What I'm reading and viewing (1/1/19)

On the cusp of turning 30, I hopped a train from Paris to this little town called Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh painted 77 works over three months. It was drizzling and it might have been easier to hole up in a cafe back in Paris or wander the stacks at Shakespeare & Co. but because you never know when you’ll return, you rally through. This is how I found myself standing over the gravestones of Theo and Vincent Van Gogh (the two were brothers) in a rainstorm and slipping and sliding through muddy wheat fields that Van Gogh once strode through. Last night I saw “At Eternity’s Gate,” starring Willem Davoe, an intimate portrait of Van Gogh’s life and work. Wow! This film by Julian Schnabel (himself a painter) evokes all of the senses, even the breezes in those Auvers-sur-Oise wheat fields.

Two summers ago I traveled to Havana, Cuba, and while the scope was limited given that it was a day excursion from a cruise ship, I learned a ton about the country’s past and present, some of it heartbreaking and some of it bittersweet, through a personal tour guide. Chanel Cleeton’s novel “Next Year in Havana,” is set in Havana. Ironically, I found it hard to put this book down while on another cruise ship last month. I just bought a copy for my travel companion as a holiday present!

I’ve seen two plays produced by Wisconsin native and Pulitzer Prize-winnign playwright Ayad Akhtar and am thrilled another of his (“Junk: The Golden Age of Debt”) will take the stage at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater this winter. Lindsey Anderson’s profile of Akhtar in the January 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine was fascinating.