can hold thoughts and reflect on problems for hours on end" (p. 94). Graeber and Wengrow point out that many ancient philosophers framed their writings as dialogue. I would add, think how often writers have written as though there were a devil and an angel or two sides of personality arguing with each other when they want to depict a mental struggle. The device can seem contrived, but maybe it arises out of more than convention.
Picturing a World
Mention of Jeanette’s illustrated letters home had already been made in the narrative when my editor suggested using them to condense passages. The device proved helpful not only for summarizing events, but also for varying narrative rhythm and revealing the character’s attempts to shape her story for her family. In my imagination, moreover, I could make Jeanette as good a watercolorist as Albert Edelfelts! His letter (in Swedish) depicts “Mme Cotterau with Carolus Duran and Paul Deroulède.” It might as well be from Cornelia’s party after the portrait is unveiled, don’t you think?
For another page of the letter with a fashion doodle, click here.
For more information (in Swedish) at the vast Europeana website, click here
For an illustration of Paul Derouléde’s duel with Georges Clemenceau, click here. (Oh, the serendipity of the web!) Read More
When I began my research, Sophie Croizette was discovery for me. Read More
For an actual dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum that is somewhat similar, click here and look at the second dress on the second row.
For a large selection of French fashion plates from the 1870’s at the New York Public Library, click here.
For Griselda Pollock's discussion of Stevens' paintings of the four seasons at the Clark, click here. Read More
During my research, I visited the Musée Rodin, which gave me an image of the back of the Renicks' house and allowed me to visualize a large garden in the heart of Paris. Read More