Susan Vreeland's Blog: Reading, Thinking, and Writing with Susan Vreeland

August 18, 2014

I will be answering your questions from 2:00-5:00pm, Pacific Time, on Tuesdays when I come home from my tour, with the exception of one Monday. Dates are:
Tuesdays: September 16, 23, 30, and October 21 and 28; Monday, October 13. I will answer the questions pre-posted on Sept 16.

August 19 marks the 8-day countdown to the publication of Lisette's List, my eighth book. Every day beginning August 19, I will post a painting or a photograph and a quote from the book related, sometimes subtly, to the painting. Please stop by and have a look.
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Published on August 18, 2014 13:28 • 238 views

June 9, 2014

Lisette's List began with a feeling that in terms of my development as a writer, I must not write another novel centered on one artist, bringing to literary life part of a biography, and expanding into the artist's friendships and associations. That approach has given me much joy for a decade, but recently I began to feel that it was too constraining. The new book came of a need to outgrow that mode and completely invent for myself.
A friend insisted that I see the village of Roussillon in Provence on an upcoming trip across the south of France with my husband. With only two hours there, and with rain deepening the red-ochre and rosy ochre and golden ochre of the village, I fell in love, recognizing this perch of harmonious houses high above ochre cliffs as a treasure. I vowed to come again. And I did, with a novel swimming in my head.
The rape of Europe of its art has disturbed me greatly. That entire nations could be deprived of the art of their native sons and daughters by a ruthless foreign tyrant with no appreciation for any painting beyond the Renaissance, was an injury and outrage I feel keenly.
Grounding my passion, like a seed in my soul, the novel grew from my deep love for France, for the French language, for French art, for Provence, and for the French people who have suffered unspeakably during war and its aftermath and whom I have found to be gracious lovers of beauty.
When I learned that near Roussillon there were ochre quarries and mines from which was extracted the ore which produced pigments in all the warm hues of the color wheel, I had a substantial artistic link to this region beyond mere love.
Art history looks at art works and the people who have created them. But what is it called, that exploration of the people who made the things that are the materials of art? The first thing: the pigments, that bright earth. The last thing: the frame around a finished painting. Both are elements in the novel. Because I knew no word for this area of study, that was the new terrain I wished to enter.
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Published on June 09, 2014 21:17 • 166 views • Tags: b-lisette-s-list-b

October 12, 2013

We ought to celebrate and cheer on any newly opened independent bookstore, so as I find any, I will post a description here.
HULLABALOO BOOKS, a new concept in bookshops: Small is beautiful. Pocket
neighborhoods deserve art and literature too, thinks proprietor Michael de Zayas. In the budding, self-renewing Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, just off Franklin Avenue at Park Place, a literary, artistic, and creative community is sprouting an intimate new bookstore with "a concept considerably richer than simple commerce," says de Zayas. The commonly held opinion is that opening a profitable bookstore in the climate of electronic downloads and online book outlets is a fool's errand. Owner and community organizer Michael de Zayas thinks otherwise. His vision for the bookstore is a combination of not-for-profit cultural center for fiction readings, book launch events, visiting international writers, children's storytelling, open poetry readings, weekly contemporary poetry book study, writing workshops for adults and teens, adult literacy program, focused reading groups, an outdoor reading garden where people "experience the joys of thought, art, and each other's company",--all this in a small space of a profitable bookstore of new and used books carefully curated to suit the community. Bravo, Michael! Wishing you much success.
711a Franklin Ave. Brooklyn, NY11238-4202
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Published on October 12, 2013 10:54 • 198 views

September 20, 2013

To my knowledge, none of these paintings have served as the impetus or the focus for novels. I'm waiting. In the meantime, here's a painting journey through the ages, minus several that I'm considering. Won't some writer somewhere pick up on these marvelous paintings and bring them to life?

--The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. Massaccio.
--Disposition of Christ, Giotto. 1304-13.
--Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt.
--Young Woman with a Water Jug. Vermeer.
--Two Women at a Window, Batolomé Esteban Murillo, 1670.
--The Death of Marat, Jacques-Louis David. 1793.
--The Gleaners, Jean-François Millet, 1857.
--The Bar at the Folies Bergère, Edouard Manet, 1882. -
--Paris: A Rainy Day, Caillebotte.
--Weeping Woman. Pablo Picasso. 1937.

Why won't someone oblige me? Or will I have to do it myself?
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Published on September 20, 2013 13:03 • 188 views

September 3, 2013

She had me from the start, this Margot Frank, older sister of Anne Frank, also known as Margie Franklin, this woman of Jillian Cantor's imagination. All that she thought and did, I believed.
Margot is a tender reimagining--what if Anne Frank's sister had escaped, had jumped from the train going from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, and was living in Philadelphia, hiding her identity--a reimagining that reawakens a universally felt heartache even now when we know all. That is, we know the facts, or we think we do, but the terrain beneath the tattooed skin that lies along the heart, the enormous effort of fashioning lies upon lies in order to keep her equilibrium, can be supplied to us only in carefully wrought fiction.
Reading this novel is like peeling away layers of imagination, first of Jillian Cantor's rendering of the history, as much as it is known, then of Margie's imagination of Peter, of what was or was not said, and her unsure yet haunting memory of Anne and what unspeakable thing actually happened on that train, and finally, of her deepening feeling for her employer, Joshua Rosenstein, junior partner in a Jewish law firm. History and story are blurred at times as subtlety moves into intensity, dreams into reality; for moments we may feel awash and ungrounded, in the years in the Secret Annex, the secrecy of the concentration camp, and the life of a secretary with a secret, suffering survivor's guilt, but wouldn't that drift rightly be the way that Margot/Margie would feel at times? Cantor has deftly, purposefully, put us in that realm. The narrative is judiciously paced, making sure that we readers are in Margie's mind every step of the way toward the final, satisfying conclusion.
I am deeply impressed by the sincerity of Jillian Cantor, and the soundness of her motivation to get us to revisit the life of the Frank sisters, icons now, both of them.
Released today, 9/3/2013
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Published on September 03, 2013 07:50 • 191 views

August 14, 2013

MY READING LIST
If you are surprised that a particular book is not on my personal list, it's probably because I've already read it. From my list you can surmise what I appreciate and what I eschew. The first one listed here is the one I'll start with. Beyond that, no order is implied. Some I chose for the artist, some for the author. You'll notice: no cutthroat violence. I can't stand to read of cruelty.

THE UNDERPAINTER Jane Urquhart. Invented elderly artist paints events and people in his life.
I AM MADAME X, Gioia Diliberto. The model for Sargent's shocking society portrait and her tempestuous personality.
LEAVING VAN GOGH, Carol Wallace. Van Gogh's last months under the care of Dr. Gachet.
STEALING THE MYSTIC LAMB, Noah Charney. The Ghent alterpiece by Jan van Eyck, the most valueable piece of art of its time, threatened.
SWAN THIEVES, Elizabeth Kostova. The mystery of the identity of a woman in a painting.
THE LOST PAINTING, Jonathan Harr. In a decaying palazzo in an Italian hill village, a female graduate student discovers The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio.
THE ART FORGER, B. A. Shapiro. Based on the Isabella Stewart Gardner 1990 theft of thirteen paintings.
THE RUBY RING, Diane Haeger. Raphael's beloved Margherita recalls him after his death.

There are only eight. I am a slow reader. I enjoy sentences. The beautiful ones I read more than once and enter them in my reading journal.
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Published on August 14, 2013 12:47 • 223 views
Novels dealing with other art forms than painting:

CLARA AND MR. TIFFANY, Susan Vreeland. The woman hidden from the public eye who created Tiffany's leaded glass lamps, and the Tiffany Girls who made them.

LOVING FRANK, Nancy Horan. The tempestuous relationship betwee Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, the mistress for whom Wright left his family.

NAKED CAME I, David Weiss. A portrayal of sculptor Auguste Rodin, his family, his lovers, his fellow artists, and his works.

THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO, Marina Fiorato. A woman glassblower, a secret process, and international intrigue.

THE ILLUMINATOR, Brenda Rickman Vantrease. A painter secretly illuminating a forbidden English translation of the Bible.

THE LADY AND THE UNICORN, Tracy Chevalier. Fictional characters surrounding the making of a 15th century tapestry.
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Published on August 14, 2013 12:39 • 167 views
Four more: (The last, please!)

A THING OF BEAUTY, A.J. Cronin. The story of English painter Stephen Desmonde sacrificing everything for his passion.

PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST, Mary F. Burns. Brings to life the subjects of John Singer Sargent's paintings--family, friends, lovers, enemies.

The PASSIONATE JOURNEY, Irving Stone. A biographical novel of John Nobel, an American Post-Impressionist with the double addiction of creating and alcohol.

The SIGN OF THE WEEPING VIRGIN, Alana White. A miraculous painting, a missing girl, and a powerful man confronting his demons during the Italian Renaissance.
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Published on August 14, 2013 12:28 • 136 views
Four more: (The last, please!)

A THING OF BEAUTY, A.J. Cronin. The story of English painter Stephen Desmonde sacrificing everything for his passion.

PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST, Mary F. Burns. Brings to life the subjects of John Singer Sargent's paintings--family, friends, lovers, enemies.

The PASSIONATE JOURNEY, Irving Stone. A biographical novel of John Nobel, an American Post-Impressionist with the double addiction of creating and alcohol.

The SIGN OF THE WEEPING VIRGIN, Alana White. A miraculous painting, a missing girl, and a powerful man confronting his demons during the Italian Renaissance.
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Published on August 14, 2013 12:26 • 151 views

August 10, 2013

Additional Suggestions from Readers

ARTEMISIA, Alexandra Lapierre. An art historian's highly researched account of Artemisia Gentileschi containing 40+ pages of footnotes.
ARTEMISIA, Anna Banti. Using a diary form, Banti carries on a dialogue with Artemisia, trying to discover why she finds her so fascinating.
CHASING CÉZANNE, Peter Mayle. A light-hearted romp through Provence (where else?) to track a looted Cézanne.
IN THE GARDEN OF EVIL, David Hewson. In a hidden studio in Rome, an art expert is found dead in front of a beautiful painting.
PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, Oscar Wilde. Infatuated with life and beauty, Dorian sells his soul to insure that his portrait would age instead of himself, discovering in the disfigured portrait the effect of his actions.
PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, Robert Nathan. A fantasy of sketching a girl who knows things before her time, ages overnight, and then disappears, a spirit.
REMBRANDT'S GHOST, Paul Christopher. Archeologist inherits house in Amsterdam containing what appears to be a fake Rembrandt.
STEALING ATHENA, Karen Essex. Two women separated by centuries but united by controversial paintings both defy social conventions of their times.
THE GREAT MAN, Kate Christensen. Two rival biographers vie for the truth of this fictional painter's secret life with his mistress.
THE LOST PAINTING, Jonathan Harr. In a decaying palazzo in an Italian hill village, a female graduate student discovers The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio.
THE PAINTER FROM SHANGHAI, Jennifer Cody Epstein. After her youth in a brothel, a woman becomes a bohemian painter in 1920's Paris.
WAKING RAPHAEL. Leslie Forbes. Restoration of a Raphael brings about a rash of miracles and violence.

Will those who suggested LOOT and THE IMMACULATE DECEPTION, please give me the authors and a brief description? I can't annotate because there are several books with these titles.

This is all I'll post on paintings. Part V will be novels dealing with other art forms.
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Published on August 10, 2013 18:30 • 121 views

Reading, Thinking, and Writing with Susan Vreeland

Susan Vreeland
Hello, and welcome to my new blog. I must admit I am a neophyte to blogs. Does that make me a blogophyte? Sounds like some prehistoric one-celled creature. My dictionary defines neophyte as a newcomer ...more
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