Wednesday 8 February 2017

№ 7 reading list | Vanessa Bell exhibition

№ 7 reading list | Vanessa Bell exhibition · Lisa Hjalt

In an old notebook of mine there is a quote that always makes me laugh. Actress Emma Thompson was featured in NYT 's By the Book and when asked about the last book that had made her cry, she said: 'I was on holiday years ago with “Corelli’s Mandolin.” Rendered inconsolable and had to be put to bed for the afternoon' (Sunday Book Review, 23.09.2012). I adore Emma Thompson. It's time for another reading list and Bernières's book is on it, a Vintage Books edition, beautifully illustrated by Rob Ryan. There is also a novel by my favourite Icelandic author, Sigurdur Palsson, whom I often spotted at cafés in Reykjavik, always impeccably dressed, usually wearing a patterned silk scarf or a beret (he studied in France). I have already mentioned Doris Lessing and me rereading Little Women. Here is the № 7 reading list, the first of 2017 (for convenience I have numbered the lists):

· Fictions  by Jorge Luis Borges
· The Grass is Singing  by Doris Lessing
· The Golden Notebook  by Doris Lessing
· Captain Corelli's Mandolin  by Louis De Bernières
· Instead of a Book: Letters to a Friend  by Diana Athill
· Local Souls  by Allan Gurganus
· Parísarhjól  by Sigurður Pálsson (Icelandic)
· Little Women  by Louisa May Alcott
· In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910  by Sue Roe

I almost feel guilty for not having read Athill's memoir, Instead of a Letter, but when I saw Instead of a Book on sale at Waterstones I knew it was going on my list. It contains the letters she wrote for over thirty years to the American poet Edward Field, who kept them and wanted them published. In the introduction, Athill wittily observes:
Usually when someone's letters are published the writer is dead. In this case there was a problem: Edward is six years younger than I am, but since I'm ninety-three that doesn't make him young. If he waited until I was dead he might be dead too. (p. vii)
Kudos to writers who crack you up in a bookshop! Gurganus is an author I have never read. I bought his book after listening to Michael Silverblatt's conversation with him on the Bookworm (from Nov. 2013) and ended up listening to all their conversations. I thought about keeping it on the shelf until I had read Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, but it kept pulling and on the list it went. I was delighted to find Roe's book at that library. At this point I cannot say much about it, but I do wish it had more illustrations (in my image you see Modigliani's painting Caryatid, 1911).

Vanessa Bell, Nude with Poppies, 1916

Sometimes I wish I lived closer to the London area. If I did I would hop on a train to see the Vanessa Bell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery that opens today (a short train ride from central London). Artist Vanessa Bell (1879–1961) belonged to the bohemian Bloomsbury group and was Virginia Woolf's sister (the photo of her in my image above is taken at Charleston in 1925). The exhibition closes on the 4th of June. There is an accompanying publication, Vanessa Bell, edited by Sarah Milroy (Philip Wilson Publishers) that I would like to have. If you are a Bell fan perhaps the March 2017 collectors' edition of Harper's Bazaar UK will interest you, exclusively available at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

PS. Thanks to blogger Diana Mieczan of exPress-o for her delightful entry about my blog. She is correct, my coffee cup is almost every time set on a cloth napkin. I have been doing this for a long time and like to believe the coffee tastes better.

top image by me | photo of Vanessa Bell appears in the book Charleston: A Bloomsbury House & Garden | Amedeo Modigliani's painting appears in the book In Montmartre © Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris | Vanessa Bell art via Art UK © 1961 estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett, Swindon Art Gallery

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