Monthly Archives: November 2009

The View From the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in An Uncertain World by Ted Orland, 2nd ed. 2007, Image Continuum Press, U.S.

This is my current bedside reading.  Its full of all the philosophical ponderings on artists and how they reconcile with the processes of art making, how they define art justaposed against the so-called “art world”, and on and on.  I’ve been highlighting passages because this is one I’m going to keep unlike the book he co-authored called Art & Fear which was okay but just didn’t speak to me personal.

I just completed the first chapter yesterday…it is a slow read for me because I can’t get past a page or two without becoming engaged in internal dialogue with the ideas presented….and if you know me, than you know this is what I want to experience with a book.  I’m digging that Orland recognizes the multipliticies that exist in human experiences, thus art-making also.   He isn’t presenting, so far, some “this is how you do it” approach but  seems to be writing to air out thoughts and engage readers open-endedly.

I’ll share some quotes in upcoming posts.  Peace.

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Filed under Art, culture, developing artists

Cion by Zakes Mda, 2007 paperback, Picador Press, NY

After a few nights of intending to start this book, it wasn’t until today that I split the cover.  The very first sentence sent me to dictionary.com.  The sciolist has delusions of Godness.  Sciolism (sahy-uh-liz-uh m) noun, superficial knowledge. Sciolist is one that possesses such a thing.  Digging the concept and the play with Godness as a condition, perhaps disorder.  I’m going to keep reading.  Check you later!

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The Mermaid Chair

I’m fighting the instinct to abandon this book…it is a quaint read thus far but the I’m finding it a bit formulaic. I’m 1/3 through the book and not once have I been thrown off kilter or made to read a passage out loud to my family.

An adult daughter returns to her childhood home to tend to her elderly mother who has chopped off her on finger…not because she has dementia but due to some unknown reason that the daughter is there to find out and prevent further outbursts.

The title references an actual chair located at the abbey on the other side of her mother’s home. So far, other than memories of how the chair looks and sitting in and being mesmerized by it as a child, the true story or magic of the chair is still unfolding. Its one of the two curiosities that keep me reading. The other, being the mother’s story which if I had written it, she would have been the central character.

There are several points of tension in the story which helps to carry it along; between the mother and daughter, the daughter and her husband, the daughter and her haunting memories of how her father died, and the possibility of a little love interest between the daughter and a would-be-monk.

In a way I can champion the premise that the daughter will find her own voice with her mother and her husband but as a rite of passage the idea that this is coming when she is 40+ is a little annoying. The main character is an artist who paints in the upstairs attic of the home she shares with her husband who is a psychiatrist. My expectations where higher of the main character because she was an artist and she comes across as having a “mid-life” crisis and I’m finding it kinda “on the couch with oprah”.  For now, I’ll keep reading.

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The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, Penguin Books, 2006 paperback edition

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 
  • Here is my teaser:

  • … she’d enlisted Shem to bury an upright bathtub halfway into the ground, and, being slow to grasp the point, he’d left the end of the tub with the faucets on it exposed.  Mother had gone ahead anyway and placed a concrete statue of Mary inside the porcelain arch.
  •  
  • From The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  • Thanks Marie
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    The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, (hardcover), Knopf Publisher, first ed., 240 pages.

    A book of short stories from a young Nigerian.  I don’t read many short stories…with J. California Cooper and ZZ Packer being the most memorable of the few I’ve read. 

    captured from amazon.com

    In looking for patterns in the writing that unite all the stories, it seemed to me that the stories lean on themes of identity and personal values and expectations thread the stories.  The author juxtaposes contemporary life in Nigeria and life in America  to explore these themes.  The stories are situational narratives of individuals but with very little focus on character development and more on observation and experiences that unfold mostly through “a telling” than dialogue. 

    The ending of the stories seemed abrupt but maybe that is the nature of the short stories.  It was if the characters just seem to suddenly get up and make their exit which left me uneasy.  Without much character development, I can’t say that I became drawn into  the stories and when I did it was in the stories where Adichie increased her use of dialogue between characters. 

    Overall I found the stories a little formulaic and predictable.  My favorites from the collection of 12 were A Private Experience about 2 women in Nigeria from seperate ethnicities/religions/class who find themselves taking overnight shelter together during a violent uprising; Ghosts, about a retired university professor observing the downfallen state of his country compared the hope and vigor of his younger years and who finds comfort in the visitations by his deceased wife; The American Embassy, about a Nigerian woman seeking to apply for a visa through the Nigerian lottery system and the indifferences she experiences with the process.  The Shivering, about the becoming of friends between two Nigerian students at Princeton. 

    The most intense stories where Ndichie used less diaglogue and more situational telling are Tomorrow is Too Far (about sibling rivalry and secrets kept) and The Headstrong Historian (about parental sacrifice and love, wayward children and how spirits will find their way back home).  Her use of narrative is the most intriguing and better developed.

    Because nothing in this book compelled me to say “keep it”, I’m debating whether to bookcross it…something I haven’t done in a very long while.  Maybe I’ll donate it to a local senior citizen group or youth group.

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    Filed under Immigrant Experience, Nigeria, short stories