New Year’s Resolution: Read More Books

Weston_Dos Passos Reading

Harold Weston, Dos Passos Reading, 1933. Oil on canvas, 22.125 x 16 in. Acquired 1933. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

tasev_man reading

Antanas Tasev, Man Reading, 1927. Pencil on paper, 6 1/4 x 9 in. Acquired 1949. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Gromaire_Nude Reading

Marcel Gromaire, Nude Reading, 1929. Ink on paper, 13 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. Gift of Jean Goriany, 1943. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Hard Art / Wild at Heart

Alec at Politics and Prose

Alec MacKaye speaking at Politics and Prose, Friday, May 17. Photo: Vesela Sretenovic

There is a part of D.C. that may be hidden but is real and wild at heart. Last Friday night’s promotion at Politics and Prose of Hard Art, DC–a book by Lucian Perkins on the D.C. punk-music scene in the late 1970s–confirmed it. (The book sold out that same night but more are on the way.) Perkins captured the images, and his iconic photos are complemented with stories on the bands and their shows by Henry Rollins and punk musician Alec MacKaye, yes–OUR ALEC!

Vesela Sretenovic, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

November is National Novel Writing Month

Gifford Beal, Profile of woman reading, circa 1910-20, Conté, graphite pencil, and watercolor on wove paper; 9.1 x 15.9 cm (uneven cut). Gift of Gifford Beal Family, courtesy of Kraushaar Galleries, 2011.

I was a writing major in college and have carried this vague, yet weighty, notion that some day, the bolt of lightning will hit me and I’ll be ready to sit down and write my great American novel. When I heard Fran Leibowitz in Public Speaking say, “There are too many books! … When Toni Morrison said ‘write the book you want to read’, she didn’t mean everybody,” I admit that I took this as a bit of relief. But yet, what about the achievement? Like marathon running, many people hold tight to the idea that they have a novel in them, they can reach that goal. That’s what National Novel Writing Month is for. By tomorrow at midnight, tens of thousands of people worldwide hope to have hit the 50,000 word mark, achieving the goal of producing a novel. Will they be published? Will they be in the window at Kramerbooks? Probably not. (Though there is a list of published NaNoWriMo novels.) But they’ll be able to say they did it.

Maybe next year I will try. There is something to be said about the environs of a museum and the creative flow of writing. Azar Nafisi and Julia Alvarez have both said in particular that spending time at the Phillips played a role in their writing process. At the doors of the library, I often find myself engaged with writers seeking a refuge in which to work. Have you participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Does a visit to a museum inspire you to write?