Sunday, December 17, 2006
Of course I had to check out the book once I saw the yellow slip with the strange doodle sticking out of the book
The guiding principle of my visits to the Madison Public Library is serendipity. Put me in front of the "New Fiction" or "New Nonfiction" shelves, and I'm like a magpie -- I go for the shiny new things that catch my eye and spirit them off to my nest. And there's no rhyme or reason as to what snags my attention. In this case, it was a bright yellow slip of paper poking out of a book in "New Nonfiction" -- J. Anthony Froude: The Last Undiscovered Great Victorian, by Julia Markus. Froude was one of those cold and rather forbidding Victorian figures mostly forgotten now.
The flimsy little slip with a doodle on the back was a checkout receipt from the library that a previous borrower must have used as a bookmark. Listed were two books on painting: Paul Cezanne and Composing Your Paintings. What sort of person was interested not only in an obscure Victorian writer, but Cezanne and how to compose a painting as well? It made me look at the anonymous doodler in a new light.
Maybe the doodler was an artist. Whoever made the drawing has a nice, fluid line. And judging from the person's reading, it might be more than a doodle -- it might be a snapshot of the creative process at work. Perhaps these scribbles were the first tentative iterations of a work of art just emerging from the depths of the artist's unconscious, a thumbnail sketch of something that might eventually be fleshed out as a full-fledged painting. Or not.
I drag home so many more books from the library than I ever have time to read. After spending part of the afternoon skimming Froude's life, will I read the whole thing? Probably not. I don't have time for a long trip back to the 19th century right now, although I enjoyed my brief visit. I'll probably settle for the parts I've read, plus the NYT review. Just another one of those passing, accidental encounters in the library. I'll probably return the book soon.
But I'm keeping the drawing. It may be small -- 1-1/2" x 2" -- but I like it. Finders keepers.