Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Last Train to Paris"

Michele Zackheim is the author of four books. Born in Reno, Nevada she grew up in Compton, California. For many years she worked in the visual arts as a fresco muralist, an installation artist, print-maker, and a painter. Her work has been widely exhibited and is included in the permanent collections of The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; The Albuquerque Museum; The Grey Art Gallery of New York University; The New York Public Library; The Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum, and The Carlsbad Museum of Art. She has been the recipient of two NEA awards, and teaches Creative Writing from a Visual Perspective at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Of her transition from visual artist to author she writes: “Over time, random words began to appear on my canvases…then poems…then elaborate fragments of narratives. I began to think more about writing and less about the visual world. Finally, I simply wrote myself off the canvas and onto the lavender quadrille pages of a bright orange notebook. This first book, Violette’s Embrace, was published by Riverhead Books.” That book is a fictional biography of the French writer Violette Leduc. Her second book, the acclaimed Einstein’s Daughter: The Search for Lieserl (Penguin Putnam, 1999), is a non-fiction account of the mystery of the lost illegitimate daughter of Mileva and Albert Einstein. Broken Colors (Europa Editions, 2007) is the story of an artist, whose life takes her to a place where life and art intersect. Her fourth novel, Last Train to Paris, was published in January 2014.

Zackheim applied the Page 69 Test to Last Train to Paris and reported the following:
From page 69:
After Andy returned to the office, I went back upstairs to Clara’s room and insisted that we go for dinner. We strolled along the boulevard St. Germain. The street lamps gave off a pale yellow glow, blurring the evening like a painting by Utrillo. Even the voices of the pedestrians were soft, and we found ourselves almost whispering. We turned left onto the rue de l’Ancienne Com├ędie, meandering past a row of small galleries and antique shops. Displayed in one of the windows were three small charcoal drawings by Giacometti.

“That’s what I feel like,” Clara said, “a line that’s disappearing into the horizon. Lost.” I took her hand and we walked.

“Let’s go to Deux Magots,” I said. “It’s late, and not so crowded, and I love to listen to that.” And I pointed to an old tramp wearing drooping and patched trousers held up by a thick leather belt, a peasant’s shirt, originally blue, but now black with grime, and a beret. He was clasping a battered violin to his chest. “He’s remarkable. When you hear him play, you’ll see what I mean.” I walked over and handed him money. For just a short time, we could forget our distress. The evening was transformed as the old man played Massenet’s “Meditation.”
I loved writing page 69. The challenge of weaving a painterly, emotional group of words together is most satisfying. I was a visual artist for half of my adult life and have spent the second half writing. Not only do I look for color, shape, and form in the world of cities and towns and nature and human beings; I also try to imbue emotions with the delicate vibrancy of Japanese sumi ink: a fluttering bird or a bold slash of an unexpected idea made with a huge horsehair brush.
Visit Michele Zackheim's website.

My Book, The Movie: Last Train to Paris.

Writers Read: Michele Zackheim.

--Marshal Zeringue