Things I Learned From Books Over The Summer (incl. 40s sexism)

I haven’t been to the library as much as usual (although I have two books on reserve and expect a call soon when they come in) so I’m getting books from second-hand shops, reading them, and re-donating them. Here are a few things I gleaned from some of my my summer reading.

Not a Happy Camper

by Mindy Schneider


I thought this was going to be a juicy memoir, full of the gamut of all facets of human experience and hopefully things I could relate to. After a few pages I realized it was about Mindy’s summer camp experiences as a child. I almost didn’t read it but found it funny despite myself. Before I share with you a funny line, here’s some backstory:

The operation of a motor vehicle is a violation on Shabbat (Sabbath). The Torah prohibits driving to temple. The car’s ignition combusts fuel, violating one of the 39 prohibited activities on Shabbat: it creating a spark, which is in violation…(no fires)

Not my kind of memoir, though very interesting glimpse into Jewish lives.

Here’s that funny line:

“It’s never a good idea to be more religious than your religious leader,” the author’s mother noted one Yom Kippur, as they walked to temple. The rabbi drove by, (in his car) waving on his way to temple. “Merry Christmas!” her mother shouted.

The Seasons of My Mother

by Marcia Gay Harden


Marcia’s mother Beverly is a lady in every sense. Because her husband traveled as part of his military service, the family spent a few years living in Japan which is where Beverly discovers Ikenobo. (Long before her Alzheimer’s). I did not know ‘flower arranging’ is so much more than putting flowers in a vase. The Ikenobo school was founded by the Buddhist monk Senno in the 15th century, which Marcia’s mother Beverly (who gets late onset Alzheimers), loves and practices because it was an ‘every person’ art.

From an Ikenobo website (link following blogpost):

“By arranging flowers with reverence, one refines oneself… When we sense plant’s unspoken words and silent movements we intensify our impressions through form, a form which becomes ikebana… Rather than simply re-create the shape a plant had in nature, we create with branches, leaves, and flowers a new form which holds our impression of a plant’s beauty as well as the mark of our own spirit. Ikebana should suggest the forces of nature with which plants live in harmony – branches bent by winter winds … a leaf half-eaten by insects.”

Ikenobo is described as a poem or painting made with flowers and vase choice is important, as the arrangement consists of ‘line’ elements, and the three placements form a triangle and reflect the feelings of the person who arranged them. Technique is important but so is philosophy. Here are a few examples I respectfully share, from the link I mentioned which follows this post:



This is a book that promised to be sad (of course it is-seeing a loved one decline from Alzheimer’s IS sad). However isn’t it lovely that my “take-away” from the book is not the sadness, but instead this glimpse into ikenobo, Beverly’s passion. Truly, her personal arrangements were her legacy. That having been said- (ikenobo deserves a blog of its own and I am not the person to do that):

Because Marcia worries about inheriting her mother’s Alzheimer’s every time she forgets a name or misplaces a pen, she starts reading everything she can on Alzheimer’s and begins incorporating things into her life that may deter the disease: using coconut, vitamin B, Gingko and pomegranates and she has also cut way back on sugar. I found this informative and interestingly enough I have incorporated these things as well with the exception of sugar reduction and I’m looking into ways to enjoy pomegranate. I also of course do daily Lumosity and Wood Block puzzles (this is a little like Tetris and I love the repetitiveness of trying to beat my own score) on my IPhone, and I never miss an episode of Jeopardy! Looking forward to the all-stars series, in particular Austin Rogers!

In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind

by Nobel Prize winner Eric R. Kandel


Late great Oliver Sacks called this book “a stunning book.” This is a book about understanding memory. It resonates with me because I have been told I don’t “retain” things. This is true. This is why my memoir was based on 17 or 18 diaries- I write everything down. This is why it means so much to me that I get Jeopardy responses correct- it means I’ve retained a fact. This is why I do puzzles on my phone. And this is why I read the book in the first place- topics of memory and brain intrigue me. I picked this book up second-hand and then realized I’d already read it about 10 years ago when I borrowed it from the library! Suffice to say, I re-read it. This one I may not re-donate, but I’m not sharing any quotes or interesting tidbits here. There are just TOO many fascinating things to decide on one. Online promos say this:

“A deft mixture of memoir and history, modern biology and behavior, In Search of Memory brings readers from Kandel’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna to the forefront of one of the great scientific endeavors of the twentieth century: the search for the biological basis of memory.”

I read everything I can about several topics: the brain, neurology, memoir, botany, neuro-biology, insect and nature study, DNA, and in particular (some of my favorite books)- memoirs or autobiographies about the lives of artists and writers. The following autobiography falls into this latter category:

Lee Krasner: A Biography

by Gail Levin


Lee Krasner (1908-1984) was ‘best known’ for her relationship with the abstract spatter painter Jackson Pollock but she was an artist too. What an insight into artist’s lives this book is. Lee, along with a female friend, was expelled from a school of art for daring to go into a basement and paint still life: fish which were set up there, because this was an exercise only the men were allowed to pursue. Lee Krasner was schooled for her abstract art at a place called the Hoffman’s school and mind you this is about 1937 – 1940. Hans Hoffman said of Krasner:

“One of the best students I ever had.”

He ‘encouraged’ her by remarking

“This is so good you would not know it was by a woman.”

Abstract art isn’t my favorite style, but I admire it. Here is my favorite work by Lee, ‘The Seasons’, 1957 (Whitney Museum of American Art):


The Private Lives of The Impressionists

a bestseller by Sue Roe


The painter Frédéric Bazille was tragically killed in action in his first battle, on November 28, 1870, at age 29. He created a few works and would’ve gone on to be as ‘known’ as Monet and the other Impressionists of his time, were it not for this.

Here is one of his works (“An Intimate Portrait” Sothebys):


This book predates Van Gogh. The struggling artists in this book led humble, frugal passionate lives. Sometimes friends purchased a painting (think of Manet’s or Monet’s’ well-known works!) just so the artist could have rent or food money. The fame they sought was not found.

In fact the press took every opportunity to ridicule their art, often holding their (now-famous) paintings upside down at auction because it ‘didn’t matter’ which angle you viewed these atrocities from.

These artists were rejected for the most part and were not shown alongside ‘proper’ paintings that were being shown in the Salon in Paris at the time. The Impressionists preferred to paint depictions of hands-on labor like cotton mills and coal workers. The Salon however, preferred to show paintings which met certain rigid style formats and subject matter with approved topics of high society and embellished lives.

The motley group of Impressionist friends chose to paint freely, loosely, and chose humble working class models- bar scenes, risque dancing, prostitutes…

2018-10-14 09_26_14-Window

So the friends showed their pieces de’ art together, usually to much ridicule: Cezanne, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassat, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pisarro, Gauguin, and several more -first heard the term ‘impressionists’ to describe their style, by the press, and the term was meant to imply their work was an impression of what a real painting ‘should’ be.

Some of the impressionist artists disliked this term and this caused a few disagreements amongst them because some of them thought they should just use the term Impressionism to their advantage if possible, but in fact whenever Impressionists were advertised as having an upcoming group exhibition, it often drew crowds that showed up out of curiosity to balk and laugh.

Still, there was usually a rich collector or two who was not concerned with society’s view on this ‘new’ style of painting. The collector, usually rich on an inheritance or a stockbroker, would show up and buy an impressionist painting here and there, keeping some of the impressionists’ bills paid.

The Prussian war invaded their lives (claiming Bazille in his prime) and affected all of the artists in some way.

After a trip to England to marry Julie in a Register office, the Pisarros returned home

“to a scene of horror. The house was filthy with excrement (the soldiers had kept livestock in the house) and scraps of bloodied canvas. The Prussians had used Pisarro’s paintings, the neighbors revealed, not only for butchering animals but for other ‘low and dirty tasks.’ Village women washing clothes were seen wearing Pisarro’s painted canvases as aprons.”

These paintings are lost to neglect, disrespect and time.

What am I up to? I’m currently reading an anthology that I have a large chapter called “Firsts In Art.” Reading the book (beautiful cover!) I am realizing the publisher, Belo, with whom I’ve enjoyed many emails over the last year, is blind. It is a very good book.

Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People With Disabilities

By Belo Cipriani

I’ve had the pleasure of leisure time to see Autumn leaves, read, and do artwork of my own.

Monday, 10/14/2018 I will be at:

Tony Attwood at AANE’s Annual Daniel W. Rosenn Connections Conference

(October 15 @ 8:30 am – 4:30 pm)

If you are in Boston, perhaps we will meet.

I’ll be attending the sessions and for a brief time be at the AANE table, where I have a few artworks available and I will have a few signed books there as well as a shortlist portfolio and pamphlets.

The AANE artists always make my day- I am sure I will enjoy seeing their creations and you will too. I am undecided whether to bring my copy of

Girls Under The Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder

for Tony Attwood to sign because I don’t want to bother anybody. (I have a small quote in that book from my story Eraser Balls which was excerpted from the anthology Women From Another Planet- Our Lives in The Universe of Autism (Jean Kearns Miller.)

Also a beautiful cover and speaking of beauty:

Look at my morning glories, still holding on, and that reminds me I have not done the insect blog yet.


IMG_4645 (1)


I feel strange displaying my recent collage art here (but it won’t deter me as it’s my blog after all) on the same page as great Impressionists but I will anyway –and then I’ve got to go do laundry (the SNL Wayne’s World skit comes to mind- when Aerosmith walks in: “We’re not worthy!”). So here are some snippets of pieces of stuff that will never see the light of day unless I rework them 1500 times:






Oh I almost forgot, here are the two of my artworks that will be at AANE for sale at seriously reduced prices. If the tree goes, I will miss it but can still offer prints. The tree is collage and #Unmask is a painting.


Sorry, I could only find this picture of #Unmask when it was In-Progress (the finished one is at the AANE conference Monday):


Link to Ikenobo here

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