Sunday, May 26, 2013

Five notable books by and about obsessed artists

Patricia Volk is the author of the memoir Stuffed; the novels To My Dearest Friends and White Light; and two collections of short stories, All it Takes and The Yellow Banana.

Her new book is the memoir, Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me.

One of Volk's five favorite books by and about obsessed artists, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Noa Noa
by Paul Gauguin (1900)

In 1891, Gauguin left his family in France and sailed for Tahiti. He was 43 and desperate to escape Parisian pretensions of civilization. And what does he find in Papeete? Despoiled by French colonialists, a culture as vapid as the one he'd left. Worse, because it's imitative. His back-to-nature rejuvenation fantasy leads him to a hut in the wilderness. But despite no shortage of women, Gauguin is profoundly lonely. Until, that is, he meets Tehura, his 13-year-old Eve. "I was permeated with her fragrance—noa noa." Over the next two years, Gauguin fills 66 of his most gorgeous, sun-drenched canvases. His journal covers this time, but unlike DalĂ­'s, it rarely describes his technique. Instead the reader is plunged into an educated man's anthropological observations as he acclimates to what he assumed was a savage society. Gauguin's spare style echoes the directness of his paintings. You may not like him (Who could like someone so cruel to Van Gogh?), but after reading "Noa Noa," you will love his pictures more.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue