July 26, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog - one of the most wonderful books I’ve read in a while – and I consider myself to be quite a bookworm. I usually savour the books I read, slowly consuming it to the bone, enjoying each bite. This time, I just swallowed up the whole thing, basically in one sitting.

I found many ideas in this book that I do not agree with, and I would love to discuss them with a person that finds them significant. For example, I still hope that human beings are, in some notable way, different from animals. Maybe some people aren’t, but not all.

When I began reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I didn’t know anything about the author, and I couldn’t sustain my amazement at her ability to juggle philosophical ideas. It didn’t matter who was the mouthpiece for her ideas – a young girl or a middle-aged concierge. This book isn’t the simplest read, and it makes sense to me that French readers, with their love for philosophy, were able to appreciate this book right away. I hear that every sixth person in France owns this book! I just don’t see this book gaining such a following in places where most people would rather read Dan Brown.

You can think this book over, try to apply it to your life, feel sad, and have a laugh all at the same time. In the end, you will likely feel for the characters, and you might even consider reading Karl Marx. (This applies even to me, despite the fact that everyone who went to college in the former USSR had to spend countless hours studying Marx – it didn’t matter whether you were training to be a veterinarian, an architect, or a soldier.)

The feeling that was left in my mind after reading this book, similar to what I experience when listening to Mozart, was that of lightness.

July 25, 2010

Exhibition at the AGO

One of the cultural events in Toronto that can’t be missed this summer regardless of the heat and reserved camping spots is the Drama and Desire exhibition at the AGO.

Words like “drama” and “desire” can give you an idea of the emotional intensity that awaits you beyond the entrance. Luxuriant shades of red, scenes from classic plays, capturing the atmosphere of the stage – the abundance and diversity of the theater world is presented in a few rooms.

My biggest sources of joy consisted of the room with the brilliant Degas, the three paintings by Ingres, and Sargent.

I always feel that Degas created his artworks specifically for each person. Even a whole crowd of people is looking at his pieces, it feels like the narratives of his works speak to an individual.

Ingres, though he was quite liberal with the way he portrayed human anatomy, was excellent at capturing details.

Sargent built his compositions by using the emotional power of color.

I was a little bit disappointed with the area that contained works by Lautrec and Redon. It would have made more sense to see some grand, monumental canvases in a room that was so close to the exit – something that could give an impression of wrapping the whole thing up with a dramatic finish. Seeing those subtle, quiet works at the end gave me the feeling that the exhibition wasn’t completely well-planned.

During my visit to the exhibition this week, I was very amused by three ladies that kept running into me. Despite my serious attitude towards the art, their chuckles and their little phrases – “I’d put this up in my bedroom.” “Okay, it’s over now – we can go get coffee” – I was happy to hear them, because they were having so much fun.

I myself left with a feeling of elation, as it always happens after I encounter something beautiful.