An Imaginary Museum – Mona Lisa

I saw the other day that this week’s issue of The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, January 13, 2013) provides a short description/review of a book titled The Stories of the Mona Lisa. An Imaginary Museum Tale About the History of Modern Art, written and illustrated by Piotr Barsony, translated by Joanna Oseman, a picture book for ages 8-11.

The Stories of the Mona Lisa: An Imaginary Museum Tale about the History of Modern Art
The Stories of the Mona Lisa: An Imaginary Museum Tale about the History of Modern Art

They have a nice illustration of what Mona Lisa would look like had she been painted by Van Gogh. Inspired by that, I thought I’d show my own “pastiche,” rather, let me show two, the first the result of 15 years of deep thought and the second the work of 10 minutes just this last half-hour:

1) 15 years of hard work for this one: Mona Lisa’s Frown

Mona Lisa pastiche
Mona Lisa pastiche #1

And the work of ten minutes (Mona Lisa at the Bath):

Mona Lisa pastiche
Mona Lisa pastiche # 2

Oh, wait! That’s not for kids 8-11. They have to be at least teenagers to get admitted to this room in the Museum of Imaginary Art.

Evelyn Waugh and Brideshead Revisited

I just finished Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, first published in 1944. [For those who know nothing about this author, he happens to be a man, despite that first name.] This was an elegantly written novel, with a few prosaic lapses near the end. But it made me want to read more, so I checked my shelves and see I have two others to get to: Decline and Fall (1928, illustrated by the author) and Scoop (1937/38). Waugh garnered tremendous reviews and blurbs—for these novels and many more.

I found a few items worth quoting from Brideshead Revisited, the first comes from one of the novel’s minor characters, boastful Rex Mottram (“One quickly learned all that he wished one to know about him . . .”):

Of the University he said: “No, I was never here. It just means you start life three years behind the other fellow.

As a former university professor, I had to laugh at that. (But I wonder if the word “here” is a misprint for “there”?)

The author’s portrait of the protagonist’s rather detached father had its humorous moments, too, including this dialogue:

“I shall miss you, my dear boy, but do not hurry back on my account.”

One wonders if he remembers the boy’s name!

And here’s Waugh on the tendency to rewrite the past:

It is easy, retrospectively, to endow one’s youth with a false precocity or a false innocence; to tamper with the dates marking one’s stature on the edge of the door. I should like to think—indeed I sometimes do think—that I decorated those rooms with Morris stuffs and Arundel prints and that my shelves were filled with seventeenth-century folios and French novels of the second empire in Russia-leather and watered-silk. But this was not the truth.

As for religion, the protagonist (Charles Ryder) has this to say:

The view implicit in my education was that the basic narrative of Christianity had long been exposed as a myth, and that opinion was now divided as to whether its ethical teaching was of present value, a division in which the main weight went against it; religion was a hobby which some people professed and others did not; at the best it was slightly ornamental, at the worst it was the province of “complexes” and “inhibitions”—catchwords of the decade—and of the intolerance, hypocrisy, and sheer stupidity attributed to it for centuries.

Unforgivable Ploplets

The New York Times Book Review of December 30, 2012, contains an essay by Parul Sehgal (one of the Book Review’s editors) on “The Wayward Essay.” He happens to praise James Wood (The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays) [interesting use of a colon there before the subtitle, where, in the past, the semicolon ruled] for his “genius for metaphor” and quotes him on Norman Rush’s novel Mating:

The novel has the air at times of a once fatter man whose thinner frame is now making his skin sag a bit: there are abrupt transitions and sudden deposits of information.

Deposits of information? How prosaic and ugly!

I prefer my more evocative reference to the same as “research dumps.” And while some of my friends who write for a living interpret that as ploplets (I was going to lay claim to the term as a neologism but I see from a quick web search that it already exists in various meanings) of horse dung or a particularly large bowel movement, I think instead a bit more literally of loads dropped by a dump truck—not necessarily noxious, could just be dirt, but a big load nevertheless. And in fiction (if not in an essay, but probably there, too) that bogs down the reader and is thus unforgivable.