Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chopin and She.

I spent much of this weekend reading - and even doing a bit of writing! My personal sources of literary inspiration are diverse and fluctuating, but lately I've also been feeling inspired by media outside of the literary realm. Photography and music are currently dredging up a lot of creative impulse and emotion to play with, and I think they are great starting points for writing exercises.

Photography... Well, you know the old adage about a picture's worth. Enhanced picture quality, artful editing tools, and the popularity of digital photo-streams have created an abundance of visual smorgasbords accessible with just the click of a mouse. I'm a sucker for the whole atmospheric aesthetic, and surfing through these offerings makes me itch to delve for some words to capture the mood a specific photograph elicits. A beautiful image is a reminder of the visceral power of detail, and a call to incorporate the visual - something that too often becomes fuzzy or lost altogether in the jumble of character and plot and convention - more poignantly in my own writing.

As for music, while I love me some Pink Floyd, Lady Gaga, Guster, Mumford and Sons, etc., it's the violin that best gets me writing. I can't concentrate of writing when there are lyrics to listen to (ok, to sing along to). The violin is such an exquisitely beautiful and expressive instrument, and was also a major part of my daily life for many years. I have no time now for orchestras or private lessons, and apartment life makes it sadly impossible for me to play here - but you can bet that I'm fiddling along vicariously through at least one of my characters! This nocturne by Chopin has been haunting me - and my writing - all day. Played here by the lovely and talented Sarah Chang:

Of course, the reality is that books still play a hefty role in my daily inspiration. The one that's been on my mind today is H. Rider Haggard's She, an extraordinarily strange Victorian adventure story that involves three British explorers seeking out a two-thousand-year-old, white enchantress ruling over a crumbling city deep in the jungles of Africa while she awaits the reincarnation (and, she hopes, the return) of a long-lost-love.

{I own, and would recommend, this Penguin Classics edition.}

The titular "She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" (or, to the brave, Ayesha) is simultaneously powerful, childlike, beautiful, frightening, feminist, wise, and naive. One of the most intriguing and complex characters I have come across in my reading. I never heard a thing about this novel before reading it this past spring, a fact that seems almost criminal. It's a remarkable novel, and one that raises all manner of interesting questions. I later discovered that two film versions (1935 and 1965, respectively) have been released. What's available of them on YouTube is pretty appallingly silly. Someone should seriously revamp this! But for now, She is at least on my radar as I write.

I'll leave you with a fun fact: According to Wikipedia, Ayesha's costume in the 1935 film version seriously influenced the design of Snow White's wicked queen. Who knew?

{"How do you like them apples?"}

{Like everything else in the sixties, Ursula Andress's "She" was decidedly more sexed-up.}

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