Saturday, March 14, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 4 (Sophie Calle)

Calle, Sophie
Le rituel d'anniversaire (LIVRE II)

I guess this book properly belongs with the art books. I probably put it where it is because it's so small I was afraid it would get destroyed among all the oversized books in the art book section. It was given to both me and Lori as a gift by Isabelle Pellissier, sometime between 2001 and 2003. We were living in our first apartment together, I recall, and Isabel gave it to us after she returned from a visit to Paris.

It was Isabelle who introduced the two of us in 2001. I first saw Lori at Isabelle's studio in the fall of 2000. Also the site of many poetry readings organized by her husband, Jonathan Skinner, Isabelle's studio was housed in the Tri-Main Building, a former windshield wiper factory converted to artists studios and offices. Just Buffalo was housed there from 1993-2005. Before it was a windshield wiper factory, it was a bomber engine factory during WWII and before that it was a Model A car factory.

Isabelle was holding an open studio one night when this cute blonde walked in that I had never seen before. The poetics community was rather small, and everyone knew everyone else, so when a stranger walked in the room, she stood out. I asked Isabelle about Lori, and her immediate response was, You two have to meet! You would be perfect for each other!

Turns out I didn't see Lori again for another 4 or 5 months. Not only that, but after Lori left that night, I met another friend of Isabelle's, who I dated briefly. We were not perfect for each other. Neither was the other woman I dated during this interregnum, who I broke up with after two dates with Lori.

After several months had passed, Isabelle finally got around to putting Lori and me in the same room together. It was a poetry reading. Simon Pettet read. I am sure he read with someone else, but I don't remember who. (Little help, anyone that was there?). I saw her across the room, but waited for an introduction from Isabelle, which was a long time in coming.

In the meantime, Jonathan Skinner actually introduced me to a friend of his he thought I might like. I was too distracted to pay much attention, though, and said something really rude when Jonathan said, This is so and so, who I told you you should meet. I think my reply was, Why?

After a while, Isabelle, who is French, asked me, Have you spoken to Lori? I said I was waiting for an introduction. She said, What is an introduction? Then, with the kind of contempt only the French can display, You want me to say, Mike this is Lori, Lori this is Mike? This kind of introduction. Yes, I said, that is an introduction. She took me violently by the hand and dragged me over to Lori, who was being shown a collection of photographs of Mardi Gras revelers baring their breasts by a certain professor at SUNY Buffalo.

Mike, this is Lori, Lori, this is Mike. Ça va? then she walked away.

Lori and I spoke for a couple of seconds, but said professor was coming on pretty hard, so I backed off and got her phone number from someone else. I called a couple of days later, and the rest, as they say, is history...

Le rituel d'anniversaire (LIVRE II) is in French, which I can piece together, but not very coherently. For 14 years, from 1980-1993, Sophie Calle threw herself a birthday party at which she invited one person for each year she had been alive, plus one stranger chosen by one of the guests, who represented the hope of the future. She chose not to "use" the gifts, but rather to collect and display them in display cases as sculpture.

She says in her intro that the character of Maria in Paul Auster's Leviathan is based on her and that all of the rituals Maria performs are based on her own, except for two that Auster invented himself. Calle took this as a challenge and went on to perform the two rituals that Auster had invented. I found them described (or, I guess, translated) on another blog thusly:

The life of Maria and how it influenced the life of Sophie.

In Leviathan, Maria puts herself through the same rituals as I did. But Paul Auster has slipped some rules of his own inventing into his portrait of Maria. In order to bring Maria and myself closer together, I decided to go by the book. The author imposes on his creature a chromatic regimen which consists in restricting herself to foods of a single color for any given day. I followed his instructions. He has her base whole days on a single letter of the alphabet. I did as she does.

To be like Maria, during the week of December 8 to 14, 1997, I ate Orange on Monday, Red on Tuesday, White on Wednesday, and Green on Thursday. Since Paul Auster had given his character the other days off, I made Friday Yellow and Saturday Pink. As for Sunday, I decided to devote it to the full spectrum of colors, setting out for six guests the six menus tested over the week.

Menu imposed:
PurÈe of carrots Boiled prawns Cantaloupe melon
Paul Auster forgot to mention (drinks, so I allowed myself to complete (his menu with:
Orange juice

Menu imposed:
Tomatoes (Steak tartare (Pomegranates
I completed the menu with:
Roasted red peppers (Lalande de Pomerol, domaine de Viaud, 1990

Menu imposed:
Flounder (Potatoes (Fromage blanc
I changed this menu, because I was not satisfied (with the yellow color of the potatoes, and added:
Rice (Milk

Menu imposed:
Cucumber (Broccoli (Spinach
I completed the menu with:
Green basil pasta (Grapes and kiwi fruit (Mint cordial

Since no color was prescribed (for Friday, I chose yellow.
Afghan omelette (Potato salad ("Young Girl's Dream" ((Banana, mango ice cream) (Pschitt fizzy lemon drink

Since no color was prescribed (for Saturday, I chose pink.
Ham (Taramasalata (Strawberry ice cream (RosÈ wine from Provence

Lots were drawn for the menus and everybody acquitted themselves conscientiously, if without enthusiasm, at their task. Personally, I preferred not to eat; novels are all very well but not necessarily so very delectable if you live them to the letter.

To be like Maria, I spent the day of Tuesday, March 10, 1998, under the sign of B for Big-Time Blonde Bimbo; Tuesday, February 16, 1998, under the sign of C for Calle & Calle in the Cemetery; Thursday, March 19, 1998, under the sign of C for Confession; and Saturday, March 14, 1998, under the sign of W for Weekend in Wallonia.

1 comment:

Lori D said...

I was sure when I met you that night that you didn't like me at all. I went away quite disappointed. Then you called me two days later and, as you say, the rest is history. 8 years of history-I guess it worked out after all!
I love that book, it was a great gift!