Turning Emotion Into Art

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We were in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, and while we were there, we visited an old U.S. Mint Building which is now the Louisiana State Museum.  One of the cool things about it is that it’s the only building in America to serve as both a Confederate and United States mint. They had lots of exhibits about money and coins, and quite honestly, while I loved the building, I’m not that interested in money – except as a means to acquire books and keep my Starbucks card loaded.

What interested me the most about our visit was a quote I read. While my husband and son were walking around checking out the old coins, I began to wander.  I’m glad I did because I came to a wall that had these words engraved on it:

The object of art

is to crystallize emotion

into thought, and fix it in form.”

I just looked it up, and the quote is attributed to Francois Delsarte, a 19th century French musician.  I know nothing about Delsarte, but I really like this quote and keep thinking about how it applies to books. Books crystallize emotion, don’t they?  They certainly “fix it in form.”  The form may be the screen or a piece of paper, but that’s still “form.” 

This weekend I began reading The Submission by Amy Waldman. Talking about giving form to emotion! I’m not far enough along to write too much about it, but after reading the first 50 pages, I am kind of stunned by how much Waldman has taken on: the post-September 11 world, the purpose of art, patriotism and the ways we tell our own stories.  As you may know from all of the attention Waldman’s book has received, the novel is about the impact of selecting a Muslim architect to design a monument to September 11. It’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, and I’m just glad to be reading it for a book club. It’s definitely a book that initiates discussion.


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