Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lovely only once a year

February 21, 2011
These trees are even commoner, now, worldwide than pheasants, though I suppose they were first developed in Japan, as their name suggests.  Here, in a semi-tropical climate, they blossom in February (even earlier, if I recall correctly, in Berkeley, CA, on the university campus).  They are in bud until, suddenly, 48 hours of temperatures in the 60s Fahrenheit brings them out.  Then, if there is a bit of wind and rain, they fall, and the tree (which does not have regular magnolia leaves) becomes commonplace again for the rest of the year.  I'm not much of a gardener, but I enjoy what came with the house.  I hope you all will pardon such trivial posts while I try to work on an Opera Nobilia one, on coins issued by Ovinius Tertullus.
February 23, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pheasant Refuge in Epiros

Pheasants at Xirovouni (Dry Mountain) at Ioannina

I subscribe to a couple of Greek blogs, one of which is a newspaper at Igoumenitsa, called Thesprotia News.  They keep me in touch with all the local and regional, as well as general, news of a country that I love, things that never make it into the BBC or CNN or, usually, even Public Broadcasting System.  I enjoy other bloggers' photos from English wildlife preserves, for example, but seldom succeed in photographing any here (brown pelicans keep eluding me).  So I hope Thesprotia News won't mind my sharing this one of theirs,, which at a glance says (in case you don't know modern Greek) this was sent in support of the wildlife refuge by the Sklivani Mountaineering Club.  There's a page-long article.  I'd like everyone to know that Greece is as fond of birdwatching and devoted to conservation as any country you can name.  And the perdika, which retains its ancient name, is as pretty a bird as can be found.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Who reads what? A gender question?

I just heard Elaine Showalter, author of a new anthology of American women writers, discussing (and her listeners in the famous Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington DC had their opinions, too) what male and female readers actually read.  I know I am not alone in reading at least as many males as females, though I just can't quite get involved in Moby Dick, but I have just as much trouble with Joyce Carol Oates (and I'd say that difficulty with Ayn Rand is due to other considerations), and as a child I liked Howard Pyle, then Jack London very much indeed; I just forgot, for the duration, that I was a girl.  It was the author's job to help me do so.  I even like Hemingway's heroes, and I dearly love all of Steinbeck.  If I find that a male author doesn't quite 'get' a female character, I just make allowance.  What is more, I'm very, very fussy about fiction, which, when I love it, is mostly a matter of style, but, so long as it's readable, I enjoy history and economics and sciences, no matter how inadequate my educational background (neuroscience, astrophysics, et al.).  I don't care whether my archaeology is written by males or females (I belong to a very open discipline, in which women directed excavations a century and more ago).
But at Showalter's talk, people were saying that males won't read females, and, even more emphatically, little boys in America won't read books about girls.  As I recall, I can't remember any boy that I knew reading, say, Anne of Green Gables,  the way I read Hamlin Garland.  Don't boys read Willa Cather?
Showalter says that the virtual segregation is more American than European.  Is it true that it's because we had no Jane Austen or George Eliot (for example)?  Is Edith Wharton too late to count?  What, I ask, is the possible importance of a young national culture being, simply, so young, with so much of the population having not very literary roots?  Or are Harvard brats very much like Oxbridge brats?
I just read Nicole Krauss's Great House.  Don't I just get a better insight into being a much younger woman and a Jewish woman, because she writes so supremely well that I chose her new novel?  If a male reader has enough literary sense to read it, won't he also learn a lot about women?  Even if, like me, he's an elderly non-observant Protestant?
Of course, women in love are different from men in love, usually, but isn't that difference worth reading about?   I'm not talking about 'bodice busters' (soft porn).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Artists on Art: Cézanne

I have begun an album, Cézanne at the Louvre, because he made so many drawings there.  I still don't have quite what I was looking for, but I can add to it when possible, and, even though the views are not ideal the point can still be made.
An earlier post distinguished art to illustrate or celebrate from art for its own sake.
The relationship of existing art and living artists is different.  Here I do not mean artists using existing works to make a statement about art, especially in post-modern art, but artists using existing pictures and sculptures just as they use nature.  I mean, Monet used the façade of Rouen Cathedral and Haystacks and avenues of Poplars all alike.  And Cézane, though he was bashful enough to prefer a Death of Sardanapalus or any other pre-existing symplegma to a studio full of naked models and, especially in his youth, copied a number of such works for not only formal interest but also their subject matter, he also, drawing or drawing with watercolor added, studied statues both ancient and modern (not only Michelangelo but also, e.g., Puget) in exactly the same way, exploring the essential forms, as he did skulls and apples and the limestone (I think) formations on his own land.
And when an artist like Cézanne takes an elaborately twisted Eros teasing an agonized old Centaur, he draws it so that you know that he sees what its originator meant, not about the teasing subject, a conversation piece, but about the sculpture.  We don't know the Hellenistic sculptor's name, but his Eros is easily the equal of Verrocchio's putto in Florence at the Palazzo Vecchio.  I am almost certain that I have seen other Cézanne drawings of the Borghese Centaur, but I'll have to add them when I find them.
(the apples and the bather are, of course, extraneous)
(the Hadrianic, Tivoli, black basalt centaur in Rome is more academic and has no Eros)

In this case Cézanne studies the forms just as if this were one of the Michelangelo Slaves, and never mind the playful erotic subject matter.
But when Cézanne sees something in a sculpture, such as foreshortened forms that are always essentially important to his art, he doesn't mind that it is the Sleeping Hermaphrodite (with its tufted mattress, which may have come from Bernini's studio but does not belong to it).  Indeed, if the 'scandalous' front view were as sculpturally interesting he might even have drawn that, though (I daresay, from studying his drawings as a whole) not with any emphasis on the combination of breasts and penis.
Note that Cézanne was not interested in the facial features, either.  I apologize for my 1982 photograph.  Somewhere I must have a better one.

Postscript: the book with a whole chapter on Cézanne at the Louvre is the large illustrated edition of John Rewald's classic monograph on Cézanne.  The illustrations are, of course, under copyright...