Friday Fun: Artists’ Studios

You’re allowed to laugh. The thought of me craving an artist’s studio is ludicrous, as I am profoundly ungifted at any kind of artistic endeavour. My clay ponies looked like dachshunds in primary school; in secondary school I used the eraser more frequently than the pencil (with predictable results, torn pages and tears). Art was the only class I ever failed. But I love looking at art and of course the light, airy artist’s studios, with their picturesque clutter, look very tempting. Even though I would probably have to tidy everything up first before I could start writing…

Light, light everywhere, and high ceilings, from passionvoyage.eu
Light, light everywhere, and high ceilings, from passionvoyage.eu
Cezanne's studio in Aix en Provence, from artistsandstudios.tumblr
Cezanne’s studio in Aix en Provence, from artistsandstudios.tumblr
Unknown artist's studio, from Reddit.
Unknown artist’s studio, from Reddit.
I prefer the more minimalist spaces, as you can see, from theinvisibledog.org
I prefer the more minimalist spaces, as you can see, from theinvisibledog.org
... but creative mess can be very endearing and inspiring as well, as in this Istanbul studio, from decoratorsnotebook.co.uk
… but creative mess can be very endearing and inspiring as well, as in this Istanbul studio, from decoratorsnotebook.co.uk
This is La Boheme romanticism, utterly beguiling - except that it's a miniature. From itmovesmemorelol.tumblr
This is La Boheme romanticism, utterly beguiling – except that it’s a miniature. From itmovesmemorelol.tumblr
The living area of Tove Jansson's studio, where she spent most of her time in Helsinki. From The Times.
The living area of Tove Jansson’s studio, where she spent most of her time in Helsinki. From The Times.

To my surprise, I seem to prefer wide open spaces rather than cosy, closed ones when writing. With reading, of course, it’s the other way round…

Global Challenge? Only Just…

With some dexterous juggling, I can just about claim to have completed the Global Reading Challenge (Medium Level) this year. I had to be a little creative with Mexico and place it in Latin America so that I could sort of claim it was South America. But if you forgive me my geographical inaccuracies and the fact that I still owe you two quick reviews for Africa and the 7th Continent, then I can claim VICTORY!!!

2015global_reading_challengev2

The Medium challenge is about reading two books from (or set in) each continent, regardless of genre. I was initially quite ambitious and planned to visit countries where I’d never been (fictionally) before. But the second half of the year became a mad, disorganised scramble to get books off my Netgalley and TBR shelves, so I had to compromise in the end.

Europe:

Moldova – The Good Life Elsewhere

Poland – Madam Mephisto

Asia:

Israel – Route de Beit Zera

India – Witness the Night

Australasia/Oceania:

Australia – Barracuda

Samoa – Blood Jungle Ballet

North America:

Native American reservation: Sherman Alexie

Houston, Texas – Pleasantville

South America:

Mexico – Faces in the Crowd

Costa Rica – Red Summer

Africa:

Morocco – Fouad Laroui

lastnightLibya – The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra

The author takes us into the warped mind of Ghaddafi as he sits holed up in a secret location, trying to avoid both bombing and the wrath of his own people. There is little here to give you a profound insight into the politics or history of Libya itself, but I found it a precise dissection of a dictator’s mind, how it is possible to become a megalomaniac and lose touch with reality, how power corrupts and idealism can get subverted, how tantrums can turn vicious when you are surrounded by sycophants. I thought it also raised some interesting questions about the appeal of tyrants: how they often play the nationalistic card (us versus the foreign menace, we’re going to make our country great once more etc.), which explains their rise to power and the often confused legacy they leave behind.

7th Continent:

Space – Solaris

voyageCentre of the Earth – Jules Verne

I’d forgotten what fun this classic novel is to read – yes, even when the author enumerates all of the things Axel and his uncle the professor take with them on their expedition. Appeals to the geek in all of us, but also lessons to be learnt about how quickly he gets to the intrigue, how imaginative he is, how endlessly inventive. It’s not even remotely plausible scientifically – that underground sea alone is completely wrong for all sorts of reasons. So it’s not as good as some of his other novels, but still a rollicking read (best discovered in your youth, though).