Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Bit About Napoleon

Napoleon is like the great pyramid
he stands alone in a desert
and jackals piss at his feet
and writers climb up on him.

—Gustave Flaubert

I watched a film about Napoleon last night. It was the story of his last days on the island of Saint Helena, after Waterloo, when he was a prisoner of the British. It was an interesting film, and the characterization of Napoleon was such that I found myself rooting for him—wanting him to escape again. I guess that makes me a Bonapartist. Films, of course, can do that, but my attitude toward Napoleon began to change in Paris as I learned more about what a complex figure he actually was. (Painting by Gros)

He was a striking figure in the film. Smart and commanding—and it seems he must have been. I read that he actually fought against the French on Corsica during the French Revolution. The battle was for Corsica's independence and it had three sides: the Royalists, who were seeking to control Corsica, the Jacobins, fighting against the Royalists, and the Corsican Nationalists (of which Napoleon was one), fighting for Corsican independence. He was promoted to a captain in 1792 by the Jacobins, who he had supported.

In 1793 he came to the attention of Robespierre and his brother after publishing a pro-republican pamphlet and was made the artillery commander for the Republican forces at the siege of Toulon. Toulon was occupied by the British. Napoleon's military plan in Toulon succeeded, the British were forced out and he was promoted, given command of France's Army of Italy. When Robespierre fell in 1793, Napoleon was placed under house arrest for several days and fell out of favor. He refused a post that was a demotion, wrote a novella and became engaged to Désirée Clary, a French woman from Marseille. His prospects did not look that good. (Painting by David)

The political scene in Paris was in turmoil at the time, lots of shifting power and one shift led to a change of fortune for Napoleon. In 1795 he was given command of forces tasked with defending the National Convention in the Tuileries Palace, which the Royalists were trying to bring down. The National Convention was the Republican power structure ruling France at the time—this was the First Republic.

Again, his military brilliance succeeded: the Royalists were routed and overnight Napoleon became famous. He was promoted to Commander of the Interior by The Directory, the Republican body of that ruled France from 1795 to 1799. "Within weeks" he and Josephine were an item and his engagement to Désirée was broken. "I awake full of you," he wrote in an early letter. "Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses." (Painting by Andrea Appiani)

In the film—which suggests Napoleon could have any woman he wanted—he makes mention of Madame Lenormand, calling her a clairvoyant and explaining that she has predicted he and Josephine would die at the same age. Josephine was six years older than Napoleon and died in 1814 at the age of 51. Napoleon died in 1821—at the age of 51. They married in March of 1796. The guide in Paris told us that Madame Lenormand met Josephine when both of them were in prison. Josephine was jailed (because of her husband's political leanings) during the Reign of Terror, between April and July of 1794. That means Madame Lenormand made her predictions at a time when Napoleon's political fortune was at an extremely low ebb and Josephine was married to someone else.

Two days after their marriage, Napoleon left for Italy and his famously successful Italian campaign. He became increasingly influential in French politics. He published two newspapers for his troops that were widely circulated, and eventually founded Le Journal de Bonaparte, which was published in Paris. The Royalists, who were highly critical of Napoleon, were still powerful in Paris and won a lot of seats in the 1797 elections. A coup d'état directed by Napoleon put the Republicans back in power, but left them dependent on him. When he negotiated a peace treaty with Austria, he came back to Paris more popular than the government. (Painting by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon)

The Directory wanted him to invade England, but Napoleon targeted Egypt instead because he didn't believe his forces were strong enough to defeat the British. He was convinced that a French presence in the Middle East and, in particular in Egypt, would undermine Britain's access to their trade interests in India and weaken their empire. (Painting by Paul Delaroche)

His Egyptian expedition included scientists and, among other things, led to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Napoleon returned to Paris by his own decision, not by orders—the British were attacking the coast of France. The Directory was very unpopular and it was broke. He was invited by one of the Directors into another coup d'état—this time to overthrow The Directory, the constitutional government. The conspirators succeeded. Napoleon was named a Director and quickly outmanoeuvred his fellow conspirators becoming the most powerful man in France. He took up residence at the Palace of Tuileries.

And on it goes: Napoleon centralized the government; transformed education; changed the tax code; modernized roads and sewer systems; created a central bank; negotiated a truce with the Catholic Church that left them powerless; set up the Code of Civil Law and codified criminal and commerce law. Much of what he established still exists—he's credited with modernizing France. The film suggested that right to the end, Napoleon was in control of his life, and even his death. If nothing else, I feel like I'm beginning to understand Lord Byron's fascination with the man. I suppose all this is part of my foray into War and Peace, which is about Napoleon's disastrous campaign into Russia. (Napoleon's Tomb, Les Invalides, Paris)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Celebrating My Pooties

Pooties: I didn't make up the name. It's popular on the DailyKos, a political blog I read most every day where several times a week someone posts a pootie diary. I read those diaries pretty religiously and always intend to post pictures of my own pooties, but never do because I never have pictures. So. I decided over the last couple of days to try to get some. I confess to only minor success. I took about fifty photos, only a few worth salvaging. I'll try again another day. Cats, I discovered, move.

I also confess to not being able to write a decent diary about my pooties. It reminds me of my mother's Christmas letter, which always made me cringe. So forgive me—this is total self-indulgence, though it does reflect how I entertain myself.

I treated my pooties to a new adventure yesterday; I brought their old cat tree in from the garage. They hadn't seen it in about six months when I got tired of the way it looked and dismissed it from our reality. They were absolutely overjoyed. I haven't seen them that happy in a really long time. They played on it all evening and played with each other and pretty much with everything, which may have had more to do with the catnip than the cat tree. Nothing like cats on drugs.

I am very happy to be reunited with my cats. They make me laugh and though I couldn't really get pictures of just how funny they are, I did get a few that move in that direction.

They're Maine Coons. The real deal. They're sisters and about four years old. Mostly they like each other, but they do compete and on occasion fight. Péle, the bigger of the two (she weighs about 19 pounds) can be a pistol, but in all honesty, Sélène's been starting the confrontations these days.

Smaller though she is (weighing in at about 16 pounds), Sélène has a fierce little fight stance, which Péle walked away from last night, rather than fight. I was surprised. (I think Sélène was too.) Sélène is the more social of the two. When company arrives at the house, she's always ready for a meet and greet. She's also a classic paper-sitter, no matter what I'm working on, whether it be the keyboard or the kitchen, she likes to be in the middle of it.

Péle, for all of her bravado and size is actually shy. She comes across as miss-impressed-with-herself, and I believe she is pretty convinced she's a perfect specimen. The world does truly revolve around her and she spends far too much time in front of the mirror. I've also caught her with my earrings more than once, but at least she hasn't tried to wear them yet.

So. There you have it. It's really true that when I'm not writing or taking care of the business of my life, I can usually be found indulging my cats, which admittedly are counter-walkers and totally spoiled, and why not? They earn their keep; they help me write. In fact, some of my best ideas have come from them. Not only that, I swear, since I added all the accents to their names, they've started speaking French.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Writing Woes and Woozles

I spent yesterday trying to integrate the voice of Madame Lenormand into the first chapter of my book. It's not easy. In fact, it's downright intimidating. I have a writing group that I share this stuff with and I've given them the opening chapter twice, plus I read them Madame Lenormand's prelude. The prelude was a hit, but it's such a different approach to the book, that it's no small task to wrap my head around what it means.

It seems to provide the freedom to be quirky in the telling of the story. I had, for example, a couple of "arrant cabbages" that "took advantage" of a tipping peddler's cart and rolled off. The fact that I anthropomorphized the poor things caused a couple people problems. One person liked it. The discussion eased toward "authority"... have I, as the author created enough authority on the page to get away with that?

In the end authorship is about authority, it seems to me. That's why I always tend toward the belief that you can do whatever you can make work. Making something work is about creating a relationship with the reader that gives you the authority to do something unusual like anthropomorphize a cabbage. I was struck that part of the objection one of my group raised was that it seemed comic. Comedy is such a difficult attainment for me, so unusual, that someone reading it is warning me of achieving it? Perhaps because it was not obviously intentional? And that because it is so rare in my writing? Fact is, I am looking for a more comedic voice in this writing.

The picture is of Gertrude Stein working in Paris.

Another critique came in the form of a back-handed complement. Someone said that I am capable of writing "magic" and this wasn't "magic," only competence. Actually, the reference was to Chapter One, which is realism... a scene unfolding in real time in third person. The comparison was to the original opening prelude which is a kind of poetic piece among the tombs of Père Lechaise which was criticized at the writers conference for not having action or character development, for not telling the reader anything about the story. Both the workshop leader and the voting audience said they wouldn't bother to turn the page on my "magic."

For my writers group, on the other hand, the story wasn't enough—the development of the action and characters didn't provide enough "magic" to open the book, even though it doesn't open the book. (Maybe that wasn't clear, even though I said it.) In any event, I find critiques about magic almost useless. I walked away assuming the only way to rework the piece was to start over. I mean, if something isn't "magic" what do you do to fix it? Wave a wand? Shall I—like the quote about amateurs waiting for inspiration while the rest of us work—wait around until magic strikes me again?

Perhaps my sour mood about all this is obvious? I did, in fact, rewrite my competent, but not magical piece. It also lacked (or had lost its original) passion. Originally there had been concern over the clarity of the piece, people literally couldn't tell what was going on. Now it seemed that at least for one reader, the clarity had destroyed the immediacy and with it, the breathless nature of the piece. (That breathless quality had been suspect for some in the first read-through.)


Anyway, I had a good conversation about what was better in my first effort—where the breathless, passion of the piece seemed to carry it. I applied that to the rewrite. I changed the placement of the information I'm delivering. I do have a tendency to want everyone to know up front what makes something interesting to me, and because of that, I like to tell the reader what I think they need to know kind of ahead of time.

For example, when I walked the streets of my Paris neighborhood—Nouvelle Athènes—it was more exciting and interesting to me when I knew what was there and what to look for. It was more interesting to hear about Chartres Cathedrale when I was there than just to look at it. It was more interesting to hear about a Picasso's cubism and what he was trying to accomplish than to just look at a painting. I'm like that. I like information and background. I'm always trying to get the significance across.

But doing so slows the action so there's always got to be balance. Convention has the modern novel moving very quickly. My writing doesn't want to move quickly. I'm trying to create a 19th century novel, which by its very definition and nature, moves slowly. Like fast food and slow food: I'm trying to start a new trend here—a slower story. Hmmmmm. Is that possible? How much can I teach a reader? Doesn't most of it have to do with whether I'm telling a good story?

I was so thrilled by my discovery of the "plot line" for my story. There's been very little enthusiasm from my writers group, most of them seem hardly to notice, one commented on the loss of the original story... how it's hard to engage because it's not the same story. All in all, it's disappointing. I've even heard that whatever happened to me in Paris is probably what's causing my discontent, like I want/need something now, from being back, that I didn't want/need before—excitement one person said—that I just can't get and the group can't provide. That doesn't seem like the problem to me, but I have wondered what it would be like to share my story with people who didn't have an expectation about what I was going to write based on what I was writing before I left... it has changed and if I keep going with Madame Lenormand's voice it's going to change a lot more.

Madame Lenormand was a hit speaking in first person, but that's not what I want either. I'm not writing a book where she tells her story in first person. I'm still telling a story about Louise and Tori Farrenc and the artists of their day that surrounded and shaped their life. Madame Lenormand doesn't get to take over. She has a roll to play that's very specific: she's the narrator. She moves in and out of the story. Maybe what I'm trying to do isn't going to work, I don't know. I know it seems radical. I wish I could get feedback from someone who is curious about what I'm trying to do.

So what's next? Well, I don't know. I see that my entry here today has taken on a completely different tone, but it is where my process is right now, and since this blog is really about me writing a book, then I have no choice, but to use this space accordingly. I'm not exactly stuck. I spent a long time working yesterday and I think I made some interesting and perhaps important forward movement. I'm not sure I'm in control of my prose yet—primarily because the change I'm making is intimidating to me. It's not something I'm all that familiar with, this use of a narrative voice. It's new territory and feels extreme. Oddly, it also feels right.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Narrative Voice: Madame Lenormand Speaks

This is an early draft, likely to tighten and change as I work on it, but this is the voice that is emerging for Madame Lenormand who I'm considering as The Appassionata's "intrusive narrator." I'm pretty excited about the direction it's taking here. Once I discovered that even Chopin had been to Madame Lenormand for a reading, it seemed to me this might really be the way to move into the text as the narrator.

The Sibyl of Faubourg Saint-Germain
A Prelude

By my sibyl’s blood, I am one who perceives the fulcrum that connects past and present to future times. Like gathering storm clouds, my visions form even as the ink that here falls from the end of my pen reaches this my smudged page. You bear witness, my friends, not only to the tale I have to tell, but to the possibility that one such as myself, through a gift no one comprehends, can tether the past to the future and move the dead to speak. Were it not required, I should never presume to intrude my presence upon your solitude, for no storytelling, however intimate, can recall the fullness of even one moment. And here, I must remind you, dear friends, that you live only in our future and that though we reach to you, we cannot embrace you or impose upon you the direction you must take. It is your will to do what you will… as you will… when you will. We can only tell our tale.

I have seen the inside of more than one prison for the brazen certainty of my words, words I am compelled forthwith to deliver now to you. Truth be known, I am, as they say, but a messenger. I take my words from elsewhere and always have. One I presume to be an angel, who calls himself Ariel, speaks to me and thus I, his conduit, speak to you. He comes in dreams, and once when I was very young I sat with him before what I thought to be the Throne of God, though it looked very like the dining table in my uncle’s home. We sat reading from the Book of Life, a huge tome I struggled to hold in my arms. I could make nothing of the letters and words; they swam before my eyes like snakes in a riverbed. Indeed, I could barely see my companions, for there were two—the one I call Ariel and a nameless one who was his teacher. That one shone with such brilliance I could look upon him no more than one can look upon the sun. I squinted and took up the two slender knitting hooks that had been given me, for I understood I was to employ them. The tome was a manual, holding instructions for this great task, but since it swam as it did, I could decipher nothing of its wisdom.

The one called Ariel reached to assist me, explaining that even had I been able to apprehend what lay before me on the page, it was inadequate to the task confronting us. Something unprecedented was required; human history made it so. This angel—who had the stature of a giant—without abandoning his station enveloped me in gentle arms and guided my hands to make of pure light a stitch, such as I might make from my aunt’s woolly yarn. And thus emerged the fabric of the universe, which we all weave in varying degrees of self-awareness.

Were it possible to convey the power of this strange vision without words, for it happened in a world where words become flesh, I would say no more. I would, with a slight of hand, accomplish what Monsieur Hugo longed for as he undertook the tale of his hunchback: I would transport you without ink, my friends of future days, into a past so substantial in nature that you would leave your cynicism behind and walk the streets of Paris with me as you might walk among the tombs of Père Lechaise. Indeed, you would recognize why you are among the living, not the dead, and we would tell you what we have learned about this dear orb of ours and how to live that it might survive to complete its heavenly course.

Alas, this cannot be done. We have but human words in spite of our safe harbor among the dead. And our words, unlike those of the brilliant ones, do not dance upon the page, nor pulse with that uncontrollable force we call existence. They are strung one after the other in a tedium of unfolding logic and must—in order to be understood—be read one word after the other no matter the language. Such rigidity does not befit the truth of human experience which erupts in concurrence and concert, as when instruments play together in symphony. Yet, there is nothing to be done for it; you must follow our words individually, each in their turn.

And because I must begin somewhere, I will tell you first that it is true what they say about me: as a child I learned from the gypsies to read the grounds of coffee, the ash of fires, and the shards of the broken mirror. I studied the lines that crisscross our palms and the trajectories of heavenly bodies. During my tender youth, when I first walked the streets of my beloved Paris—a clerk in my uncle’s shop where ladies (and gentlemen) came to find that famous black lingerie he sold—I found my way to the alchemists and the mythic tales the Greeks and Romans know. I studied the geomancy of the earth, combed the sacred texts of the Kabbalah, and discovered that numbers hold magic. Whether it’s true I died a virgin, on this I shed no light, and leave for you to decide.

I will tell you I have indeed been queried by thousands, including many whose names now burn the pages of history. I have had them all at my feet. Men of power. Yes, Robespierre frequented my parlor. I reported to him his downfall and that of Danton, and I warned General Hoche of the poison, and Monsieur Moreau of an untimely grave, and though she did not welcome it, I told Josephine of her Emperor’s treachery and ultimate defeat. And yes, I saw kings too, even during the sorry Restoration of which I now write, though the practice of my art was called “black” and strictly forbidden. During those last years, I was obliged to veil my vocation and practice it within a besieged citadel. Indeed, I paid a good many a good deal to keep my sanctum sanctorum operative.

They came to me even then, as you will see, from the common
serving girl to the sly mistress to the delicate gloved Chopin; they came seeking insight and advice, as so now, do you. And so, let us begin.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Intrusive Narrator

I'm finally getting serious, about this whole question of the narrator. In many of my favorite 19th (and even 18th) century books, the narrator has a personality of sorts and "intrudes" into the story: Tom Jones; Vanity Fair; Walter Scott's Waverly; George Eliot's, Adam Bede. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Tolsoy all used it. They say that, paradoxically, Tolstoy is both intrusive and "miraculously" absent. Hugo and Stendhal have narrators that intrude. Stendhal goes so far as to tell the reader that his character really is a fiction and if she were a "real" young woman, she would never act that way.

Hugo stops to fill in history in both The Hunchback of Nôtre Dame and Les Misérables. In the Hunchback he also tells us that it's too bad the building where his action is taking place is gone, because it means he has to waste time telling us what it looked like and we have to waste time reading his description. He says if only it were standing, he could just send us there to look at it and we would understand. I found that intervention fascinating. I really would like to say something like that about the Paris of 2010 compared to the Paris of 1823, which is when the events of my book start happening.

Perhaps the most famous intrusive narrator is in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre where she addresses us as "dear reader". The whole phenomenon was considered entirely passé by the end of the 19th century. Flaubert changed everything, making the narrator disappear and creating the "modern" novel—Madame Bovary (1857). Since then, it's been frowned upon because it supposedly separates the reader from the story by reminding them that they're reading.

As I read around the Internet about the whole concept, I was somewhat reassured by the discovery that there still is some defiant use of the technique, notably among "post modernists," people like John Fowles who wrote three endings for The French Lieutenant's Woman. Post-modernists want to remind the reader they're reading.

I don't think that's my point of interest. I'm not sure how to articulate what attracts me. I know that I really enjoyed the intrusion in Vanity Fair and more recently in Stendhal. I find it exotic, I think. It doesn't remove me from the story; on the contrary, it pulls me in. I guess I like being reminded it's a book. I don't know. In any event, I'd like to try my hand at the technique for several reasons. Primarily because I'm trying to write a 19th century novel and it seems like one of the primary elements that needs to preserved.

The second reason has to do with the fact that I have a narrator in mind who would also be a character in the novel, which is essentially what an intrusive narrator becomes. I've talked about this before, when I was in Paris, early on. It came up the day I took my first walk through the Latin Quarter with a little walking tour that was teaching us about the French Revolution. One of the places we stopped to look and listen was on Rue de Tournon.

This is where the fortuneteller, Madame Lenormand lived, until dying at the age of something like 75 (her date of birth is in question) in 1843. She saw some of the people connected to my novel. Notably Frederic Chopin, but she also saw Liszt's first mistress, Marie d'Agoult. In my telling she also ends up seeing Louise Farrenc, so it's nice to see that I'm not completely off the mark, and that she really was involved to some extent, with the celebrities of the my day, and particularly the musicians. I suspect I'll discover other important names connected with her if I search hard enough. The point is, I'm considering letting her tell this story—that is, be the narrator.

She's buried in Père Lechaise and dies, as I said, in 1843, right in the middle of my story. She's famous for her fortune telling. That's why Chopin ended up seeing here. He was morose about his love life and she was recommended. Marie d'Agoult too, was trying to figure out what to do about leaving her husband for Liszt.

According to biographical material I found today, Madame Lenormand had been trained as a young girl by the gypsies who taught her to read coffee grounds and egg whites and ashes and the shards of a broken mirror. They also taught her palmistry and astrology. Later, in Paris she studied alchemy, numerology, mythology, the Kabbalah and geomancy. That's a pretty interesting combination, and it's supposedly true. The picture shows her reading for Robespierre and predicting his death. He tried to stop her from doing readings after that, as did Napoleon when he didn't like what she said. She survived and continued.

Apparently she read behind a secret doorway that was hidden in the wall. People waited in her drawing room to see her and were ushered back to where she read and then ushered out the back. She read from a plain deck of playing cards that she had written little notes on and drawn pictures that associated specific cards with specific mythic moments, like the moment the Trojan Horse was pulled through the gate into Troy. She also named the cards. I found a deck right before I left Paris and purchased it. I've been studying it, learning how it works, how to read it. She laid out all thirty-six cards, but did not read them all. The readings are complex. I'm having a good time trying to learn the deck.

When George Eliot starts out Adam Bede, she talks about the Egyptians and how "with a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertook to reveal to any chance comer far‐reaching visions of the past." She tells the reader that she's about to attempt the same. I'm thinking perhaps that Madame Lenormand might say something similar. She's buried in Père Lechaise and I think she's narrating the story from death, telling us something about the past the same way the Egyptian sorcerers do. She might even show us around and introduce us to the tombs of the various characters. She might find Tori there, hovering on Chopin's tomb. I don't know.

I watched a very intriguing documentary on Père Lechaise last week. It's called Forever. I found this collage of it on YouTube. The film seems to be saying something that I too want to say, about the eternal power of art to move and shape us, and like the pianist in the film, I somehow am paying tribute. It seems to me that this is part of what I'm looking for in the Prelude and in the narrator. I know that what I'm saying right now is vague and general and doesn't really communicate all that I'm feeling, but it's a start, a stab at it.

I'm thinking that by using Madame Lenormand, talking from the other side, I think, a ghost who walks us through Père Lechaise and introduces us in some way to the story we're about to hear, that I might be moving closer to what I want. Did I say I've started reading, War and Peace? Andrew Todhunter's assignment. I found the new translation and I've begung. It's about 1500 pages.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, New Decade, New Story

It's New Years Day. I realize that my writing is so sparse these days that most of you have probably moved on to other ventures. I too, have moved on. I'm not in Paris. I'm home. But, what I've moved onto is the fiction. I'm writing fiction, actually working on my novel instead of my blog.

When I went to Paris, I had the thought that I'd write fiction while I was there. What I didn't take into consideration is the time I actually spend writing, the hours and days it takes me to get even one polished chapter. I also didn't understand that almost instantaneously, I would see that I couldn't just "go forward" or "fill in the missing details of the environment," but rather I had to re-create the story I was telling.

The entire time I was in Paris, I had a "feel" of how the story was changing, but I did not know the new story. I tried things out in my mind and once I even tried my hand at drawing Géricault in through fiction, but I was unsuccessful, I didn't know how to do it.

I also was too busy to write fiction. Most of my days were spent out in the world of Paris and France. I only stayed home when I was ill, which I was for about a week near the end. Even then, I couldn't write fiction and spent my time hunting down more information via the Internet. In fact, that week of mostly staying in served me well, because I went back out into my neighborhood for two last walks right before I left, armed with much more understanding of what I was seeing and what I needed to be looking for. Those last two walks were some of the most important walks I took for my novel. They were literally loaded with specific information.

Now that I don't have Paris outside my door, I can only get there in one of two ways. I can read—and I have been reading a lot since coming home. I finished Stendhal's The Red and Black and I read my way through most of a book on called The Biography of Paris, an excellent history of Paris. I've also read through a guide book that was written in the sixties and traces the history of the ninth arrodissement, where my book is set. It gave me a lot of names of places that used to exist.

The second way to get there, is the obvious: I can write my novel. And that, I am happy to report is exactly what I've been doing. I've not only put out the opening chapter, the one I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, but I gone forward into the next chapter and, more importantly, I've been able to lay out the trajectory of my story—about forty chapters total.

I have discovered how the two pieces (what I wrote before leaving for Paris and what I've been writing since my return) fit together. I've discovered the through line, if you will. I've probably put something like 50 hours into the writing and mostly rewriting of the opening. It's on its second round this week in my writing group. That is to say, I gave it to my group last week, got their critique and went back to work on it after all that feedback and have now given it to them again. On Monday they'll give me more feedback.

I'm pretty sure that the draft I just gave them is getting close. I'm very pleased with it. I'm downright excited about it to be honest, and the changes that just went into this second drafting of it really make me happy. I keep seeing new things. The complexity keeps growing.

I also created a map. My old neighborhood, hugging Rue des Martyrs, is becoming a bit of a character in the book. The map shows me where everything I know about from the period is located—at least in my neighborhood, which in its day was known as Nouvelle Athènes. It's good that I have a sense of ownership and belonging, and sketching it really heightened that sense.

I started by drawing it out on regular typing paper. I used my handy-dandy Louvre pencil that I bought the day I went into the Louvre to sketch Delacroix and Géricault for my Art History class—which created the same sense of ownership and belonging for the Louvre, I might add. (More on this later.)

I copied the map once, and then when it really seemed I had it right, I copied it onto a large piece of card stock about 3 feet by 3 feet and marked things in different colors. (I bought a big eraser for the task and a pencil sharpener too.) My map is hanging on the wall right behind my desk and whenever I want to know anything about my neighborhood, I simply turn around. It's very exciting, actually, even though to say so must make me sound obsessive and silly. But, I can "see" where things are happening and that impacts what I write.

For example, I realized that Louise walked down Rue Bréda and that she got there because the bridal trail that comes up behind the hôtel where she was teaching her piano lesson went on past the house, and that she walked the trail, getting her boots all muddy.

About the pictures I've included: the first one is of a stretch of wall that's still standing. The Farmers-General Wall surrounded Paris in the early days of the 19th century and, in fact, cut Rue des Martyrs in half—it's southern end was incorporated into Paris, it's northern end was outside the wall climbing the hill toward the top of Montmartre. The next picture is Rue des Martyrs in the late 1800s, building renovation going on. The next picture is a sketch of La Brasserie, the café at the foot of Rue des Martyrs that was popular during the time of my book.  The last gem is a picture of Ary Scheffer's house before the facade was modernized and painted green. I was so happy to find that.