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Musing Mondays, July 7 Edition

July 7th, 2014 (09:12 pm)


Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is a book-related meme from the ShouldBeReading website. Each week, Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following….

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!
• Once you've posted your musings on your blog, go the the ShouldBeReading site post a link in the "Comments" section. And post a link here, too, please! I'd love to read what you're musing about. (If you don't have a blog but still want to play, you can do your musing directly in the Comments box.)


My Musing:
I'm currently reading two books. One is a young-adult novel, When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. But today I'll muse about the other book, Susannah Clapp's fascinating biography of writer Bruce Chatwin. It's titled, With Chatwin: Portrait of a Writer.

Chatwin's most famous work is a travel book, In Patagonia, that is widely considered to have revolutionized travel writing. This is not a travel book in the tradition of Fodors or Rick Steves, with hotel suggestions and ticket prices. Instead, it recounts Chatwin's travels through Patagonia, a region that encompasses the southern parts of Argentina and Chile. It's really a collection of stories, anecdotes, and essays about the things he saw and the people he met there, all connected in a nonlinear fashion. Chatwin himself said he was aiming for a kind of literary cubism. Among other things, he follows the trail of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as they traveled through South America.

Clapp - With Chatwin, Portrait of a Writer
Susannah Clapp is not just Chatwin's biographer; she was his friend and editor, and in her writing, she takes some cues from Chatwin's own style, But where Chatwin himself often exaggerated, invented, or rearranged elements of his life to make a better story, Clapp tries to cut through his many reinventions of himself to discover the real man. Chatwin was a fascinating person. He traveled widely to exotic locations; spent time with some of the best known writers, artists, and intellectuals of his day; and was always torn between acquiring beautiful things and purging his surroundings of all but the essentials. He didn't begin writing books until his late 30s (which is especially significant, given the fact that he died at age 47). Before he became an author, Chatwin had several careers that were just as fascinating.

When Chatwin was just a teenager, he started working for Sotheby's auction house. He quickly rose through the ranks because of his remarkable talent for telling valuable, authentic works of art from skillfully made forgeries.

The best way to give a sense of the book is to provide a Tuesday-style Teaser. (Tomorrow, when it actually is Tuesday, I'll choose a Teaser from the YA book I'm reading.)


These two sentences are from page 85 of With Chatwin: Portrait of a Writer and describe some of his travels to scout out artwork belonging to collectors who were thinking of selling through Sotheby's. The quotation in this passage is from Chatwin's own writings:


He went to New York: "On Park Avenue, a woman slammed the door in my face, shouting, 'I'm not showing my Renoir to a sixteen-year-old kid.'"... In Paris, while staying at the Louisiane -- a hotel made famous by the New Orleans jazz musicians who stayed there -- he is reported to have gone dancing with a live python around his neck.

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