Friday, June 12, 2009

MFK Fisher and the Art of Living

I find increasingly as I get older that I do not consider myself a writer.

-MFK Fisher, To Begin Again

Lately, in an attempt to better myself, I have been trying to read more. And lately, that reading has been mostly about MFK Fisher, a food writer with honest prose and a penchant for vegetarianism. She grew up in Whittier California, and was a contemporary of my grandmother, also a writer from Whittier, California.

All this reading has been inspiring me. I love the ubiquitous glamour of these times. The constraints and the freedom.

The entire period of time that MFK Fisher, my grandmother, and their contemporaries, lived is fascinating and inspiring to me in a very sensual and elegantly hedonistic way. The cocktail parties, the education and travel, the artists and the writers, the food and the wine. The formality, the cultural girdle, that held the sensuous nature of the time in its place.

I can see it all so clearly, from my mother's many tellings of the cocktail parties her mother and father attended, and held, and at which my mother and aunt often served. Well heeled professor types mixed with the artists and writers, the clinking of the ice swimming happily in its rapidly sinking waters. The small bites of food confirmed or denied for a more slimming cigarette perhaps.

The spare furnishings of the modern, art deco style. The minimalism that perfectly tempered the overstuffed brains. The cigarette and martini hangovers that must have ensued, only after lengthy discussions over esoteric points of academic interest.

The way the men and women arranged themselves. The lipstick, the cufflinks, the twinsets. The subtle disclosure. The importance of style, Jackie O, cars, the relative abundance of the post war mentality. The Bon Vivant and suspension of time.

Many people tend to characterize themselves by a certain span of time, a certain frame of reference. Often the time they consider their happiest, or the one in which most things were going right. They see this as the pivotal moment and use it as a compass for the rest of their lives.

I noticed that many more progressive individuals fight this instinct, however, and continue to move on creating better and more interesting moments in a continual sort of fashion.

In reading MFK Fisher's biography, I was struck by her ability, after great tragedy, to continue to move on and produce and focus on what was important to her as she continued on her journey. She did not get stuck day dreaming about her favorite past moment. She did herself the justice of this discipline. A true inspiration and the hallmark of successful, flexible living. Life as a work in progress. Life as art itself.

Image credits in order of appearance:, flickr. com, Life.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I have often wondered about what the day after was like for the cocktail party set--are they made of heartier stuff than we are today or did they spend every day after in recovery?

Katrina Hazel, Recruitment Hero said...

this stuff sometimes makes me want to wear pearls. but then I remember that then I'd look funny.