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Friday, January 16, 2009

Paris Day 9 - lessons


Terrible morning of noise next door; evening exalted by news of neighbors’ imminent departure. In between, 20-minute bike ride to restaurant Oresto out in the 17th for a date with a guy I met online to trade English and French conversation, a half hour of each. He’s a judge (!), younger than I, and was the perfect conversation partner in that he justly kept us to our allotted time, didn’t hesitate to correct me, didn’t chafe at being corrected, and was awfully nice to look at. If I have a date like that or go through a chapter of my French text every day I’ll be ready to take the AP exam by the time I leave for Israel.

I got through my six hours of work on the novel, quickly dispatching a stack of papers that turned out to be mostly diary entries from my last trip to Paris in the summer of 2007. Poignant: long letter to Albert Fuller – was it a draft? He died two months later. So many little non-novel finds I’ll have to find time to transcribe – these looseleaf pages are not getting on another plane with me. Here’s one small treasure for any art-makers in the audience – passages from Calvin Tompkins’ New Yorker profile “Shadow Player – the Provocations of Paul Chan”:

I realized that what I had to do was impoverish the image. I had to give up all the things that I thought were my strengths – the vibrant color, the brutal clarity of line…the sort of depth I got by almost putting the foreground and the background together. If you’re willing to impoverish, you can go on to something else.

Can you free it from what it is, to become what it can be?

My mind was cleared for something else to happen, which I think is what art does. If you do it right, that’s what happens.

If I read that passage every night before I go to bed, and watch a segment from The Mystery of Picasso, I will have the courage to edit my novel. But I refuse to impoverish La Creation du Monde - that is my Grand Marnier souffle with vanilla creme anglaise and mixed berry coulis garnished with mint leaves. Google isn't letting me get into the HTML so the dessert will at least be impoverished of diacritical marks.

The image above is my view from the couch that separates my bed, with its view of the Hotel St. Martin, and my writing desk, with its view toward the Rue Faubourg St. Martin. I would like an architect or maybe even a structural engineer to explain what we're looking at. Am I to believe that the helter skelter knot of ancient toothpicks is holding this place up?

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des RĂ©collets.

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