Tuesday, January 5, 2016

End of the year reading: Masterpieces of Chinese Art; Japanese Painting: A Brief History; Haiku: Japanese Art and Poetry and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

It's the end of the year and so far I have read 76 books since July.  I was supposed to be on a book-buying fast until I read 100 books but I broke down somewhere after 50.  Here's what I wrapped 2015 up with:


Masterpieces of Chinese Art is a comprehensive overview of the development of art in China.  It starts with the Bronze age and arrives at the Qing dynasty.  Not only does this lovely book describe each dynasty and their impact on Chinese art but also each ruler and clan that came into power, how they came into power, who they overthrew and how that affected the Chinese culture and its expression through the arts. Each chapter is filled with photos of paintings, calligraphy and artifacts of sculpture and architecture.


 This is a book that has been gathering dust on my bookshelf since a college room mate gave it to me in an effort to lighten her load as she moved back home.  When it says "a brief history" they indeed mean brief.  The book is about 100 pages and even though each page has a painting that is described and the artist's philosophy explained as well as the some backdrop as to the time and place, the photos are black and white.  Always a cheat when looking at art books.

Far more worthwhile a read is Haiku:  Japanese Art and Poetry.


 Other than a brief introduction where the writers provide basic information on haiku and the various poets, the pages mostly speak for themselves.  Each spread has a delicately produced Japanese scene, either of nature on a large scale, i.e. woods or mountains with tiny people walking, or a close up of a flower or animal, often birds.  Accompanying the art on the other page is a haiku poem.  A nice book to look at and enjoy the peace and calm such an exercise produces.

 The last book I've read is by Jean-Dominique Bauby.  Bauby was the editor of the French magazine, Elle.  In 1995 he collapsed from a major stroke which left him paralyzed but mentally competent, otherwise known as "locked-in syndrome."  The only organ of his body that he could move was his left eyelid.  By blinking he dictated this book, a memoir, which is a testimony to his indomitable spirit.

An ordinary day. At seven the chapel bells begin again to punctuate the passage of time, quarter hour by quarter hour.  After their night's repsite, my congested bronchial tubes once more begin their noisy rattle.  My hands, lying curled on the yellow sheets, are hurting, although I cna't tell if they are burnging hot or ice cold  To fight off stiffness, I instinctively stretch, my arms and legs moving only a fraction of an inch.  If is often enought to bring relief to a painful limb.

My diving bell becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly.  There is so much to do.  You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court. 

The book is only 125 pages, but it is not a sad, angry rant at fate but the poignant musings of someone who raced through life but is now left only with his thoughts.  He draws his life for us up to the point of his stroke.  In a charming narration Bauby recalls friends, past relationships, family and events.  He propels himself to other countries and delectable cuisines using his imagination. 

One thing that stood out to me was his unexpected discovery of character traits of friends and acquaintances.  Many wrote him letters.  Those he thought himself close to, often gave only shallow, curt messages.  Others that he had previously only had superficial conversations with took the time to write long, feeling letters, revealing previously unknown depths.

As brief as it is.  This will be one of my favorite books.

That is all for now. Next week I will provide another installation of our ride down the Rhine.  My prayer is for you all to have a blessed and safe year.  Take care!


  1. I am very jealous of the number of books that you completed in 2015 :) I need to read more.

    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly sounds so good and I would like to read it myself.

    PS - I do not know if you saw my comment but I inadvertently deleted your comment on my post for Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I was able to retrieve the text of your comment and reposted it with my name and an explanation. My apologies for the confusion.

    Have a Happy New Year.

    1. Hi Brian! I did see you posted my comment and read your thoughtful response. I am actually going to add one other response. :) God bless you and your family!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.