Pissarro's Places covers many of the cities, villages, and rural areas where Camille Pissarro painted. But one chapter had to be cut –one with a unique American twist--and no one but you will know the story of Pissarro in La Roche-Guyon.
What drew artists to La Roche-Guyon becomes obvious on the approach to the village. Coming down the hillside in a series of sharp S-curves, we see a gorgeous panorama of the Seine gently twisting through its fertile valley.
The reflective Seine from the top of a hill near La Roche-GuyonCamille Pissarro first visited La Roche-Guyon in 1857 and returned in the summers of 1858, 1859, and 1865, when he painted the Square in La Roche-Guyon. Much of the appeal of this painting lies in the patterns made by the lofty gables and brown rooftops, perfectly outlined by thick impasto (layers of paint). Paintings to be shown at the French salon were required to have smooth finishes with no visible brush marks. The thick impasto in this painting shows Pissarro’s early rebellion against the art establishment.
The town center of La Roche-Guyon still looks the same today
Long ago, the inhabitants of La Roche-Guyon dug a cave fortress high in the chalk cliffs overlooking a large curve in the Seine. It was described in the mid 1100s as “invisible on its surface, it is dug in a high rock…a full residence equipped with rare and miserable openings.” In the late 12th century, feudal lords constructed a stone tower (donjon) and linked it to the cliff-castle by an underground tunnel through the rock. The original chateau, built in 1250, nestled up to the white chalk cliffs under the donjon.
In the 17th century, the chateau came into the La Rochefoucauld family, and the right wing and stables were added in the 18th century. The duke, Louis Alexandre of Rochefoucauld d’Enville, befriended Benjamin Franklin and John Adams who came to France seeking help during the American Revolution. While Thomas Jefferson was in France, he also was a frequent guest at La Roche-Guyon. He brought back cuttings of trees and plants for his home at Monticello.
Barges on the Seine c. 1863
Barges on the Seine is one of the loveliest of Pissarro’s early paintings. The focal point is a cargo boat moored at a bend of the Seine. Your eye skims the foreshortened length of the boat and curves around the distant hills with their glittering white cliffs. A raft (perhaps a ferry) floats near the middle of the river as a steamboat makes its way upriver, providing a modern contrast to the old-fashioned raft.
The topography is strikingly similar to the river bank at La Roche-Guyon. The white cliffs upriver and the curve of the river to the right are exactly as Pissarro painted them. If you go to La Roche-Guyon, be prepared for busloads of tourists. The quiet little village I visited for 20 years has now become a new destination because the historic chateau has now been opened to the public.
Emily Dickinson has haunted my life — her poems, her persona, all the tales about
her solitude. Ever since I discovered her in the seventh grade, I've had a crush
on that spinster in white, who had such a heroic and startling inner landscape of
her own. "To shut one's eyes is Travel," she wrote, and I traveled with her, across
volcanoes, mountain villages, treacherous streams, and unfamiliar archipelagos that
were suddenly familiar when caught in the prism of her own merciless eye.
There's that daguerreotype of her, taken when she was sixteen or so, with a ribbon
around her long swanlike neck as she peruses us, her potential readers. She looks
out at us with her unadorned face, as simple and plain as a handkerchief, and I felt
riveted to her and the rides she liked to take toward her own sense of Immortality.
It wasn't a place of comfort or rest. It was as windblown as an orchard in February,
ripe with roots and a coverlet of moss. I always imagined it as the very secret garden
of a writer's mind.
Sometimes she shared that garden with us, sometimes not. The old maid of Amherst
was implacable in her white dress. Many years later I arrived like a pilgrim in
Amherst and visited Emily's room, which was as unadorned as the face in the
daguerreotype. I happened to be alone in that part of the Dickinson Homestead,
now a museum devoted to Emily. I wasn't burdened by any tour guide or gaggle
of Dickinson devotees. I could run my hand along the sides of her sleigh bed, stare
at the replica of her tiny desk and wonder at the words she might have scratched
while she looked across the road at her father's fields. It was the curious and quiet
electricity of her room that gave me the courage to write a novel about her, in the
quicksilver of her voice.
I danced in Emily's room like some little devil who was also one of her devotees.
Dickinson believed in devils, and so did I. They must have accompanied her on her
own ride to eternity. I wish I had been there with her. And in my novel I tried to
imagine what that trip must have been like.
Some readers may be disturbed that I wrote The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson in
Emily's own voice. I wasn't trying to steal her thunder or her music. I simply wanted
to imagine my way into the head and heart of Emily Dickinson. I decided to start the
novel at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, even though many scholars and critics of
her work do not feel that the time she spent there — seven or eight months in 1848
and 1849 — was particularly important to her. I disagree. Even though she rarely
mentioned Mount Holyoke in her later letters, and was homesick from the minute
she arrived to the minute she left, I still feel that the seminary shaped her in several
subterranean ways. It gave her a sense of the Devil, and allowed Emily to hurl off the
straitjacket of established religion.
Emily was someone "without Hope," who couldn't declare her faith in the Lord. Her
religion was much more private, much more particular.
Slowly, slowly, she turned towards the gods and devils of creation. Such gods
and devils empowered her whenever she was scrunched over her writing desk
in Amherst. She suffered a great deal and had to hide her own fierce intelligence,
since women in a nineteenth century American village weren't supposed to think
for themselves. And thus she had a dual life — obedient daughter, loving sister, and
later a loving aunt, and all the while she smoldered inwardly and was a demon at
That's one of the reasons why each new generation of readers responds to her
poetry in such a visceral way. These scrawls on scraps of paper — she often wrote
on the backs of envelopes and at the bottom of old recipes — were a matter of life
and death. We can feel her trembling in the words themselves. Her celebrated use of
the dash wasn't some fanciful artifact. It was a weapon, as Emily moved from image
to image without giving us a chance to breathe. Her words attack us, bite our heads
off, even while they soothe and delight. There has never been another poet like her,
male or female.
Sometimes I feel that her one great advantage was that she seemed to inhabit both
sexes, depending on her mood and her will. She could be male and female, and was
often both in the same poem. Perhaps only a recluse like Emily could have had the
daring to do so. She's virile and weak, and her constant shift in tone gives us a sense
of vertigo as we move from line to line, poem to poem.
She didn't believe in titles; perhaps titles were too imperial, too complete, and might
embalm a poem. She wanted to ravage us, just as she ravaged herself in the writing.
She was both a penitent and a pixie, forever variable, hard to hold in one place. Just
when we feel that we've grasped her mood, and that we know Emily, she sweeps us
into another cove, and disenchants us even while she enchants.
That's why we can always go back to her poems; there is no one final reading or
assessment of her as a poet. She is larger, and more mercurial, than we will ever be.
And whenever I visit Amherst and steal into her room, I begin to smile with some
kind of secret complicity. It's not that I know her any better after writing a novel
through her eyes, with all her little adventures — her romps with her beloved dog
Carlo, her days and nights in Cambridge when she was half blind, her "love affair"
with one of her dead father's friends. It's simply that I feel an endless delight in
having been in her presence, at least for a little while.
I visited Paris for the first time when I was a twenty-year-old college student. I can close my eyes and remember what the unfamiliar city looked like to me during this initial encounter—the orderliness of the public gardens with their gravel walkways, wooden benches and round-seated metal chairs; the relative smallness of the automobiles; and the historic monuments gleaming under floodlights at night.
Coming from the United States—the New World— the enormous weight of history Paris carried was a visceral shock, especially the buildings: Medieval cloisters, Gothic cathedrals, seventeenth century catacombs, Revolutionary and Napoleonic monuments, and elegant 19th-century apartment blocks. But I was fascinated even more by the traces left behind by the Second World War. Rather than buildings and monuments, the trauma of the war and the Nazi Occupation remains present in mundane, unexpected, and easy-to-overlook markers scattered throughout the city.
There were seats on the metro reserved for the war wounded. The first time I saw these signs, the French term mutilés de guerre, which had originated to refer to wounded veterans from the First World War, stunned me in its graphicness. I was always expecting to see men with empty sleeves or wooden legs sitting in the designated seats. All around the city, I noticed marble plaques on walls commemorating groups and individuals who had struggled and suffered during the Occupation, ranging from Jewish children who had been deported to blind people who had participated in the Resistance, and young men who had died fighting on the streets liberating Paris in August 1944.
During the ten years I spent researching and writing my novel All The Light There Was, I realized that the manner in which Paris memorialized les années noires (the dark years) was in many ways akin to how it had experienced the war. The city was spared the horrific bombing that devastated London and Berlin. But loss and fear were interwoven into every corner of the city; I realized that my biggest task as a writer was to convey the immediate if mostly commonplace presence of that constant looming terror, even as daily life went on.
Several salient factors about how most Parisians had lived the war came through in everything I learned. It was a dark time both literally and figuratively. There were black outs and black out curtains limiting sight and vision. Political repression backed up by deportation and systemic violence, censorship, self-censorship, and denunciations by neighbors all resulted in a feeling of moral darkness and isolation. In addition to this pervasive gloom, people were hungry. The Germans used France as their breadbasket during the war, taking vast quantities of French agricultural products such as wheat, butter, cheese, and wine, leaving the French to subsist on root vegetables that had formerly been cattle fodder. Parisian grimly joked about the German doryphores (potato bugs) who had made off with all their potatoes. A third factor that came up in all the accounts was how cold people were during the bitter winters of the Occupation. With the German war machine siphoning off oil, gas and coal, there was not much left for heating Parisian apartments and schools.
When I was writing the novel, it was as though every day I left my home in Manhattan and spent a few hours with my characters in their Belleville apartment. I heard the sounds of the concierge’s bucket and mop on the landing. I smelled the dreaded rutabagas cooking in the kitchen. And I shivered with Maral, my narrator and main character, as she bundled into several sweaters before crawling into her glacial bed.
This was the Paris that I traveled to on a daily basis for almost ten years—not the romantic city of my student days, nor the place where on family holiday I took my children to play on the brightly colored climbing structures in the Jardin des Tuileries. It was a somber city, a city of shadows and privation, but also a place where people of conscience worked hard to keep a small light of dignity burning in an inhumane time. Now that I have finished the book, I understand that the Paris of 70 years ago has yet to truly vanish: its ghost-like presence gently marks the city landscape. And now, on my next visit to Paris, I have Maral, her friends, and her family, to walk with me as guides to that almost-hidden past.
New York City
Leslie Taubman: Les Enfants du Paradis –An Appreciation of a Landmark Film in the History of French CinemaSaturday, 06 April 2013 08:11 Written by Leslie Taubman
I have always been enamored of French film – whether it’s the very early cinema of the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès or the Surrealistic and avant-garde films of the 1920s and 30s - or the “Golden Age” of French classical cinema. I’m also enthralled by the Nouvelle Vague and the Cinéma du Look as well as with the more recent French Heritage films.
One of my favorite films is Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), widely considered to be one of the greatest French films ever made. Written by the great poet Jacques Prévert and directed by acclaimed French filmmaker Marcel Carné, this lushly romantic epic has been compared to Gone With the Wind, not only in its richness and scope, but with its strong central female character. In 1945, Les Enfants du Paradis was the most expensive movie ever made (25 million francs/$1,250,000), five times the cost of the average production at the time. Critics, historians, and audiences alike have long heralded Les Enfants du Paradis as a masterpiece.
Jacques Prévert and Marcel Carné had already established their own individual creative reputations before they worked together in cinema. Their early film collaborations include Jenny (1936), Drôle De Drame (1937), Le Quai Des Brunes (1938), Le jour Se Lève (1939) and Les Visiteurs Du Soir (1942).
Les Enfants du Paradis was filmed in Paris and Nice in 1942-43 during World War II. Because of the constraints of the German Occupation, there were chaotic shooting conditions and extreme circumstances. Under the Vichy government, there were shortages of film stock, scarcity of electricity, limited transportation and communication, and constant interruptions by air raid alarms.
In addition, the art director, Alexandre Trauner, and the composer, Joseph Kosma, were Jewish and had to work clandestinely – as they were being hunted by the Gestapo. Robert Le Vigan, the actor who was playing the part of the “Old Clothes Man” and was reportedly a Nazi collaborator, mysteriously disappeared during production (his replacement was Pierre Renoir, brother of film director Jean Renoir - and son of Pierre-Auguste). Furthermore, many of the film’s banquet scenes had to be cut – as the starving extras kept eating the food before shooting was complete.
The film takes place in Paris during the 1830s. It’s set in and around the celebrated Théâtre des Funambules on the teeming Boulevard du Temple (nicknamed the Boulevard du Crime). Based on actual historical figures during the time of King Louis-Philippe, the story revolves around the beautiful Garance, the enigmatic courtesan-muse and the four men who love her: Baptiste the sensitive lovelorn mime artist, Frédérick Lemaître the womanizing classical actor, Lacenaire the intellectual dandy-criminal, and Comte Édouard de Montray the wealthy aristocrat. Amidst the tumultuous relationships and interlocking stories swirl a world of acrobats and jugglers, weightlifters and dancers, prostitutes and pickpockets. It’s a world of comedy and tragedy, melodrama, romance, and farce.
Nearly three hours in length (and divided into two parts: “Boulevard du Crime” and “L’Homme Blanc”), Les Enfants deals with the themes of passion and art, truth, treachery, and Fate. All the world’s a stage – and we see this played out in the characters’ private lives and in their onstage roles. It’s a milieu of pantomime, carnival, Commedia dell’Arte, and Shakespeare.
The cast is extraordinary. Jean-Louis Barrault, who plays the desperate Baptiste, was a brilliant renowned mime (as well as a stage and screen star, director, and scenic designer). His character in the film, the tortured, white-faced Pierrot, is heartbreaking. Pierre Brasseur, also a well-known stage and screen actor, plays the brash and witty Frédérick Lemaître. Marcel Herrand, often cast as a villain, plays Lacenaire, the writer-assassin, and Étienne Decroux, who plays Baptiste’s father, was a mime himself and the teacher of Barrault (as well as Marcel Marceau). Arletty, reminiscent of Garbo and Dietrich, plays the independent, sexually–assured Garance. (An additional note: Arletty was briefly imprisoned in 1945 for her wartime affair with a German officer).
With 1,800 extras, huge outdoor scenes, elaborate sets, expressive costumes, and meticulous period details, the production is a glorious visual feast. Prévert’s script is filled with poetic beauty and Carné’s use of deep-focus compositions, long pans, and close-ups celebrate theatre, cinema, and by extension, life. The film’s title, Children of Paradise, refers to the “gods,” the cheapest balcony seats where ordinary audience members witness- and participate in - the whole spectacle. Like the actors, characters, and filmmakers who are also children of paradise, so are we, the viewing audience. A landmark in French film history, Les Enfants du Paradis is filled with grandeur and beauty – and, ultimately, universal in its humanity.
I’m headed to Paris this week to give a talk at the American Library about the High Line. As my plane takes off, an important rite of spring will be ending in New York’s “park in the sky”: the March Cutback. This makes it a perfect time to visit the High Line’s muse and inspiration, the Promenade Plantée, the world’s first mile-long garden built on an old railroad viaduct. Like the High Line, the park in Paris – also known as the Coulée Verte – floats 30’ above the busy streets, cutting through the entire 12th arrondissement.
For all their similarities, the two parks are quite different. Unlike the Promenade Plantée and most other formal gardens, the plants on the High Line are not clipped and pruned at the onset of Fall, when cold weather arrives. Instead, they are left alone to complete the full cycle of their lives. Piet Oudolf, the Dutch horticulturist who created the High Line’s garden design, believes that plants should be interesting and beautiful to behold throughout all the stages of their growth. As he once told a reporter, “Dying in an interesting way is just as important as living.”
For the High Line, Oudolf chose plants that recall the beautiful and richly diverse wild garden that grew on the abandoned viaduct after the trains stopped running in 1980. He selected some 250 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, vines and trees, both native and exotic, that would change in striking ways throughout the year, delighting and engaging a visitor no matter what the season.
I expect to arrive in Paris with a few blisters and even some dirt beneath my fingernails. Every year, throughout the month of March, Friends of the High Line – the group that saved, built and now runs the park – enlists an army of volunteers who work elbow-to-elbow alongside the gardening staff to cut back around 100,000 plants in preparation for the new growing season. The volunteers approach the job like good postal service employees: in rain, snow, sleet, and hail (I once even worked through a thunderstorm) we clip, cut, rake, and haul, filling enormous canvas bags with cuttings that will be trucked to Staten Island where they will rest in peace in giant piles, before becoming mulch for another garden.
The founders of Friends of the High Line, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, knew the Promenade Plantée well, and greatly admired it. But they had a very different idea for the park they would create in New York. At its heart, the High Line was intended to recall the old railroad, horticulturally as well as architecturally. Not only is it filled with a great many plants that are natural pioneers along abandoned railroads and other industrial ruins, but the train tracks themselves got a starring role: they were embedded in the pedestrian pathway and garden beds, where they enunciate the gentle curves that engineers of the New York Central once line navigated back in the day when the railroad was king. Crushed stones were placed in garden beds to suggest railroad ballast, and throughout the park a visitor encounters old signal lights, loading docks, meat hooks, and other elements once integral to the railroad’s freight operation.
Paul Van Meter, a horticulturist, railroad historian, and co-founder of VIADUCTgreene in Philadelphia, notes that the stylish, highly ornamental garden types on the Promenade Plantée – its lush, bamboo forest, sheared hedges, arcades of roses, allé of trees – are by contrast “representative of French classicism, with a focus on decoration rather than function.” He also points out that the elevated garden in New York “signals an important change in American tastes which inclines toward the heavy use of perennials and wildflowers. It’s no coincidence that Robert Hammond grew up in San Antonio, Texas, not far from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, whose 1999 grand opening in part led Americans to discover the inherent beauty of wildflowers and grasses so they would invite them into their gardens.”
As they came to “re-see the beauty of ‘native’ wildflowers,” Van Meter explains, “the post-World War II designers, like my great friend and mentor Wolfgang Oehme and more recently, of course, Piet Oudolf, gained (re)appreciation for a certain kind of controlled wildness. With that notice came availability of plants in previously unprecedented variety and sizes. And a revolution was on.”
So: two gardens made from old railroads, each a reflection of its history and culture. For me, the great delight of these places is that they form one long, linear, observation deck, providing a stunning and original perch from which to view a much-loved city. In the 1850s, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux conceived their first creation, Central Park, as a grand escape from the city: a place where anyone, no matter how rich or poor, could rejoice in fresh air and beautiful scenery. Today, parks like the Promenade Plantée and the High Line do just the opposite: they console, inspire, and delight us by taking us deeper into the city, through a tunnel of roses (as in Paris) or a prairie of wild grasses (as in New York).
These gardens have had a powerfully transformative effect on the way we think about nature, urbanism, and culture. Just as the Promenade Plantée inspired the High Line, so is the High Line serving as a model for other innovative projects around the world. In London and on Manhattan’s Lower East Side planners contemplate underground parks that deploy 21st century lighting systems and could support agricultural projects like a mushroom farm. Philadelphians dream of a park in two sections that embrace the full range of an urban railroad’s historic pathway: an elevated garden bathed in natural light and a submerged series of graffiti-adorned tunnels. Work continues on the Beltline in Atlanta, a project that is so big – it runs for 22 miles – it can connect as many as 45 different communities.
Virtually every city in the world has a railroading past, and rather than bury or tear down that history, urban planners and community leaders are today seeking to identify the cultural heartbeat of their project, and bring it life as a great public space and grand connector.
The Cutback in New York and the rosebuds in Paris remind us of such renewal, and give cause for much celebration and joy.
Annik La Farge is the author of On the High Line: Exploring America’s Most Original Urban Park (Thames & Hudson, 2012). She will be giving an illustrated talk at the American Library – with more than 100 contemporary and historic photographs – on April 2. To read more about the High Line other urban greenway projects around the world, visit Annik’s blog, LivinTheHighLine.com.
For many the Vietnam War is no more than history. For those of us for whom it is a vivid memory, the 45th anniversary of the Tet Offensive this year is a time to wonder if we've learned any lessons from the war.
After years being the thing we didn't want to talk about, that conflict has taken on a new life. A wounded Vietnam veteran will soon be heading not only the United States Department of State, but the Defense Department as well. Diplomacy and War: former U.S. Senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. How things change! Forty-five years ago, those posts were filled by Robert S. McNamara and Dean Rusk, both now reviled for their conduct during that war.
In the early hours of Wednesday, January 31, 1968, a push by the North Vietnamese known as the Tet Offensive turned the war sour for the American public. The North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong had already broken their own so-called truce in the northern reaches of South Vietnam, but in Saigon everyone was partying, their guards down, in celebration of Tet, the Lunar New Year. Some still wonder if the course of the war might have been different if the Cong had not broken into the American Embassy compound. The great seal of the United States was dumped on the ground and flattened, riddled with bullets.
The American public was stunned and outraged. It turned out, the VC sappers had not gotten into the chancery, they had only made it onto the grounds, and only five MPs and two Marines were killed in the assault. But from the early morning attack until daybreak, no one knew the extent of the incursion.
And gathered outside, waiting for the saviors of the 101st Airborne who finally arrived at 6 a.m. by helicopter to land on the Embassy roof, was the bulk of the Saigon press corps. Most of the reporters lived and worked nearby, around the National Assembly square. So the four-acre Embassy compound was one of the closest and most natural places for them to go when they were roused from their beds by explosions. A number of billets of both officers and enlisted men had been attacked, as well as the Vietnam presidential palace, Vietnamese HQO, Tan Son Nhut Airport, Saigon radio, which the Cong hoped to use for broadcast propaganda purposes. But the reporters were gathered in front of the Embassy, and thus, that's where the story was.
Arriving newsmen and Military Police in Jeeps found VC sappers had stormed the eight-foot-high concrete wall of the U.S. compound through a hole blown by a bazooka. A bullet-riddled, black Citroen sat wrecked in the street just beyond the Embassy gate with a dead Vietnamese at the wheel. At that point, the reporters were told by military personnel already there that Cong sappers were inside the Embassy. But in the dark the MPs couldn't see the snipers who were keeping them from trying to enter the compound. Making that point, they all watched as a Jeep pulled up across the street, but before the two MPs could get out of the vehicle, they were blown out by a stream of bullets from an automatic rifle. A sharp-shooting Marine, standing in front of the gates, bent down on one knee and provided cover while several other MPs ran across and pulled their wounded buddies out of the street. The sniper was silenced.
In those days of no cell phones or instant feeds, the assembled press was having a tough time getting their stories filed, especially since they didn't know what the story was other than that the United States Embassy was under attack. Reuters had an office not far away, and there was an enormous line of reporters waiting to file through that British wire service. The reporters had to get something to their stateside editors to let them know they were alive and working. But for a number of hours, no one really knew what the facts were. It was afternoon the day before in the United States, 13 hours behind Saigon time, so editors were struggling to get the story for late afternoon editions.
At another point during the long night of waiting, the reporters watched as a small Huey helicopter made several passes at the Embassy's roof-top helipad but each time was driven back by automatic weapons fire of snipers guarding the approach.
Finally, as dawn arrived, another Huey came into view. The gathered newsmen stopped talking among themselves, looked skyward as a collective face and seemed to hold their breath. The chopper dipped, hovered above the Chancery roof, and disgorged its load of paratroopers, their M-16s held aloft as though they were leaping into rice paddies. Most of their boots were on the roof and on the run before the chopper's blade runners touched down. The gathered MPs then broke through the Embassy front gate shooting and throwing grenades. Newsmen rushed behind them, flashbulbs popping and cameras rolling. The grounds were littered with wounded Marine guards, dead Cong wearing red armbands, dropped rifles and the debris of exploded ordinance. The heads of shot-off flowers and fallen palm fronds carpeted the lawn.
The story of the Embassy had a relatively happy ending, but the die had been cast, the tide had turned, use whatever cliché you like. The Viet Cong had been able to hold the U.S. hostage for several hours. American readers didn't care what was happening to the Vietnam navy or the inhabitants of the presidential palace – they cared about the American Embassy, and that's where the reporters were.
The American flag was raised anew over the Embassy at 11:45 a.m. Saigon time.
Two months to the day, on March 31, bowing to protests over the war, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek another term.
It would be eight more years before the last U.S. helicopters lifted off the roof of the Embassy on April 30,1975, with friendly Saigonese lifting their arms in frantic, unrequited pleas to be rescued from the advancing North Vietnamese. Some 58,000 GIs had been killed. Untold thousands of Vietnamese, north and south, civilian and soldier, lost their lives. The Tet attack on the U.S. Embassy was the long beginning of the end.
Perhaps with history as a guide, the two veterans scarred by Vietnam will recalibrate the diplomacy vs. war equation for the United States.
Theasa Tuohy is a longtime daily journalist, and the author of "The Five O'Clock Follies," a novel about the press in Vietnam.
Here at the American Library, we’re struck by how many books are being published about France every day and by how many of their authors would like a chance to speak here. Judging from the international success of some of these books, you don’t have to be an expatriate or a Francophile to share this particular appetite. Just as tourists do, more armchair travelers choose France than any other country.
So it seems altogether natural that the American Library in Paris has decided to honor the best such book of the year, every year, with a new literary prize of $5,000. The Florence Gould Foundation, which has done much over the years to strengthen ties and understanding between France and the United States, shared our enthusiasm for the idea and has made the award possible with a generous grant.
Most book prizes recognize either fiction or nonfiction, but ours will recognize either. We’re expecting to receive submissions of novels, of history, of memoir, of biography, of political science and economics, of journalism or humor or travel or cooking. We hope our judges will find this a rich mix from which to select, as the rubric of the prize has it, “the best book of the year about France and the French-American encounter.”
The last phrase is meant to be elastic. One way to think about it is to name specific books which, had they been published when the American Library in Paris Book Award existed, would have been contenders for sure.
Books written in recent years by members of the Writers Council itself -- who as the judges of the Book Award are not eligible for it – are excellent illustrations: Adam Gopnik’s “Paris to the Moon,” among other subsequent books with French themes; Diane Johnson’s Le Divorce and its Paris sequels, or her book-length essay on Saint-Germain-des-Prés; Sebastian Faulks’s French trilogy; any history, biography, or memoir by Alice Kaplan; many of Julian Barnes’s novels and essay collections; Mavis Gallant’s Paris-based short stories; and, had it first been published in English, Philippe Labro’s L’Etudiant Etranger and its sequel.
It’s worth mentioning that the Florence Gould Foundation already supports an annual translation prize (French to English) through the French-American Foundation in New York. Works submitted for the Library Book Award must have been written in English and, for the first year’s prize, must have been published between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.
In late January, we’ll be announcing the judges for the 2013 American Library in Paris Book Award. Stay tuned.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, we’d like to announce the winner of our first (Halloween-themed) photo contest: Gracie Dobson as Apple Dumplin’.
As told to us by Gracie’s representative, Apple Dumplin’ is one of Strawberry Shortcake’s friends. Gracie’s grandmother made the costume for her, and Gracie loves seeing herself dressed up in it. Gracie really likes being read to. She and her family read Jamberry a lot, but her favorite books are Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton and I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt.
by Karolina Stefanski
The American Library in Paris’ Wednesday, November 14th Evening with an Author proved to be a memorable event. The European launch of Dr. Michael Connors’ book The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors was well attended by an international crowd, which included not only library members and French residents, but many Cubans and Americans as well. In attendance were the former Chief of Mission of the United States Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, Mr. Michael Parmly and his wife Marie-Catherine, the French specialist in prestige real estate, Mr. Emile Garcin, founder and president of Fundacion Amistad, Mrs. Maria de Lourdes (Luly) Duke, and internationally renowned Cuban architect Mr. Ricardo Porro and his wife Elena. Ricardo Porro was the lead architect for Cuba’s National Art Schools (Escuelas Nacionales de Arté) project that was built in Havana in the 1960s and featured prominently in Dr. Connors’ book.
The book is an unprecedented tour of stunning architecturally significant Cuban palacios, mansions, and private homes that have been meticulously preserved, previously unphotographed and inaccessible to visitors. The images photographed exclusively for this book show examples throughout the island with exteriors and interiors in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, and Pinar del Rio to close-up details of courtyards, balconies and galleries in Trinidad, Holguin, and Matanzas. Of the many featured homes are the United States, Swiss, and English Ambassadors’ residences. Ernest Hemingway’s former residence, Finca Vigia (“Lookout House”) is another on many other highlights of the book.
Dr. Connors is a renowned Caribbean author and has published eight books about the historic houses, architecture, and decorative arts of the Caribbean and is presently working in Havana researching and writing his latest book on Cuba’s 20th century architecture.
Published by Usborne
Reviewed by Children's Library volunteer Carole Black
Usborne has published two instructive books entitled How to Draw Princesses and Ballerinas and How to Draw Fairies and Mermaids, that provide a clear, step by step guide to varying styles of illustrating for the creative and not-so-creative young artist.
Simple drawing and erasing techniques using lines and basic shapes are embellished with the following effects:
-Basic collage techniques to create depth
-The use of soft colors with dark shading to create contrast
-Color mixing to create skin tones
-Chalk smudge and watercolor techniques to emphasize softness and subtlety
-Embellishment and 3D effects with doilies and foil collage paper
The designers suggest a selection of the following basic materials to create your whimsical princesses, ballerinas, fairies and mermaids: paper, pencils, colored pencils and fine markers, chalk, crayons, paints, paint brushes, collage paper, foil paper, doilies, cutting scissors, glue and glitter glue.
The books provide useful information on how to draw interchangeable scenes and settings including: a castle, a carriage, a stage, a lake scene, moonlight scene, a fairy flower garden, mermaid door signs and ballerina/fairy paper chains. You can also see how to add facial expressions and hairstyles in the Fairies and Mermaids book, and hairstyles, crowns and tiaras in the Princess and Ballerina book.
A real treat for budding young artists!
New @ the Library: How to Draw Princesses and Ballerinas can be found in Juvenile Non-fiction under J 751 W34p and How to Draw Fairies and Mermaids can be found under J 751 W34f.
For more resources on drawing and cartooning, check out some of the other great titles in the Children's Library:
by Mike Artell
A step-by-step guide for drawing animals and people, such as alligators, bears, skunks, smiling faces, angry faces, hairstyles, movement, and captions.
Find it with the Juvenile non-fiction under J 741.5 Ar75c
by J.C. Amberlyn
Starting with the basics, this book teaches aspiring artists how to create the mascots that populate mangas.
Find it with the Juvenile non-fiction under J 741.5 Am16d
by Mike Artell
Learn how to draw simple characters, then exaggerate, simplify or contort them to crack your friends up.
Find it with the Juvenile non-fiction under J 741.5 Ar75f