books, Just bitchin'

Literary Candy

blogtaste1Inclement weather is a bookworm’s friend.

We have an excuse to stay indoors, pull the ‘Welcome’ mat in after us, and immerse ourselves in the printed word to an extent that would make us feel guilty on a bright, sunny day. I began my annual literary hibernation over the nice, long, stormy Thanksgiving weekend.

I was looking for a holiday read. You know… the kind of thing that will be a mild diversion and can be consumed with ease, or, alternatively, be abandoned without remorse at holiday’s end. The kind of book called ‘fluff’ or ‘inconsequential’ or ‘brain-candy.’

I also wanted something more, shall we say…meaty.

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I selected two novels. One was authored by a Pulitzer Prize winner. The other was a joint effort by two women whose steady day-jobs are in the fashion industry. You can probably guess which was ‘fluff’ and which was ‘meaty.’

But the read was totally unexpected.

I opened the Pulitzer’s offering to be greeted by a two-page family tree. Dozens of names, some of which were only mentioned in passing throughout the course of the long, long story. I had to bookmark this reference tool and return to it every few pages, working out the relationships of characters that drifted in and out.

It was well-written. It was richly written. The gamut of characters and dialogue and situations and eras was beautifully done. Yet I felt unsatisfied at the end. It required effort to read, but for me the finely detailed portraits didn’t go anywhere. It was masterful, but it didn’t touch me.

It was a Rembrandt painting hanging behind velvet ropes. I could appreciate it, but, having looked my fill, I moved on.

Then there was the brain-candy book.

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I couldn’t put it down.

It accompanied me everywhere so I could devour a few pages at every opportunity: stop lights…lines at the post office…lines at the store…waiting rooms…

It contained grammatical errors. It was completely predictable. It’s characters were thinly-drawn. But it was riveting, because it left enough blank spaces for me to fill in myself and realize I knew these people!! Everyone knows these people! And I know these situations!! Everyone does!!

It was thoroughly enjoyable and when I finished it, I was sad there wasn’t a sequel. I also wondered how many agents would choose the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s work over the crowd-pleasing fluff, if they didn’t know the author’s background and the impressive accolades she’d won with previous work.

It’s a puzzle. It’s also a statement about art.

I’m grateful that Rembrandts exist and are available, but a cartoon can speak volumes, too.

So, hats-off to the majority of writers who will never pen the Great American Novel. But their less-exalted work will touch our souls.

And sometimes you just gotta have candy.

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Goodbye, Melinda…

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She was an artist.

Her work extended to jewelry, costumes, painting. She had a way of expressing her spirit, imbuing her work with it, that rendered her soul accessible.

That is the apex, the epitome of an artist’s goal. It takes courage and talent.

I met her in a jewelry store some years ago. Her husband is a jeweler. They found each other through the creation of her art. Her life was like that: following and defined by her ability to create.

A strange feeling I’ve learned to recognize had been haunting me since mid-December. But life and obligations and duties and necessities distract one from following up on these psychic blips that one never mentions…that one keeps secret because they invariably prove true and intensely private.

But today I gritted my teeth and followed the indefinable promptings.

I found her.

She died. Mid-December. Unexpectedly.

Of all the people I’ve encountered in my life, she was one of the two I can say I envied. In my lexicon there is a difference between jealousy and envy. Jealousy has a tinge of hostility. Envy is a tribute.

So this is my farewell and tribute to a gentle spirit and a beautiful soul.

Melinda Mary Rogers Cowdery…artist.

Thank you for sharing your art and your spirit.

melinda

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Just bitchin'

The Vapor Dancers

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Leonardo Da Vinci was fascinated by the changes night could bring.

He walked the streets at dusk, marveling at the beauty of the human face when bathed in twilight’s special grace. There was a muted loveliness denied the harsh illumination of the day.

It has always been so.

Things change at night. Stranger sights and seeming secrets feel freer to move among us. It’s one reason I follow Leonardo’s example, wandering after sunset, hoping to stumble upon lesser-known magic as it goes about its nightly routine.

But I never expected the Vapor Dancers.

I don’t know if this is a subculture or a single occurrence. I don’t know if they are called by another name, but to me…Vapor Dancers.

You’ll find them when the hour is late and the street deserted.

You’ll find them where plumes and columns of steam rise from manhole covers and vents.

The first one emerged from shadow, making a soundless way to the center of the street. Diaphanous fabric floated from her waist, pale and grey as fog. To the music of distant sirens, she approached the pillar of vapor where it escaped the city’s substructure, drifting upward as the breeze sculpted it into pleats and folds. Her arms rose in graceful imitation.

And then began what I can only call a dance.

Moving in silent harmony with the steam, she made it her partner. Then another, and another, and one more appeared, echoing the first’s performance.

But no city street is deserted for long. The dance lasted until a cab turned the corner, the sharp beams of its headlights interrupting, scattering, dispersing both dancers and steam.

I left, too. It was late, and this wasn’t my world. I was just a visitor who’d been treated to something strange and hauntingly beautiful.

Leonardo would have loved it.

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