Saturday, March 28, 2009

Description Out of Context

I'm reading a book called Letters on Cezanne, by Rainer Maria Rilke. It hopped off one of the shelves at Powells. It's a bundle of letters he wrote to his wife while he was away in France.
Today I read one of Rilke's descriptions that seemed fitting for the week.

Paris, Rue Cassette October 12, 1907

These are the days when everything is all around you, luminous, light, barely intimated in the bright air and yet distinct; even what is nearest has the tones of distance about it, is taken away and only shown instead of being put there, as usual; and all the things that are related in distance- the river, the bridges,the long streets, and the extravagant squares- have been absorbed and hugged close by that distance, are painted upon it, as if on silk.

When I read this I rememered acutely how it was to scan the screens, each scene within the silk, the distance and nearness of a place so complete. The size of the screens (12 feet long all together) create a visual story that's miniscule in relation to the ground it covers literally.

Rilke goes on:

You can feel what a light green carriage can be on the Pont-Neuf or some red that can't contain itself, or simply a poster on the fire wall of a pearl-gray group of houses. Everything is simplified, reduced to a few regular light planes, like the face in a portrait by Manet.

What he says here reminds me of LaValle's post from yesterday, and of the gold in the screens-all that cloud-shaped gold dividing the story and taking up so much two dimensional space, like the red that can't contain itself.

He continues:

And nothing is insignificant and superfluous. The bouquinistas along the quai are opening their boxes, and the fresh or withered yellow of the books, the violet brown of the volumes, the green of a portfolio: everything is right, is valid, takes part, adds its sound to the ensemble of bright correspondences.

Ah, how sweet an end. I want to describe the screens that way. Not only because of the way he thinks to write, but because his description is apt to fit.

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