The Art of the Deal
The deal went down as such; a bottle of Absolute vodka, picked up from Hilt, Ca. (All Stars Liquor Store) in exchange for my drug of choice - books. This is not to say that books are my only drug of choice. It just all depends on what I'm hungry for at any moment in time. I have many compartmentalized facets that I like to let shine with equal enthusiasm.
So much to divulge as I had not written a post during my 3-month US of A odyssey; however, I'm going to draw it all out slowly tantalizing you all with my penned soliloquies. They won't be following a chronological ordering either because I'm just complex like that, or so my brain waves are. You know, Da Kine...
MaSheila just makes me smile. I love hanging out with her and the family. We share a bond through our love of books. A bookseller she is! When heading to her shack with JenTalks for morning coffee, which didn't occur nearly as much as it should have but alas, MaSheila is a working woman and all these daze so... Incidentally, right before my departure back to Iraq we visited her at the antique mall that she haunts on weekdays. Also, the kitty kat that is shacked up there was spotted. Me thinks MaSheila will soon bring her to the apartment, on occasion, for some good feline company. Kitty must love living inside a HUGE antique warehouse though.
I digress... Last year I enlisted her aid in searching for an English copy of 'Les Fleurs Du Mal' (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire, affectionately immortalized as the 'cursed' poet. I got turned on to his writing back in Hawaii and always knew that I would at some later time delve further into his 'abnormal' way of expressing/penning himself. By 'abnormal' I don't mean to express that his deviation from what is 'normal' is worrisome to me. Rather it is challenging, inspiring, and quite the opposite of 'undesirable'- in fact being very desirable to delve into. Yes, every exquisitely (apparently) sordid detail I mopped up with rabid fascination.
I recently read a book, I think in Budapest earlier this year, or perhaps it was in Paris in 2019. Who can remember! It centered around the Paris art scene in/around the 1840s. Jeanne Duval, a Latin Quarter artist, met Baudelaire and their relationship continued on from there arousing much speculation into modern times as well. As any urban legend worth its weight by today's standard, their story is steeped with interesting history. Apparently they were painted together in Gustave Courbet's The Artist's Studio yet she was 'erased' from the mysterious 'manifesto' composition years later at Baudelaire's insistence after they (Baudelaire and Duval) had an argument?
Apparently their lust for each other was of the 'forbidden' type. Whatever the fuck that meant at the time, as I see it she was black (born in Haiti to a mother in Europe, who was the result of her grandmother being a slave from Guinea who forcibly traveled to Europe to work in a brothel) and he was an opium-loving white Parisian dandy... Other tag words to familiarize yourself with for this setting is as follows: bohemian, syphilis, urban romanticism, stormy relationship, and Black Venus. Paris as his backdrop, his manifesto, I think, was that one "must create beauty from even the most depraved or "non-poetic" situations." Urban beauty and decay are deliciously juxtaposed in this heaving contextualized sexual scenario and I can dig it.
Ever popular for her 'exoticism' (how 'orientalist' in nature, yes? After all, she is referred to as being 'mulatto'), Duval was also painted by Edouard Manet simply titled, 'Baudelaire's Mistress' (Reclining Lady With A Fan). I had the honor of viewing this Realism masterpiece while visiting the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts last winter.
I've digressed yet again.
So, MaSheila found me 2 copies of the book and insisted that I take both, one of which was, I'm sure, quite a spendy edition complete with beautiful illustrations to accompany each poems- including some of the 'fobridden' ones that had previously been censored in the 2nd edition. Also, this edition is in French.
Anyway, this is how MaSheila operates. She would take no money for the additional edition that she purchased from one of her rare books booksellers she enlists in searching down books. She is like a book sleuth! I adore this lust for books she has.
What is fascinating about La Fleurs Du Mal, IMHO, is the section of poems titled, "Black Venus". Obviously you guys knows what follows next; Duval was his muse here.
I fear I've regressed too much now. Let's return back to the original story line, which is this year's selection of my 2 picks from MaSheila's personal library..
We were having coffee in MaSheila's living room, or perhaps it was happy hour cocktails that day... I am in my requisite Queen Anne-style upright upholstered chair staring deeply into her floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, giving center stage to her rather unique and vast collection of books. I swear, so many hours I have spent thinking of those bookshelves and wondering about the possibilities.... All the feel-goods come out; owning a bookstore in Portugal where I can cherry-pick my selections of English language literature for expats and locals alike, renting a lighthouse to live in while writing a book, traveling the world for unique literature, etc...
Anyway, as an early on devoted fan of Anais Nin I had heard of Erica Jong- as the authors share the same writing genre, yet never read her. Scanning, scanning, BOOM. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong. There it was sitting there looking all coquettish. Hardcore seduction at this point, I grasped the book all the while feeling quite provocative in my efforts. Compulsion perhaps? Revulsion? No, definitely not revulsion. Attraction. Definitely attraction.
[STOP. Let me just put this out here right now, Fear of Flying is no 20 Shades of Gray or whatever the number is... "Oh Holly you have got to read the book. The protagonist is an
anthropologist", and other such phrases were relayed to me by various
friends. I tried to read the book and couldn't get past page 15 probably. More recently I tried to watch the movie. Never got into it. Finally during a recent flight perhaps I was forced to watch the entire movie out of sheer boredom. Meh...]
Contemporaneously I offered money for the book as MaSheila demanded that I just take it off her hands. A kinda one-less-book-that-hasn't-sold-in-a-long-time-so-I-don't-have-to-deal-with-it-anymore scenario was proposed to me. I graciously accepted.
About 2 weeks ago I found myself again in MaSheila's living room- this time it was definitely for sunset happy hour cocktails, I think... Again in my seated position I start scanning while conversing. Another book stands out among the sea; Thelma A Norwegian Princess. Thus, the same scenario ensues and I bring my new book back to the homestead.
I have no idea what it's about, but the book binding looked super old and interesting. All I know is that it is also about some sort of 'forbidden' love. I guess this was on my mind after finishing my last quiver of books, The Ice Maiden (Juanita the Inca mummy discovery), Left for Dead (Mt. Everest climbing), and High Exposure (Mt. Everest climbing).
Here now is where Hilt, an old favorite liquor store from my days of yore- high school in Ashland, Oregon- and the ritual of driving the 25 or so miles across the border to find someone at the then Hilt Liquors to purchase alcohol for us enterprising high schoolers), comes into focus.
vodka for books, my drug of choice. True store