Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

    A few weeks ago the New York Times  T Magazine ran an article "Old Books, New Thoughts."  Philip Roth, Jennifer Egan, Marilynne Robinson and others revisited their early work.
    A very long time ago, I was a novelist.  A published novelist.  (So, okay, only two of the five novels I wrote made it to print.  I was offered an electronic publishing deal on my fifth one.  I declined, certain no one would ever want to read an entire book on a computer.)
   My first novel Hell's Bells was about a woman with migraines.  It was supposed to be funny.  And yes, it was partly autobiographical.  The rest of it was wildly extrapolated.  It was dedicated "to my parents, who would like everyone to know this is a work of fiction."  I wasn't worried about their reaction, but I did wonder what my in-laws would make of it.
   In the Times article George Saunders spoke of revisiting "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline".  "Reading these again, I found myself missing certain ghost-phrases that I was almost sure were in there, but which I obviously must have cut at some point."  
   Hell's Bells published a lifetime ago, in 1983.  Thirty-one years later I reread it. My reaction differed from Sander's.  I was surprised at how well it read and what a lovely vocabulary I once possessed.
    Back in the 80's a friend said reading my novel was like having a conversation with me.  Onesided.  Oh well, everyone's a critic.  If you want to read it, you can get it on Amazon for a penny.  Plus shipping.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Frontal Aversion

                                           "Bliss"   © 2014

   The above painting is as close as I will ever come to doing a portrait of my daughter Amanda.  My mother painted portraits and hated every moment of it.  I won't even try.  I know it is a failing, a weakness of spirit, that prevents me.  All the really good realist artists have mastered the figure and portrait.  I did take classes with the noted portrait master Danni Dawson, but painted still lifes while the rest of class worked from a model.  I listened to all of her comments and kidded myself that I was learning portraiture.  Then came the weekly portrait homework.  
   Something odd happens when I try to paint the human face.  And it's not Kandinsky-odd.  An eight inch head suddenly grows to be eleven inches with the chin drooping off the canvas.  Ears get gnarly.  Colors muddy and threaten to turn viral.  I think I have the mouth right and then one brush stroke later it is all lost.  It's like playing touch tag with the devil.
This is the only self-portrait still above ground.  I have kept this portrait only because my brother, Randy says it captures my personality perfectly. That's a damned nasty thing to say about such a gently thrusting chin.  In spite of this, I still love him.
Maybe I'll surprise him with a portrait for Christmas.