Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 26, 2015

Final Chapters

The advanced review copies of Little Woman in Blue have been sent to the stacks reviewers make, and soon may be praised, criticized, or ignored. I’m excited and scared and also just busy, though my first novel for adults won’t be in stores until September. Just because a book is in temporary covers doesn’t mean my work is done. That nest of robin’s egg blue post-its in the photo is from Melodye, who made an eagle-eyed search for errors she marked with my favorite color. I’m grateful for how she pointed out words I might rearrange for greater force, caught the “shorted” that should have been “shortened,” and suggested places to shuffle back proper names where I’d put “she” for more invisibility – until that switches to confusion. While others have netted out commas, she wanted a few more. Commas have come and gone, like bees swarming from a hive and back. Commas seem to be as much art as science. There are rules, but enough exceptions to fill a guidebook, though who would dare to edit that one?

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Focusing in again is a reminder of how each small choice matters to the whole. My friend Deb also went over the ARC for typos, missing or errant words, the sort that get left when you change a sentence too many times and miss the tracks you left. Deb is a painter as well as a writer, so I liked having her thoughts on May’s watercolors (i.e. avoid the words “opaque” and use “washes” rather than “lines.”) We can all miss the misspelling or slack sentence when looking at the wider picture, the absent word that the rest of us apparently read in our minds. Any mistake is embarrassing. My name is on the cover of a book, but my skin feels as thin as it did when I also tried to look together if not professional while joining other writers around a long table back in college. Vulnerability never ends.

Only tiny changes are permitted within an advanced reading copy: nothing that will change page numeration. But just because a change is as small as one letter or word doesn’t mean anxiety can’t run rampant. After years of writing, revising, and editing the editing, this is my last chance to make certain things are as I wish. When the book is out, I’ll enjoy the party of its existence, but right now my focus is on dust lurking on a ledge. Am I certain about this or that word? I stare it down the way a beauty might look in a mirror and focus on a flaw no one else in the world would see. A word looks lopsided, or gauzy, or it glares. Or can I let it be?

This has been my time by the lilacs. Now I’ve inserted the changes, made choices, and am calling the book done. Not that there aren’t other tasks for a book coming out this fall. I just updated my website to include notes about my inspiration for Little Woman in Blue, historical background information, an Alcott reading list, and a readers guide to the novel. (Comments welcome!) I’m also spending some time ushering my book toward stores and small museums, where the story of a nineteenth century woman trying to balance art and love might be welcome. I couldn’t have been luckier than to have walked into the Odyssey Bookshop, been greeted by lovely Hannah, who took my review copy from my hands as eagerly as if she’d never noticed the stacks of gorgeous books all around us. She asked if I’d like to do the launch there and we settled on October 7. The wonderful Porter Square Bookstore in Cambridge contacted me to read on October 23. Please come!

Does all this seem far off? Not really. I’ve drafted a talk about May and other nineteenth women artists that I’m offering to libraries with book clubs. And every day I work on a new novel that’s almost ready for my writing group. I write parts of poems, some of which may gather, like metal shavings pulled to a magnet, into one or two real poems. After being brutally nit picky, it’s good to let myself make mistakes, enjoying the forgiving nature of new work. Eventually I get it right, and when I have a book I do the work I file under marketing, though my criteria is that what I propose should be fun even if I sell just one copy. I could skip the stomach-clenching moments watching someone turn over my book to examine the cover, but all in all I like meeting readers and talking about the women whose lives I’ve tried to put on paper.

I’m excited to be attending the Historical Novel Society conference next month, where I’ll enjoy the speakers, which include Karen Cushman and Diana Gabaldon, and in the hallways I’ll try to exercise my limited networking skills. A friend suggested I stand on a table at lunch and shout for all librarians to join me. I expect to be more subtle, but not entirely. There will be workshops on using swords, rapiers, and daggers, dancing with the Darcys. These are my people, and it’s not all about dignity. When I ordered postcards, I also bought a canvas bag printed with the cover of my novel. It will either start conversations or keep people away, and isn’t the winning and losing how most things go? Every day at my desk, I choose words and reject others. In the world, some people will pick up my book and others will step back as if it might sting their fingers.

Publishing a book about a woman who’s haunted me for decades is a dream come true. I’m celebrating, but as with anything wanted and achieved, life doesn’t spin in entirely new directions. I’m taking plenty of sidesteps and steps back, managing embarrassment as well as elation, making lists, mailing, and checking off mundane tasks. I’m walking through doors where my book might be wanted with the spirit of Red Riding Hood swinging her basket, unaware she might find anyone except the friendliest of grandmothers, and if there’s instead someone wolf-ish, I’ll try another door. I’m crafting new stories and remembering why the older ones mattered enough so that I spent years researching, writing, and revising. It’s time to do my best impression of a Buddhist and let the book I created go. I’ve got to smell the last of the lilacs, pet the good dog by my feet, and be thankful for all the people who’ve helped me get to where I am. Every single reader, like you.

Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 14, 2015

Leaving Out Lines

Writing poetry means not only coming up with words, but then eyeing them with ferocity, challenging them to show their worth. I cross out words and stanzas from those I’ve already honed as I try to figure out how much I can get across in one small space.

Which means that when I read poems, I’m sometimes struck by words I think should have been left behind. The woman who writes with scissors doesn’t entirely leave them when she reads. I’m reacting to having just read some poems that were inspired by a line or the structure of well-regarded poems, which was acknowledged with footnotes. It’s fine to begin a poem this way. It’s fine to begin anywhere. But I found these footnotes got in my way, and the echoed architecture distracted more than deepened. I’m a fan of Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, in which the title and arc pay homage to Walter Dean Myer’s poem, “Love That Boy.” In the book, the teacher has students read poems by William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, and others and use their forms as inspiration. That works well within a classroom, but at some point, particularly before publication, I’d prefer to have those spurs to inspiration erased.

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I’ve started poems and novels from scenes that get deleted. Sometimes that same scene has started other projects. Just because it inspires, doesn’t mean it should stay. The original line or image might be left out perhaps as often as I cut the last summing up words of a poem or chapter. We need any kind of inspiration to begin, and we need a point to the story, but what happens in between should show what we meant to show without a small marquee drawing attention to the message. The trick we keep learning is how to give just enough detail to ignite a reader’s imagination, and then step back and let them enter and claim the story.

I recently heard poet Mary Rueffle, author of the wonderful Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, answer a question asked how she went about editing her poems. She replied, “When it’s a really bad line I draw a line through it, then put the parts that love each other closer together.” And she explained that the love is about language, the sound, meaning, and connotation of words. Sometimes I ask poetry students to try cutting their poems in half. If that feels too painful, I give the option of expanding them to twice their length, but dividing the poem can produce something dense and precious as knitting.

Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 8, 2015

Erika Robuck and Sarah McCoy: A Conversation about Fiction

After a lovely day in Concord, Massachusetts, which I spent being escorted around Orchard House by the gracious director to take pictures of May Alcott’s artwork, then crossing the road with my daughter to walk from behind the Emerson House through woods, fields, and roads to Walden Pond, I was hot, tired, and tempted to buy Erika Robuck’s and Sarah McCoy’s new novels and skip their talk at The Concord Bookshop. I’m so glad I changed from sneakers to loafers, found some iced tea, and got myself over to a delightful conversation about creativity and ways the past and present meet. That love you see in the photo warmed the audience, too, as the bookshop’s ever-smiling Dawn asked thoughtful questions that Erika and Sarah answered with honesty, precision, and charm.

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Dawn first asked about inspiration. Erika Robuck spoke about the importance of place and the day when she toured some historic sites in Concord and stopped at the window in the Old Manse where Sophia Hawthorne, recovering from falling on ice, which led to a miscarriage, used her wedding ring to scratch words in the pane: “Man’s accidents are God’s purposes.” Erika spoke about imagining the fury Sophia Hawthorne must have felt to scratch into glass. As Erika spoke with passion, I felt as if she were still there, almost standing beside Sophia with an arm around her. So when Dawn said that the first person voice in THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE felt authentically Sophia’s, I believed her and can’t wait to read the novel about an artist and devoted wife and mother.

Sarah McCoy spoke of the origins of THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN as being haunted by a line that came to her and an angry, pained voice that wouldn’t go away, until the middle of one night when she couldn’t sleep so her husband told her to get out of bed, get her notebook, and begin. She found a way to link the inner turmoil of a contemporary woman struggling with a definition of family with Sarah Brown. Who was Sarah Brown, beyond being the daughter of man sometimes credited with beginning the Civil War by leading an attack on the Confederate arsenal at Harper’s Ferry? Trying to answer the question of who Sarah Brown was, exploring her role as an artist and mapmaker for the Underground Railroad, led Sarah McCoy from Concord, where Sarah Brown stayed with the Alcott family, to Harper’s Ferry, a West Virginia town both lovely and haunted by its past, and a small museum in Saratoga, California where a few of Sarah Brown’s paintings and information is proudly preserved.

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The authors also discussed lines between fact and fiction, the pain and strategies of cutting after gathering lots of information, the use of contrast to power a narrative, punctuation as a tool or a device to bring out the music of language, and ways they live with the subject, such as Erika setting up sort of altars on her desk, and drinking what they drank, and Sarah cutting herself off from social media, and sometimes making dinner, in order to immerse herself.

These novels about strong women would make wonderful Mother’s Day gifts. I hope to be reading them on Sunday.

Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 4, 2015

What I’m Reading: Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar

With two creative sisters in a family, it’s likely one will be eclipsed at least in history, though Vanessa Bell’s art graced walls and furniture in not only her home but that of Virginia Woolf. Vanessa’s art was also used on the original covers of novels that her sister self-published, with the aid of her husband, Leonard Woolf. Priya Parmar’s novel puts Vanessa at the center of the action, showing her growth as a painter as well as the difficulties and joys of being a sister, wife, and mother.

Virginia is never far in this work constructed from invented diary entries and letters from the point of view not only of Vanessa or Virginia, but other writers and artists including Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, and Roger Fry, all of whom were intent on breaking old rules and creating new forms. VANESSA AND HER SISTER opens with party preparations that took me back a bit to my long ago reading of Virginia Woolf’s MRS. DALLOWAY. Later, I felt the seeing of shapes and colors as if through the eyes of Lily in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE.

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The sisters’ words and the silences between them create a sense of intimacy and sometimes escalating jealousy. Virginia wrote protesting women’s creativity-restricting role as “the angel in the house” in A ROOM OF HER OWN and elsewhere. She strived to live simply, and married a good man who looked after her in important ways, and they didn’t have children. But in this novel as well as biographies, it seems Virginia saw her sister if not as a caretaking angel, as a sort of Madonna. Virginia depended on her sister for practical things and please-be-there-if-I-need-you support. In the famous Bloomsbury gatherings, the novel shows Vanessa tending to the details of food, drink, and manners. She loves grace and vivid color, sometimes wishing she had more creative space.

Just about now advanced review copies of LITTLE WOMEN IN BLUE are heading to reviewers, so I’m letting go of my grip on two sisters – the writer Louisa and the artist May, who died about thirty years before many of these events. Virginia Woolf wrote, “On or about December 1910 human character changed.” Maybe. But love and rivalry between sisters seems timeless.

Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 28, 2015

Just One Line

Burleigh Muten recently visited my Simmons class on verse novels, where students were grateful for the joy in Miss Emily, amidst other novels that dealt with harsher things than an escapade to see the circus train arrive in the middle of the night. Before the class met, Burleigh and I had tea and cookies, then took a walk to revel in the green-ness that has finally come to Amherst. I spoke about my inspiration for a collection of poems I’m currently writing, telling her about a woman who is credited in books about a far more famous relative, who gets all the rest of the words. “She usually gets one line,” I said.

“One line can be all you need,” Burleigh replied. It’s true. My breath has caught because of a few words tucked in parenthesis, or a footnote that let me glimpse some amazingness that must have happened beyond. In class, Burleigh spoke about part of her inspiration for Miss Emily as a phrase in a memoir written by a boy who lived across the street. These few words served as a guide as Burleigh moved past the myth of the recluse to show the playful side of the poet that children knew.

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Writing about women from the past often means drawing from published letters and biographies about brothers, fathers, or husbands, and this is once again the case for me. A single line others must have passed over set off my wonder: what’s not said can be as much a lure as what’s said. My picture book Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon began when I saw a stamp-sized picture of the paleontologist wearing a long dress and holding a hammer in a big book about dinosaurs, and I read the tiny caption.

Such a gift of deep curiosity brings responsibility, as we try to catch hold of a slippery edge and express why and how someone caught our sharp attention. We may not keep the gift just as it came to us – sometimes those inspiring lines slip quite out of view – but the sense of treasure passing from one set of hands to another remains. Something appeared from the past and it seems our cause to bring it back to light. Such a promise keeps us going when that first surprise is gone. There’s a lot of information to collect. Then we remember not to say everything. Looking for answers matters as much as an arrival or conclusion, and we want to keep that sense of quest.

One line is all we need to start. Sure, it has to be the right line, and there will be plenty of fresh false starts along the way. The poems, loosely defined, I’m writing now come from pages and pages of pre-poems, gibberish, junk, and also snippets of scenes and details of setting I’ll snag later. I have about forty pages of writing toward a new book of poems, and in the midst lies half a page of a poem that shows me the voice I want. I’m saving that one piece of a poem, my sign of what is possible, but I’m also patient with the clutter that will take me around and back to that on a long un-poetic path.

Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 24, 2015

Deborah Gorlin Reads from Life of The Garment

Way back when I was an undergraduate at UMass, I used the long-standing perk of being able to take courses at area colleges to register for “The Religious Novel.” This was taught at Amherst College by visiting writer Mary Gordon, and I met Deb in the back row by the windows. Sometimes after class we’d walk across the common and discuss books, religion, and probably Mary Gordon’s haircuts and what she wore.

On Wednesday night, Broadside Bookshop was filled with others who’ve enjoyed similar conversations, sometimes, I expect, between the shelves of that very shop. People who know Deb Gorlin as a friend, professor at Hampshire College, or poetry editor at The Massachusetts Review were excited to celebrate her new collection, Life of the Garment, which won the 2014 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize from Bauhan Publishing. The publisher of that small press was in attendance, which my husband pointed out when I told him, must be pretty rare and cool. And they clothed the poems gorgeously.

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This new collection follows Bodily Course, and while Deb never moves far from the physical world, she pointed out a few marks of the transition from a reverence for bodies to the garment as metaphor, the ways we’re shaped by forces such as family, geography, and history. It was wonderful to hear her read with her trademark humor and intensity, adding a few remarks between poems. And I enjoyed the hearty applause at the end, with a small girl in the row ahead of me, who surely isn’t the intended audience but who clearly loves Deb, beaming as she clapped on and on.

I’m happy now to spend some time alone with Life of the Garment. We still get news of the body, with poems dedicated to tears, fat, and a mystical manicurist. We can’t make sense of garb without something underneath. We get an ode to shopping, another on yarn, cars, trees, parents, and animals, with perhaps more on religion, particularly in its guise of gratitude, and varieties of idols and dolls. I love the stunning title poem with its references to the Textile Conservation Department at the Holocaust Museum. I’m eager to read more of these tributes to a world that’s beautiful and true, inside and out, and I hope you read them, too.

Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 18, 2015

Thankful

Yesterday I got back from yoga, where my teacher wasn’t laughing when she invited me to try some paddleboard yoga this summer (okay, you can laugh) and found my smiling husband carrying in a small carton. The UPS guy had left advance reader copies of Little Women in Blue, which will go to selected booksellers and reviewers. I brought a copy to my graduate class last night. One student stroked the cover, admiring its softness. Another said she liked the mystery of the path before the woman on the cover and “It looks historical but not Historical, if you know what I mean.”

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I’m thankful to She Writes Press, who produced such a gorgeous feeling and looking book. And for my husband, who when I said, “If my book does well, I will…” broke in to say, “You mean when your book does well.” Then when I mentioned that now that I have these ARCs I should see about getting some book signing dates, Peter said, “It seems like a rainy Friday morning would be a good time to go to a bookstore.”

Maybe no one can match an author’s own enthusiasm for a book, but if anyone can, it’s Hannah Moushabeck, bookseller extraordinaire at the Odyssey Bookshop. She makes you feel like a princess or J.K. Rowling. She said she’ll send me a few dates to choose for a reading/signing in September or October when the book will be released, and promised fun.

I also carry with me the generosity of writers who read my book in manuscript and provided kind words for the cover. George Howe Colt, author of The Big House and Brothers, which deftly combines memoir and research, Harriet Scott Chessman, whose novel Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper was inspirational to me, and Gabrielle Donnelly, who in The Little Women Letters imagines the contemporary lives of Jo March’s descendants, took the time to read my book in manuscript and compose words that I hope will draw others to the book when it comes out in early fall.

I’ve got lots to do before then. A website to update, postcards to get made, articles and talks to write. I’ve got review copies to send and then freak out about. I’ll have fresh rejections and disappointments, but more thanks to give, too, and will be calmed remembering the friends and family who’ve encouraged me along the way. Sometimes with handmade postcards: the one in the picture behind my book was made with words from my picture book, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, by my brother-in-law, artist Bruce Laird. And just maybe I’ll try that paddleboard, though not with any fancy poses. The worst that can happen is that I get wet, right?

Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 9, 2015

What I’m Reading: Dear Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth: A Play in Letters from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell is composed of parts of poems and the more than 400 letters that the two poets sent each other between 1947 and 1977. Playwright Sarah Ruhl was inspired to compose this chronicle of friendship after reading Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. She wrote that she loved “how the letters resisted a sense of the usual literary ‘story’ – how instead they forced us to look at life as it is lived. Not neat. Not two glorious Greek arcs meeting in the center.”

The tone is alternately intimate and restrained, formed from not actions but words spoken to someone both far away and trusted. Still there is a shape, partly made by the placement of a seminal letter which refers to a conversation they had wading in cold Maine seawater, when Elizabeth said, “When you write my epitaph, you must say I was the loneliest person who ever lived.”

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There’s a sense not only of looking back at this in the letters, but anticipating the loneliness even within the friendship of two very different people over the course of Robert Lowell’s marrying and divorcing, and Elizabeth Bishop settling in Brazil with Lota de Macedo Soares. Elizabeth and Robert carry poems by each other like talismans. They sympathize and misunderstand. Tension comes from the space between letters, which like spaces between lines of poems, suggest something beyond the words. Weeks pass, decades pass, memories come and go, which we feel as natural, familiar. Elizabeth writes near the end, “Why all this change? My favorite eye shadow – for years – suddenly comes in 3 cakes in a row and one has to use all one’s skill to avoid iridescence.”

Here are two people who care for poetry and each other, even through their arguments and different literary choices, with Elizabeth preferring more formalism and restraint, while Robert chose a wider range of forms and claimed a right to every subject, even while Elizabeth pleaded with him to keep out his wife Elizabeth Hardwick’s letters from his collection, Dolphin. This argument comes near the end of the play, where we get a sense of the hundreds of letters that have passed between them – all those dears – both the missed marks and tenderness.

Sarah Ruhl arranged these letters into a play as she wanted to hear them out loud, but I very much enjoyed them reading silently in a big soft chair, hearing voices that came together across years and continents, often with the memory of a conversation standing in cold water, about loneliness and love.

 

Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 30, 2015

Furnishing our own Forests

When we’re young, the world beyond our home may seem like a forest, with dark and twisting paths. We may feel a tug between wanting to hide in a warm house and exploring a place where we sense silence isn’t the end of a story, but a promise of more. Some of us become writers, creating rough drafts full of something like trees of varied types and sizes, and tramping down paths between them, too. Or we may make a rough draft that’s as full of stuff as an attic. We sketch out dust, boxes, and folderol; maybe pumpkins, thimbles, spindles, glass slippers, gold rings, and mirrors. Like someone wandering through a fairy tale, it may take us a while to recognize what matters.

Knowing what to keep comes after creating forests or filling dark corners. When I assign writing prompts to students, I tell them to keep moving their pens. Beginning is not the time to be smart. A rough draft is a place to throw or store everything. It’s only when we step back through what we spun that we might glimpse an objective correlative, a small treasure that will make us plunge to something deeper. We can’t look back too early. Judgment can wait. We have to keep writing, collecting, creating a story whose meaning we can’t yet fathom, whose ending we can’t yet see. We have to believe it’s there as we keep going, perhaps with a faith we had in ourselves as children – ready to set into the forest without a lot of questions, secure that we’d find our way home even after encounters with treacherous mothers, ne’er-do-well fathers, jealous siblings, rapscallions, witches, thieves, liars, and those who know how to spin straw to gold.

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I’ve just finished a not-really-rough draft, but a draft no one but me has seen of a novel meant for children about nine to twelve years old. It’s the first novel I’ve written with magical elements in it, and the first one I’ve written all the way through without another reader. Every book calls for its own method, but I think the magic in my novel and my protectiveness may be connected. I’m used to early readers pointing out flaws, but I wanted my magic to be pretty solid before anyone pokes around. I needed to keep believing in the history-infused magic all the way through, as I conjured and changed its rules.

Finding a way between once upon a time and happily-ever-after, whether that looks like a wedding or just a shoe that fits, is different for novelists who plot things out. I can’t tell you much about that. I like how Grace Paley said that we write what we know to discover what we don’t know. I’m going through my manuscript another time before it heads to my writing group, checking the seams between the real world and another one. I’m surprised by some of what comes from my mind and hand, then have to think about how to plant those surprises for readers who I hope will follow me. I check that secrets are well planted, and kick up more dirt that may hold more surprises. Readers will want to find their own ways in and out of secrets, though some of what matters to me won’t matter to others. Some will care about the three bowls of soup, Some won’t like the apple or the breadcrumbs. Who will obsess about the red hooded cape, the gold cap, or the glass shoes?

The tellers can’t always know where magic that seems like truth to readers will be found. We write what we see and hear, keeping it simple, finding the courage not to point or show too many tracks. Most people want to trek through the forest without a field guide. As writers, we’ve got to accept that they may miss some things we hoped they’d see. No one really wants to go through an organized attic, with the boxes labeled. It’s the mystery that first drew us and readers want that, too. Children like fairy tales for what isn’t explained, and we can like that as adults, too. Most of us have figured out that there’s a lot that can’t be answered, even if we once bought the idea that there was a line between not knowing and knowing, and this matched childhood and being grown up.

I don’t know how long it will take for me to get the balance of secrets and revelations right in my work, but I’m on it, kicking rotting logs for signs of life, making new patches of trees, and burning down others.

Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 23, 2015

Amsterdam Treasures

The tulips weren’t yet out when my daughter and I vacationed in Amsterdam last week, but we saw crocuses starting to turn lawns purple and daffodils in sunny spots of the park. We spent a lot of time in museums. In The Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” commands a wall, and was still surrounded by its usual crowd.

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We got a better view of the also impressive “Anatomy Lesson” in the Mauritshuis, which is about an hour train ride away in The Hague. (And also saw Vermeer’s “The Girl with Pearl Earring.”) Rembrandt painted this when he was twenty-five, yet his overspending meant that he died penniless. Historians used the list of items taken from his home to pay off debts was used to furnish the fascinating house where he lived, painted, and sold work for twenty years.

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Loss is part of history. I loved how the Van Gogh Museum is entirely devoted to the work of one man and his friends. Self portraits are lined along one long wall. Upstairs, we moved through halls of showing his start as an artist painting dark fields and workers, admiring Millet, then moving along to bright scenes painted in southern France, some from an asylum. Vincent Van Gogh died in a possible suicide (which recent biographers call into question) north of Paris. Like Rembrandt, he died in debt, but he didn’t have the earlier artist’s reputation. Wondering how about 200 paintings came to be in Amsterdam, I’m now reading and learning about the years following his life, when the Rijksmuseum refused to show his work, finding it unsuitable to be hung near Rembrandt, Rubens, and Frans Hals.

While Emily and I marveled at the art, (and she took the pictures, while I focused on staying out of the way of pedestrians and bicycles) she asked me about Dutch writers. I couldn’t think of any except Anne Frank, who was in Amsterdam in hiding, her plaid diary kept by one of the people who tried to save the family from the Nazis. That diary was seen into publication by her father, the one surviving member of the family. It seems Otto also oversaw the annex restored as the Anne Frank House. He wanted the rooms to be left stripped, as the Nazis left them after taking or wrecking furniture and things. It was a moving choice (as well as practical; the place is crowded.) In Anne’s room we see, now under plexiglass, clipped pictures of things she loved: film stars, pretty children, royalty, and art. Some are torn, suggesting, like a diary, what is left out. She would likely have grown into a still more amazing writer, but it’s her ordinary and beautiful hopes and the ruthless assault upon them that is moving here.

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Emily and I left the city for part of a day to see and hear the soft whirr of windmills in Zaanse Schans. Lovely how they keep spinning, like history, moving with what’s kept and what’s lost, what is left to see and important gaps, too.

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