I have the pleasure of having a guest post from author Jeanne Mackin who reveals...
What most people don’t know about me: I’m a belly dancer! A few years ago when I was going through some very sad and stressful events I decided I needed an antidote, something fun and even a little silly. So I started taking belly dancing lessons. Where I live, we have a wonderful teacher, June Seaney, who is, I believe, the first professional belly dancer to teach the dance at an Ivy League college. (It’s great exercise!) I fell in love with the music and the movements and soon came to see that while it’s fun it’s not at all silly. Once you get past your first shyness during the early shimmies and hip circles, it’s a lovely, sensuous art form that puts you back in touch with yourself and how you move through the world. And the music is gorgeous, full of complicated rhythms and exotic musical instruments. There are many different styles of belly dance. My favorite is Turkish, which tends to have more foot work than the Egyptian style; it’s bouncier, playful, real party-style dancing with hand movements that play with narrative as much as the hula. Dancing, like writing, is often about telling a story, but you use your body and the music, not words. And the history of belly dancing is full of drama, sometimes tragedy. When Napoleon was in Egypt, at the end of the eighteenth century, he had many of the dancing girls murdered, because they were too distracting to his soldiers. It was said the Nile turned red with their blood. So when I participate in this dance, it is in homage to all the dancers before me, and it is in homage to women and our bodies and our different places and roles in this world.
As a writer, I find that studying dance engages my imagination as well as my muscles. It puts me in touch with other cultures, other places and times. Listen to the music of the buzuki and the cumbus and you travel to foreign lands, you acquire, as Charlemagne claimed when he learned a new language, a new soul.
What does all this have to do with Beatrix Farrand and Edith Wharton? They were adventurous. Given the opportunity, I think they would have enjoyed taking belly dancing classes, though they may not have performed for Henry James or Henry Adams!
by Jeanne Mackin
Raised among wealth and privilege during America's fabled Gilded Age, a niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and to marry well. But as a young woman traveling through Europe, she already knows that gardens are her true passion. How she becomes a woman for whom work and love, the earthly and the mysterious, are held in delicate balance is the story of her unique determination to create beauty while remaining true to herself.
I will never marry, Beatrix thought. Never
She had passed through the first heady years of womanhood, the first balls, first waltzes, first dancing card and house party invitations, quickly discouraging any serious suitor. “My mother,” she had simply explained when any young man tried to call on her a little too frequently. Now that most of those young men had already wed, she felt she could easily avoid the issue permanently.
She jumped up, eager to be away from the table. “I need to walk,” she said to the others.
Still, they might never have met, the Italian and the American.
Beatrix could have walked in the opposite direction, away from the temple. She could have strolled through the rose garden or gone into the casina. But she chose the temple, that eerie replica of pagan passion.
The gardens were full of Americans; the young man who had just been soundly berated by his family lawyer disliked the sounds of their voices, so full of German consonants, not at all soft like his own Italian. The sounds of conquerors, he thought, laden with wealth and greed and taking much of his homeland back with them when they returned to New York and Boston and Chicago. That’s what the visit to his lawyer had been about: selling artworks.
Empires rise and fall. He lived in a land of fallen empire. Ahead of him, on the path, was an example of the fall of empire, a group of boys, begging, grimy hands snaking into folds and pockets of passing men and women. They had surrounded a young woman and were practicing their street skills on her. He saw her face, the terror behind the forced calmness of a tight smile. He changed direction and headed toward her.
Still, they might never have met. He could have waved from a distance, yelled a threat, driven the boys off with words. But he kept walking toward her.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, A Lady of Good Family, explores the secret life of gilded age Beatrix Jones Farrand, niece of Edith Wharton and the first woman professional landscape design in America. Her previous novel, The Beautiful American, based on the life of model turned war correspondent and photographer, Lee Miller won the CNY 2015 prize for fiction. She has published in American Letters and Commentary and SNReview and other publications and is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie, in Ithaca.
A Lady of Good Family is available at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and other bookstores.
A Lady of Good Family is available at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and other bookstores.
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Thanks for hosting!ReplyDelete
As always, you are welcome!Delete
so glad to be here with you today. I wonder what art forms and outlets your readers use to keep their creativity limber and joyous.ReplyDelete
What a lovely cover, Jeanne! I dabble in crocheting and am slowly figuring out the intricacies of knitting (emphasize slowly, lol), but lately I have had the privilege of reviewing mandalas for coloring and have renewed my interest in playing with markers and colored pencils, lol. Thank you for taking the time to visit!Delete
Thanks to NAL for that lovely cover! I used to love to crochet, and wish I remembered more of it. I still have some fabulous pillow cases my grandmother edged with crocheted lace many, many years ago. I save them for nights when I want to feel nostalgic. As for knitting...no talent in that area whatsoever! Although when people in movies or commercials are knitting I can still tell if they're faking it or not.Delete
Hi Jeanne, I dabble in jewelry making, painting and a little embroirdery. I really enjoyed learning about you and your book! Great picture! Thank you for sharing!ReplyDelete
Hi, Betty. Sounds like you are very talented. I confess that I grew too impatient to continue with the needlepoint and crewel kits that I tried...I tend to get my threads tangled! Thanks for dropping by!Delete
Jewelry making sounds great. Embroidery, too. Whenever I visit museums with a textile section I love to look at the crewel worked pieces and imagine what it must have felt like to be, say, an American colonial child working such exotic images into her sampler!Delete
Great post! Thanks for sharing :)ReplyDelete
Always happy to share and appreciate you coming by and reading the posts, Victoria!Delete
I'm looking forward to reading the book.ReplyDelete
I hope you enjoy it, Rita. It looks like a lovey story. Thank you for visiting!Delete
this looks and sounds fantastic :) thanks for sharing!ReplyDelete
As always, you are welcome, erin. Thank you for dropping by!Delete
thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement. If you enjoy the book, please mention it to your friends!ReplyDelete
Belly dancing is certainly adventurous!! Good for you.ReplyDelete
I suspect it would help my pudgy belly if I tried something like that, but I would be too embarrassed to accomplish anything, lol. Thanks for popping in, Mary!Delete
Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?ReplyDelete
Great question, Mai. Thanks for asking!Delete
I try to treat it like real work, which is to say, I force myself to write even if I don't feel like it. Often it is five days a week, but life happens, guests come, I get the flu or take a trip...The point is if you take time off, to get back to the work as soon as possible.ReplyDelete
Good philosophy, Jeanne. I think readers would be surprised to discover what an incredible amount of work goes into providing a story for them to read. Thanks for the answer!Delete
Sounds really good, and love the coverReplyDelete