Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Monday, February 05, 2007

Glass Bead Game

(I did post last week but it ended up in the ether)

A week and a half ago I took my youngest daughter to see Thomas Heatherwick's Bleigiessen sculpture in London. It's in the Wellcome Trust building at the top of Gower Street and they let the public in for a tour on the last Friday of the month. It won a competition to fit a sculpture into a thirty metre high space, with the stipulation that it would have to get through the door, as the building was finished. Heatherwick went one further and used components small enough to fit through the letterbox.

His mother ran the Bead Company and he remembered her making bead curtains when he was small, so he basically designed a thirty-metre 3D bead curtian. The sculpture is made up of large round glass beads strung on steel wires. The shape was determined by dropping molten metal into spinning water - a divination technique practised in Germany and called Bleigiessen, like tea-leaf reading.

The planning needed was mind-boggling. Jess took millions of photos from different floors and we staggered out reeling.

Since my last post, I read Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, a Christmas present from another writer. It's one of the great unfinished works of the 20th century, only two parts written out of four or five because she was taken to Auschwitz in 1942; her husband followed a month later. Their two little girls were saved by their child-minder and survived. The older one has kept this leather-bound notebook of her mother's but never read it, thinking it was a journal and might be too painful, but it turned out to be this complete MS of parts one and two plus notes for the rest. She was working on it up to the last minute. So one of those cases where the context and history of the book is a parallel story of equal interest to the book itself. I had to brace myself to read it, fearing horrors, but it was just about copable with.

I saw a DVD about Jan van Eyck the fifteenth century Flemish painter, made by a friend. He was superb and a true inheritor of the spiritual depth of the Sienese painters of a century earlier. I really only knew the Arnolfini Wedding but there is masses of work extant.

We saw Richard lll at Stratford, completing the first tetralogy. Jonathan Slinger was absolutely amazing as Richard and the three and a half hours flew by. Can't wait for the second lot - it was such a good idea to keep the original cast as a repertory ensemble through eight plays.

Also watched the DVD of Thank you for Smoking, which had a really good script - so rare in Hollywood movies. But I dipped out of The Last King of Scotland, which the others went to. I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the brutality. My brother-in-law was in Uganda at the time of the expulsion of the Asians and helped a few of them - one came to live with my mother-in-law and became a family member, her first social occasion in England being our wedding.


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