The sweetness follows

29 09 2009


That’s what I thought as I closed Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. Yes. That was sweet.

Reminded me of Bagdad Cafe. Also sweet. A small movie with CCH Pounder and Marianne Sagebrecht, set in a (surprise!) cafe in (suprise!) Bagdad, Arizona. Sagebrecht’s character (and a suitcase) is dumped on the side of the road by her husband, so, being the good stoic German woman she is, she grabs the suitcase and tromps her way to CCH Pounder’s motel-and-truck stop.

There are gentle laughs at the expense of ethnic stereotypes (angry black woman, hyper-organized German, lazy Indian), and not much happens, beyond the blossoming of friendship and the unfolding of life. Much like in The Bean Trees. Immigration looms around the edges, and there are spikes in each story, but even the desert, the flowers win.

Slight, I guess. I mean, how seriously can one take a piece of art that doesn’t involve blood and misery?

Consider Maira Kalman. She posts a words-and-pictures column monthly at the New York Times (scroll all the way down the link provided, below, for previous installments), and while the columns often take up serious matters (slavery, war), there is a gentleness in her touch.

Whimsical. Yes.

Consider her latest post, For Goodness’ Sake; she offers photos from a sanitation plant in Greenpoint, and notes that After dark, the plant looks like something out of ‘The Arabian Nights,’ thanks to lighting designed by L’Observatoire International.

Makes me want to trek to Greenpoint (the G line!) to see a. . . sanitation plant!

She can’t be serious. Can she?

Small. Slight. Sweet. Whimsical.

That’s not art, is it? If it makes you feel—mm, what’s the word?— good, it can’t be deep. Hardly worthy of attention, right?




3 responses

30 09 2009

I remember asking a friend, probably two decades ago, to tell me what was good in her life — telling her that she didn’t need to be facing some struggle for me to want to talk to her. Same-same in art — I’m tired of “angst” being the signifier of “important.”

Also, and quite possibly not insignificantly, I lovelovelove The Bean Trees AND Baghdad Cafe.

30 09 2009

I tend toward angst, so I’m clearly fighting against myself here.

But I’m also kicking against the notion that Manly Men Feeling Deeply is Great Literature and chicks emoting is. . . chick lit.

I know: more complicated than that. Still.

And thank you for not pointing out all the grammatical, syntactical, and punctuation-al errors. Good lord! I mean, I distinguish between blogging and writing, but did I not even read this through before posting?


1 10 2009

I liked “The Bean Trees” but the one of Kingsolver’s that I really loved was “Animal Dreams” which is sweet but complicated. Families and individuals in it are messy contradictions. I like that.

And sweet and whimsical can be as pointed as sharp and bitter. Just because something is palatable doesn’t make it irrelevant or “less good.”

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