Tag Archives: reading

The Curious Case of Life Imitating Art

The muse must have been looking over my shoulder yesterday because, unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a case of life imitating art. Or was art imitating life?

I’d spent most of the day walking my dog, talking with friends online, and reading Anna Quindlen’s novel, “Still Life with Breadcrumbs,” the story of a photographer whose career is in decline.

In late afternoon, I decided to take my car out for a spin, since the last time I’d started it up, it had been sluggish. I feared the battery was about to reach its moment of planned obsolescence. (That would be about par for 2020.) But I hoped that if I drove around for an hour or so, maybe I could revive it.

On a whim, I grabbed my camera before heading out (something I haven’t done in a while, since it’s been too hot during the day for photography). “You never know,” I thought, imagining for just a second a chance encounter with a dust devil, or maybe a space alien. The car sputtered to a reluctant start. Before it could die on me, I put it in gear and headed north.

My destination was Oracle, about half an hour up the road – an unincorporated town whose most famous resident to date has been Buffalo Bill Cody. En route, it occurred to me to plug in an audiobook that was in my phone.

Unfortunately, I’m not too good with modern audio systems in cars (or in phones, for that matter). In fact, I was surprised I’d managed to get the book copied into my phone at all. So as not to cause an accident, I turned off the main highway, Oracle Road, and onto Biosphere Road (which, inconsequentially, leads to Biosphere 2) in order to park, thumb through my owner’s manual, and figure out how to tell my car to read a book to me.

After a few hundred feet, I came to a turnaround. It looked like an ideal place for rattlesnakes and tarantulas to hang out, but I wasn’t planning to get out of the car and join their party, even if they were wearing masks. Heavy, dark storm clouds were gathering in the distance, and a few were above my head. I was anxious to queue up my book and get back on the road.

The clouds had other ideas. They suddenly moved out of the sun’s way, and a shaft of light landed on something smooth, tall, and bright along the trail: a scarred and dusty shrine in the middle of the desert.

It seemed to be a case of life imitating art. You see (spoiler alert), on page 37 in Still Life With Breadcrumbs, that book I’d been reading earlier that day, the protagonist goes for a hike in the woods and comes upon a shrine – a white wooden cross with a glittering child’s volleyball trophy lying on the ground next to it. She takes some photos.

I felt like life was trying to tell me something, so I shut off the engine, grabbed my camera, and got out of the car. Scoping out the ground for snakes or spiders, I cautiously approached the little memorial and took a few photos. As soon as I’d finished and gotten back in my car, I realized I might have made a mistake.

It was 107 degrees out, and there I was in the middle of the Arizona desert with a car whose battery was on its last legs. I wondered how long it would be before AAA could find me. I turned the key in the ignition. The engine choked for a few seconds, and then, reluctantly, it caught.

I sighed, turned the car around, and glanced back at the shrine, but by then the sun had ducked behind the clouds again; the scene was now in shadow. I’d gotten there just at the right moment.

All I could think of on the drive home was the phrase, “life imitates art.” So today I looked that up and learned a thing or two. The idea has been around since at least the time of Plato, who believed art was a poor imitation of life, and for that reason could be dangerous. Aristotle, on the other hand, welcomed art’s imitation of life. And Oscar Wilde’s take was that life imitates art more often than art imitates life. Even Dostoevsky got into the debate, describing it as more of a codependent relationship, where art imitates life, which then imitates art, causing life to owe its very existence to art.

As for me, I was totally flabbergasted by the way my life (finding the shrine) seemed to be imitating art (the book I’m reading). Or maybe art (the book) was imitating life (its pathos) which in turn was imitating art (the shrine). It’s something I thought was worth pondering, especially when I realized one more thread:

In “Still Life With Breadcrumbs,” the protagonist doesn’t notice a certain, possibly significant, detail on the cross until she gets home and enlarges the photo. That same thing happened to me – I didn’t notice the coins at the base of the statue until I got home. Can you spot them?

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I’ve searched online for other photos of this shrine but couldn’t find any, so I don’t know who it’s for. I wish I did. In any case, I think I’ll return soon and add some coins to their collection.

 

 

A Little Play about a Little Prince

Have you read The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry?

(If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you stop reading this, go find a copy of The Little Prince, and read it. It’s much better than this blog. But then please come back!)

Do you have tears in your eyes now, the way I did tonight when I saw the stage production of The Little Prince? My eyes started watering with the VERY FIRST LINE and were still wet when the actors came out to take their bows.

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I’ll admit I’m a little biased. I’m a huge fan of the book, and I’m not alone. It’s sold 140 million copies worldwide, and it’s been translated into 300 languages and dialects.

In college, my very good friend Margo gave me the hardcover edition (shown above) as a gift. I love the book on its own merits, but also because it reminds me of Margo.

Several years ago, my daughter, Katie, gave me a Little Prince kitchen magnet.

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She also gave me some Little Prince postcards. I’ve got one of the cards tacked up on my wall at work.

The other day, I found a Little Prince plastic cup in my work mailbox. I asked around and found out it was from a teacher, Ms. S.,  who works there. “Ms. S. does things like that,” someone told me. “It must have been her.”

Sure enough, it was Ms. S.  “I noticed the card in your office,” she said. “I love The Little Prince. He’s been my inspiration for years. I even have a Little Prince tattoo!” Wow. That’s some serious inspiration.

The next day, a pair of Little Prince socks appeared in my work mailbox, from — guess who? Ms. S. strikes again! I wore them to the play tonight.

The character of the prince was played by seven different actors who took turns wearing his royal blue costume seen above. I don’t want to give away the plot, but this is perhaps the sweetest, most poignant story ever told.

The first line of the play, the one that made me start crying right off the bat, is this quote from the book:

“One truly sees with the heart; what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

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(This is post #2 for NanoPoblano2019.)

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Thankful for Peppers

Today I’m going to cheat a bit and write about other people’s posts.

By other people, I mean Cheer Peppers, a.k.a. bloggers participating in the daily November blogging challenge known as NanoPoblano. If you want to indulge in some good reading, and if you’re on Facebook, find the Cheer Peppers group and join it.

Or you can find them in the Cheer Peppers list below. (I hope I haven’t left any out. I borrowed this list from fellow Cheer Pepper Carolyn Owens.)

A.R. at StarvingActivist.com
Barbara at teleportingweena.wordpress.com
Bill at BillFriday.com
Breanna at BooksHooksAndYarn.wordpress.com
Carolyn Owens at InfinityCoaching.net
Cyn at Cynk.wordpress.com
David at TooFullToWrite.com
Dean at DeanKealy.design
Echo at trueecho22.wordpress.com
Gwenlynn at JustALittleBitSweet.com
Hasty at FearingCrazy.wordpress.com
Hope at HopesThoughts.blog
Jessie at BehindTheWillows.com
Jesska at NotThrowingStones.today
Julia at AberrantCrochet.com
Julie at JulieBurton.blog
Kay at SuddenlyTheyAllDied.com
Kim at DrunkOnLifeBlog.com
Lillian at HumanInRecovery.wordpress.com
Liz at CatsAndChocolate.com
Lori at LoriStory.wordpress.com
Matt at TheMatticusKingdom.com
Namy at NamySaysSo.com
Nessa at vanessence.wordpress.com
Nutty at SpokenLikeATrueNut.wordpress.com
Owen at NoTalentForCertainty.com
Paula at TheTemenosJournal.com
Ra at Rarasaur.com
Rebecca at MommyQuits.wordpress.com
Renee at ReneeRobbinsWrites.com
Revis at RevisEdgewater.wordpress.com
Robert at FreshOffThePadPoetry.wordpress.com
Sahara at CreoSomnium.org
Symanntha at FailingAtHaiku.wordpress.com
Quixie at QuixiesMindPalace.wordpress.com

In keeping with the energetic but forgiving spirit of the Cheer Peppers, I’ve been trying to keep up with my daily posts (but not beating myself up if I skip days). I’m also trying to read ALL other Cheer Pepper posts. So far I’ve posted 14/21 days but read all posts for only 3/21 days. I’m batting .667 when it comes to posting, but only .143 for reading.

It’s not that I don’t love reading their posts. I do! It’s just that I run out of time during the week. But I’ll get caught up, I promise! I’m pledging today to read a ton of Cheer Pepper posts over this 4-day weekend.

To prove I’m serious about my pledge, here’s what I’m using to keep track of my progress.

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By November 30, I hope to post another photo showing many more check marks in the right hand column.

Cheer Peppers are a thoughtful, funny, kind, and talented bunch, and their work is labor-intensive. Blogging is different from other types of writing, in that blog posts often try to say a lot using a relatively limited number of words.

Good blog posts are attention grabbing, clear, concise, artistic, sometimes amusing, and often deeply personal. It’s difficult to get all of that into a blog post, which is why I’m so thankful I stumbled upon the riches of NanoPoblano. Not only is it good writing practice for me, but it’s introduced me to some amazing people.

Thanks, Cheer Peppers!

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Bridges in Literature

I’m reading Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. Actually, I’m working my way through all 27 hours and 4 minutes of the audiobook version (21 cds) while driving around town. If you see me cruising down the road while I’m immersed in this wonderful novel, please honk or wave, but not so much that you distract me and cause an accident. One can only concentrate on so much input at once while DWEEB (Driving While Enjoying an Excellent Book).

My favorite part of the book so far has to do with how we see life as we get older, as compared with how we view it from the vantage point of youth. I don’t want to try and paraphrase Russo’s well-crafted prose here, or deprive you of the pleasure of dwelling on the passage of time while screeching to a halt at a stop sign. Just go pick up a copy and read it, preferably the 480-page hard copy version that you can spend some time with while reclining comfortably in your armchair at home. The world will be a much safer place without two DWEEBs driving around in a book-induced reverie.

Reading Bridge of Sighs has gotten me thinking about bridges in general, and wondering how often they’re mentioned in literature, music, and other genres.  Off the top of my head, I immediately thought of Bridge on the River Kwai and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Given that a bridge would be a powerful symbol, representing transition and change, I guessed that the bridge image must be commonplace in popular culture. As is often the case, I guessed wrong.

After thinking very hard (a.k.a. “Googling”), I managed to find only seven books worth mentioning with the word “bridge” in the title:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan
  • A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  • Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

(I just couldn’t bring myself to include The Bridges of Madison County.)

I then moved on to songs, and although there were some Top Ten song lists with “bridge” in the title, I’m only going to mention three here, because, to be honest, the other seven didn’t interest me:

  • Bridge over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
  • Under the Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • London Bridge (Traditional)

Finally, I resorted to adding characters named “Bridge” to my list, and I’m glad I did, because all of them are important in their own right.

  • Walter and India Bridge in the movie, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, based on the books about Mrs. and Mr. Bridge, listed above.

This is important because I read the books AND saw the movie, and the movie has both Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in it, something that just makes me happy for some reason.

  • George Bailey’s bridge in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Okay, the bridge is not actually a character, but if it were a character, its name would most certainly be Bridget, and it would have won an Oscar for best movie prop in a supporting role.

  • Ruby Bridges, the first black child to integrate an all-white school in the American south (Nov. 14, 1960).

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges tells Ms. Bridges’ story in her own words. I think her name is particularly symbolic.

Returning to the subject of Bridge of Sighs, I’m now on cd number 12 of 21, so I’m more than halfway across the bridge, so to speak. This is one of those books that I’ll be sorry to finish. I’ve already become quite attached to Lucy Lynch, its main character. Spoiler alert: Lucy is not at all the way you’re probably picturing him.

So if you see someone in the driver’s seat of a white Subaru Impreza, deep in thought while barreling toward you on the highway, maybe you’d better just stay out of their way, because it could very well be me, on the last page of the last chapter of Bridge of Sighs, possibly crying my eyes out, or smiling, or whatever it is Richard Russo has in store for me, and I wouldn’t want to have to plead DWEEB in traffic court.