Wednesday, May 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (Optic Nerve by María Gainza, excerpt ten)

from Optic Nerve by María Gainza (Translated by Thomas Bunstead):

Not traveling naturally means missing out on certain things. Forget about standing before The Dream, one of Rousseau’s great works, held at MoMA and capable, they say, of making the earth move. Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del parto is housed in Monterchi, Italy, and would apparently cause a German governess to emote. Or Fragonard’s Stolen Kiss, in the Petersburg Hermitage; that will have to wait for some future Slavic reincarnation. And, for that matter, it’s also time you gave up on ever partaking in Japanese hanami or “flower viewing,” the spring celebration of the cherry trees coming into blossom.

You tell yourself that you’ll still have imagination on your side, and you’ve got plenty at hand to keep you entertained. Take a bus, get off the bus, go into the museum, and walk, simply walk, straight to whichever picture is calling you. Easy, and easy on the purse, too. You know some of these works as well as you know the books on your shelves and the plants in your garden. When you step in front of Rousseau’s portrait of his father, you greet him like a close relative: You’re fine, but how is he today? You don’t care what your own family says (though you do listen—to give yourself a stick to beat them with). Buenos Aires, they say, only has second-rate work: great artists, yes, but none of their great works. If you’re serious about art, you have to travel. There’s a Buzz Aldrin line your mother is forever quoting to you, seemingly as often as she can: “Flying: it’s the only way to see the world.”

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