Book: The Color of Air
Gail Tsukiyama’s The Color of Air is set on Hawaii’s Big Island in the early 1930 s. The Great Anxiety is wrecking the United States. War with Japan– and the scaries that war will cause on the Japanese-American neighborhood Tsukiyama portrays– is on the horizon. There was, simply put, a lot going on at that time.
It’s therefore surprising that The Color of Air elides the huge occasions of the 30 s, becoming rather a perfect book for our time. The globe-shaking events fade into the background, becoming part of the audience’s relationship with the characters rather than debase themselves in the text itself.
I found myself questioning, for example, where Dr. Daniel Abe, the Chicago-trained pride of Hilo, might end up in 10 years. In an internment camp? Island-hopping with Nimitz’s Marines? Tsukiyama isn’t interested in those concerns. With one exception, her story concentrates on Hilo’s residents, previous and present.
That exception is what gives The Color of Air its direct importance to now. While Tsukiyama’s readers face Plague, Hilo’s residents must handle Pele’s contemptuous rage. Mauna Loa is erupting. The lava flow endangers the village. The occupants live out their lives under the uncertainty of annihilation. This grim doom, prevented by some, challenged head-on by others, is the real backdrop of the story, just as pandemic harries the landscape of our cumulative 2020.
2 things breathe life into Tsukiyama’s Hawaii. The very first is her marvelous usage of language, painting the sights and especially smells of this tropical idyll. Mangos rot, pungent in the heat. Mauna Loa’s sulfuric belches slowly overwhelm the village. And then there are her characters. Tsukiyama’s kinetic prose is best understood in Koji Sanada, a partly-retired cane-cutter who was when one of Puli Plantation’s many valued hands. Koji moves gracefully through both space and time, and it’s through him which The Color of Air‘s theme shines brightest.
Koji is haunted by the past even as his pals depend on him in today. His narrative is woven deftly, and it’s paralleled in the rest of Hilo’s inhabitants, all marked by some combination of guilt, embarassment and regret, however all leaning on each other for strength. Tsukiyama’s story is of mutual support through fear, past, present and future. We might be more scattered than the residents of mid-30 s Hilo, but The Color of Air still resonates in the here and now.
Art: A Lady at a Window
London’s museums started to re-open in August, and given that I have my doubts regarding the length of time they’ll stay open, I took immediate advantage of the chance to re-visit the National Gallery, which is one of my favourite spots. They hosting an exhibit of Titian’s Poesie (Metamorphoses) series, which I’ve had an interest in for a long time, and I was likewise hoping for a possibility to re-acquaint myself with some lesser-known pals.
The best area in the Gallery is, I think, the overflow section. It does not have any of the Greats, obviously, however as an outcome it likewise does not draw the crowds of the primary rooms, leaving you with a bit more time to consume in the paintings without seeming like you’re getting in somebody’s method. And my favourite part of the overflow spaces is Louis-Léopold Boilly’s A Lady at a Window
( I need to at this point admit that I’m about as capable of blogging about art as I am, state, jumping to the moon, or diving into the ocean to fight huge squid utilizing only my teeth. Do not take me seriously here, or truly anywhere. You have actually been alerted.)
Boilly’s work is no place near the very best in the museum. It’s nowhere near the very best in the room. However what it is stands out. On a wall loaded with oil paintings, sprinkled with colour and varnish, the monochrome Lady needs your attention. The lack of colour feels completely anachronistic, which produces some surprising impacts. From afar, the fish in the bowl appearance nearly photorealistic, while the children spying with their telescope appear like something you might see in a Pixar movie now.
As in practically all of Boilly’s work, the detailing is excellent. Boilly, who resided in France throughout an age which makes our own appear downright placid, was a master picture painter, with a taste also for caricature and tricks of the eye. Those tastes remain in evidence here, although the painting isn’t rather indulgent. The girl and boy are genuine with a hint, as I mentioned earlier, of the animation. The window leaps out as a textured 2nd frame, and then does not. It’s a gorgeous, subtle piece of work.
Anyhow, if you’re ever in London and the Covid-19 pandemic lags us, go have a look at A Lady at a Window. Even if you aren’t as taken with it as I am, the National Gallery is worth the trip.
This is Secret Base Media Club.