My Monday afternoon class at SVA was cancelled, which happens to art models sometimes. No class, no one needs us 😥 Although I prefer to be posing, having a few hours on my hands, on a sunny spring day in New York, is not exactly unwelcome. I used the opportunity for a massive book browse to get a head start on my summer reading syllabus (haven’t used that word since college!).
I made my way down to Union Square, home to both the beloved Strand Bookstore and a mega, multi-level Barnes and Noble. Now normally I am a Strand girl. That place is pretty much a secular house of worship for New York readers. But I needed another Moleskin notepad and I knew that Barnes and Noble carries them. Plus I wanted a Starbucks Frappucino. So Barnes and Noble it was.
The browse had begun. Hmm. Where to start? My reading interests are pretty diverse, although I strongly favor non-fiction titles, and in paperback form. I find hardcovers offputting. I feel like I’m not supposed to be in possession of a hardcover, like they don’t really belong to me. They’re too “official”. They have a weighty authority that prevents me from bonding with them. A supple softcover with its soon-to-be creased pages and frayed edges, buried deep in my bag, underneath all my crap, that sucker is mine. My loyal, pliable little friend.
I took note of the significant artist biographies which I will share with my art-minded readers. No big surprises here but I’ll mention them anyway. There is the latest installment of of John Richardson’s A Life of Picasso, which has a very close-up black and white photo of Pablo’s mad face on the cover. There’s also deKooning- An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. Looks like a good read. And then there’s Matisse the Master- A Life of Henri Matisse by Hilary Spurling. With all these books and artists and an art model’s blog, it’s time for one of several image breaks. Here’s Picasso’s Woman Reading from 1932. The model is his famous muse and mistress Marie-Therese Walter:
And this is Matisse’s Woman Reading With Peaches:
Some other art biography titles which are not new but seem very worthwhile are Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera and The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe.
I spent a long time in the biography section without choosing an actual purchase. I just wasn’t ready yet. But I made many mental notes. I slurped on my frap as my eyes rolled up and down the shelves.
This is Robert Delaunay’s Nude Woman Reading from 1915:
Still in biography, I noticed some other mentionables which reflect my tastes. This summer I absolutely MUST get to Isabel Allende’s The Sum of Our Days and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Others that piqued my interest were Naked in the Marketplace: The Lives of George Sand, by Benita Eisler, and Jane Goodall- the Woman who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson. And yes, I confess, I’d like to read Lee Server’s biography of screen legend Ava Gardner Love is Nothing. Ok, so shoot me. I love those “old Hollywood” bios. All that back-stabbing and bed-hopping escapades make for a juicy read!
Renoir’s Woman Reading, 1876:
Biography was becoming a deluge of too many excellent options. I had to get out of there, so it was time for a section change. I was determined to walk out of Barnes and Noble with at least ONE book, so I made a beeline for the one title that I knew, unequivocally, that I wanted and was ready and willing to buy right then and there. It’s a book that interests me very much, called The Soul of the Rhino by Hemantha Mishra. So I found it in the Nature section, but they were only hardcovers. No softcovers yet. Damn. What to do? I was in a quandary. Do I buy a hardcover book I really want even though I’m repelled by hardcover? (yes, this is a psychological disorder at this point). Or do I wait for a softcover? I slurped my frap like a 10 year old. I stared at the book. It seemed to stare back at me. Hmmm . . . what to do?
You guessed it. I put it “on hold”, whatever that means. Instead, I took more mental notes of books that would likely make it onto my summer reading list: Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer, The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstand, and, as a tribute to the year I was born, 1968 – The Year that Rocked the World, by Mark Kurlansky (can you dig it?)
This is a monotype by Degas, called Woman Reading. Quite a departure from his usual pastels and oils:
This was all becoming too much. My hopeless indecision was embarassing. New game plan. I thought I’d forget actual “reading” for the moment and at least get a really good vegetarian cookbook that I’ve been wanting for a long time. So I headed over to that section and, well, apparently there are 5 BILLION of them! And they all looked really good! What the hell?? There was no way I’d have time to deal with this, as my free hours were evaporating and I had to get down to the Studio School for the evening sculpture class. I slurped down the last of my frap and pondered my
crippling bookstore ambivalence. The art model wants to read! The art model loves to read! She needs a good, quality book and she’s surrounded by them and yet she can’t decide which one to buy!!
Theodore Roussel’s The Reading Girl from 1887:
Believe it or not, I wasted even more time reading a Leopard Operating System manual, and then more time on a crochet book, and then still more time absorbed in a Rolling Stonemagazine covers photography book. What am I doing? I have sculpture class soon! Must catch the R train!
So how did all this end up? Well friends, you’ll be happy to know that I did walk out of Barnes and Noble with a purchase. No it wasn’t the Moleskin (forget all about that). It was a book. And it was a softcover. It was Ethics for the New Millenium, by the Dalai Lama. I’m happy with my choice, and I’d say my summer reading is off to a very good start.