The Baltimore Museum of Art has just emerged from a multi-year $28 million dollar renovation process. This august institution – it turned one hundred last year – looks great. More space, more light – and more art on view.
Here are some of my favorite works from their collection:
Master of the View of St. Gudule?
A bonus on this fine autumn day was the sighting of the Harper Dairy, located at the western edge of the museum’s grounds. (It is known there as the Spring House.) Robert Goodloe Harper, a lawyer and U.S. senator, was uncle to the Caton sisters, whose lives were so vividly portrayed in Jehanne Wake’s book Sisters of Fortune.
Another bonus of this visit was the companionship of my dear friend Robbie. We attended Goucher College all those years ago, and we’ve since been know as “the two Robertas.” An art lover like me, Robbie is soon to become a first time grandmother. It could not be happening to a sweeter, better person!
Six of us try to get together once a month. The conversation ranges widely, from politics, to health and medical matters (the mandate here is to keep it brief), to grandchildren (same mandate!), to computers, electronic devices, and e-readers, about which some of us remain deeply ambivalent (same mandate again!), to travel, to items of local interest – and to books, always to books.
This past Monday I was bursting with enthusiasm for two terrific books I just finished: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett and The Greater Journey by David McCullough. The McCullough in particular I really loved. In fact, I hated for it to end. All those fascinating stories, equally fascinating people, coming to Paris and recording their impressions of this great cultural capital. Ah well – more about this embarrassment of riches later.
None of my four luncheon companions had read The Greater Journey, but two, Kay and Angie, had read the Ann Patchett novel. (Ann is now in the process of reading it.) Kay agreed with me that it was excellent; Angie had reservations. I was so over the top enthusiastic about the book that I could hardly credit the latter reaction. (Isn’t that often the way, in the first blush of rapturous reading – “You simply MUST love this as much as I did!”) More about State of Wonder in a subsequent post – and about Angie’s reservations, which are cogently set forth in her Amazon review.
Kay told us about her recent trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. She was telling us about the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a wonderfully named byway that I confess I’d never heard of. Kay also recommended Free Fire by C.J. Box. This novel, one in the author’s Joe Pickett series, takes place in Yellowstone. Kay has recommended this book to me before and is probably waiting patiently for me to break down and read it! I note that the library is now getting Box’s novels on CD, including this one, so I have duly reserved it. C.J. Box is a fine writer; his terrific standalone Blue Heaven won the Edgar for best novel of 2008.
Once again, we were reminded of how pleasurable it is to read fiction that’s set in your travel destination. I experienced that pleasure during our British sojourn this past May with Phil Rickman’s Midwinter of the Spirit, Edward Marston‘s The Dragons of Archenfield, and Kate Charles’s luminous ecclesiastical novel Appointed To Die. For me, similar confluences occurred with Jane Langton’s God in Concord, read while in historic Concord Massachusetts; Michael Dibdin’s Cosi Fan Tutti, read – or rather re-read – while in Naples, Italy; Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow, read while staying in a B&B in the beautiful Hudson River Valley; and of course, the Navajo mysteries of the great Tony Hillerman, read while in New Mexico. In point of fact, those books were what made me want to see the aptly nicknamed Land of Enchantment in the first place. (Nevada Barr was also mentioned in this context.)
Angie belongs to two book clubs: one reads philosophy; the other, science fiction. (Have I got that right, Angie?) She recommended the latest Hugo Award winner: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis. An article in the Guardian newspaper describes this as “two volume time travel sequence” and praised Willis’s depiction of London during the Blitz.
I mentioned that for the first time in many years, I had recently bought a copy of Fantasy & Science Fiction, formerly known as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I had obtained the July/August issue because it featured a story by Steven Saylor, one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. But when I actually held the digest-sized magazine in my hands and fingered the raspy (pulpy?) paper on which it’s printed, I found myself assailed by distant memories. F&SF, as it is sometimes called, began publishing in 1949. My brother and I used to read it when we were kids.
Angie frequently recommends science fiction to our group. I for one have not followed up on these recommendations; perhaps, the time has come…
It’s always a delight when someone discovers an author that you already know and like. Ann had just read Other People’s Money by Justin Cartwright and enjoyed it enough to want to read other works by this author. I immediately suggested The Promise of Happiness and To Heaven By Water. An earlier Cartwright title that I also liked very much is Interior. One thing I particularly recall about that novel is that it had a terrific ending, one that was exactly apposite. Since so many modern novels don’t achieve a satisfying culmination, I am always pleased to find one that does.
I’m sure I’ve left out some books and some topics. Feel free to remind me in the comment section, ladies. Meanwhile, I look forward as always to our next get-together.