Can you imagine? A renowned, celebrated writer in English, she has, for now, abandoned reading and writing in that language (her second after Bengali and one with which she has a complex relationship) in favour of immersing herself in Italian. She acknowledges the quirkiness, even the indulgence, of her decision, and I acknowledge that many reviewers consider the project a novelty at best, a waste of time, perhaps, even an out-and-out failure. (Tim Parks, for example, whose writing on Italy I have enjoyed, is nearly churlish in his assessment, and to me, at least, seems motivated by some need to justify his decision never to have tried to do the same despite fluency in the language and some 35 years living in the country.)
I borrowed the e-book of In Other Words from the library, and because there's a long list of borrowers waiting for it, no renewals were permitted, so I haven't a copy to linger over or tell you more about. If memoirs about learning a language intrigue you, there are numerous reviews of this one available online. I found it fascinating and happily recommend it, but with the proviso that it will disappoint those seeking descriptions of life in Italy. It's a cerebral memoir rather than a sensuous one, with meditations on the relationship between identity and language, particularly for someone whose identity is so intricately connected to words.
The reason I'm introducing the memoir here, though (instead of on my reading blog) is that Lahiri's comments about her willingness to embrace imperfection for the sake of learning (or being) something new echo so articulately my forays into (very amateurish, extremely imperfect) sketching and painting. For example, she argues that her "new relationship with imperfection" offers her "a stunning clarity, a more profound self-awareness. Imperfection inspires invention, imagination, creativity. It stimulates. The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive."
In which case, I am feeling really alive these days. . . because Imperfect? I got that!
If you click to enlarge the photo on the left, you'll see that I've journalled my frustration with my paucity of skills in trying to record the image of an angler I passed on the seawall one recent morning. Frustrated to the point of giving up, truth be told.
But an hour or so later, I decided to try again, and when I was sketching the image on the right, I somehow heard Melanie from Bag and a Beret's voice, remembered some of what she said on our sketching expedition a few weeks ago. Melanie, pretty obviously, has artistic talent and skills to spare, but she wondered gently if I needed to be so literal and/or realistic in my illustration. At the time, I think I answered that I'd like to develop some ability to draw realistic representations before I become looser, freer, more playful, and I still feel that way, frankly. Just hearing the echo of that suggestion, though, I decided to allow myself a freer interpretation of the scene I remembered -- and I was surprisingly pleased with the results.
Similarly, I tried sketching a still life of vegetables a few weeks ago. I didn't mind the sketch, but Ugh! something went awry as I added watercolour -- and then I tried to jolly things up with some misguided pattern application and by the end I just wanted to rip the page out of the sketchbook or throw the whole book into the garbage. Here, I'll show you what I mean, although it's rather embarrassing . . . (not sure about your computer screen, but I will say that IRL, the eggplant is more purple on the painted page, the artichokes greener. . .)
So somehow, a few days later, another artichoke presented itself, and I tried again, taking more time for details, and daring to use pen instead of pencil,
and encouraged enough to add another page on the same theme, but sans couleur
As I root around for ways to keep this blog feeling fresh and satisfying to me, while hoping to keep it interesting for you as well, I'm going to be sharing more of my efforts with drawing and painting. It's tough not to be embarrassed -- even ashamed, weirdly, sometimes -- stretching myself out of my comfort zone, out of my ease with words into a more limited skill-set, a more potentially confining repertoire. Thank you in advance for your patience and encouragement. . .
Comments are very welcome, but please don't think I'm fishing for compliments. I'm absolutely aware of my limitations, and hoping to point to process more than product.
Oh, and by the way, has anyone else out there read Lahiri's memoir, or any of her other writing?