Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reading on Vacation

We’re on vacation in Florida. Why do I always take a lot of books and writing projects when I don’t spend a lot of vacation time reading and writing? Partly the prospect of leisure time, which then becomes filled with other kinds of activities. (I like this Aldous Huxley quote: "All tourists cherish an illusion. They imagine that they will find time, in the course of their travels to do a lot of reading...They start for a fortnight's tour in France, taking with them The Critique of Pure Reason, Appearance and Reality, the complete works of Dante and the Golden Bough. They come home to make the discovery that they have read something less than half a chapter of the Golden Bough and the first fifty-two lines of the Inferno.") Also: Beth and I were stranded with car trouble for two days near Pittsburgh, way back in 1987, and ever since then, having books on a trip seems essential.

On this vacation I’m enjoying a short book by the poet Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemons (Beacon Books, 2001). The title is a Dutch Renaissance painting. While meditating on this and other paintings, he reflects on places and objects in his own life as he recalls his former wife and her family, his partner Wally who died, and his partner Paul.

That made me think: What would be an artistic theme that could organize your life? A style of painting or music? A particular work of art? Even mysteries you love?

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