Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 13, 2007

A Night of Splendid Artwork and a Bit of Bad Science

Friday night I wandered among many mostly local writers and illustrators at an opening at the gorgeous R. Michelson Gallery in Northampton, Mass.
I got to watch E.B.White pull amazing things from his portfolio! I got to stand near Mary Azarian for a few cool seconds. I got to hug Barbara Diamond Goldin, Peg Davol, Nancy Carpenter, Burleigh Muten, Carol Weiss, and buy a signed copy of Tuttle’s Red Barn: The Story of America’s Oldest Family Farm, a book which is smart and beautiful besides being about a place where my husband and I used to bicycle to to buy fresh carrots or cider when I was in grad school at UNH.

I ran into Nancy Brady, the librarian at Smith Campus School, and we talked about Andrea Barrett’s novels. I mentioned reading a Marie Curie biography by Kathleen Krull, which Loree Grifin Burns recommended on her blog . There’s more biography than science in Marie Curie, part of Krull’s Giants of Science series, but still enough about rare elements and rays, deftly explained, to make it clear why Curie’s studies shaped her life. (and after Krull quotes Curie scolding a reporter, saying, “In science we must be interested in things, not people, Krull queries, “Would she like this book? Probably not.” I happily read on.)

Nancy and I talked about the death of Marie’s second daughter, Eve, at age 102: would the rest of her family have lived that long if they weren’t messing around with radium? Or, could you possibly attribute Eve’s long and healthy live to the radium her mother investigated while pregnant? Then Nancy mentioned, oh, but wasn’t poor Pierre run over by a garbage truck? Well, he was struck by a horse and cart, I said, but he was daydreaming, and had a tricky radium-damaged leg. As we rambled, Nancy’s husband, who she’d introduced as in the science department at Smith College, kept doing things with his eyes and eyebrows. I wished he’d butt in and probably put us straight, but he was too polite to interrupt our gossip about deceased pioneers of nuclear physics.

Afterward I went to dinner with some of the few nonwriter, nonlibrarian, nonillustrators in the crowd (though not really: Ellen Sullivan Farley doesn’t illustrate books for children, but she paints gorgeously and teaches art). We ended up talking about our lovely daughters – of course! – then went on to this and that including the evolution of religion. Rob talked about astronomers watching planets for shadows to check for signs of life. I love that image, even if I have to wonder if it’s more slightly bogus science.



  1. The first biography I remember reading was of Madame Curie. I do not recall if it was an actual book or perhaps part of an anthology, but I was absolutely fascinated by her.
    Love the dinner recap. Those conversations are so enjoyable!

  2. Back when I was growing up, Madame Curie was one of the few women, along with wives of presidents – Dolley Madison, Martha Washington (whom I’m sure had their big challenges) who made it into biographies. Which is one reason I like writing biographies of women.
    And, yes, Marie Curie certainly has a pull.
    Thanks for your note, Pamela!

  3. What a wonderful night at a wonderful gallery!!!
    (I can still remember reading the biography of Marie Curie in the backseat of our family car – that’s where I did most of my reading! She was such an inspiration for me!)

  4. I love Northampton but I’ve never visited that gallery. Next time I should check it out!

  5. Oh, yes, you should check out R Michelson’s Gallery! Nov-Dec there is a focus on children’s book illustrators, but all through the year there are usually some of those represented. Rich (of the R. before Michelson) writes children’s books and poetry so has great knowledge and passion. The building itself, a bank back in the glory days or city architecture, is worth looking at (like Silverscape Designs at the corner, where I hope you’ve gone in to look at diamonds, opals, etc, and the great old vaults!)

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