Rue Honoré Chevalier (And an Excerpt from the First Draft)

Rue Honoré Chevalier

“I dance ballet,” Rose said.

“Oh, good. For a moment I was afraid you were going to say you were ‘modern.’”

“What’s wrong with modern dance?” Rose asked.

“I prefer ballet. It’s more refined and elegant, more restrained. Modern dance is just…” Sylvie’s hands were rolling around each other as she searched for the right word, “It’s a mess. All over the place.”

“Don’t you sell modern art?” Rose asked, smirking.

“Contemporary,” Sylvie said, correcting her. “And you’re attempting to make a connection, but I don’t see it.” Mirette had abandoned any pretense of subtlety and was now turned fully around in her chair, facing their conversation. She suddenly felt like a line judge at a tennis match. Rose, to her credit, had realized she’d been snared on a conversational tripwire, and was politely trying to backpedal.

“You know, contemporary art just feels very frenetic to me.” She would have been fine, if she’d left it at that, but she had to accompany her pronouncement with a hand gesture that mimicked an explosion. “I know I don’t know anything about it, but from an outsider, art like Pollock seems so sloppy.” Mirette reflexively winced, bracing herself for impact.

“Sylvie, don’t bother. Rose is hopeless when it comes to this subject. I’ve tried,” Mirette said, aiming for levity and landing on desperation. Sylvie set her glass down with more force than was necessary. Mirette could feel the air seep out of middle of the table. Even Andrés, who was never more attracted to his wife than when she was passionately discussing art, became suddenly fascinated by the dark red fabric that was draped across the ceiling, feeling that certain spars were best held without spectators. Antoine leaned forward slightly, an amused and expectant smile on his face.

“This is the problem with people these days,” Sylvie said to no one in specific. She then looked Rose squarely in her face, settling the full weight of her glare on her, and leaned forward on her crossed arms. “A Pollock is more like a ballet than you understand. There is nothing ‘sloppy’ about it. Each single drop of paint is the result of restraint and composition and subtle poise, even though it looks like a bunch of unintentional noise on a canvas to most people.” Mirette was a few seconds away from throwing herself in front of Rose, who was shrinking back in her chair so dramatically she was sure to end up on the floor with a final swoop. Mirette motioned to the waiter with a quick circle of her hand that another round of drinks were necessary.

“You either buy into it or you don’t. You either go into a museum or a gallery an open, receptive vessel, or you carry in with you all the preconceived notions about how contemporary art is ‘weird’ or unapproachable or indecipherable, and then of course all the art on the walls–”

“Or the floors,” Antoine added.

“Or the floors –a pile of wrapped candy, a bed strewn with crumpled paper and trash– makes no sense. If you stand in front of a Jackson Pollock and you’ve already decided it’s paint splatters, random and meaningless, then what else could it look like to you?”

“Why doesn’t anyone have this problem with, I don’t know, someone like Monet?” Rose asked.

“Because everyone thinks a Monet is beautiful because it is, but it’s also been universally agreed that it is beautiful and everyone knows it. There hasn’t been the same unanimity about the majority of the art from the last 40, 50 years. Yet.”

“You think there will be.”

“I don’t know. And that’s what makes it so exciting. That frenetic uncertainty is exciting. It’s all guesswork, based on how much you trust your taste. On how much clients trust my taste.”


I’m writing a novel. You can read more about that here.

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October 27, 2014 / art / photo / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 27

27 comments

  • the imagery of your writing is beautiful and the dialogue is engaging. i love trying to piece together the characters and their place withing the story, i love these peaks into your novel. it’s very impressive what you’re doing – in many ways. keep it up!

    • Thank you so much, Lucinda. That means so much to hear. It wasn’t until I shared this that I realized it might not be obvious to everyone else who all these characters are, and it’s because I’ve spent so much time with them that it makes sense to me. You know? Your encouragement is so amazing! xoxo

  • this is lovely! so exciting to read excepts from your book. i can’t wait to read the whole thing when i get my first edition, signed of course ;)

    • Bien sûr, signed and sealed with love :) Your enthusiasm and constant encouragement is such good motivation to keep on writing. Sometimes I feel like I’m so close and other times I think I’ll never be done, ever. Sigh. xo

  • How far down you must have dug to write this excerpt. Way far down…..way, way far down. You’re not fooling me young lady! You are Rose and she is you. It must have caused you much pain to be Sylvie even for this passage.

    • What kind of writer would I be if I didn’t use my characters to work out my own issues? ;) xo

  • Brilliant excerpt with me certainly looking forward to more! Sylvie seems sassy.

    In regard to Jackson Pollock, my father owns a construction company and has stated many times that he frankly has made and could make a Pollock. He appreciates what Pollock is doing and what seems happenstance can be elevated, but he thinks the prices for canvas that he uses to cover floors and paint that he splatters just as easily is ridiculous. I, on the other hand, quite like them, but I’m with Rose on this one and believe the Impressionists and Baroque (to name just two) painters to be at another level. Modern art does not make me sigh with happy relief that an artist created something so beautiful and that I get to gaze upon it with my eyes. Though, beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder.
    /end rant.

    • Ha, thank you! Sylvie is sassy, but she’s wonderful. I so wish most of my characters were real people, because I’ve come to adore them, haha. That makes me sound schizophrenic, doesn’t it?

      I’m definitely a “Rose” in this situation, and my loyalties will always lie with the Impressionists, and art before 1930, if we’re being broad. I’m with you on that “sigh of happy relief” and how it’s absent for me with most art from the last 75 years. When I was three, my parents took me to a Picasso exhibit down in DC, and I promptly yelled, “This is dreck!” and ran out. So. You know. I’ve been fairly opinionated about art since the womb, I guess, thanks to having an artist for a father. I’ve come around on Picasso, at least! I still don’t love modern or contemporary art, but at least I can write about it without rolling my eyes too much! Baby steps :) xo

  • Très intéressant discussion, moderne ou classique? L’art est tellement compliqué parfois, quand j’ai visité le Tate à Londres, j’en était sidéré de voir quelques ouvres las bas que à mon goût ne mérité pas sa place. Mais j’imagine que c’est plus complexe que ça. Ton écriture est fluide, intelligente et je hâte de connaître la suite ! xo

    • Oui, moderne ou classique. C’est un discussion difficile, sans une réponse propre. Je utilise mon ecriture de penser de l’art et cette discussion, mais c’est difficile. Si je suis honnete, je n’aime pas l’art contemporain, mais je ne suis pas mes caracteres et j’essaye d’avoir un ouverture d’esprit, tu sais? Merci, Eva! Quand/si je finis cette histoire, je vais envoyer un copie a vous :) xo

      • J’ai hâte de le lire entier :) xoxo

  • So many characters, so many interesting paths this could go down, and I can’t wait to hear and learn more about them. Thanks for the sneak peek :)

    • Thank you so much, doll. I realized after I posted this that it might be too many characters all at once, haha. It’s a rare moment in the book when they are all together. xoxo

  • so very beautifully written. i love that i can imagine everything so vividly. i love reading these little excerpts and cannot wait to read your book someday :) i can smell the pages already!

    • Oh, you! Thank you so much. I hope it ever gets to print one day. I’d spend a full week just inhaling it, haha. I’m glad you understand ;) xo

  • This is my favourite part: Even Andrés, who was never more attracted to his wife than when she was passionately discussing art, became suddenly fascinated by the dark red fabric that was draped across the ceiling…

    • Thank you so much! xo

  • Je suis impatiente de découvrir et de lire la suite.J’aime cette idée de faire débattre les personnages et en plus dans le domaine de l’art.Merci pour cet extrait.

    • Merci, Véronique! Je suis impatiente, aussi. ;) xo

  • I can’t wait to read the whole novel. and I am so excited for you. and proud.

    • Thank you, lovely. That’s so kind. xo

  • Oooh the tension!! You’re such a wonderful writer – thanks for sharing this snippet!

    • Ah, thank you Gloria!! That’s so unbelievably sweet. xo

  • Really lovely duckie. Nice work. XO

    • Merci merci, mon chou! xo

  • Well , I am sucked in! I was truly disappointed when it ended and I couldn’t keep reading. Well done!

    http://www.hollandsreverie.blogspot.com

    • Thank you, Chelsea!! That’s so encouraging! xo