Art and literature


In college, I changed majors a half dozen times. There's no exaggeration there. I couldn't seem to settle myself into one specific course of study because I wanted to study it all. And all of it, many would argue, were degrees that would lead nowhere.

I fell in love with the humanities. My mythology class was so interesting I became obsessed with the texts we were assigned -- so much so that I decided to read and research more on my own, outside of the context of the class. My philosophy classes were gripping, and I discovered how much I enjoyed engaging in intellectual (and passionate) debates over morality. Of course there were a number of literature and publishing classes that lifted me up into the clouds and ultimately convinced me to take the leap and major in creative writing and English. But one of the classes that sticks in my mind even to this day was my art history class.

Art was always something I appreciated, but from afar. I cannot paint, I cannot sculpt. Hell, I can't even sketch well. (Though I can draw a pretty wicked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Not exactly museum worthy work though, is it?) Because I'm so atrocious at art, I'd only taken a few necessary art classes during elementary and middle school. They were tolerable, but never took hold in me because, like I said, I sucked. I sucked hard.

This art history class, though. This one hit the mark -- I didn't have to draw, I only had to look. Sitting on the bottom shelf of my bookcase is the Big Art Book, and I take it out at least once a month to stare at some of my favorite pieces. Like I did during the class, I study the techniques and colors, the styles and the artists. I read as little or as much into the art as I want; create my own story or read about the artists' intentions. God, I love it. And I love art. But that's not what I do: I write.

Which leads me to the literature bit of this post. One of my lowkey favorite authors of late is Donna Tartt. The first novel I read of hers was The Secret History and I have never sat so in awe of a work of fiction as I did when I finished that book. She had such an artistic way with her words -- something that stretched beyond poetry. Her language wasn't necessarily overly flowery or complicated, it was the ideas that brought the fascination; the crafting of her characters, of the world they occupied, was stunning to say the least. It took little convincing for me to want to pick up another one of her novels, and so I did.

I just started reading The Goldfinch this morning. It arrived in the mail yesterday and I was surprised at how big the book is. It's easily twice the length of The Secret History. I hardly read the synopsis when I bought it off Amazon, but this morning, when I woke up early so I could start this beast (yes, I get it, I'm super lame but whatever), I scanned the back cover.

Here's what I know about the book: It follows Theo after he loses his mother in an accident. (That accident is an explosion at a museum. I just finished that bit this morning. Wow, was it well written.) He's taken in by a rich family because he is fatherless (presumably because his father left, I'm gathering). Dealing with his grief over the loss of his mother, he becomes obsessed with a small painting of, you guessed it, a goldfinch. Somehow, this leads to him discovering the underworld of art and shit gets real.

Already, I'm hooked. Anything with "the underworld of art" in the summary, and I'm in. I can't wait to read a book that contains the cross section of all that I love: art, mystery, and incredible writing.

One thing I will say about Donna Tartt is that her novels are not only interesting, and her writing is not only crisp and exact, but her work is inspiring. After The Secret History, I was compelled to sit down and write something that could be even half as masterful. Of course, I could never replicate her style, even if I tried. It's a style I enjoy reading, but not a style that comes naturally to me in my own work. And that's okay. Art isn't supposed to be the same, and the voice of an author should be as unique as the brushstrokes of a painter. I'm turning that envy in to drive and determination, and someday, I hope it will all click into place.

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