Friday, December 7, 2012

Madame Geoffrin Reappears

"No doubt I had pored hotly over reproductions of old paintings, ogled this or that old master's pink-thighed frump fighting off a faun or classical matron enthroned in pomp among, in Madame Geoffrin's happy formulation, a fricassee of children . . ."

– from John Banville's new novel, Ancient Light.  

Detail of Boucher's Allegory of Music at the National Gallery in Washington, DC

One small, customized & idiosyncratic piece of gratitude is due to to Banville's novel for invoking the name of this site's official favorite salonnière, Madame Geoffrin – who dignified these scrolling pages with her first appearance here. Broader thanks are due for numerous additional purple patches (like the one below) that pull off their intended effects successfully, despite the implausibility of the finished narrative (the reader is asked, among many other patently impossible things, to believe that a 35-year-old woman in 1950s Ireland experiencing the last stages of the uterine cancer that will shortly kill her is yet both psychologically and physically capable of embarking on a torrid adulterous summer-long love affair with a 15-year-old boy). 
"I always had a strong sense of estrangement on those Sunday mornings when I was young – the noose-like feel of my shirt collar, the birds at their excited business, those far church-bells – and there was always an air that seemed to waft from the south, yes, the south, with its lion-colored dust and lemon glare. No doubt it was the future I was anticipating, the shimmering promise of it, for the future for me always had a southern aspect, which is strange to think of now, now that the future is arrived, up here in Ultima Thule, arrived and steadily pouring through the pinhole of the present, into the past."