It’s a true story. I know how it ends, but I can’t move forward. The last twenty pages are as weighty as a boulder, as immovable as a broken vault door. My heart refuses to face the acrid, bloody truth, to acknowledge the twisted metal and shattered dreams. His unwritten novels poke through the years like torpid headlights in a fog. Am I a horrid person for lamenting the tragedy of lost words?
About: Another day, another review of a small book with generous appeal. Sandra Forty’s seven pages of text get the party started. With such limited space, she tells the Austrian painter’s story well and with much-needed concision. There’s no room for depth, but she does what needs to be done and does it admirably. The star of the book is, of course, Schiele’s art. There are eighty-two chronologically arranged plates, each one contributing to the riveting aesthetic harmony of one of the most astonishing artistic outputs of the 20th century. The reproductions may be tiny, but they are stunning.
Motivation: Egon Schiele is one of my favourite artists. I find inspiration from hundreds of sources: kooky, disparate, and not all word related. Art, photography, silent cinema, and fashion history all serve me well when, throwing off the shadows from my mind, I head out into the wider world in search of creative focus.
Times Read: 1
Random Excerpt/Page 4: “Furthermore, he subverted the usual approach to portraiture and instead explored unusual angles, asking his models to twist and turn into unconventional attitudes and stare back at the observer with baleful, unblinking eyes.”
Happiness Scale: 10+++
Egon Schiele, Self-portrait, 1912 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Title: Queen of the Wits A Life of Laetitia Pilkington
Author: Norma Clarke
Year Published: 2008 (Faber and Faber Limited)
Year Purchased: September, 2012
Source: My mom bought it for me in Ireland.
About: If emotions could flash across time, whether born of sympathy or distaste, then Laetitia Pilkington would be knocked over by waves of righteous indignation sent her way from 21st century readers of Norma Clarke’s compelling biography. It would be all too easy to write off what happened to the 18th century writer and wit as just another example of the appalling, often violent double standard facing women of the time. It’s not that simple. She was a pet favourite of Jonathan Swift, a precocious young writer, budding intellectual, wife, mother, and beloved daughter. Whether she had an affair or not (and it is hard to tell if her explanation was pure cheek or plain truth) doesn’t matter within the context of her place and time; the fact that her ill-tempered husband, a curate with literary ambitions, was allowed to carry on dalliances without punishment or even censure, whilst she was publicly castigated as a whore, is the central theme of what became an extended nightmare for his wife. Continue reading →
Title: The Secret The Strange Marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron
Author: Ashley Hay
Year Published: 2000/This Edition: 2001 (Aurum Press Ltd)
Year Purchased: 2002/2003
Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
About: This is way more interesting than the “self-help” book by Rhonda Byrne. It’s also real. We all know that Lord Byron (and his buddies) had some hellacious and salacious adventures. Carousing, hell-catting, what-have-you. They were a lot of things, but boring wasn’t one of them. With all of that knowledge in the back of our heads, you’d think that any biography focusing on his personal life couldn’t offer up an intriguing perspective. You’d be wrong, and thank goodness for that. History has certainly seen its share of romantic mismatches and marital disasters. The union between Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke deserves a fairly high position on any informal ranking. Lest you worry that The Secret is trashy tabloid-esque fodder with a historical spin, fear not! Hay has written a fine exploration, taken from the couple’s journals and correspondence, that gives her subjects a respectful, though not heavy, seriousness.
Motivation: We always hear of Byron and his conquests, yet few words are devoted to the women he loved; and most of those are given over to his sister, not his wife. An entire book dedicated to the odd, brief relationship he had with the out-flanked Miss Milbanke? Oh, yes please.
Times Read: 1
Random Excerpt/Page 38: “At the same time, she became convinced that Byron was about to announce his engagement to someone else-to the young lady, in fact, whom he had told he wanted to see no more of Annabella’s poems. All the light, all the spark, went out of her and out of her effervescent summer: she told her aunt of this imminent announcement so definitely that Lady Melbourne took the idea to Byron as a fact, not a rumour, and he was at a loss to explain its origins or its vehemence.”
Happiness Scale: 8 1/2
Portrait of Annabella Byron (nee Anne Isabella Milbanke) (1792-1860) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Author: Fred E. Basten (with Robert Salvatore & Paul A. Kaufman)
Year Published: 1995 (W. Quay Hays)
Year Purchased: 2003/2004
Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
About: Max Factor isn’t just a name on wands of mascara and tubes of lipstick found in the beauty aisle at your local grocery store. The Max Factor cosmetics line wasn’t invented and branded by impersonal, slick-suited admen in a glossy boardroom. He was a pioneer who not only shaped and defined the aesthetics of classic cinema (from glamour girls to tough guys and everything in between) but he brought make-up to the masses in a way that was, and is, distinctly modern. His genius for invention and marketing, as well as his humble beginnings in Central Europe, make his story a neat parallel to those of the movie moguls who were his contemporaries. Continue reading →