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On the year's reading list thus far; a novel by Georges Perec; another book; and maybe even a movie gasp. Here's the reading list for to date, with the novel by Perec finished only last evening. It was amazing; I'll have more of a review if time permits, but thanks to J for the suggestion.
This short documentary film at YouTube conveys the flavor of Perec's novel: What's next is anyone's guess; there's a stack of books on the dresser and we'll see which one jumps out at me. In the interim, I'm struck by how these categories summarize my interests.
Dreamers by Volker Weidermann review — Municha moment of anarchyby Caroline Moorehead The Guardian A superb account of an episode when the writers took over and it seemed all could be different.
Then people were rounded up and shot On 7 Novembera critic and journalist called Kurt Eisner, with long grey hair, a wild beard and pince-nez, led a victory parade through the streets of Munich, calling for revolution.
Crowds flocked, among them the many disbanded soldiers returning from the war. Eisner dreamed of a free and independent Bavaria, run by councils of writers and workers in which artists would elevate and educate the masses and there would never again be war.
He would be prime minister. It could not, indeed did not, last. In his extremely enjoyable Summer Before the Dark, published inVolker Weidermann took a moment, a group of people and a place — Ostend in with Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth — and used it to paint a portrait of Europe as it was drawn inexorably towards war.
He uses the same highly effective method in Dreamers, putting together a picture of the chaotic aftermath of the first world war when it was just possible to believe that everything could be different.
Once again, he builds his narrative around a cast of remarkable characters, some familiar, others known only to scholars of German history. Opposition, much of it raucous and agitated, built up from both the right and the left.
On his way to deliver his resignation speech to parliament, he was shot dead by an assassin who later explained that he acted to save the Fatherland from a Jew, a Bolshevik and a traitor. The weeks that followed were marked by street fights, recriminations and revenge killings, but they brought to the fore another dreamer — the pacifist, Marxist playwright and poet Ernst Toller.
It would be the perfect book for a week's pre-Christmas in Munich, although on second thought, writers being rounded up and shot might not be the best metaphorical prelude to a municipal election cycle in Head bowed, he looks like a man on a mission, though at other times he seems more like a man at prayer.
Often dressed in a blue shirt, he carries an easel, brushes and paint strapped to his back, trudging in light that changes from golden to wintry blue. One day inhe puts his battered boots on the red tile floor of his room in Arles, France. He quickly begins creating a simple painting of them; the original now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The journey of those shoes from humble floor to museum wall tells a familiar story about van Gogh, whose painful life is part of a lucrative brand known as Vincent the Mad Genius. This Vincent — a magnificent Willem Dafoe — is not defined by that brand but by the art with which he at once communes with the world and transcends it.
Schnabel is interested in this difficult, mercurial man and attentive to his hardships. Strikingly, though, his interest has a rare quality of tenderness to it, perhaps because, unlike most filmmakers who make movies about great artists, he is fundamentally preoccupied with art itself.
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