A full house of writers and artists sat around the breakfast table over crepes and homemade dandelion jam to talk about where they were from, what they were doing at La Muse, and what they’d brought to contribute to the living library.
Rachel Ephraim, a fiction writer from Brooklyn, NY spoke about coming to southern France to gain patience in her writing while she tackles her first novel. She brought the books, “Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes,” by Daniel Everett—a book on travel, culture, and language, and “Easter Parade,” by Richard Yates, a book set in Rachel’s hometown of Westchester, NY. Rachel is here on a barter fellowship.
Next, Trevor Davison, a fiction writer from Vancouver who is also working on his first novel (a work of science fiction), brought the books “The Year of the Flood,” by Margaret Atwood and “Vancouver Wild,” photographed by Graham Osborne with text by Richard Cannings. Everyone at La Muse is jealous of Trevor’s high-powered productivity since he’s arrived. Each day he seems aglow after writing pages upon pages of his rapidly growing novel.
After Trevor, the Australian artist Kate McBride showed us her wonderfully diverse and original works and talked about how she's inspired by Shazia Sikander, the Pakistani artist. She showed us Sikander's work in the book she donated, edited by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. She also gave La Muse Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief." Kate is here on a barter fellowship creating some beautiful watercolor and oil paintings.
Kelly Scarff, a poet from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, is inspired by poems about people which highlight the small, idiosyncratic characteristics that often go unnoticed by most. Currently she’s working on a collection of poems based on her travels to Russia with her mother. She brought the books, “Miss New York Has Everything,” written by her former teacher, Lori Jakiela and “Unreconstructed,” by Ed Ochester, a book of poems that she deems, “No bullshit.”
Colleen Hubbard, a fiction writer from San Francisco, is also working on a novel during her time at La Muse. She relayed to the group that the books she’d originally packed for the library were stolen in Turkey. Luckily, a stranger on a bus took pity on her and gave her “Robinson Crusoe,” by Daniel Defoe. Colleen also brought “Tony and Susan,” by Austin Wright—a book she describes as the only decent looking book at the airport terminal. A food writer and avid traveler, Colleen has impressed everyone thus far with her skills in the kitchen and her adventurous taste buds that have tried almost everything, (from bird’s nest soup to brain!), although she did mention that she refuses to eat “three squeaks,” a Chinese dish comprised of live baby mice, squeaking three times as you pick them up with chopsticks, dip them in sauce, and then put them in your mouth...yes, truth is stranger than fiction.
Robin Berson, ex-librarian and non-fiction writer, spoke about research for her fascinating new book, which she admits has been leading her down many tangential paths. When she told us about her project, it was easy to understand why: she is at La Muse writing a memoir on Benjamin Lay, an 18th century hunchback, dwarf, abolitionist, and Quaker—amongst other things! She contributed her last book, “Jane Addams; A Biography,” and “The Island at the Center of the World,” a history of Dutch colonialism in Manhattan written by Russell Shorto.
Robin’s husband, David Greetham, is working on something that’s never been done—that is, he’s writing a book on the idea of incompletion and exploring great works that have ended abruptly, such as Bach’s The Art of Fugue. He donated his 2nd book, “Textual Scholarship,” which is based on the history of textuality, and “The Lenox School of Jazz,” by Jeremy Yudkin, a book that explores the history of music in upstate New York where he and Robin enjoy a country house.
Tiziana Stupia, has been traveling the world for months. She brings to La Muse an inspiring spiritual energy and a wonderful sense of humor. Tiziana brought “Tantrika, Traveling the Road of Divine love,” by Asra Q. Nomani, and “Glastonbury: Avalon of the Heart,” by Dion Fortune, where Tiziana spent some time this year. She is currently revising a book on her previous personal journeys.
Nicole Mayhew, New York sculptor and painter, could not attend the book swap because of another volcano eruption. Although her flight was canceled, she eventually made it to La Muse and is working on a series of sketches and paintings. She brought the books “Jitterbug Perfume,” by Tom Robbins and “Off the Wall; A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg,” by Calvin Tomkins. Nicole is also here on a barter fellowship.
And thanks to Rachel for writing all of the above far more eloquently than we have in the past!