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August 2017

In Art, Food, Literature, Philosophy, Travel on
August 31, 2017

Introducing: The Bohemian Book Club

Bohemian Readers~

It’s that Chuck Berry time of year: summer is over, school days are here, and it’s time to hit the books! I cannot wait to introduce you to our Fall 2017 to Fall 2018 Bohemian Book Club lineup! Cue Chuck Berry’s song School Days

But before I walk you through our year in books, let’s briefly discuss the framework and intention of the Bohemian Book Club:
How are the titles chosen each year?
This reading list was curated with Becoming Bohemian in mind. It includes books both by and about bohemian icons; books about philosophy, art, music, food, travel and social activism. The goal of the Bohemian Book Club is to read both deeply into each title as well as widely into many genres; to expand our literary horizons and become more bohemian.
You will notice these titles are by no means the latest releases in the publishing world. This is by design. New releases are hot commodities and often difficult to procure at your local public library. Few pastimes enrich my life to the degree that reading does, and I want to ensure everyone is equipped to read along with an internet connection and library card.
How do I join the Bohemian Book Club?
There are a few ways to get connected and read along:
  1. Live Monthly Book Club Meetings: Our main monthly event and connection point is the Book Club livestream. The Book Club will be live the last Thursday of the month on Facebook Live at 7 PM PST/10 PM EST (with the exception of November and December when we’ll meet the third Thursday to avoid holiday conflicts). Join us live and discuss the books with the community and a guest expert.
  2. Facebook: Join the Becoming Bohemian community on Facebook to discuss our monthly selections and all things reading-related. From reviews to memes, we’ve got reading covered. No spoilers allowed.
  3. Email: Sign up for our newsletter to get reminders about upcoming book club news and events.
That’s all for the set-up! Without further ado, please meet the inaugural Bohemian Book Club Reading List with a brief description of how each title fits in:
SEPTEMBER
Summer is over. But, that doesn’t mean that the road trip has to end! Enter Jack Kerouac’s wild adventure on the road. It is considered a defining work of the bohemian beat movement, with its characters living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry, and the postwar American landscape. Heralded by Time Magazine as one of the best 100 English-language novels of our time, this book should have a spot on every boho’s bookshelf.

OCTOBER
Many know about her husband Scott and his defining novel The Great Gatsby. But, few know just how much Zelda not only influenced his work, but may arguably have been the better writer of the dynamic Fitzgerald duo. This month we’ll get to learn all about Zelda through the book that inspired the hit Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything. This is the month where we will encourage club attendees to dress up in flapper gear for a swanky, speakeasy style party.

NOVEMBER
Prepare for a real feast! This month is all about food. Emile Zola describes food like no other. Here’s a bite-sized amuse-bouche of what to expect in this month’s delicious book: “All around them the cheeses were stinking. On the two shelves at the back of the stall were huge blocks of butter: Brittany butter overflowing its baskets; Normandy butter wrapped in cloth, looking like models of bellies on to which a sculptor had thrown some wet rags; other blocks, already cut into and looking like high rocks full of valleys and crevices. […] But for the most part the cheeses stood in piles on the table.”
I recommend pairing this book with a robust merlot, accompanied by sliced pears topped with fourme d’ambert blue cheese.

DECEMBER
This is a shorter book for a shorter month of reading. But, as the saying goes: good things come in small packages, and A Girl of The Limberlost illustrates that trope brilliantly. As winter begins to rear its angry and stormy head, this young adult novel is a welcome escape into the beautiful great outdoors.
JANUARY
Honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day with March. This graphic novel is a vivid first-hand account of Congressman John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
FEBRUARY
Rodin is widely known as one of the most sensual artists to have ever breathed with such famous works as The Kiss and Eternal Springtime. This book takes a look at how aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel became Auguste Rodin’s apprentice, muse, and mistress. Their passion is etched into the smooth marble sculptures we all know and love today.
MARCH
When it comes to Alain de Botton’s works, I have serious writer’s voice envy. Sharp witted and approachable, Alain de Botton deftly explains how a study of philosophy can help us all deal with existential angst. Drawing inspiration from six of the finest minds in history – Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche – he addresses lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety and conformity.
APRIL
Ahhhh April, a time when birds start whistling their springy tunes and we will too!  This book is all about music education. A little about the author from his bio page, and why he is worth listening to: Alex Ross has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1993, and he became the magazine’s music critic in 1996. He writes about classical music, covering the field from the Metropolitan Opera to the downtown avant-garde, and has also contributed essays on pop music, literature, twentieth-century history, and gay life. His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a cultural history of music since 1900, won a National Book Critics Circle award and the Guardian First Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
MAY
Another bohemian icon, Thoreau’s off-the-grid living has been the inspiration for many minimalists and non-conformists to follow. The way he describes his transcendentalist and existentialist ideology is poetic: “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. And see if I could not learn what I had to teach. And not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
JUNE
Is hacking and whistleblowing where bohemian activism is heading? Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous; by the writer the Huffington Post says “knows all of Anonymous’ deepest, darkest secrets.” There is no doubt that this will be an exciting summer read!
JULY
“I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.”~Ernest Hemingway
You know that anything that comes highly recommended by Ernest Hemingway is sure to be an impeccable work. This book is an autobiography about a lesser-known bohemian, Beryl Markham. She was a triple threat: an aviator, racehorse trainer, and rare beauty. Her writing and philosophy is every bit as gorgeous as her outer appearance. Buckle up for a life-changing ride with this bohemian icon over the plains of Africa.
AUGUST
Isadora Duncan is known as the woman who broke with tradition and brought the world Modern Dance. She claimed ballet was “ugly and against nature.” She wanted her “modern” dance style to be free and natural. She believed that “nature is the source of the dance; the movement of the waves, of winds, of the earth is ever in the same lasting harmony.” However, while her carefree movements on the stage are what made her famous, her inner, personal life was certainly not free from cares and trials. This book gives us a glimpse behind the curtain at the raw and real Isadora.
Get excited my fellow bookish bohemians! This is going to be a mind-blowing year of exploration, deep thoughts, and heart talks. Please drop me a line if you have any questions or concerns about the BBC (not the British Broadcasting Corporation–although I love it dearly–but, the Bohemian Book Club).
Your fellow bohemian-in-training,
In Art, Literature, Philosophy, Travel on
August 15, 2017

There’s Something About Painted Mary

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” ~ Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse

Have you ever experienced the road rash that comes from a spectacular Vespa fall in the South of France? While I can’t whole heartedly recommend it, I can say that I would do it all again for the experience. Not the experience of falling, but the experience of standing in front of a master work by a master artist with blood running down my shin and the overwhelming sensation that all the paths I have walked down in life– the tumbles and the triumphs–are shapes of paper in a collage that individually seem insignificant, but collectively mean everything.

The date was June 21st, 2012. The place was The Musée Matisse in Nice. The artist was Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse. The work of art was Nu bleu IV – 1952.

Nu Bleu IV, Henri Matisse, 1952

Matisse once said “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” I think he meant there is beauty to be found everywhere: in the simplest of expressions and in the seemingly mundane; it’s all about perspective. I believe this statement to be true. I also believe that occasionally out of the seemingly banal and Albert Camus-esque absurdity of life we can be blessed with meaningful moments, if we are open to them.

However, I have also found that while roses can be found everywhere for those who are willing to stop and smell them, and meaning can be made out of triviality, some flowers are like the rare Middlemist Red, and some of life’s experiences will never be duplicated.

When you see Middlemist Red twice in 5 years you can count yourself very lucky, and I lucked out when I stumbled upon a Matisse-like master artist and her paintings last month.

The date was July 15th, 2017. The place was the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. The artist was Mary Finlayson. The work of art was French Masters, Plants and Blankets –2017.

French Masters, Plants and Blankets, Mary Finlayson, 2017

Mary Finlayson is the San Francisco based artist behind paintedmary.com. A transplant from British Columbia, Finlayson grew up surrounded by beauty. Inspired by nature, she has painted large and colorful landscapes. But, she has not limited her scope to the exterior world:

I am interested in the stories that interiors contain and how we use these spaces to tell stories. I never look at a room without thinking of the choices inherent in each object and how they are used to portray personal narratives. When I am in other people’s homes I think of myself as a voyeur, glimpsing at the intimacy of how one creates a home and uses interior spaces to reflect their personal identity. Interior spaces are deeply personal and reveal an intimacy that is rarely discussed or considered.” ~Mary Finlayson

Photo Credit: Nicola Parisi, 2017

This is, I personally believe, how Mary Finlayson truly blooms where Matisse was once planted. Like the famous 20th century colorist and fauvist, “her use of vivid color and energetic line suggest feelings of gesture and movement that help enliven emotional responses to otherwise ordinary, mundane, private settings.”

Another clear point of intersection for Mary and Matisse is the therapeutic nature of both artists’ works. Drawing on color theory and expressionism, each artist creates special moments of joy and serenity for their viewers. Mary’s mastery of “Art Therapy”, the subject of her advanced degree, is evident in each of her paintings. Her deft use of fauvism pushes boundaries as it experiments with more colors than just the normal palette eradicating stigma and stereotypes, and helping the viewer to see the value in their own different and unique perspective.

It would seem that Mary and Matisse share the same vision for their art, as Matisse once said:

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject-matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” ~Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse

Yellow Chair, Mary Finlayson, 2017

Mary’s artwork achieves the goal Matisse was striving for: a mental escape to a world of color, shape, and serenity; and the assurance that Vespa rides to museums in the South of France, while dangerous, are always worth it.