A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Flesh, Stones, Water & Sand
Saturday, January 02, 2010




















Magnesium Flash Powder & The Boeing/Prius Airliner
Friday, January 01, 2010


This coming September the lease on our Audi A-4 will end. There are not enough funds left at the bank nor is my credit rating good enough that I might wangle another lease on the superb car that the Audi is. A more likely scenario for September will be the buying of an extremely used clunker using the better credit of my daughter Ale. After all she has a job. She is a school teacher. As my 20th century begins to fade from my memory I think that the end of the Audi lease is but an indication of what is in store for Rosemary and me in this 21st century. What is in store is not all black!

What is in store could be exciting. If I stay alive for a few more years (if the powers that be nudge benevolently in my direction) Rosemary and I will be hopping into an electric car that will have a constant connection with the internet. I will tell Rosemary, “I think that today our car will be a Ferrari. I am going to download using our car-noise-effects apps, the sound of a Ferrari Testarossa.” Until pedestrians are given some other way of “hearing” the silent electric cars, the folks at Apple will be making a fortune with those car noise applications. It was but a few months ago that crossing the street after visiting my friend Mark Budgen in Strathcona I was almost run over by a perfectly silent electric scooter.

I have no idea how “green” engineers will solve the problem of air travel. I would be the last who would trust a Boeing/Prius hybrid jetliner. I will not want to travel by air. I will not want to suffer the indignities of some pilot telling us, “Passengers we will be executing a steep dive in the next few minutes to re-charge this aircraft’s batteries.”

Google has failed me in my efforts to find out exactly how much jet fuel is consumed by all the airlines of the world (and air forces) in one day. I would like to compare that figure with the world consumption of automobile fuel.

While I am no Graham Greene I do share with my favourite author (now deceased) a realization that we have lived in a tumultuous era of great transition. As Paul Theroux headed his beautiful obituary to Greene (when he died in 1991), an Edwardian on the Concorde.

I never did ride on a Concorde but I did travel in everything from a DC-3 (and a military version the C-47 through a generation of airliners, DC-4, 5s, 6s, 7s, Constellations and Super-Constellations, and jet liners from the Comet 4’c to a rare Convair 990. I flew on Panamerican World Airways, TWA and a De Havilland Beaver on Tyee Air.

As a child I rode in wooden English trams that were almost brand new and had my class picture taken in the second grade (segundo superior) with a photographer who used magnesium flash powder. I have "taken pictures" of most of the roses of my garden neither using a film camera or a digital camera but a scanner.

A claoaquero came once a month to clear our sewer pipes, milk and butter was delivered by a horse and carriage and the hielero brought a block of ice every few days for our icebox. It was in 1955 when I first used a telephone and my grandmother purchased a Zenith televison set. At the time she was typing letters to her friend with a Remington portable but when I saw an IBM Selectric in the 60s I could have never seen the advent of my very own Smith Corona word processor that was soon superseded by PCs and Word.

My heroes were el Llanero Solitario (the Lone Ranger), Gene Autrey and Roy Rogers and I do believe that in 1950 I was the only boy in Buenos Aires who had a pair of genuine Texan cowboy boots complete with spurs. I am not sure what role models my Rebecca has at the moment. At the very least I can appreciate that they probably don't pack six shooters.

On June 2, 1953 my mother called me for lunch. I had my head glued to our wireless (as my father called it). I responded, “Mother I am listening to the coronation of my queen.”

In my time I have ridden in an origianl WWII Jeep, Packards, Studebakers, DeSotos, Plymouths, Henry Js and driven myself a Chrysler Imperial with a pushbutton transmission. I have even been a passenger in Auburns and a Pierce Arrow with vacuum ash trays.

At age 67 I still cannot accept, really understand yet not thrill at sending by e-mail a 9 meg file scan of one of my film photographs to a magazine and then see it is as hard copy ( I have learned the lingo of these times) on the cover.

At age 67 I believe that the two most momentous events of our modern times have nothing to do with the atom bomb. It was said that the bomb put us in the unique situation of being able to destroy the planet we live in. The writing has been on the wall for some time. The A-bomb might provide a quick exit for us but our very existence on this planet is doing a equivalent job of replicating the same results albeit in longer sidereal time.

The invention of the contraceptive pill in the 60s only helped the folks at Time that God was suddenly dead. If it wasn’tquite the demise of our creator it was the end of religion as we knew it. Most of the rules of behaviour of many of our planet’s religions were created to placate man’s (as in the male of the species) suspicions that the pregnant woman (or women of his life) were pregnant by his seed and his seed alone. The pill took care of that and liberated woman to control her own destiny.

That second event, one that I marvel at quite often is that photograph of our planet hovering over the moon’s horizon. For the first time we could say in a most earth-shaking manner, “We here are from over there.”

Within limits I will not worry about my daughters and granddaughters. They will manage in spite of whatever may confront them in this century. I will give them only one piece of advice, “If you fly, make sure the airplane is not electric.”



Nudes, Suckling Pigs, Goeff Dyer & Order In The Photo Files
Thursday, December 31, 2009

Leslie and Hosta montana 'Aureo Marginata'

A byproduct of old age is the accumulation of stuff. For too many years against the advice of my wife I have been buying books that are now stacked on the floor as the many bookcases in the house are all full. I finally got the message (if a bit late) and I will no longer buy books. I will depend on the excellent stacks of our Vancouver Public Library. But, what if I should want to read the latest by José Saramago in Spanish? His novels are translated from the Portuguese to Spanish at least a year before they become available in English. If I want to read in Spanish I cannot depend on the VPL’s stacks. I will have to buy.

The biggest worry in my mind these days as I toss and turn in bed the waning days of the year has been what to do with 13, four-drawer metal filing cabinets full of my life’s work in the form of negatives, slides, transparencies and prints. I can be objective enough about my own output to know that they are worth money. But to whom and when? Probably when I am dead someone will have a peek and realize what I know now, and that is that I have a diverse treasure of Vancouver’s everyday life since I arrived in 1975.

Every once in a while I have the impulse to phone my friend Celia Duthie who now lives on Salt Spring Island. It would be evident to most that Duthie knows her books and that like many who have been booksellers she is a bit of highbrow! She always points me in the direction of new authors. This time around she mentioned Geoff Dyer who in her opinion is the best young British writer around. His output goes in every direction. One of the books that Duthie recommended is The Ongoing Moment. It is a book about photography written by a man who confesses that in his travels he does not take pictures and that he does not own a camera. Yet this book is an unusual book about the history of photography.

It is a great book at many levels. Consider that it begins with Jorge Luis Borges’ classification of animals as seen in The Analytical Language of John Wilkins 1942, Borges describes 'a certain Chinese Encyclopedia,' the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in which it is written that animals are divided into:

1. those that belong to the Emperor,
2. embalmed ones,
3. those that are trained,
4. suckling pigs,
5. mermaids,
6. fabulous ones,
7. stray dogs,
8. those included in the present classification,
9. those that tremble as if they were mad,
10. innumerable ones,
11 those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
12 others,
13 those that have just broken a flower vase,
14 those that from a long way off look like flies.

This classification has been used by many writers. It "shattered all the familiar landmarks of his thought" for Michel Foucault. Anthropologists and ethnographers, German teachers, postmodern feminists, Australian museum curators, and artists quote it. The list of people influenced by the list has the same heterogeneous character as the list itself.

From mentioning Borges’ list Dyer goes on to explain how other photographers filed their own negatives such as Walker Evans and Lewis Hine.

Leslie at the Marble Arch

This all made me think of my own personal classification which is not really cross-referenced and installed into some sort of computer program. My filing system is alphabetical and depends on my memory alone. If I forget a person’s name I cannot find the file. I usually call someone with a better memory and ask. Such a person is Charles Campbell who in his term as the Georgia Straight editor assigned me to shoot a lot of people and lots of esoteric stuff that I had never done before like architecture at UBC, architecture on South Cambie or photographs of people who collected toasters. If I were to be asked if I had pictures of people with toasters I would have to call up Campbell to see if he remembers their names!

But short of minor problems I can find just about anything. I have some sublists and they are contained in either separate filing cabinets (I have one for authors) or occupy a large chunk of a particular letter. Letter D has dance and many pictures of dancers. My classification is divided into cars, dance, authors, travel, architecture, family, gardens (including lots of pictures of our own garden since 1986) and finally a whole filing cabinet (four drawers) called nudes. I have one more drawer full of 11/14 inch prints, b+w and colour that I have made through the years and never bothered to throw away. Looking at them now I am glad I didn’t as many are printed on premium photographic paper.

I have not finished Dyer’s book, but thanks to Celia Duthie, below, I think that I will be better prepared this coming year to sort through my stuff and put further order into it before I make my final exit.

Celia Duthie

For those who might wonder why I post, every now and then a picture taken in a cheap hotel room (the Marble Arch in most cases) I would like to point out that around 1977 I was influenced by a couple of slim books called Petersen's Masters of Contemporary Photography. One was called Photo Illustration - Bert Stern - How To Turn Ideas Into Images. The other was Photographing Sensuality - One Man's View of Fantasy and Realism In the Female Form J. Frederick Smith. This latter photographer started his career as a noted magazine illustrator and he then shifted his interests into photography. His b+w photographs of beautiful women (looking like they had just woken up) in hotel room beds with rumpled sheets and coffee cups on the floor inspired me to one day try it. This I have many times to my satisfaction and that of my models.



J. Frederick Smith



Tossing & Turning - Veracruz 1968
Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As I toss and turn in bed this early morning of December 31, 2009 I can but only think of a much more memorable one of December 31, 1968. Our oldest daughter Alexandra Elizabeth had been born in August of that year and weeks later we had visited my mother in the port city of Veracruz in our VW Beetle. We had driven at night on a Friday and almost there I took a hairpin curve much too fast. I lost control of the car and we turned over. Only a few weeks ago I had purchased a new pair of Firestone tires that came with a pair of free seat belts. At the time they were not obligatory in cars. The seat belts saved our lives. Little Ale in the back seat was in a wicker crib that had a little hood over it. That saved her. Some motorists helped us right the car and the lopsided mess somehow took us to my mother’s home on Calle Navegantes. I do not remember too well but I suspect that one of the helping motorists took Rosemary and Ale in their car while I manhandled our vehicle to keep it on the road.

The car was fixed eventually and my mother met her first granddaughter.

We returned that Christmas in the repaired car (it's behind Rosemary and Ale in the second picture) and spent a very hot and muggy holiday complete with several nortes that brought even more heat and high winds with sand that got into everything.




For New Year’s eve Rosemary and I walked on the Malecón (the broad avenue that hugged the port and the Gulf of Mexico. Later that evening we got into bed waiting for the moment when all the ships docked at the port would sound their wailing horns in a happy and very loud introduction into 1969. We got out of bed and with my mother we all hurriedly ate 12 grapes each, before the horns stopped, for good luck.

As I toss and turn on the eve of 2010 I miss that humid heat of Veracruz and my mother’s smile. I miss the sense of opportunity and that unfettered excitement that a whole life was in front of us. Who was to guess then, that we would be here in Vancouver so far from all that? As my Argentine friend Juan Manuel Sanchez would have said, “We are penguins in the arctic.” We are at home yet so far from it.




As I toss and turn I feel comfort that Rosemary is right there beside me. I feel comfort that little Ale is happy in her home in Lillooet. I feel comfort that Hilary and Bruce are giving their two daughters, Rebecca and Lauren a good home and instilling in them a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. As I toss and turn I feel the comfort of our two cats Toby and Plata who happily sleep nearby with no worries in the world. After all someone has to toss and turn. And that’s me.




Azar - The Beauty Of Randomness
Tuesday, December 29, 2009



azar.
(Del ár. hisp. *azzahr, y este del ár. zahr, dado1, literalmente 'flores').

1. m. Casualidad, caso fortuito.


Diccionario de la Real Academia Española


Azar
La palabra azar viene árabe الزهر (az-zahr) que significaba primero "flor" y luego se empleó para la marca que daba la suerte en la taba, que era la rótula de un mamífero mediano, como una oveja o una cabra. En la taba, antecesor del dado cuadrado, se marcaba con una pequeña flor uno de sus lados, que era el que daba la suerte. En el juego que en árabe y otras lenguas de Oriente se llamó نرد (nard), en español tablas reales, en francés tric-trac y en inglés backgammon, el dado se llama زهرة النرد (zahrat an-nard), literalmente "la flor de las tablas reales". El uso de الزهر (az-zahr) con el significado de dado hizo que en castellano se introdujera el arabismo azar con el significado del latín alea. (ver aleatorio).

From el origen de las palabras


This is about randomness and the beauty that I have found through it. Because it is about randomness I feel I can justify my going into different directions. Not a couple of months ago I read in my NY Times, in a business article, about the decline of magazines. The writer reflected on the space constraints of magazines and especially in relation to ad content. The writer went on to make a statement that registered in my brain. It was something like, “Space in magazines is limited, on the web the real estate [my italics] is infinite.” With that in mind and considering that I have no editor I will do so as I please and write to whatever length this finally ends up in.

For years I have absolutely despised flamenco in all its forms. I cannot stand the music, gypsies sitting on small stools playing what passes as dramatic music while other men and women clap their hands. I cannot abide by the stamping of feet on tables (as seen in Hollywood films about Mexico. Curiously early American directors equated flamenco with Mexico) or the playing of castanets. I loathe them.

Part of my reason for disliking flamenco I can squarely place on the shoulders of my snobbish mother who deprecated Spanish music. She told me that the best songs about Spain had been written by Mexican composer, Agustin Lara (one version of La Malagueña) of by Cuban Ernesto Lecuona (the other better known Malagueña). She further cited Edouard Lalo’s Opus 21 in D minor Symphonie Espagnole written for Spanish virtuoso violinist Pablo de Sarasate. She would end her argument telling me that Rimsky Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol sounded more Spanish than most Spanish music. She did not have to tell me about Bizet’s opera Carmen to put the nails on the Spanish coffin. I eventually agreed with her in 1961 when in my new craziness for American jazz I bought Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain. If it was Miles Davis it had to be good.



I hated the first track on my record which was Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. I refuse to listen to it to confirm here my suspicion that you can hear castanets in it. The other tracks I learned to like and they have grown in my estimation through the years. But soon after Sketches of Spain you could hear versions of Rodrigo’s composition with solo clarinet, bass saxophone, voices and probably even with a kazoo accompaniment with the Swingle Singers. In Spanish when you really don’t like something you say, “No me gusta ni en pintura.” Or I don’t like it even as a painting. The Concierto de Aranjuez is up there with the theme song from Around the World in 80 Days and Doctor Zhivago’s theme Lara. I loathe all three.



In the 80s Vancouver had a renaissance of Greek restaurants. My wife’s favourite was Orestes. In these restaurants you were destined, no matter how you avoided it, to see a belly dancer which in my mind (I will cite here my ignorance on all things flamenco) was flamenco’s poor cousin via the gypsies that came from India. To make it all worse these belly dancers replaced castanets with little thumb metal devices that made a noise that would pierce into my head and produce an instant migraine without having to indulge in retsina. I dislike retsina as much as I dislike feta cheese and calamari. If I went to Greece I would live solely on olives (I love them) and the Greek version of that Italian concoction called pizza.

Sometime in the middle 90s before the local business magazine Equity ceased to publish, its publisher Ronald Stern gave one of his celebrated Christmas parties. To my horror the entertainment was to be a flamenco singer and dancer. The dancer Jocelina, see below, left, entered like a hurricane, with a shockingly black head and a body to die for. When she spotted me she winked. I immediately recognized her as a former habitué of that establishment on the corner of Main and Powell. As a blonde I had known her as Jocelyn and I had photographed her as a belly dancer. She proceeded to slithering around in a most graceful way. This she did to the singing of a man who was telling us a mournful tale of loss. A mournful tale of loss it was, to those who did not understand Spanish! Rosemary and I were trying to control our laughter:




Rich men shave with warm water. I am a poor man and I must shave with cold water. Alas I am a poor man and must shave with cold water. This is so unfair, so unfair.
He repeated that as a Gillette-like mantra.

My second thoughts on my hate of all things flamenco and the nether regions of the belly occurred when I saw Sarita, above, left, the belly dancer. She had formerly been a flamenco dancer. She was from Puerto Rico, she spoke Spanish and looked like the most beautiful Gypsy I had ever met in my life. I wasn’t the only one who had fallen for Sarita’s charms.
Alex MacGillivray, the restaurant writer for the Vancouver Sun wrote a review at the Kilimanjaro ( in Gastown) in which he did not mention the food once. His piece was all about Sarita!

I photographed Sarita, and, no matter how inexperienced I might have been, her pictures were some of the most overtly erotic I have ever taken. I found that my best recourse was to avoid her and to swear a life free of castanets, flamenco, stamping on floors and in particular that tongue slapping noise that belly dancers make that propels me to pull my hair. I have not seen Sarita since.


One potato, two potato, three potato, four.
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.

(Then the person would remove the fist on the word "more" and the game
would begin again.

Eenie, meenie, meinie, moe
Catch a niger[ that’s how I learned it in Buenos Aires in the 40s] by the toe
If he hollers
let him go
Eenie, meenie, meinie, moe


The Spanish version (I first heard it in Mexico) of the above youthful study into randomness is the much more satisfying:


De tín marín
de do pingüé,
cúcara, mácara, títere fue.
Yo no fui;
fue Teté.
Pégale, pégale
que ella fue.



But since the above are used to randomly choose something (two teams to play soccer at recess, is an example ) there is a purpose to that sort of randomness that is not subject to the vagaries of a more unsettling kind like leaving home and forgetting to lock the door. You remember, you get out of the car and lock the door. You drive off and, blocks away, you get into a fender bender. “Why did I have to forget to lock that door…?”

The word random in English to me has a mathematical ring to it. It brings to my mind Einstein's famous quote, "God does not play dice with the universe." The word is almost neutral unless I make the connection with "random violence" or "random killing". Then the word has a more sinister tone to it. In Spanish the expression is “al azar”. The word azar comes from the Arabic and originally it had to to with a knuckle bone from a sheep on which you would paint symbols including a flower (azhar is Arabic for flower) and play an ancient game which eventually let to dicea and other games of chance. To further make that word azar so beautiful, it was used by the Spaniards exclusively to name the white flowers of citrus fruits. Before Odorono came into Spanish life, agua de azhar, or citrus flower water hid the smells of infrequent bathing.


Randomness has changed, of late, a lot of my prejudicial perception on taste in the arts. It was the randomness of looking for movie DVD’s at the man branch of the Vancouver Public Library (Videomatica I now inform you that I will be spending less money at your establishment) that led to my current conundrum (not much of one, as I will admit that I have suddenly changed my mind) on flamenco.


At those stacks I found Spanish director Carlos Saura’s, right, Amor Brujo, 1985, (third of the trilogy that was preceeded by Blood Wedding, 1981, and Carmen, 1983). I decided to give it a go as I had seen previously one of the best films ever, Saura’s Goya in Bordeaux, 1999, and I think that his Tango, 1998, is the finest film ever made about Argentine tango.

Amor Brujo (based on the ballet by Manuel de Falla which I saw with Rosemary and my two granddaughters last Saturday) begins with one of the most remarkable and long tracking shots that would give Hitchcock a jealousy of indigestion. The dancing is superb and there is not one castanet to bee seen anywhere. The set is a huge car dump with an earthen floor. There is no zapateo (foot stamping).


The main protagonist, Antonio Gades (photo above, right by Lorenzo Cebrian, is one of the most strikingly beautiful men I have ever seen. His partner, Cristina Hoyos, below centre in a still from Amor Brujo, is not as beautiful as a third girl, Laura del Sol, bottom right with gades, also in the cast. Rebecca asked me why this was and I had to explain that Saura did not cast actors because they were actors or even good looking actors. He preferred to cast very good dancers as actors regardless of their looks. This I confirmed when I found out that Gades(seen in all pictures here and lifted from Google images) was the most noted flamenco dancer of his generation, that he was the director of the National Ballet of Spain. Gades choreographed all the numbers of the trilogy. Cristina Hoyos’ curriculum credits were as good.




After this film (which Rebecca enjoyed and Rosemary commented, “The Spanish is so brief and so easy to understand.”) I have taken out the remaining films of the trilogy at the Vancouver Public Library! We are set for a Saura Saturday flamenco marathon.

I just might look for Sarita and see what I can do with my camera to capture a dance which I have suddenly come to understand thanks to Saura and the help of that wonderful randomness of the stacks of our Vancouver Public Library. I am certain that if my mother had ever seen any of these films her respect for real Spanish music might have grown. Luckily it wasn't too late for me to change my mind.

no castanets and no foot stamping with Antonio Gades and Cristina Hoyos



Gargoyles & The Winged Victory
Monday, December 28, 2009



Just like anybody else I dream. And just like everybody else when I wake up in the morning most of those vivid dreams have faded and only bits and pieces of them remain. I am unlike Graham Greene who kept a notebook and pen handy by his bedside table. During the night it would seem that he could will himself awake during interesting dreams and he would jot down the jist of them before memory failed.

This morning I woke up, and just for once I could remember the dream. The dream, which was about Paris may have come to my sleeping imagination because I am reading a Barbara Cleverly Commander Joe Sandilands novel, Foly Du Jour which is set in Paris in 1927. The dream involved a faded, blurry Winged Victory and a Notre Dame gargoyle. I went to my files and looked around. I wasn't too surprised what I found in one six-frame negative. Three of the the frames were of the Winged Victory at the Louvre and the other three were the gargoyles on the roof of Notre Dame. While the pictures are not absolutely sharp (I used Kodak Infrared film) the are not blurred at all. But the dream indeed was accurate as to the relationship between them.


Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is the name given in English to a statue of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory), found on the island of Samothrace (Greek Samothraki) in 1863 by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau. It is now in the Louvre, Paris. In Greek it is called the Niki tis Samothrakis (Νίκη της Σαμοθράκης) and in French La Victoire de Samothrace). There are numerous copies around the world. The Victory is considered one of the great surviving masterpieces of Greek sculpture, even though it is missing its head and arms. It is by an unknown artist and is thought to date from about 190 BC (though some scholars date it as early as 250 BC or as late as 180 BC). A partial inscription on the base of the statue includes the word "Rhodhios" (Rhodes), indicating that the statue was commissioned to celebrate a naval victory by Rhodes, at that time the most powerful maritime state in the Aegean. The Samothrace Archaeological Museum, however, says that the statue was an offering donated by the Macedonian general Demetrius I Poliorcetes after his naval victory at Cyprus. This would date the statue to 288 BC at the latest.



The statue originally stood on the prow of a stone ship, probably as part of an outdoor altar, and was intended to represent the goddess as she descended from the skies to bring victory to the fleet. Before losing her arms she had been blowing a victory paean on a trumpet. In 1950 one of the statue's hands was found on Samothrace and is now in a glass case in the Louvre next to the podium on which the statue stands. The statue shows a mastery of form and movement which has impressed critics and artists since its discovery. The Victory is one of the Louvre's great treasures, and it is displayed in the most dramatic fashion, at the head of the sweeping Daru Staircase. The loss of the head and arms, while regrettable in a sense, is held by many to enhance the statue's depiction of the supernatural.





Writers & Company, Eleanor Wachtel & Novelizing My Wife
Sunday, December 27, 2009



I try to avoid reading the NY Times’ travel section on Sundays. The beautiful articles about exotic places I would like to visit don’t put me into a vicarious mood. I sometimes don’t want to read about Venice. I want to go to the real Venice. But today Sunday I could not possible avoid the cover with its banner headline Stendhal In Parma by Adam Begley. The heading contains:

There’s the city that sprang from the imagination of the author of The Charterhouse of Parma and there’s the real place. Both are worth exploring.


Since both of Stendhal’s best known novels, The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma are part of my book collection I was intrigued and read on. It was a rewarding experience particularly this:

The fact that Stendhal (né Marie-Henri Beyle) contrives to give us a feel for Parma without pausing for a single descriptive passage is a literary feat the reveals a curious truth about realism and the power of suggestion. Show us the effect a place has on those who spend time there, and there’s no need to supply brick-by-brick visual detail. The same goes for characters in a book: Show us how others react to them, and we feel we know them, that we would recognize them on the street. Consider for example Stendhal’s hero, an idealistic youth who survives his impetuous decision to run off at age 16 to fight for Napoleon, and whose subsequent career becomes the business of nearly everyone else in the novel. Though you might not notice on first reading, Fabrice is never described physically; we learn only that he’s a “fine looking boy” wildy attractive to women. Our best clue to how Stendhal sees him is a minor character’s remark that Fabrice has a “Corregio contenance.”



That above passage produced a nagging impact in me. It was only a week before that I happened to listen to the beginning of an interview by Eleanor Wachtel (Reader’s & Company) with English literary critic and novelist James Wood. The interview was so gripping that when I arrived home I ran in and immediately turned on my radio tuner in the living room so that I was able to hear the whole 55 minute interview. In this interview James Wood said something like this, “We can never know people as well as we can know the protagonist of a novel. We get to know the protagonist through the interaction with other characters in the novel.”

That above statement is as obvious as the one that I only found out just a few years ago. You cannot have nostalgia for a place when you are living in it! Obvious it is but not quite.

After I heard Wood I went upstairs and stared at Rosemary. We have been married 42 years. I stared at her and came to the conclusion that I don’t know her.

In my repeated readings of C.S. Forrester’s Hornblower novels I am forced to read between the lines, to guess what is in the mind of Hornblower at any given time. In Gregory Peck’s immersion into Hornblower in the film Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) he is bang on. This is one of my favourite films of all time. Peck doesn’t say much. An expression here, the pursing of a lip there is all you need to know what is inside of Hornblower’s mind.

And of course in Patrick O’Brian’s “better” nautical novels featuring Captain Aubrey and his medical sidekick Maturin the reader gets to know them intimately. Yet Hornblower is as vivid in my mind as is Aubrey.

The author of the NY Times article on Parma, Adam Begley argues most convincingly that even though Stendhal writes little about the real Parma, it is still a Parma that has never been characterized better since.

It was sometime around the middle 80s that I photographed Eleanor Wachtel for Western Living Magazine. The magazine featured a pretty monthly column by a local writer and it was called Forethought. Wachtel was gracious, friendly and easy to photograph.

When I listen to her program, Writers & Company, I like the way she tries to keep her own contribution to the conversations with authors at a minimum. It was a few months ago that I heard her interview with Irish writer Edna O’Brien. It was terrific. I managed to find out that it was available as a podcast. I got my limited computer knowledge working and I was able to download it and copy it to a CD which I sent to my first cousin and godmother Inesita (86) in Buenos Aires who enjoyed the interview as much as I did. I played the CD in our bedside clock radio for Rosemary. She enjoyed it, too.

Today I downloaded not only Wachtel’s interview with James Wood but one with Paul Theroux. For those who might be interested in following suit be aware that the podcasts are up for only ten days!

As for getting to know the real Rosemary I am going to try to "novelize" her. I am going to notice how my family and friends interact with her. This could be exciting and revealing.



     

Previous Posts
Inertia

Beyond the Grave - A Posthumous Gift

Pathos With Kokoro at the Roundhouse

That Female Angel

Pete Turner & Khalistan

Figurative Art - An Obsession

Embryotrophic Cavatina - Requiem For My Friend

The Man From Pittsburg Almost Made Me Smile

Giclée in French Slang means...

Fairwell French Style - Not



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12/29/13 - 1/5/14

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9/24/17 - 10/1/17