Wednesday, July 22, 2015

cool air blowing on the street

------------------------------ [excerpt, Reading Jackie, by William Kuhn] --------------------- [Author Peter] Sís said, "I had no idea how long it would take me to do the book, and I ended up needing double the time allotted.  'Take all the time in the world you want," she said, and the project occupied almost a year. 

At one point she got nervous. 

My wife and I had just had a little baby.  I was in hot and humid New York trying to re-create Prague."  The centuries-old city of his youth couldn't have been more different:  one of his strongest recollections was of the cool air blowing out of cellars onto the street. 

He was finding progress difficult.  Jackie went downtown by herself one day to call at Sís's house and rang the bell.  Finding him not at home, she walked over to a building housing artists' studios at Lafayette and Spring Streets in Soho.

She decided to try finding him there, without knowing precisely which studio was his.  She created a stir in the building, wandering around different studios in her dark glasses and surprising artists at their tables by knocking unannounced on their doors:  "Do you know where I can find Peter Sís?" 

"She finally found me," he recalled, and she was happy with the incomplete work that he showed her, even though it was beyond the deadline.  "Take your time," she told him, but he knew very well that what she meant was to hurry up.

When he finally finished, he had to take all his artwork in to Doubleday.

"We had a meeting in a conference room that was all glass," with a view over the towering buildings of midtown Manhattan.  "We spread all the art on the floor.  For an immigrant, this was the most amazing moment.  I had all my art above New York and Mrs. Onassis was down on the floor looking at it." ...

...The narrator of The Three Golden Keys tells the story to Madeleine, born in New York with no knowledge or experience of her father's native country.  It's a dreamlike recollection of being led around Prague by a black cat....

With this book, Jackie aimed at an unusual crossover audience suddenly curious about one of the jewel-like Eastern European cities that had been off-limits to Westerners for the past thirty years.


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