Saturday, September 20, 2008

About Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) lived a short, violent, but exceedingly fruitful life as an innovative Italian Baroque painter whose distinctive style influenced such noted painters as Rubens, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Honthorst, and Georges de la Tour. His oil paintings are known for their use of everyday characters (as if taken from the streets of Rome) placed in historical, allegorical or religious settings.


He hired locals as his models, and some of them can be seen repeatedly in his works. Rather than depicting the subjects of his paintings in heroic or historical garb, he often painted them in the dress of his time. As a consequence, his paintings have a sense of immediacy about them. All his works are bathed in deep, obscuring shadows and bright, defining patches of light.

Supper at Emmaus

Arranging his subjects in a dramatic fashion, such as in the moment of Peter’s martyrdom when he is about to be crucified upside down, Caravaggio employed the techniques of foreshortening, theatrical use of gesture, and a concentrated or a narrowed subject field (where your eye is drawn directly to the action/subject) in order to add drama and interest to his works.

The Martyrdom of St. Peter

Caravaggio painted primarily in Milan, Rome and Naples and enjoyed a degree of patronage; however, his personal life worked against his career as he outspent his income, brawled, gambled and even committed murder. He is said to have died on a malaria-ridden Italian coastline after escaping from prison.

The subject of Jonathan Harr's book, The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, can be seen below.

The Taking of Christ

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Any Further Thoughts?

The torrential rains kept some of our members away today, so if they would like to add their opinions about these books (Into the Wild and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon), please do so here. Those who attended the discussion today and anyone reading this blog may also comment as well.

Outside on Chris McCandless

Jon Krakauer began his investigation into the story of Chris McCandless with an article in the January 1993 edition of Outside magazine. I wasn't able to find an image of that cover, but the cover shown above is a typical example. Note the banner headline advising you that "Pain and Fear Are Good For You" and the article, "A Death by Snakebite," to get a sense of the amped-up reading experience awaiting you inside Outside.

I was able to find Krakauer's article online, however, so click to read it here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Stephen King Interviewed

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Stephen King which can be found on Bernardsville Public Library's electronic database, Literature Resource Center.

In your book On Writing [On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft] you mention that you plot out your stories "as infrequently as possible." How can a writer write anything without having a plot in mind?

I have a general story idea ... a situation. That's where I like to start. Then I let it play out. And that always works as long as I'm honest about what my characters would do in a given situation. If you start to make characters do things because it would be more convenient for you, things wander off course.

What themes do you see running through all your works?

I would say that if there's one theme that runs through my work, it would be, Live according to the truth and try to be brave. And, It's better to do the right thing than the wrong thing, even at costs.

Your books are filled to the brim with suspense. Is there any formula that you use to build up the suspense in a book?

The most important thing about building suspense is building identification with the character. You have to take some time and make your reader care about the characters in the story. I'm thinking about Misery, where you've got this writer, Paul Sheldon, and little by little you get to know this guy and understand him and you get to see different aspects of him. Then you start to empathize with him and you start to put yourself in his shoes and then you start to be very, very afraid because you don't want anything bad to happen to him. But because it's the kind of story that it is, you know that something bad is gonna happen. So one by one you close off the exits and things get more and more nerve-racking until finally there's an explosion.

What, if anything, scares you?

Scary things are personal. Clowns have freaked me out and scared me ever since I was a kid. To me there's something scary, something sinister about such a figure of happiness and fun. I guess that sometimes what makes a scary thing really scary is when we realize there's something sinister behind a nice face.

Many of the characters in your novels meet untimely ends. Do you ever feel bad about having to kill off a character?

Yeah. Yeah, I do. My characters become very real to me. I wrote a series of books called The Dark Tower, and I lived with those characters from the age of about 22 up until when I finished the last one when I was 56. That's like 34 years all told. I'd been with some of those characters longer than I've been with my children. Some of them had to die and that was tough. Anybody will tell you that imaginary friends are as real as real people sometimes. Lucky for me, I still know the difference or else they'd put me away in a room.

Source Citation: King, Stephen and Bryon Cahill. "Stephen King: Halloween's Answer to Santa Claus." Writing. 28.2 (2005, Oct. ) 8-13. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism Select. Detroit: Gale, 8-13. Literature Resource Center. Gale. BERNARDSVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY. 4 Sept. 2008 .

Gale Document Number: GALEH1100074413