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A masterful novel by the highly praised author of Away, The Underpainter tells the story of a 75-year-old American minimalist painter who creates a new series of paintings as he remembers the details of his life and of the lives of those individuals who have affected him.
announce something vital that has been overlooked or refused. But none of this came to my eighteen-year-old mind as I attempted a watercolour of the pastoral, lush Ontario shoreline. What intrigued me instead was how a landscape could look both manicured and uninhabited at the same time. There was something in me then, some love of both solitude and order, that responded immediately to what I was seeing. But as we drew closer to Davenport, my elation began to diminish. Stilted and small, the town
where there were no mature trees, however, disclosed its site, and as I walked towards this place I recalled views of the night lake from windows and balconies, the music of The Baltimore Rhythmaires, youthful couples gliding over a hardwood floor. The irretrievable prewar calm. We believe that the whole planet rotates at once, but, in fact, it seems to me each entity in it turns on its own private axis, independent of the larger dawns and sunsets. I wondered about this vanished building. How
assembled a century before were charged, radiant, their awkwardness a shining memorial to the labour of the men who had built them. This was the first time I had been moved by the tranquillity rather than the violence of nature, the first time I felt the scene before me to be one of perfect harmony. I had never before suspected it was possible that landscape — this impression — might be a compensation for misery, for loss. The lake was bright blue, sparkling below us. Two or three white sails
energetic they hurled themselves over the lane I walked each day to Sara’s house. I was unnerved by this, as unnerved as I had been by the brief, fierce storms of earlier in the summer that had swung in from the centre of the lake. But even they didn’t have the insistency of this kind of equinoctial front that pounded the land and refused to pass on. Still, it moved me, this wildness, and so I drew Sara standing by windows, looking out towards the frantic lake, the hectic sky. I drew her
word “pigeon” aloud, and after that she had heard flies buzzing, drowsily coming to life after a winter sleep. She panicked then because she had no idea how long she had been gone. Her whole life might have passed — she felt the way she had imagined an old woman might feel — but when she removed one mitten she saw with relief that the skin on her hand was smooth, young. The first few days of reawakening were really quite wonderful; the world was so fresh and new. “It was on parade,” she said,