Culture: 270 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Bardot and Picasso

In 1956 Brigitte Bardot visited Pablo Picasso’s villa in the town of Vallauris on the French Riviera. Although Picasso never painted Bardot, Jerome Brierre of LIFE Magazine took several photographs of the meeting. They show the 21 year old Bardot and the 74 year old Picasso in the artist’s studio filled with his etudes and ceramic sculptures. Although Bardot looks fragile and young, she holds her own, and every image shows her in control, if not in defiance. Exquisite, isn’t she?

Photograph by Jerome Brierre via Getty Images

Incense and Poetry : Scent Diary

The smoke
Is now making
The first sky of the year.

Issa (1763 – 1828), a Japanese poet, whose name means simply “a cup of tea”

You can write about anything you wish in this thread, including your favorite poetry. For those who would like to use the Scent Diary to sharpen their sense of smell, I will give a short explanation. As I wrote in How to Improve Your Sense of Smell, the best way to do so is to smell and to pay attention to what you’re smelling. It doesn’t matter what you smell. The most important thing is to notice scents around you. It’s even better if you write it down. So please share your scents and perfumes with us.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

10 Favorite Novels

Last year I made a resolution to read more fiction. Since graduate school, my reading has always gravitated heavily towards memoirs, history, science and poetry, but last summer as I unpacked the boxes of books left at my grandmother’s house after we emigrated to the United States, I began to miss the pleasures of reading novels. When I was a teen, I read them to find different perspectives on life and to discover a variety of experiences that my own situation couldn’t afford. Some might say that it’s a naive approach to a novel, but it kept me enthralled. Later I read novels for the language, the style, the ability of the writer to express ideas in unexpected ways. Last year, I read them for pleasure.

My list below is compiled from a selection of about 70 novels I read last year. I also reverted to a childhood habit of keeping a reading diary, and when I decided to feature 10 favorite books to share with you, deciding on the titles was easy. I didn’t include authors that I’ve already reviewed or mentioned on these pages, such as Barbara Pym, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Yukio Mishima, Margaret Atwood, or Danilo Kiš. The remaining 10 novels–including one play and two short stories–gave me many hours of thrill and emotion, and I hope they will likewise become loyal companions to you.

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How Books Smell : My New Christmas Themed Article in Oh Comely Magazine

This month I have an article titled How Books Smell in the mid-winter issue of Oh Comely. Oh Comely is a magazine covering food, recipes, film, fashion, music, art and culture. It’s based in the UK and you can subscribe or buy any of its six yearly issues online at the Oh Comely store, or in shops all over the UK and internationally (here is the stocklist). It’s an independent magazine with a creative and refreshing approach to art, culture and lifestyle topics, and I think that many of those who read Bois de Jasmin will enjoy it too. Its latest issues included stories on poignant prose, Victorian women, dressing like your favorite literary heroine, and the art of keeping secrets.

My article is on the topic that’s close to my heart–books and scents. I explore the sensory pleasures of reading and explain how I enhance it by visualizing scents in my favorite books. The two authors who guide me are Marcel Proust and Nikolai Gogol. The article also features incense inflected hawthorns, moon-stealing devils, Christmas revelry, and saffron brandy. I hope that you will like it.

The cover of Oh Comely 2017 winter issue.

Herve Leger : His Bandage Dress and His Perfume

Courtney Love’s “Doll Parts,” Vogue, and Hervé Léger’s bandage dress are my strongest associations with the mid 1990s. It was the summer I came to the United States, and while my parents tried to put our life together in a new place, I spent those first sweltering months in the American suburbs babysitting my little brother, watching MTV and reading magazines at our friends’ house. My mother had one bandage dress that she saved for special occasions. It was a sleeveless, knee-length piece made out of bands of white fabric. It hugged the body in a seductive way, and yet somehow it looked elegant, rather than revealing. From time to time I would put it on, douse myself in Lancôme Trésor and imagine being grown up and sophisticated someday. If the glossy pages of Vogue teased with their unattainable fantasies, the bandage dress was the concrete embodiment of my yearnings for glamour.

The bandage dress put many under its spell, and it propelled its creator, Hervé Peugnet, to stardom. The young couturier started his career as a hat maker, so the idea of creating a dress out of strips of fabric was inspired by millinery techniques. The bands of fabric were knitted in a panel, rather than cut and sewn, which gave the garments their structure and flow. Peugnet worked under Mr. Lagerfeld at Fendi and later at Chanel, and it was Lagerfeld who suggest that he change his name to something easier for English-speakers to pronounce.  Hervé Léger, as in “légèreté”, French for “lightness,” opened his own boutique in 1984 and dressed many celebrities in the 1990s.

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