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Monday, March 21, 2011

Nouvelle 55: The Girl by the Window

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The Girl by the Window, 1893
by Edvard Munch
Art Institute of Chicago


The Girl by the Window
Afraid, gulping bitterness,
she padded to the windowed moonlight,
to see if it were really so.

“You see? She is leaving. Look at her trunk.”
Grandmother’s voice was a triumph, like a horn.
Grandmother didn’t know her own trunk
was packed for just such a night as this.

She was afraid she would never leave.

This is my first nouvelle 55, a flash fiction.

I wonder if you're like me at the moment. My attention span is shorter than ever. I feel restless. I can barely make it through a news article or op-ed without feeling that there is something else I should be doing, thinking or saying. Living in the moment, this moment, now, has never been more difficult. Strangely though, yesterday I read longer in War & Peace than I have up until now, go figure. I had my laptop open, looking up facts about the Napoleonic Wars. I couldn't get enough. Tolstoy's beautiful writing, where I ride each sentence like I'm tubing a slow-moving river, kept me riveted for hours. It also inspired me to write fiction. Very, very short fiction.

Flash fiction, micro fiction, what the French call nouvelle. Steve Moss challenged people to write them in 55 words, no more, no less. I'm in the mood for Paris, so I made up this genre: nouvelle 55, which is flash fiction, based on a piece of art, in 55 words. This particular nouvelle 55 is a meditation on Edvard Munch's painting "The Girl by the Window." I'd love it if you'd try one. There are helpful tips for micro fiction at Heelstone here. Go ahead, find a piece of art for inspiration, and write a nouvelle 55.
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68 comments:

Louise Gallagher said...

OOoh goodie! A challenge. I'm always up for a challenge... if I wasn't so busy. If I didn't have to grab a shower, breakfast, make coffee, feed the dog and cat, take said dog for short walk, get dressed, downtown, meeting at 9...

Oh yeah. You said it's to help with the bizziness syndrome.

Ok. Tonight. I'll be back to try it out!

Love your Nouvell 55 -- intriquing.

Helena said...

I love Edward Munch. I was at his exhibition in Stockholm a couple of summers ago. Thielska Galleriet, wonderful place.

Flash fiction is the only thing I can do right now too. I don't know why. Can't even read any books. Restless like you.

Andressa said...

beautiful...

beth said...

i understand that short attention span...especially this time of year. it's almost like a virus.

ellen abbott said...

loved your nouvelle 55.

yes, I'm feeling a bit restless too. can't seem to decide on anything.

Friko said...

I am not sure that I understand your nouvelle 55.

Thank you for the link; flash fiction is something I've been considering too. I think I may even have written some.

I want to write all the time and not do anything else, but somehow there doesn't seem to be any purpose to it; it's also not much good.

The Internet is so flexible that slackers like me swim around in it and never seem to touch terra firma, i.e. something to get my teeth into. (Heavens, I can't even get my metaphors consistent).

I just read your piece again, it's very good; are you starting a new circle or are you simply encouraging others to have a go?

Ruth said...

Thanks, Louise, if it seems fun, do try it. I am certainly not looking for one more thing to burden anyone with! It just suddenly seemed like a fun diversion after researching a bit about micro fiction.

I'll watch to see if you try it. Have a good day.

Ruth said...

Helena, lucky you. I know his work is in the Nobel center in Oslo as well.

You too, huh? These days present a real challenge to peace of soul.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Andressa. Have a beautiful day.

Ruth said...

Beth, I've noticed the dogs I've seen on leashes are especially rambunctious. The world events weigh heavy this spring too. It's hard to know how to be.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Ellen, I'm glad you like it.

I have sensed this restlessness in others here locally and around the Internet. I feel jumpy.

Ruth said...

Friko, do you mean you aren't sure you understand my genre nouvelle 55, or the piece I wrote? I am not much one for circles and memes, but I thought maybe if this sparked inspiration in anyone else, I would be glad for it. I doubt I'll have a nouvelle 55 Fridays or anything like that.

I am finding solace in writing and reading. It seems to balance me like nothing else. If I didn't have them, I think I would become quite despondent.

Evelyn said...

I am really enjoying your blog.
the tone of your writing, your ideas, the look of the blog.
Im happy I found it.

Gayle Carline said...

I love flash fiction, altho I'm usually a chatty 250-word gal. But I want to try the nouvelle 55. As soon as I get the cone back on my dog's head, I'll give it a go.

Friko said...

I can't work out who the various 'shes' are.

Ruth said...

Thank you so much, Evelyn. That's great!

Ruth said...

Gayle, so long!

:-)

Great, I look forward to seeing your nouvelle 55!

Ruth said...

Friko, can you choose which she is she, and see which way the story goes?

Montag said...

Wow!

The Solitary Walker said...

Absolutely fantastic. Love yours and will certainly have a go myself.

The Solitary Walker said...

PS Know what you mean about the restlessness.

HisBell said...

OH I am soo soo much like that. I will have to look into the Nouvelles... I also like "short"

California Girl said...

Your poem is exquisitely succinct.

I love the line, "Grandmother's voice was a trimph, like a horn."

I can hear the old battle-axe now.

Ruth said...

Montag, yay!

As I told you, yours gave me chills. You picked a great painting too.

Ruth said...

Robert, yippee!

Ruth said...

Hi and welcome, HisBell, apparently nouvelles are the same as micro fiction and flash fiction. I just made this one up, to be 55 words and prompted by a piece of art.

Ruth said...

Thanks, California Girl. Sort of like the waa wa waaa wa in Peanuts cartoons.

Barb said...

Hi Ruth, More and more I find myself drawn to brevity. On both my blogs, I attempt to put a thought into as few words as possible. I usually use my own photos for inspiration, but I like the thought of being creative with someone else's art. Thank you for the link.

Gayle Carline said...

Okay, I tried one with one of my favorite paintings, Monet's Woman With a Parasol (link here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Claude_Monet_011.jpg):

Artists.
You use more than paint and canvas.
You consume lives.
"Stand just so - hold it! Don't move."
In the glow of evening, we expect the same fire
Of passion in your arms
But we cannot receive any because it isn't yours to give.
It belongs to Art.
Hurry, finish! I grow tired here.

FIN.
P.S. Do you know how hard it is for me to not go for the funny?

Shaista said...

Happy New Year beloved. Have you read this Rumi poem?

Spring overall. But inside us
there is another unit.

...Behind each eye
one glowing weather.

Every forest branch moves differently
in the breeze, but as they sway,
they connect at the roots.

Flash fiction is poetry n'est-ce pas? In your case it is anyway. I have an Edvard Munch story to tell, but another time. Je suis très fatigué... all this reading online, and keeping up, just as you say. The importance of being connected, even though we are always connected, whether we do anything about it or not :)

Fragrant Liar said...

I only WISH I could write so minimalistically. I am a wordy wordie, and brevity makes me feel tortured. I would say more, but I feel the tortured would be you, not me.

You did a wonderful job on this 55.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Ruth. Okay, you inspired me. I can relate to the short attention span. Worrisome times, yes?


I wanted to have a go at Nouvelle 55 (yours is so good), and then, bam! visiting my brother's blog and seeing a recent watercolor of his that he posted today, I knew immediately that I had to give Nouvelle 55 a go.

Thanks for the inspiration and distraction from the distressing news.

gemma said...

Wonderful Ruth. I am going to try this. Unsure if I'll post it. Now for the easy part...to be inspired by a painting.

Terresa said...

Nouvelle 55, what a fun exercise, I just may have to try it!

PS: Next flight to Paris? I'm with you, let's go! :)

Ruth said...

Barb, your photographs say so much, and your accompanying words are just right.

Ruth said...

Gayle, fabulous! So many artists come to mind. :-) I wonder if passion gave them their spark, the physical kind I mean. Lately I watched a video about Rodin sculpting a man, and it took a year! Imagine that man standing so long. Your nouvelle 55 works especially well with that Monet. She is looking down on the artist, and in the sun!

I think you should give yourself freedom to go for the funny. Some of the flash fictions are very much so.

Thanks for having such a successful go!

Ruth said...

Happy Nav Roz, Shaista, my dear root sister. Oh I am so happy that your branches wave for me in UK.

Don't forget your Edvard Munch story, please. If you don't bring it up, I'll nudge you with my root-toe. :-)

Ruth said...

Fragrant Liar, ha! But I enjoy reading you. I am loquacious too at times. I'm glad you like the 55. I like forms; somehow they open up possibilities.

Ruth said...

Dan! That is so brilliant! James' watercolor is fantastic, and the timing of my post so that you would be inspired to your nouvelle 55, which is perfect! Most of all I'm glad the exercise distracted you for a while from the heartache of the news.

Ruth said...

Gemma, do try it, I hope it's fun! I agree, being inspired by a work of art is the fun part.

Ruth said...

Terresa, I'll be honored if you try it. Et oui, allons-y!

Susan said...

Hmmm, I love the concept and the way the ending of your story is open to interpretation. Not sure If I can say anything in 55 words or less. ((rolls eyes)). But I might give it a whirl. It would be hard for me not to make it funny. Off to peruse a few paintings.

;-)

judie said...

Hi. I linked here from Gemma. Loved, absolutely FELT your Nouvelle55. I will have to try it. Sometimes I write short stories and poetry, but never wrote with a painting in mind. I am anxious to give it a whirl. I'm doing the Fiction Project, so now I have an idea for part of that. I also read your post on your visit from the two bluebirds. I have seen bluebirds only once in my life, a pair, which must have been migrating because I dont think they live here in FL. They were so beautiful. Thanks for posting about this enjoyable and envious visit. Wow, you actually got to HOLD them! Amazing. Nice to meet you. I'll be back.

Deslilas said...

Are you really going to Paris ?

Gwei Mui said...

Gosh so much in so little!
It's that time of year when things wake up, flowers break through, birds fly in - new beginnigs, when people get itch palms and feet

Gwen Buchanan said...

oh Ruth, I felt every syllable of your amazing Nouvelle 55 as if it were happening to me..

You absolutely have IT...

rauf said...

'jugglery of words' said Tolstoy about poetry. i don't know why he didn't like Poetry.

Some poems are moving. i can't say i don't like poetry Ruth. i don't make an attempt to understand.
i blame my lack of English knowledge. And Urdu prose itself is like poetry

prose has a very short history. All the official documants, plays, court discussions, debates were in verses earlier.

ds said...

Wonderful painting--who knew Munch could be so wistful?
I love this, though it feels a bit more like poetry to me than prose...the ambiguity, slight girl, grandmother like elephant (double meaning of trunk--HA!)
Ruth, you can write whatever you want, and call it whatever you like (nouvelle 55 so elegant), I will read it and know it is you--this is good--and be glad.
Do more!

Sidney said...

Strong ! Nicely done.
I would never be able to do that.

Ruth said...

Susie, you do it in text messages. :-)

Ruth said...

Welcome and thank you, Judie! Your art is beautiful, and perhaps you could choose one of your own paintings as a prompt for a nouvelle 55?

Those bluebirds. Thank you for reading about them and my strange and special encounter with them. Such quiet and shy creatures (well with me anyway).

Ruth said...

Daniel, sadly non. My daughter and I thought about it for a minute, but it's not a good time for her this year. But her French is so grand! One day she and I will go together. Perhaps we can meet then with you, and with Peter Olson!

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui! So long it's been. I must get over to Take Away Thoughts and catch up on what you are up to. Maybe new beginnings?

Ruth said...

Hello, Gwen! It's wonderful to see you. How kind you are! I hope you, John and Max are seeing some greening up by the Bay of Fundy. Much love.

Ruth said...

rauf, that's a good phrase Tolstoy had! One thing I haven't figured out yet is why sometimes those Russian authors, like Tolstoy and Gogol, called their long novels "poems."

You have made me want to learn Urdu for some time, rauf, to be able to read poetry in that language. I think I mentioned to you that we have readings at MSU of poems in various original languages. I have not been to one yet, but I would like to, just to hear the musicality of the words, even if I do not understand them cognitively.

Ruth said...

ds, thank you for noticing the double meaning of trunk! :-) I can always count on you, my friend.

You are awfully kind to me, a very good "reader" of me, always.

Won't you try a nouvelle 55?

Ruth said...

Thank you, Sidney! What you are doing in the Philippines is so important, I do not think you should give a thought to what you could never do. I am just blown away by your urban series of photographs. They are full of heart and beauty, even in the squalor.

Marcie said...

What a wonderful idea..and excellent challenge. Be careful - someone might pick up on this and create a 55-word micro-twitter (HA!).
Love the little meditation accompanying the painting.

erin said...

i love that there is so much story in one picture. the story slides off so very three dimensional. wonderful, ruth.

xo
erin

Barb said...

I came back to say that the matching of art with words is sometimes a strategy for encouraging young children at beginning reading/writing. Children who are asked to look at art and make a story from what they see often create quite interesting tales. We all see something different, don't we?

Peter said...

As you may imagine, I'm not taking up the 55-words-challenge! But I admire those who do ... and Munch!

Stratoz said...

sounding like a fun challenge, we will see, we will see. Love your story. Have a great day.

Vagabonde said...

You have a gift with words – I don’t. I enjoy reading your poems and prose though and admire your ability with them. I don’t have short time attention but, and I don’t know if that is good, I can stay on a subject for ever and not let it go, like a dog on a bone, until I am totally finished with it.

Jeanie said...

How fascinating. I think of it as tweeting with a plot. And good spelling. I, who have rarely been concise in my life, may well have to try it.

This is a stunning image -- I'm surprised I'm not familiar with it. What marvelous inspiration.

Margaret said...

I have done a few 55's but I am very thankful for your link. I printed it out and I am sure it will improve my approach to this verison of a "mini-mini novel" :) Yours was great!

Ginnie said...

Interestingly, Ruth, we'll soon be in Edvard Munch's country and may even visit his museum. I'll have to show Renny and Tor (my Norwegian blogger friends) your post here. They will greatly appreciate it.

joanny said...

Ruth:

This is lovely, I noticed over at Lorenzo's,from his lovely poem he posted and would love to join in. I have done some FF-55ers and the theme of my blog is centered around art so this will be quite enjoyable.

I was wondering when the poems needed to be posted by?

Joanny
LIVE DREAM LOVE

Anonymous said...

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