Monday, September 07, 2020
ars longa, vita brevis
A short post today, to say hello, and that yes, I finally finished reading The Diary of Virginia Woolf. The ending was just about as devastating as I thought it would be. I can't say I want to talk it over in any detail right now, so I'll share a few new acquistions instead. First:
What a gorgeous art book this is - John Nash: Artist & Countryman by Andrew Lambirth (Unicorn 2020). It's a reward for selling a lot of paintings over the summer, pandemic notwithstanding. I love Nash's work and it's a treat to have a real monograph about it. My only critcism is that I wish the copious and illuminating text had been a bit smaller (font-wise) and the color plates a bit larger (there are some great full-page plates but most are not). John and Christine Nash left their house to writer Ronald Blythe when they died, and he's lived there ever since. Another recent purchase, speaking of Ronald Blythe:
That's a John Nash painting from 1918 on the cover, The Cornfield, one of my favorites of his, made when he returned home after serving in combat and as a war artist during World War I. The book is a stream-of-consciousness narrative of a rural year in gardens, fields, orchards, and farmyards, just before World War II. It reminds me very much of some of Virginia Woolf's diary entries, and not just because they were both written in the late 1930s. This lovely reprint of the 1939 original Men and the Fields by Adrian Bell has an introduction by Ronald Blythe and illustrations by John Nash (Little Toller Books 2009). Bell and the Nashes were neighbors and friends. Bell's memoir isn't about him, it's about a way of life he lived and witnessed. As a reader, you know next to nothing about Bell himself, except what he values, because he notices and describes so well, with such quiet words. The wind the the trees is of great interest to him, and hence, to us. As Blythe writes in the introduction (p.8): "Adrian Bell is the least sensational and the least dramatic of twentieth century country writers..."
Yes, please. More of this. The dramatic and sensational are overrated. This beautiful edition makes me want to buy more from the publisher. As they say on their website, "Little Toller was started with a singular purpose: to revive forgotten and classic books about nature and rural life in the British Isles." I started looking at their list of reprints and found myself wanting most of them. And if Men and the Fields is a good example, each of the others in the reprint series will also have a thick matte cardstock cover, great cover art, wonderful paper within, and all-around good quality, for a reasonable price. I'll have to order a few, when I get back.
Get back, you ask? Yes, because after being home for months and months, except for day trips here and there, I'm taking off for a while. A local arts residency has asked me to fill in, because someone just cancelled, and they want a replacement at short notice. I applied long ago, pre-pandemic, and was wait-listed. But the good folks there remembered me. At first I thought, I can't possibly go. But I realized I'd have my own house and studio, and take-out food prepared, and weeks of painting alone in the mountains of northwestern Maine, and I knew I had to say yes. So I did. I'm leaving soon and will be back in October, after the leaves turn. Ryan and Hodge are coping, but it's a dire situation. I've promised to stay in touch, and will even be back for a quick visit, halfway through. Wish me luck, and be well, friends. Ars longa!