My first-ever show of my art work will be held in that little village on the Long Island Sound — Pelham, New York — next month, so I’ve been going through all the original illustrations from my book lately. It’s the first time I’ve taken a real good look at When Wanderers Cease to Roam, page by page, since I shuffled the finished manuscript off to my publishers two years ago.
I’m looking for pictures that I can pull out of context, or re-c0mbine in interesting ways, to put on display. All the paintings in the book are reproduced in their actual size, in the same dimension that I painted them, so even if I find a picture that (I think) can stand alone, it’s a small bitty “canvas”. This should be interesting: an exhibit of pictures you have to squint at.
For those of you reading along at home, these two pages are from October, page 162 (“verso”, “left-hand page” in publishing talk) and page 163 (“recto”, “right-hand page). None of these images, I think, can stand alone, so they won’t be in the show, but I wanted to talk about them today because it’s my last post of October and these pages are the heart of my October chapter.
Now, some of you might know that I’m putting my book-in-progress, about France, up on my author website, page by page. But my books don’t really work in that format; page-by-page is not how I construct my stories.
I spend an excruciating amount of time planning my books in verso and recto compositions, piecing them together so that they flow into two-page spreads, one after the other. It’s not easy. Sometimes I have to stretch an idea, other times I have to contract it; I want to kill myself for not writing books page by page, for not being able to submit my latest copy to my agent via one lousy email instead of having to schlepp to Staples and make all kinds of expensive color copies and making dummy books to show how the crucial new verso-recto compositions “read”. I hate it that I’ve chosen to make books two pages at a time. Hate it.
But I remember these two particular October pages being a real pleasure to put together. I love October on the Long Island Sound, and I enjoy putting Fall stuff into words and pictures (Spring, by the way, is my least favorite season — I hope I never have to do another Spring chapter, EVER).
And I hope that when you open your book to pages 162 and 163, you get that feeling of Fall in this leisurely two-page catalog of things October. Specifically, I wanted to reproduce, in a small two page way, the way it feels when you go to a Hallmark card store and you pick up cards, here and there, and you read a line or two or look at a picture, until you find the right card that you were looking for — don’t you love browsing in a Hallmark card store? I’ve often wondered why reading a book can’t be more like that, words and pictures that get right to the heart of the matter without all that description of scenery and plot devices and icky sex scenes; messages that leave room for interpretation. And those two pages in my October chapter are my attempts to create that kind of browsing reading experience for Fall (the whole book is my attempt to create that kind of reading experience in a memoir).
If I had to do it over, I’d leave out the “sideburns” in my list of Coyote things. I wrote that list back when I had a huge crush on an English musician called Paul Weller, and it was his sideburns I was thinking of:
I could have used an editor who actually took the time to read my book…but that’s a whole other story.
And I could have used a little self-control that night when I jumped on stage at a Paul Weller concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London during his “Town Called Malice” encore, but that’s a whole other story, too.