Joyce Hinnefeld


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kathe Kollwitz and a Stolen Day Last Week

I hadn't talked with readers about In Hovering Flight for a while, so what a pleasure to join Jeanie Teare and the Politics & Prose Daytime Book Group last week, at one of my all-time favorite bookstores, Politics & Prose, in Washington DC.

And what a group. These women were, among other things, art lovers, so we spent quite a bit of time talking about the wonderful Kathe Kollwitz, whose work and writings figure prominently in the novel (one of her self-portraits included here). I hadn't thought about Kollwitz for a while; it was so great to remember visiting the Kollwitz Museum in Berlin with Jim many years ago, when one of the women asked me how I'd learned about her work. And why her? someone else asked. That one was easy: Because of how articulate she was about the struggle to balance her life (particularly her life as a wife and a mother) and her work, making art.

Also because of how valiantly she persevered, in a life filled with so much sadness, including the death of her son in the First World War, and of a grandson in the Second. Art was her solace and, ultimately, her opportunity to make a powerful statement about the senseless tragedy of war.

Sometimes I envy scholars their deep immersion in a single topic or figure or idea. As a writer, I have these moments, even periods, of that kind of immersion--but then, it seems, I'm on to the next thing. It's disorienting sometimes, and also hard to let go of one world in order to try to enter the next. I'm grateful to Jeanie and this delightful group of readers for allowing me to spend some time thinking about Kathe Kollwitz again--and also for the opportunity to drive to Washington on a sunny, spring-like February day, have a delicious lunch in the downstairs cafe and a lively conversation with a group of smart and thoughtful readers, and then browse the shelves of one of the country's finest bookstores.

And to make it all even better: I listened to several Alice Munro stories on the drive down and back. Felt like a perfect, stolen day.

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