Posted on | April 14, 2011 | No Comments
Just back from a week in the US – New York, Phoenix, Arizona, and a quick peek at the Grand Canyon -but it feels as though we have been away for months. The alleged reason for our visit was to accompany Anthony on part of his book tour to promote The Good Book (at times this felt a little as if we had turned into the von Trapp family – the non-singing version, of course) but any form of travel is full of revelation – and this one was, well, as you’ll see, just wonderful.
We had been invited to Phoenix by our good friend the astro-physicist Lawrence Krauss (and if I come round again this is definitely what I’d like to be …..) founder of the Origins Project at ASU (Arizona State University) for his Science and Art Conference at which Anthony was to speak. As well as Stephen Hawking and Cormac McCarthy, two of Lawrence’s other special guests were Werner and Lena Herzog (one of the events was a screening of Werner’s new 3-D movie about the paeleolithic Chauvet Caves in France).
Lena is Russian, and a wonderful photographer. Her latest book, ‘Lost Souls’ is a series of exquisite photographs taken in sixteenth and seventeenth century wunndercammen – or Cabinets of Curiosities – exactly of the kind for which my fictional character in The Pindar Diamond, Ambrose Jones, is collecting. (I’m fairly sure that this Cabinet will also feature in my next novel, Winter’s Tale).
The particular subjects that interested Lena were the human specimens sometimes included in the Cabinets – the ‘lost souls’ of her title. Although there is no mermaid baby in her photographs – and I should point out that the mermaid baby in my novel is entirely fictional – she told me that she had indeed seen such a child in a Cabinet during the course of her researches.
How strange it is when life and art connect. Sometimes, as a novelist, you have the strange feeling that all you need to do is imagine something, and you will find that, yes, indeed, it does exist.
But – ‘How macabre’, said another friend who was talking with us. Neither Lena or I could agree. The Cabinets were early attempts at science; and the inclusion of anatomical specimens merely part of our natural curiosity to explore the very limits of what it means to be human.
Lena’s photographs, although not for the faint-hearted, are both serious and eerily beautiful. (See my Facebook wall for a link)