The St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. It’s one of my favorite places. And even though the current construction has me confused and resentful, I continue to go for all the things I love about being there: the art of course, but also the scent of water on stone in the museum’s great hall…the views through the windows in every season, the luxury of lingering over coffee in such a beautiful space. I also sometimes go there to draw. More than once I’ve been 20 minutes into my copy only to discover something entirely new: a broad band of color, or a figure in the shadows that I’d always missed—until I stopped to study the work.
This idea of lingering over a work is taken up by Francine Prose (Atlantic Magazine Interviews: “Reading and Writing” —July 18, 2006). I include the link below and encourage you to read it, as much for her terrific insights as for her clear, concise language. Close reading, as Prose points out, affords deeper understanding of a work. It is also essential practice for a writer. When I read lines that make me laugh out loud (David Carkeet’s recent novel, From Away), or imprint a character on my brain (Lorrie Moore’s Gate at the Stairs), or that keep me reading well past midnight (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers), I know I am in the hands of a master. And I know that I will read—and re-read—those passages so that I might understand, and learn….and in the process, make my own work better.