Thursday, July 07, 2011

Good Food, Books, and Art - My Perfect Summer Day

Today was an absolutely lovely example of what summer vacation should be.

First, a quick overview then I'll fill in some details. I slept until almost 7:15, had a couple of cups of good coffee and a quick breakfast while checking Facebook & Twitter and reading part of a short story. I walked for an hour while listening to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Thanks to Audiobook Community for the free download). I had a leisurely lunch from H-town StrEATs at Inversion Coffee House, reading Victor LaValle's Big Machine while I ate. Then I went to The Menil Collection. I haven't been there in a while and wanted to see the Civil Rights era photographs on display. Of course, I can't go there without strolling through the surrealist and modern art rooms, even though I've seen most of the work in those rooms before. Since Cy Twombly died earlier this week, I thought I should finally visit the Cy Twombly gallery while I was at the Menil. Afterward, I stopped briefly at Half Priced Books, looking for a small, cheap volume of Rilke poems, which I didn't find but found something else very interesting. Then I needed to get a prescription filled and decided not to sit around and wait for it to be filled. Instead, I used the wait time as an excuse to check out Sweet Tea Cafe & Tea Bar, where I had a delicious piece of red velvet cake and some iced tea and did a bit more reading of Big Machine. After that, I picked up the prescription and came home to spend the evening blogging, reading or maybe watching a Midsomer Murders episode since I have the house to myself tonight.

Now for some details. About Shiver, it's a werewolf story, and I really don't do fantasy/horror novels, but since the audiobook was available as a free download and the book was fairly popular with some of my students last school year, I decided to give it a try. Each of the 9 parts is just over an hour long, the perfect amount of time for me to walk my three plus miles around the neighborhood. The writing is pretty good; the story is interesting, and, most importantly, the readers are not annoying to listen to. I'm no audiobook connoisseur, but I've had some bad experiences with audiobooks before. Shiver is basically a teen romance, and it's not bad, even the sometimes cheesy lyrics that Sam creates in his head seem appropriate to his character.

The World was Watching, the Civil Rights photographs exhibit, are part of a program that includes a lecture and the screening of films and television footage from the era and more photographs on display at The Gregory School. (I haven't seen those photos yet, but I plan to go very soon.) Some of the photos at The Menil actually were so powerful that they brought tears to my eyes. I made a few notes about some of the people and places in the photos. Even though I feel pretty well-educated about the Civil Rights movement, there were some people and places in the photos that I don't think I've ever heard of. I'll do some research later to learn more about them.

The Cy Twombly Gallery contains a permanent exhibition of his works. I really like much abstract and modern art, but some of his scribbling really just looks like a child's scribbling. There were a couple of series of paintings that I found rather interesting though. One had something to do with roses, but it was like the roses were bleeding or disintegrating. I should've made a note of the words on the painting, but I didn't and can't find them online right now. Another series related to lines from a Rilke poem. I think it's called A Painting in 9 Parts, and these are, I think, Rilke's lines: and in the pond/broken off from the sky/my feeling sinks/as if standing on fishes--I can't decide if these lines are hopelessly sad or not. The paintings have lots of dark greens and black in them. I've never read any Rilke, unless I read some in a long ago literature class, but after leaving the Menil, I stopped at Half Priced today looking for some. More about that later. As I was leaving the gallery, I noticed a small room off the entryway that had a few sculptures in it. One of them is called Epitaph. The epitaph on the sculpture is very chilling: "In the HOSPITALITY of WAR We LEFT THEM THEIR DEAD AS a giFT TO REMEMBER US BY ARCHILOCHOS" [sic]. Archilochus was a 7th century Greek poet. These words are just so perfectly horrifying to me, especially in light of the world I live in now. Even now, sitting here in my living room, I just feel bereft from reading them. They just kind of take my breath away. I wish I could write lines that had that much power. But I can't sit here and be depressed, not after having such a wonderful day. On to a lighter topic.

Because the main boy character in Shiver and Cy Twombly have a thing for Rilke, I decided to see if Half Priced had a volume of his poems. I could've bought one, but it cost more than I wanted to pay today. While I was looking, I noticed a copy of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, and I wasn't sure if it was really letters or poems, so I pulled it off the shelf--it's all letters--and it fell open to an inscription from Boston to Bean. It's Half Priced books so I wasn't surprised by the presence of the inscription. I was surprised that the book contained both a card and the envelope it was mailed in. I took photos of the inscription and the card. Was that wrong? I was going to post them here, but I'm not sure now if I should. I felt like I had found a PostSecret. Anyway, I left Half Priced empty-handed, which is not easy for me to do. I decided that I probably have some Rilke poems in one of the many anthologies at home.

Now, as soon as I publish this post, I'm going to finish reading that short story that I started this morning and, hopefully, finish reading Big Machine. I have lots to say about it, but I'll wait to post something about until after book club meets on Sunday.

I'll leave you with some Ice Cube: I gotta say it was a good day.


Nora B. Peevy said...

I've heard good things about Shiver. It's one I have to pick up.

I'm a dark fiction writer myself. Hope to see you stop by my blog.


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