EDWARD HOPPER: CAPTURING PRIVATE, SOLITARY MOMENTS

December 19th, 2008

AUTOMAT, by Edward Hopper

I have a fascination with the paintings of the American artist, Edward Hopper. Somehow-whether by technique, imagination or subject matter-he is able to create the most compelling and evocative scenes, which stir my imagination.

One of my favourites is Automat an oil painted by him in 1927.

A young woman with a yellow felt hat sits absolutely alone in a barren restaurant drinking a cup of coffee. I look at this and immediately feel her isolation and loneliness as if it were my own. Is she running away? What thoughts are in her mind as she stares into the cup?

Right away, Hopper has got us speculating, as he does with all his paintings. Where did she come from? Where is she going? You’re caught right in the middle of a story which you can “read” backwards or forwards in time. I was so taken with this painting that the woman in it became the inspiration for a character in a short story, The Thief, and now a novel which I am writing. Struck by her isolation and self-containment, I called her Celia.

I search the painting to see what emotions Hopper creates and how he does it. Behind the solitary woman is a large window, blackened by an impenetrably gloomy night. The lights or reflections of lights recede into the background giving a murky, tunnel-like effect, leading to nowhere. The radiator, crouching at the left of the painting, seems just as isolated as the girl in the composition, but almost looks more communicative than her.  The lonely,solitary moment is caught in time-permanently engraved on my mind.

Just think how many stories could grow from this one painting! Will someone, a boyfriend or family member enter that door, hoping to bring her back? If no one comes, where will she go as soon as she drinks her coffee? To a dingy hotel room? Onto a train to New York? That would be just like so many other Hopper paintings, which so often depict hotel lobbies, motels and railway cars. Or maybe she will change her mind and go back home.

Perhaps this painting speaks to me of the apprehension of the unknown as we proceed moment to moment through life. So often, we are unsure and tentative, fearing to venture out into the unfamiliar. Then again, maybe the girl is incapable of reaching out to others. After all, for me, Celia-the character in my story who was inspired by this painting- grew into a character that was desperate to get free of her self-imposed isolation from the world. And so, for me-art, painting, sculpture, and photography are so often an inspiration for writing. Of course, all art [whether it is painting or writing or music] speaks of its own time-that is, the time and place in which the artist lived.

Hopper painted much of his work in the twenties, thirties and forties of the last century, when rapid industrialization and urbanization were forcing people from their old dwellings and old ways of living. Consequently, so many people felt lost and displaced. And yet, the emotions evoked by his work are universal, whatever the time and place. Great art transcends time and place and touches a nerve in us all, which communicates those universal emotions and ideas to us. Just like a photograph, Automat is a permanent moment in time existing in a world which, at the same time, seems so transient.

And that is why such a painting as the Automat inspires me even today.

Visit Osgoode Hall, Toronto, Scene of The Osgoode Trilogy

December 19th, 2008

Osgoode Hall is a beautiful building in downtown Toronto, where the Ontario Appellate Court is located. When I began practising law in 1973, I can tell you that this was a very imposing building to all young lawyers. In fact the Law Society of Upper Canada was also housed there and that body oversaw the conduct of practising lawyers. And so, it is from that fact that I got the name of the first novel in The Osgoode Trilogy Conduct in Question.

Engraving by Walter R. Duff

If you would like a full tour visit www.osgoodehall.com

Osgoode Hall

Engraving by Walter R. Duff

No Man’s Meat by Morley Callaghan.

December 15th, 2008

Writers always want to write a better novel or short story. And so, we naturally turn to writers we admire. I like to use images in stories and so, I often wonder how a writer can develop an image which governs the meaning of the whole story and breathes life into it. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a mental “word” image must be worth at least five hundred.

No Man’s Meat is a novella written by Morley Callaghan, one of my favourite Canadian authors. But no commercial house would touch it. It had to be published privately by an avant-garde house in Paris in 1931. And soon, I will tell you why that was so.

But, first to the story. Bert and Teresa Beddoes are a reasonably well to do married couple from the city [probably Toronto]. Frequently they stay at their cottage somewhere up north where the farming is poor and the farmers live a hard-scrabble existence. The Beddoes are laughed at as city folk.

Their marriage [they say] is one of peaceful contentment, loving and respectful, but it is clearly lacking in any sort of passion. They sleep in separate rooms in the cottage. Read the rest of this entry »

ON THE MAGIC OF TRAVEL AND WRITING

December 12th, 2008

Magic in travel? You must be kidding! All we hope is to get there and back safely. When we consider the long lines, the cancelled flights, the rude security staff and the cramped seats on planes, don’t we all feel a lot like cattle being pushed and prodded from A to B? Now you’re asking for magic? Isn’t that a bit much?

Perhaps it is a tall order, but I’m thinking of those moments-and they may be few and far between-when suddenly, on your travels, you see or experience something that makes you view the world in a new way, from a different perspective. The world opens up and that, in itself, may be magical. Isn’t that the real purpose of travel-unless we’re talking about business trips? Read the rest of this entry »

Review of A Trial of One

December 11th, 2008

This is the third review by Gina of Bookaholics in which she dares you to read…

Posted on December 10, 2008 by Gina

A Trial of One

by Mary E. Martin

‘Osgoode’ trilogy Book #3

Jenkins is on a frantic search for shares of Elixicorp Enterprises stock, worth over thirty millions dollars, for his elderly client, Norma Dinnick. The shares were originally sold to raise money for research into memory loss in seniors. Ironically, no one seems to remember just where the shares might be. Pursuing Jenkins through Toronto and London, and to the darkened, narrow calles of Venice, is Dr. Robert Hawke, a sinister madman who claims to have the cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

As their chase unravels a decades-old fraud, yet another search is underway for the mysterious Q.

Dorothy Crawford, widow of Jenkins’ law partner Richard Crawford, Read the rest of this entry »

Review of Final Paradox by Gina

December 10th, 2008

Here’s a new review of Final Paradox, the second in The Osgoode Trilogy. I want to thank Gina for her great reviews of the first two novels in the trilogy. I understand she will be reviewing A Trial of One very soon and so, I hope she likes it as much as the first two.

Final Paradox by Mary E. Martin (’Osgoode’ trilogy Book #2)

Posted on December 10, 2008 by Gina

Final Paradox

by Mary E. Martin

‘Osgoode’ trilogy Book #2

Can love and forgiveness be found amid fraud and deceit?

Harry Jenkins is an honest lawher, seeking truth and love in a world darkened by fraud and deceit. Years back, Elixicorp, a company developing a drug to forestall memory loss, defrauded millions from Toronto’s elite. But since then, no one has been able to find this long buried treasure, which has poisoned the lives of all who seek it.

His elderly client, Norma Dinnick, teeters between lucidity and madness in her dark world of paradoxical claims. When she instructs Harry to sue the other claimants for the Elixicorp shares, one of the litigants is fatally shot in open court at Osgoode Hall. The murder weapon is an ornate, silver pistol, which is both a means of betrayal and a gift of love. Peter Saunderson, an old acquaintance of Harry’s from law school, surfaces to frame his own wife and lover with the courtroom murder and to implicate Harry in the scheme.

Harry and his father have been estranged for years. Stanley is found unconscious at the foot of his cellar steps, a gun in his hand. Waking from his coma, he asks Harry’s forgiveness for a long-buried wrong. This ugly .38 caliber gun becomes the means whereby love and forgiveness is found. Beset with questions, Harry turns to the beautiful Natasha, who guides him to an understanding of the final paradox.

Review: An excellent read, in no way a light read - by far!

Harry Jenkins believes his client, Norma Dinnick, an eight-seven-year-old widow, is balancing on a very thin line between reality and insanity. Norma calls Harry with the intention of rewriting her will, and is convinced that Archie Brinks, the executor of her estate, is trying to poison her by substituting her arthritis medication. He wants her money and the share that her deceased husband had hidden years before. She’s determined to change her will, naming her goddaughter, Bronwyn (a friend’s daughter), sole beneficiary and Harry as her executor. She firmly believes that George Pappas, Peter Saunderson (Bronwyn’s gay husband), Archie Brinks and others are after the Elixicorp share she believes is rightfully hers.

But the share isn’t - nor does it belong to any of them, for years ago, fraud and deceit were commited against high-class Torontonians, having them believe that Elixicorp was developing medication to prevent memory loss. Millions were invested, and without that share, the money is out of reach for all. Before his death, Arthur had hidden the money. After being threatened by Robert Hawke and George Pappas, he commited suicide rather than face a horrific, torturous death by their hands, and left specific instructions for Norma.

But Norma’s mind is no longer what it used to be, as she ’sees’ and ‘talks’ with her husband and David, her lover, and believes there are bad tenants residing above her when, in fact, the apartment above her own is completely empty. And now Harry’s stuck in the middle, while more and more, the men who are supposed to be finding the hidden share are turning up murdered.

Meanwhile, Harry’s love-life is at a crawl. Divorced from his wife, Harry has fallen in love with Natasha. One minute, she is warm and inviting, and the next, she’s cool and withdrawan. And Harry doesn’t understand why.

Again, another great mystery. Ms. Martin knows how to create a complex plot(s). While I did find that there were too many characters and sometimes hard to keep track of them, each one plays a particular role, and all working for George Pappas, all after the same thing; the missing Elixicorp share. So complex a story, let this be a word of caution: while an excellent tale, this novel is by no means a light read. This is not a book you can pick up and finish in a few short hours, even if it is only a 268-page Trade Paperback. It needs and deserves your complete attention. Way to go, Ms. Martin! Can’t wait to start A Trial of One, Book #3!

Check out Gina’s blog at http://bookaholicsreview.wordpress.com/

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ARE MEN REALLY FROM MARS AND WOMEN REALLY FROM VENUS?

December 9th, 2008

So says the book by John Gray, PhD.

But are they really from different planets-are they actually a different species?

How often have you heard this?

Oh God! Didn’t you know? Men and women are so different, it’s no wonder they can’t communicate. This is usually said out of hurt and anger when a relationship hits the inevitable bumps [crashes?] along the way mostly through poor communication.

Since I have never bought into this Mars vs. Venus notion, I have done an informal survey. Nothing scientific-just asking friends. Read the rest of this entry »

Review of Conduct in Question, by Gina Robichaud, reviewer for Indigo, Chapters

December 7th, 2008

This is a review of the first in The Osgoode Trilogy, Conduct in Question. I hope you are sufficiently intrigued to read it yourself. Then, maybe I will have hooked you on the next two, Final Paradox and A Trial of One.

A fascinating legal thriller…

Harry Jenkins is an estate lawyer and partner of Crane, Crawford and Jenkins law firm. First, his partner, Crawford, dies on the floor in his office while remember the love he once had with one of their clients, Marjorie Deighton. For Harry, things go from bad to worse and rather quickly.

Harry is asked to meet at Marjorie’s home; her intent is to review her will and consult with him about a meeting she is supposed to have earlier in the day. Along with his secretary, Harry visits the home of Ms. Deighton in late afternoon, only to find Ms. Deighton dead, lying on her bed. Harry believes that she must have died peacefully, but he is suspicious; there are just too many things going on that could make her passing a coincidence.

A mysterious man, Albert Chin, is referred to Harry for property acquisitions. Only, the properties are those surrounding the Marjorie’s estate. Plus, the names of the parties acquiring the properties seems fishy to him, as they are all numbered accounts. Money laundering? Harry allows himself to be blinded by the money, believing he may just live up to his wife’s expectations. But he knows the marriage is dead. Both have changed during their 20-year marriage; they no longer talk, nor are they in love. He also believes that his wife, Laura, is having an affair, mostly likely with her boss. Meanwhile, he fantasizes about the beautiful Natasha. And when he tries to deposit the checks from Chin into the trust, Mr. Mudhali, the manager of the bank, brings him to the office. It seems that Crawford had taken out a loan against the firm’s account. However, Harry believes that this is just as fishy as Mr. Chin’s acquisitions; it takes all the partners signatures for that loan, and Harry knows he’s never signed it.

And all the while, the serial killer, The Florist, is going around Toronto, judging and murdering women, using a knife to cut floral designs in their skin.

Harry believes that, somehow, they are all connected, even when he hopes they are not. But are they?

An incredible first novel by Canadian author, Mary E. Martin. Using her knowledge of the field, she writes an incredible novel filled with twists and coincidences. While the main character, Harry, goes through the motions of day-to-day life, he wishes his life were more exciting, more freedom, more love. And while I’m used to reading murder mysteries through the eyes of the detective, a criminal lawyer, this time, it’s through the eyes of an estate lawyer, one who usually deals with the passing of his clients, the grieving family and friends, wills, and estates. Not criminal. I liked the difference, and can’t wait to see what else Harry gets into. Also, I like how the author touched base on more than murder, money laundering, estates and wills. She adds abusive bullies, abused women, and very manipulative people. A fascinating combination. On to Book #2, Final Paradox.

Death in Venice

December 3rd, 2008

Do you know the great novella by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice? If you haven’t read it, you may well have seen the movie. When I was in Venice, I was haunted by this story as I wandered through the narrow, twisting calles on my last trip more than seven years ago. In fact, I entitled the photograph below Death in Venice, which I took of a cafe on San Marco.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Romance

December 2nd, 2008

Venice is filled with canals and Squares surrounded by ancient palazzos-perfect places to linger and reflect. Narrow fog-ridden calles run like silken spider-webs connecting the Squares and taking me ever onward in exploration of the city and myself. I am a writer and a photographer and I am in love with Venice. I walk through an archway from which blind gargoyles stare down upon me. Read the rest of this entry »