October 31, 2011
It was Royce, not I, who brought the Middle Ages into this house.
All that Princeton art history stuff he had filled his head with stayed at the core of his being during the Sixties. Even while he was busy "saving the world," even when he was working desperately to teach film, photography and videotape to teenagers, he was still building our medieval library of Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture. "My birthday is coming up," he would say, not hint. "There's a copy of Sir Bannister Fletcher at the used bookstore on Irving. I really need it."
Before that, my focus had been American literature -- Hemingway, you know. Nouns and verbs stripped to the bare bone. It wasn't until 1972 when I visited the Musee de Cluny that I felt my first gravitational pull toward the Middle Ages. On a short visit, with all of Paris yet to be seen, I returned three times to gawk at religious statues carved centuries ago.
As time -- and our library -- has expanded, there continues to be this wonderful dichotomy. Can you be intrigued with the 11th century and still be embroiled in the pains of the 21st? Can you smile at Michelangelo's Lorenzo while on your way out the door to paint a California landscape?
Sure you can. Trying to connect the dots, see the parallels and sometimes just bask in antiquity....it's remarkably satisfying!