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À mon chevet: Rorem's 'Paris Diary'

book cover
À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
Today lunch with Balthus at the Catalan and afterwards a visit to his very messy studio (it resembles what must have been the interior of the Collier brothers' home) in the adorable Cour de Rohan just off the rue Jardinier. Balthus is working on a most frightening oil. The canvas is enormous, four yards wide, and high as the ceiling. On this are nothing but two curious girls: one, a naked dead doll in false light stretched on a couch awaiting love; the other, a vital little idiot sister in a green sweater opening the curtain and exposing her rival to the real light of the sun. There is also a vase and cat. All this in colors hitherto uninvented. ... I had to shiver! Poor great Balthus: so Jewish and sorry for himself; so rich, so poor.

Later in the day I went to see Bernac. Who could be more contrary to Balthus? Which doesn't keep him from being just about as sad. Overly neat, overly tolerant (to me tolerance means getting old). He feels nobody loves him, and this may be true, though he is one of our master singers.

But I loathe more and more discussing music in any form or shape. We spend most of our lives repeating ourselves. To say I want to stay home doesn't prevent me from going out and repeating myself. I loathe concerts, but this didn't prevent me from going tonight to be bored by Igor Markevitch. What is sadder than a half-filled concert hall? Nothing. Backstage Igor is sad and cold (bien qu'il m'ait tutoyé pour la première fois). Boulanger is icy, Marcelle de Manziarley frigid, Poulenc chilled in a box with his peculiar niece, everyone is glacial and lacking in glamor. Concerts need glamor.

This was my Thursday, omitting important things like street-walking.

-- Ned Rorem, The Paris Diary, pp. 58-59 (September to December, 1951)
The painting that Balthus was working on sounds like The Room, which he made in the early 1950s.

1 comment:

David Boxwell said...

And at the slow dusk of this charmed beauty's life:

Sunday, 5 March 2000

Fatigue, depression, insomnia, futility, crankiness, dizziness, all growing worse.
Honors pile up, but the world seems empty. Loud neighbors, dogs, broken, walls, mediocrity, and computer expertise reign supreme.

"Facing the Night," p. 12.