Two or three years ago, while we were on vacation in The Berkshires, we spent a day at the Norman Rockwell museum. It was great. We learned a ton about Rockwell and his life and walked around the gorgeous property where he painted. As an added bonus, there was a special exhibit on display, featuring all (or at least a lot) of Edward Hopper’s Cape Cod paintings. This was particularly eye-opening, as I really didn’t know much about Hopper other than that he painted Nighthawks.
So, when I saw badkittyuno’s review of this collection of stories based on some of Hopper’s works, I made a mental note to check it out if I saw it at the library.
This collection includes 17 short stories, all based on a specific painting by Hopper. I don’t know if the writers got to choose their painting or not (although Uncle Stevie did mention that he had a particular preference if possible), but it was interesting to see how these writers combined a specific image on a canvas with an idea for a story.
First off, this is a gorgeous book. I loved seeing the beautiful color insert before each story, showing the painting that inspired the author. I don’t know if this is available on the e-book version or not, but it was really lovely and in many cases, really helped to set the scene. I hadn’t heard of all of the writers included here, and many of the ones I had heard of, I hadn’t read. (Hello, Joyce Carol Oates. Nice to finally get acquainted.)
In particular, I’d recommend the creepy Stephen King story, The Music Room, and the bizarre and otherworldly Rooms by the Sea by Nicholas Christopher.
I also found Gail Levin’s entry fascinating. It was a fictional account of a non-fictional event in her career as a Hopper “expert,” describing the actions that a neighbor of Hopper’s took to ensure that the bulk of a hidden treasure trove of early drawings and letters would never be found and could be sold to his personal advantage. Granted, Hopper came off like a total d-bag in this story, but the real villain of the story is Reverend Arthayer R. Sanborn, a so-called man of God who took what he wanted from the elderly Hopper family and made quite a bit of money.
But my favorite story, hands-down, was Taking Care of Business by Craig Ferguson.
Yes. I love Craig Ferguson. I loved his show. I have read and loved his books, both fiction and non-fiction. And I loved this story.
I mean, what’s not to like?
Using Hopper’s painting titled South Truro Church, 1930, Ferguson tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two men in their twilight years.
I felt that Ferguson, more than any of the other authors, really brought the landscape, and Hopper’s vision of it, to life. His story starts with this:
The Reverend Jefferson T. Adams, beloved and respected minister of this parish for over fifty years, pulled deeply on the long fragile Jamaican style reefer and held the smoke deep in his lungs. There was no sensation of getting high anymore, or indeed panic or paranoia or any of the other unpleasantness. No sensation at all really but he enjoyed the ritual.
He listened to the music from outside the church. It was too nice a day to go inside. Cold and still with a high milky cataract of cloud diffusing the sunlight enough to flatter the landscape, softening the edges and blanching out the imperfections like an old actor’s headshot.
The sea was guilty and quiet, like it had just eaten.
He juggles topics like faith, aging, loneliness, and death with grace and humor. And it made me hope that Craig writes more for us sometime soon.