Between Lives: An Artist and Her World by Dorothea Tanning

By Dorothea Tanning

Fourteen years in the past, the artist Dorothea Tanning released Birthday, a suite of recollections. Now she has extended it right into a memoir of her trip during the final century as confidant, collaborator, and muse to a couple of its so much encouraged minds and personalities: a various assemblage that levels from the fathers of dada and surrealism to Virgil Thompson, George Balanchine, Alberto Giacometti, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, Joan Miró, James Merrill, and plenty of extra. At its heart is the connection, tenderly rendered, among Tanning and her famed husband, the enigmatic surrealist Max Ernst.

Whether recalling the poignant presence of her buddy Joseph Cornell or just marveling on the facades alongside a Venice canal, "their filmy reflections fluttering within the soiled canal like fragile altar cloths frolicked to dry," Tanning's writing is beguiling, wry, and shot via with an analogous eye for pregnant aspect and immanent magic that marks her artwork.

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Whereas the trip to school was relatively calm, the one returning home was bedlam. The kids would be screaming and shouting and generally causing havoc, swinging from the bars and jumping on the seats. The driver and the conductors couldn’t do much to control it so didn’t bother most of the time. But it was all pretty harmless fun. Our exams were all taken in the Games Hall – rows and rows of pupils all taking their O Levels and CSEs. It was pretty hard to concentrate. By the time I left school in the late 1970s, things had changed vastly over the decade.

We also had to sit on chairs and watch the assembly and tell kids off who were talking. It was embarrassing even then and, of course, I never told anyone off. Once a week, if you were a prefect, you had to go to one of the staff rooms with the other prefects to have a talk with the local vicar. I think the talk was about forty minutes long and he discussed God and Jesus etc. Seems odd now. Anyway, I never minded because it got me out of class for a while. Violence in the classroom towards kids back then seemed to be almost acceptable.

Indd 60 60 01/09/2014 12:19 Four Cars, Buses and Petrol The 1970s, to me, had some of the best cars. They might have been unreliable rust buckets but they certainly seemed to have plenty of character. The photograph on p. 58 shows my dad cleaning our Vauxhall Viva in about 1971. It was a bonus if it got to the end of the street as it was forever breaking down. There were a lot fewer cars in the street in those days and it was unusual to see any passing traffic. Our immediate neighbours had an Austin Maxi.

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