Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Creative Non-Fiction

An example of weaving art history, personal narrative, travel writing, and meditative prose together comes in Julia Blackburn's Old Man Goya. An excerpt from the first chapter demonstrates how Blackburn works to weave together these several voices and genres. Her own history with the artist, her mother's illness, a journey to Spain, and Goya's unfolding biography (especially his deafness) become wed through close examinations of Goya's paintings. For good (I think) or for ill (some other readers suggest) this allows Blackburn to imaginatively enter Goya's world, to speculate on his visions of the landscapes she is now exploring (and to see them as so strongly influenced by her experience of Goya, that perhaps she cannot see them on her own). Here is Blackburn on watching a bullfight as Goya might have:

He looks up at the tiered rows of faces, rippling and swaying together. He sees that this crowd has the same questing, hungry energy as a crowd of pilgrims approaching a shrine, as soldiers going to battle, as men gathered together to witness an execution. He sees the fickleness of the crowd, calling for blood and revenge in one moment and begging for mercy and salvation the next.

1 comment:

Alyssa K said...

This makes me think of "The Impossible Overcome" from the book Grammar Lessons by Michele Morano. It weaves together travel narrative, Basque history and ekphrasis with Picasso's Guernica.

Also, the book about Auden, Carson McCullers, Gypsy Rose Lee, the Mann family et al is February House by Sherill Tippins. There is much alcohol involved.