Writers in Art: Portrait of Leo Tolstoy in His Study by Ilya Repin

By now, it is obvious that I love Ilya Repin’s paintings of famous Russian writers. This image of Tolstoy illustrates why: the coupling of serenity and realism is a powerful combination.

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy in His Study by Ilya Repin, 1891

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy in His Study by Ilya Repin, 1891

[Alternative Muses] Writerly Style: Dressing Like a Work of Art with Djuna Barnes

“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”-Oscar Wilde

Our dear Djuna, who wasn’t always so dear, encompassed both of Wilde’s dictates.

Why wouldn’t she?

Djuna Barnes was not afraid to overstep the accepted boundaries of writing, art, behaviour, or fashion. She knew that, sometimes, too much wasn’t nearly enough.

Our favourite tetchy lady knew what she was doing. Here’s why.

Lessons in How to Dress, Djuna Barnes-style:

Tip #1-It’s okay to wear too many layers and accessories, as long as it is artfully done:

Djuna Barnes

Djuna, daring you to find her anything short of magnificent.

A lesser woman would be weighed down by all those layers and accessories, but not our Djuna. She looks resplendent. The open collar, delicate jewelry, and commandingly vibrant lipstick pull everything together.

Tip #2-The key to wearing a bold print is to conquer it by the pure force of your personality:

Djuna Barnes, circa 1921

Djuna Barnes taking charge of some giant dots,  circa 1921.

Clothes smell fear. If you’re scared to wear something, you probably shouldn’t. Otherwise, don it with the conviction that no one else on earth could ever pull it off like you can.

Surrounding a huge pattern with solids never hurts, either.

Tip #3-Shoes and Hats! Shoes and Hats!

Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes

Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes were exceptionally chic in Paris, 1922.

Shoes and hats are all you need to be stylish and memorable. It doesn’t matter if you are wearing a ball gown or a T-shirt dress, as long as you are shod and topped with wit or taste, or even creative vulgarity. Swap those gorgeous 1920s frocks for  modern minis and logo shirts, and Solita and Djuna would still look phenomenal.

Think about that.

Now go out there and face the world with confidence and a bit of writerly style!

Shopping for the Bookworm: The Dead Writers Round-Up, Volume One

This shopping guide is a companion to the 10th-14th November The Dead Writers Round-Up. Enjoy!

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The Dead Writers Round-Up: 10th-14th November

  • Oliver Goldsmith was born on 11/10/1728. “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.” (The Vicar of Wakefield; The Deserted Village; She Stoops to Conquer)
  • Friedrich Schiller was born on 11/10/1759. “Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.” (The Robbers; Intrigue and Love; Don Carlos; The Maid of Orleans; William Tell)
  • Arthur Rimbaud died on 11/10/1891. “I believe I am in Hell, therefore I am.” (Soleil et chair; Le bateau ivre; Illuminations)
  • Ken Kesey died on 11/10/2001. “You can’t really be strong until you can see a funny side to things.” (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Sometimes a Great Notion; Caverns; Sailor Song)
  • Norman Mailer died on 11/10/2007. “Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego.” (The Naked and the Dead; The Executioner’s Song; Ancient Evenings; The Gospel According to the Son)
  • Kurt Vonnegut was born on 11/11/1922. “And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.” (The Sirens of Titan; Mother Night; Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse-Five; Jailbird; Timequake)
  • Carlos Fuentes was born on 11/11/1928. “I need, therefore I imagine.” (Aura; Terra Nostra; The Old Gringo; Diana: the Goddess Who Hunts Alone; The Years with Laura Diaz)
  • Elizabeth Gaskell died on 11/12/1865. “Those who are happy and successful themselves are too apt to make light of the misfortune of others.” (Cranford; North and South; Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson was born on 11/13/1850. “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” (Treasure Island; Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; Kidnapped; The Master of Ballantrae)
  • Arthur Hugh Clough died on 11/13/1861. “My wind is turned to bitter north/That was so soft a south before.” (Tober-na-Vuolich; Mari Magno, or Tales on Board)
  • Saki (H.H. Munro) died on 11/13/1916. “The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened.” (The Westminster Alice; The Unbearable Bassington; When William Came)
  • Clementine Paddleford died on 11/13/1967. “Never grow a wishbone where your backbone ought to be!” (A Dickens Christmas Dinner; How America Eats)
  • Astrid Lindgren was born on 11/14/1907. “But still, if it’s true, how can it be a lie?” (Pippi Longstocking series; Bill Bergson series)
  • Booker T. Washington died on 11/14/1915. “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” (Character Building; Up from Slavery; Working with the Hands)
  • Robert E. Sherwood died on 11/14/1955. “We all come from our own little planets. That’s why we’re all different. That’s what makes life interesting.” (Waterloo Bridge; Reunion in Vienna; The Petrified Forest; Idiot’s Delight; Abe Lincoln in Illinois; There Shall Be No Night)
  • Malcolm Muggeridge died on 11/14/1990. “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.” (Three flats: a play in three acts; Winter in Moscow; In a valley of this restless mind)

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My Favourite (Dead) Playwrights*

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950):

George Bernard Shaw, 1909

George Bernard Shaw. 1909.

Some plays: Mrs. Warren’s Profession; Arms and the Man; Candida; Major Barbara; The Doctor’s Dilemma; Pygmalion; Heartbreak House; Saint Joan; The Apple Cart; The Millionairess.

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906):

Henrik Ibsen  by Gustav Borgen, 1898 or earlier

Henrik Ibsen by Gustav Borgen. 1898 or earlier.

Some plays: Peer Gynt; Pillars of Society; A Doll’s House; Ghosts; An Enemy of the People; The Wild Duck; Hedda Gabler; The Master Builder.

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904):

Anton Chekhov, 1900

Anton Chekhov. 1900.

Some Plays: The Bear; A Marriage Proposal; The Seagull; Uncle Vanya; Three Sisters; The Cherry Orchard.

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975):

Thornton Wilder, Yale Graduation Photo 1920

Thornton Wilder’s Yale graduation photo. 1920.

Some plays: The Long Christmas Dinner; Our Town; The Merchant of Yonkers; The Skin of Our Teeth; The Matchmaker. Continue reading