[Marcel Dzama's Last Winter Here]

Lately, there have been too many days when I wade through the minutes with a mind either numb or in chaos. Not enough space and too much crammed into the tiny corners. I have been devouring stories and novels, movies, pictures, and people...but nothing persists. I'll catch myself thinking lazily, meandering through a few moments of free time, and alighting upon scraps of dialogue or a vivid mental image, only to find that it is an orphan, cut loose from its original place and wandering aimlessly through my head.

The truth is that I am stuffing myself with art and literature as if I were dining at a final feast of glory, never to taste such delicacies or well-loved flavors again. I hate it. I will be left with nothing but a nightmarish sequence of disembodied voices and hollow mannequin-characters if I keep this up.

And yet-- there is a stack of books beckoning me, some have been opened and explored already, some wait, fresh from print-on-demand, from the Strand and from the backorder lists in cyber-publishing world. I see Beyond the Visible: the Art of Odilon Redon; Phaidon's Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing; I see a volume of Baudelaire; A Rebours by J. K. Huysmans; the poems of Leopardi; Essays on Literature by Eco; a post-it-ridden copy of Eco's Baudolino, and looking at these, the pieces start to fall together.

Just as I can predict what my weekend will be like if I begin re-reading the Bell Jar or Villette, I can see the source of my mood in these works. I cannot read without feeling my entire environs shift around me, and my own way of interacting with the world change.

[Redon's Smiling Spider]

If I am reading Charlotte Bronte, the shadows in the streets become pearl-grey, the trees whisper in hushed voices, and I assume a mantle of quiet to conceal tumultuous thoughts and passions that bubble out of some chamber in my heart.

If I have dipped into a novel of A. S. Byatt's I become ambitious, vociferous, empowered. My world has vivid colors, sharp dialogue and I feel fantastic. If it's Eco's novels that I am reading I hush my ambition and wonder at the wealth of knowledge in the world, at the fantastic quality of reality and I stand humbled in front of history.

If it's Virginia Woolf I am reading, I feel most like a strong, swift river, rushing toward a goal that I know, in tune to my moments, aware of the power within me, of the calm I must maintain, and of the rich, variegated world existing around me.

And so, as I look again at a stack of books that will keep me warm through the next few weeks, I am preparing the me-that-is-now for the me-that-will-be: she will be a little dark, quite pessimistic, enthralled by luxury gentle dissipation; she will be drawn to rich, soaked hues, to deep shadows of sepia, to sinister images. She will laugh less and believe again in the irresistible power of malaise, of solitude, of silence.

[Marcel Dzama: Untitled]

And when that spell is over, it will perhaps be time for some Chaucer, Donne, and Maria Edgeworth!