Monday, March 16, 2009

Review by Susan Olding of Calm Things

From a review by Susan Olding of Calm Things:

In part a consideration of the mysterious life of objects, in part a meditation on the art of still life, in part a love song to her husband, visual artist Robert Lemay, and in part a reflection on the craft of poetry, this is a book in the tradition of Rilke’s Letters on Cezanne. A writer looks deeply at paintings, and in the exercise of her deep attention, she learns and teaches as much about the art of writing as she does about the art of painting. It is a book about one art form that guides a reader towards a deeper understanding of all art forms. But most of all, it is a book that both embodies and instructs us on the need for, and place of, loving attention and receptivity in our over-crowded, jangling lives.

Structurally, each paragraph works like a painting. You could, if you wanted, read each one in isolation, like a lyric poem. In some, quotations by various authors are yoked together with Lemay’s observations in what may seem to be a “natural” arrangement but on second thought appears to be an odd or arbitrary grouping. As a reader, you are forced to look again, to look beneath the surface of the prose. What is going on here? The writing, clear and luminous as it is, slows you down. It stops time. Just like a still life.

- To read the full review, click here.

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