I haven't decided whether to circle back and add some art to this post or do it properly with a post on each exhibit. It would be better to take the second route, but that greatly increases the chances I won't get around to it for some time. At any rate, as I described here, last weekend the trip to Buffalo ran pretty smoothly right up until the very end, when I got stuck in Buffalo for an extra 90 minutes. This time around the very frustrating aspects of the trip had already been revealed when the Kronos Quartet concert was cancelled,* and I had to rearrange my plans earlier in the week. But at least that meant I wasn't scrambling like the last time I was in Montreal. I had managed to get the hotel stay down to one night and I had booked Megabus back from Montreal to Toronto (and I also had figured out where to catch Megabus!).
In general, the trip went very smoothly. We got to Kingston a bit early and had time to stretch our legs, etc. We got into Ottawa maybe 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I managed to catch the LRT over to Rideau station and then ran over to the National Gallery. I spent the first 30 minutes going through the Riopelle exhibit. I liked it, especially the fact they delved a bit more into his early career and then had a few pieces from late in his career. (The Mitchelle/Riopelle show at the AGO was almost entirely focused on the middle of his career.) Then I went through the other parts of the museum, trying to ensure I still had 20 minutes at the end to go back through the Riopelle for a second time. Then I met a guy I used to work with at HDR, and we grabbed tea and spent some time catching up. He was able to drop me off at the Via station where I had a two hour ride up to Montreal.
It was pretty cold in Montreal, so I walked very quickly over to the hotel and checked in. In the morning, I wrote down a completely wild dream (that was more or less about trying to get tickets to a Fringe show, but I think I must have been in Edinburgh, not Toronto). I had my (free) breakfast at the hotel, and then walked over to the Museum of Fine Arts. This time it was open when it was supposed to be open. I talked very briefly with the guy at the counter about Mahfouz (he had seen my copy of Fountain and Tomb and wanted to know where to start with Mahfouz -- ultimately I recommended Midaq Alley).
Anyway, I headed straight up to the Georgia O'Keefe and Henry Moore exhibit. I spent close to half an hour just in the first room, which had lots of small, very detailed paintings. This was a very clever exhibit, even if the pairing was not immediately apparent, and I thought even the organization of the exhibit was very good. My mother would have just loved it, especially the middle section where they had recreated both O'Keefe's and Moore's studios. In the end I think I spent an hour and a half going through the exhibit carefully. I think if there had been any more, I might have felt over-stuffed. Then I had just about another hour and a half to look at all the other parts of the museum. The Pop Art exhibit was still on in the basement, and I also had time to look at the Quebec artist wing (including a room dedicated to Riopelle!) and of course the gift shop. I had been switching between English and my very limited French but was able to conduct the transaction in the gift shop completely in French. I bought a copy of the O'Keefe-Moore catalogue and the clerk slipped in a booklet of the French translation of all the text in the catalogue. (The exhibit was actually organized by a US museum, who also printed the books and did not create a French version, so I guess this was their workaround.) The only really strange thing about the catalogue is that there isn't a checklist of the exhibition, and indeed I can tell that at least one Moore ink drawing wasn't on view, as well as one of O'Keefe's pueblo church paintings. But I enjoyed my time there very much.
I didn't stumble across any good looking restaurants on my way over to Megabus, so I just ended up grabbing an egg and bagel sandwich, which I think is what I did last time as well, though I vaguely remember finding a hole-in-the-wall place that served pizza. The bus left on time and got into Toronto roughly on time as well, so that was quite a relief, even though the food court pickings were pretty slim by the time I got there.
In terms of what I read on this long trip, I did get through about 400 pages of East of Eden. While I think he is probably overdoing it in terms of two sets of brothers who both seem to be embodying the Cain and Abel dynamic, there are definitely some interesting sections. It does make me a bit more likely to try to read The Grapes of Wrath next winter. While I expect at some point I'll get to all his shorter novels, if I get through the door-stoppers East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, on top of the several shorter novels I already read, that covers all the essential Steinbeck, aside just possibly from The Winter of Our Discontent.
I would almost certainly have gotten through all of East of Eden, but I actually read three other books as well! I read William Trevor's Fools of Fortune. The first half or so is pretty good, but then the resolution of the story is absolutely stupid. I refuse to belief that a man driven into exile (and only to Italy, not across the world!) would not eventually have sent for his wife (or almost-wife) and daughter to join him. In general, I don't ever seem to like William Trevor's longer works. It remains to be seen if I like his short stories, but I am starting to think I won't care much for them, and the shelf space could be given over to any number of other authors... I actually left Fools of Fortune in the Ottawa train station, though no idea if anyone will pick it up or not. Had I been staying at a hostel, I would have left it in the common room.
I read Jeanette Winterson's Weight (a retelling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles) on the train to Montreal, and indeed I left this in the Montreal train station. Given the time we came in, this is even less likely to have found a home. C'est la vie. I was pretty happy to have divested myself of two short books from my huge pile of books to read.
I finished up Mahfouz's Fountain and Tomb early on the bus ride back to Toronto. I haven't entirely decided, but this is likely to end up in the Little Free Library out front, even though I did enjoy it a fair bit. I just can't quite picture reading it a second time...
So all in all, quite a successful trip, and I just need to download (and back up!) all the photos from this weekend and then put some of the best up on the blog.
Edit (02/26): Not that it matters that much, but now my immediate next novels are a bit different. I need to wrap up East of Eden (which despite its length is pretty darn readable), then Carol Shields's Swann, de Maistre's Journey Around My Room, Rushdie's Fury, Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time, and Zalika Reid-Benta's River Mumma. I have a handful of poetry books to read in the next 10 days, and after that I'm not totally sure. I am contemplating the newish novel about lockdown in Toronto, Rosenblum's These Days Are Numbered. If I do read that, I'll probably also read Shteyngart's Our Country Friends. (I'm hoping that in only a few more days the TPL website will be searchable again. If not, I'll have to put River Mumma and Our Country Friends off to the side, unless they happen to be available at Robarts or at one of the college libraries. I'll find out late next week I guess.
* I'm definitely having second and third thoughts about not travelling out to Berkeley for this amazing concert where they were doing Different Trains and possibly Black Angels (though I had seen them do Black Angels previously). Had things moved a lot faster on getting hired at my new job, I would have been able to justify the trip. Oh well. I just wish I knew what they were going to perform in Toronto (aside from something with Tanya Tagaq).