It is not for nothing the attacks of Friday, November 13th, took place in the neighborhoods around République where Parisians gather to demonstrate whenever they feel their civil liberties are at stake. The headquarters of France’s left leaning newspapers, Charlie Hebdo, victim of an earlier attack, and Libération, lie not far from this recently remodeled square which stands as symbol of France’s republican values not in the least of which is secularism.
Rather than delve into this hotbed of a topic (if you’re interested in reading my response to the events I invite you to visit my Ecole des Femmes newsletter: http://tinyletter.com/Ecole-des-Femmes/letters/paris-exposed-1) I’m posting a brief photo journal of my neighborhood in tribute to the spirit of the artists here.
What would Vermeer say?
From the bathroom of the Pavillon des Canaux
I don’t know why… I just like this lady and her tree stump friends.
There’s nothing like a power nap in a hat
Our Lady of Fitness
I believe these photos are supposed to resemble famous paintings…
What can I say but that I run the most fabulous, bijou literary salon in Paris. It’s just a fact. But the brag is hardly mine alone; the success of this venture would not be possible without the extraordinary posse of artists with whom I work. My main wing woman, visual artist Sarita Beraha, has been sculpting the 70 meters of red velvet we acquired for the first salon (see earlier post) into theatrical dreamscapes; this last salon, she created a flower, a rose, or maybe it’s a lollipop?
The theme for this past salon was Le Royaume des Fleurs and to this effect we created seven tableaux to celebrate the feminine and the floral. In the mix was poet Constance Chlore, musicians Rebecca Waterhouse and Lea Klinghammer, dancer MaryLou Sarazin, writer Shannon Cain, and myself as writer, dancer and director. London-based actress Doraly Rosa made a recording of my text “The Royal National Rose Society’s Rose Pageant From the Trial Grounds of St. Albans” in a voice she described as somewhere between “posh and porn”. Jennifer Larsen made us an exceptional spread of flower-themed patisserie, served alongside champagne, poured and served by our faithful attendee, Tony Vanaria.
It is a great privilege to share art critic Lyle Rexer’s brilliant interview with Juan Alonso, a novelist whose work I’ve admired for years. Why this interview is being published here rather than in The Paris Review remains a question perhaps only Karma the elephant can answer (and at the moment she’s busy embracing her love interest, Juan); in lieu of explanation, let me express how deeply honoured I am to bring you Juan’s inimitable humour, turn of phrase and fascinating literary mind. Without further ado, I turn this over to Lyle and Juan. Readers, you are in for a treat.
Playing Hardball in Montevideo: an Interview with Juan Alonso
I first met Juan Alonso more than thirty years ago. I had just read his fourth novel, Althea (the Divorce of Adam and Eve), published by the Fiction Collective, and intended to review it. It seemed then (and still seems) the great novel of the 1960s I had been waiting for. That review was never published, but I did make a pilgrimage to Boston to meet him (as I recall) outside the Harvard Club. I found him everything I had not expected, including less “Hispanic,” more Bostonian, and very funny (usually writers who write funny aren’t, just as writers who write tough, can’t …
Mme du Châtelet Productions debuted Saturday, January 31st, with its first edition of the Salon, held in my candlelit home with some thirty people in attendance. The evening included writers Christina Mirjol, Shannon Cain, and myself as well as the visual artist Sarita Beraha who turned our white tiled bathroom into a red velvet grotto, an oeuvre that took two days, four trips to the Marché St. Pierre and 75 meters of fabric to complete! The end result was a sumptuous setting for Shannon Cain’s reading in the baignoire.
Christina Mirjol read from her book “Les Cris,” punctuating the evening with voices of varying timbres – satirical, emotional, playful, haunting – while Shannon, dressed in bubbles, read passages of her racy novel-in-progress. I read/performed a piece I wrote especially for this edition of the salon entitled “Bake a Cake”; Shannon Cain joined me, playing the role of June Carter Cash and together we actually did make a cake, a Betty Crocker Chocolate Deluxe, to the strains of Lil Debbie.
The evening started off with one of Christina’s “cris,” then a Mata Hari number to a Natasha Atlas hit performed by yours truly, in full Egyptian regalia. I was fortunate to have had the expert guidance of Christina, a theatre director and actress. But above and beyond the performing I …
Oddities, Curiosities, Louvuhs, Lady Enjoy…
****Louvah (loov-uh), n. – an American undergrad studying art and polyperversity in Paris, predominately stationed in the Louvre Museum and bars with Anglo-Saxon names.
Late June. We left Paris giggling. It wasn’t the news former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was in garde à vue — detained by the police at the commissariat — that tickled us but our surmising he had no underwear on. Why did we suspect this? Let’s just say I learned a thing or two from my former job in Louvah Maintenance (aka Directorship of an American study-abroad program). You see, when suspects are locked up in garde à vue, the French police take their underwear away for safety reasons. Safety, you ask? Apparently, it is not impossible to hang yourself with them. Think about it.
A Louvah under my jurisdiction once stumbled home at three a.m. drunk as a skunk and was picked up by the police at Châtelet, ready to topple over into the Fontaine du Palmier. They locked her up in a cell, demanded she hand over her dessous – for her own protection. She watched mortified as her panties were chauffeured in a Ziplock bag to different quarters. When you consider Joan of Arc was allowed to keep her breeches on in prison, you begin to …
“Gratitude. Have you filled your tank up on it? There are many reasons to do so. After all, it is free and ecological. It will put a rose tint on your day. Gratitude is the base line of your music; the rhythm that holds together the potential for your greatness.”
- Mme de Sauvignon
Celebrating Kathy Burke
I had heard of artist Kathy Burke’s portrait work years before I stepped into the job as director of a study-abroad program and discovered she was on the faculty. We became instant, and as it turns out, long-lasting friends and my admiration for her work, currently focused on the view of Notre Dame out her window (yes, she lives on the Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville!) gets a fresh squeeze of excitement with each project she undertakes.
Recently over lunch, I told Kathy how much I appreciated the way she would help me get a healthier perspective on difficult work situations. Her comment was: “Anne, that’s really what I do, listen and look. All my life I’ve been listening and looking.”
The truth of this struck me immediately. It explained not only why I sought her counsel, but how she, as an artist, has at the tips of her brushes the extraordinary ability to capture, in a few minutes’ sitting, …
Holy Week just kicked off today with Palm Sunday and a procession led by Père Boyardee down the rue Palestine. I declined on joining the crowd waving branches of boxwood and retreated inside to the front pew where I finished composing an Ode to My Toes (relevant to Holy Week as you’ll see shortly), the last bit of this week’s homework for The School of Womanly Arts.
I heard the Hosannas wafting outside the gothic lair and then, three thundering knocks on the main portal, clearly not made by mere human knuckle. It was Père Boyardee banging the door with his cross. A high pitched voice from inside queried through a megaphone: “Who is this king of glory?”
Outside, Père Boyardee boomed: “It’s the Lord, the strong, the brave, the Lord, the Brave Combatant!”
Again, three extra-strength knocks.
“Who is this king of glory?”
“Door, lift your frontons; Lift them, Eternal Doors! That He may enter, The King of Glory!!”
The counter tenor dropped the megaphone to unbuckle the portals. In marches Père Boyardee in a gorgeous rosso corsa cassock followed by Deacon de Proussy in white undercassock with a swathe of rosso corsa satin running from left shoulder to right hip; in their wake, the altar boys in lamb white waved the censors in trinities to maintain …
Something about this precocious Parisian spring, rich in creative impulse, has made me unearth my Apron Manifesto and post it here, once again. I remain a firm practitioner of the apron. Here is why.
THE APRON MANIFESTO
Though I set my first novel in the fashion world, my interest in couture is largely metaphorical. I would be hard pressed to distinguish a Christian Lacroix from a Christian Dior and have not bought a fashion magazine in years. What appeals to me is fashion’s appetite for outlandish excess and for marrying the absurd with the sublime. I had the pleasure of practicing my fashionese when I wrote Remedy and this experience was not unlike reading Alice in Wonderland where one enters of world of queer pairings and alliteration, where the associative and the excessive poke their tongue at reason.
Despite the conformity of mass produced ready-wear, fashion craves and inspires fancy much as fairy stories do. Karen Blixen, the great writer of gothic tales, gave a name to each of her dresses and I suspect this whimsy of the wardrobe served to remedy the doldrums and repetition of getting dressed in the morning. Inside her closet hung a cast of friends who came to life once pulled over her head and zipped up her back. Following Blixen’s example, I once tried …
First of all, I report with relief that Afghanistan President Karzai did veto the law I wrote about in my last post. In a country where honour killings of women – and their children – are on the rise, this is a positive action yet hardly a step toward securing basic human rights for women. Alas.
While we in the West pride ourselves as being as above such barbarisms, it seems we play Hun here and there. Some shocking facts from the International Business Times:
- In Arkansas, a man can legally beat his wife no more than once a month.
- In Stafford County, Virginia; a man can legally beat his wife on the courthouse steps before 8:00 pm.
- In South Carolina and Huntington, West Virginia; a man can legally beat his wife on the courthouse steps on Sundays.
In a recent article in the London Review of Books, writer and scholar Mary Beard discusses the silencing of women in public discourse, tracing it back to the “first recorded example of a man telling a woman ‘to shut up’” in the Odyssey when Telemachus sends his mother to her room for the crime of speaking her wishes before an assembly of men, her suitors actually.
While most Parisians were Saint Sebastian-ing the onslaught of bows Cupid shot off at sunrise, I had my nose in a troubling article in The Guardian Weekly: “Afghan law allows men to attack wives.”
Apparently Afghanistan’s parliament has passed a law that leaves wives, children and sisters free game for violent hombres and their prized “honour killings.” Under this law, relatives of accused people will be banned from testifying against them, leaving the vulnerable victims no hope for recourse to justice. The law is now on the desk of President Karzai awaiting his veto or approval and the world is wondering if the man has a modicum of sanity and decency.
Things are not looking good for our sisters in Afghanistan.
And what this makes me feel, alongside my rage, is a burning desire to fan the flames of love, to round up the pudgy Cupids of Europe and get them employed pummeling that parliament and its president with arrows till their hearts break and something sensible, clean and sustainable enters them: love for their sisters.
Will love conquer all? Of course! We just forget it will about 99% of the time.