Museum Hopping in Paris: Last Weekend

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I’m still way behind on my actual life (as exemplified by the fact that I’m writing about Paris museums while sitting in my grandparents’ breakfast nook in Spain…). I have yet to write  post about what I did during my class trip to Grasse, but I truly and sincerely believe that it will someday be written and public.

In the meantime, I’ve really enjoyed my ‘new tradition’ of checking out the lesser known Paris museums on the weekends- and finding some real hidden gems.

Here’s what happened this most recent weekend- because my flight to Spain was only yesterday.

  • Musee Marmottan Monet: Absolutely adored this museum. It’s a bit out of the way but chock full of beautiful pieces by Monet and Morisot. I’m a bit biased because I’m already a huge impressionism fan, but standing and absorbing some of the basement rooms with the hugest Monet waterlily paintings actually gave me tingles.
  • Maison de Balzac: I visited Balzac’s house too! It’s out of the way in the same out of the way that Marmottan Monet is, so they made the perfect joint Saturday excursion.  I haven’t read a ton of Balzac (Eugenie Grandet, Pere Goriot, and Cousin Bette) but what I have read I really enjoyed.  The garden is lovely and has a great view of the Eiffel tower.  Inside there are some busts of Balzac done by Rodin, but my favorite room would have to be the one with all of the character sketches. There are tons of etchings done that were used to print illustrations and I looked at them for maybe an hour. It was fun to recognize characters I had read about (Vautrin was a standout), but even the unknowns were so full of character and individuality. Bonus: the museum is free.
  • On Sunday I went to the Catacombs. Dad and I had tried to go when we visited Paris two summers ago and bailed out because of the long line. Thankfully Sunday was pretty blue-skied and sunny, so I went with the intention and understanding that I would have a long line wait to reflect and meditate on my life. I even packed some study materials. That worked for about an hour and a half of queued up equanimity and then I started getting cold and lost feeling in my feet.  The last hour was a bit of a doozy (for a total of about 2.5 hours in line). The upside: the catacombs are pretty cool and the report I did on the Paris underground junior year of college gave me some fun insight.  I wouldn’t go again because there are only so many bones you can look at, and I’m not sure if it was worth the long wait, even i hindsight. But I do think satisfying my curiosity and checking it off my list was worthwhile.  It’s a very French thing, there are stone placards with meaningful and poetic bits of Latin and French text which I had fun reading and translating to myself. There are a whole lot of femurs and skulls take second place. Frequently they’re artfully arranged (there was a heart and a cross and a pillar in there, I remember).  Still, with the exception of a few sacra, I do wonder where the other bones went. Also, has it ever occurred to anyone that old femurs look rather like cinnamon bark?

So that was my weekend, briefly summarized as art, literature, and bones.

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Some Thoughts About Female Friendship, Courtesy of Balzac

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I guess I didn’t need to stress so hard yesterday about paying my dues with a ‘book-related’ post. But I did enjoy revisiting all of the historical fiction I used to read.

Today’s post is kind of random, very vaguely book-adjacent (or more specifically, book-inspired).  There was a line in Balzac’s Cousin Bette that really made me think and reflect on some of my friendships. I’m not going to bother to find it because I know Iw on’t be able to unless I reread the 300-something pages I’ve gotten through so far.

In the novel, there is a friendship between two women, the titular Cousin Bette and a courtesan named Valerie.  The line I was struck by described Cousin Bette as attending an intimate dinner being given by Valerie so as to say all the kind and admiring things about Valerie that Valerie couldn’t say about herself.  So it’s the 19th century and Cousin Bette is essentially acting as a wingman.  The situation echoed so many in my own experience, when I’ve done similar things for my own friends (without really consciously deciding to) and when I’ve noticed them doing the same for (often in spite of not approving of the guy I’ve been interested in).  Some things never change. Continue reading “Some Thoughts About Female Friendship, Courtesy of Balzac”

Historical Fiction, A Way Back Book Obsession

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Despite writing and keeping this blog primarily for myself, as a way to keep writing casually and to share the things I’m brimming with excitement about… I can’t help but feel guilty when I ignore certain topics for what I feel is too long.

That’s why I didn’t post for two days- I’m distinctly aware that I owe books a day in the spotlight, but reading hasn’t been particularly satisfying for me recently. I only recently pulled out of the refraction period caused by Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark. I read that over the fourth of July. Over a month ago.
The book that got me out is the one that I’m still very much in the middle of- Balzac’s Cousin Bette.

Because of this I feel like saying anything on the subject of what I’m reading right now is both premature and a bit too tenuous. I don’t want to do anything that might cause me to lose the reading momentum for another month. Especially because I need to know what happens to Cousin Bette and Steinbock and Hortense and Adeline.

So instead of talking about what i’m reading right now, I’d like to share one of my favorite middle school and high school genres: historical fiction.

Continue reading “Historical Fiction, A Way Back Book Obsession”

Books from the Library 7/13

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I’m in a weird place with books, in that while I’m physically finished with the last one I read, I’m still lingering over it mentally and emotionally.
That would be The Song of the Lark, by Willa Cather. It was really amazing. I think I go too long between reading Willa Cather because they do leave you (me) with pretty deep feelings and they take a bit of time (but not if you swallow them in one weekend like I just did).  But I guess I’m saying they’re books you need to bring something to. Continue reading “Books from the Library 7/13”

My Favorite Authors: An Added Addendum

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Let’s wrap this one up!  I have something like eight authors to go through on this round (and eight is my favorite number) so let’s get started.

Shirley Jackson:
Namely, her hazy and suspenseful fiction.  You may have read The Lottery, an excellent short story.  You may have been introduced to her, as I was, through We Have Always Lived in the Castle.  There’s a cat in that one.  And a character named Connie (more people should be named Connie).  Funnily enough, a friend who actually asks for and heeds my book recommendations tells me that the Connie in this book reminds him a lot of me. And I’m flattered- which says something about the character but possibly more about me because (spoiler) she’s quite possibly poisoned her family.  Also a girl whose nickname is Merricat, which is kind of freaking awesome.  The Haunting of Hillhouse is also really really good.  And the movie is good but diverges from the book regarding some important plot/character developments- but both are enjoyable and gorgeously atmospheric.  I have to admit that I like her nonfiction less (Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages are about her family life and I think her husband and children sound impossible to live with (and she does too, tbh)) (But also I’m a misanthrope so maybe don’t take my word for it?)  If you’ve disentangled my convoluted parentheses, points to you! Continue reading “My Favorite Authors: An Added Addendum”