One of my New Year’s resolutions, which my day-to-day sanity increasingly seems to depend on, is to devote chunks of dedicated time in the evenings and weekends to books. Not just the mounds of novels it’s become more and more difficult to tackle, but to the photography and art books I compulsively buy, dreaming of the peace of mind that will come from sitting quietly with the complete works of Michelangelo or Caravaggio or with a collection of Saul Leiter’s early black-and-whites. When browsing the shelves of a bookshop or heading down the rabbit hole of Amazon, I always imagine that I’ll be able to muster the requisite attention to profit from these treasures, but it’s depressing how difficult it can be, in the throes of adult life, even to look at beautiful pictures that aren’t generated on a backlit screen.
The presence of small children in my life amounts to a sword that cuts both ways when it comes to finding the room in my day for the contemplation and study I used to take for granted. I’m tired after all the practical demands of the day—bath, dinner, grocery shopping, teeth-brushing. But everything is new and fascinating to my five-year-old daughter, who has developed an enormous interest in the historical Jesus (though in classic French fashion, she is not even on the fence about questions of his divinity) and has discovered through the paintings of old Italian masters as many exciting biblical scenes as she could ask for. The work, which is really a pleasure and a privilege, of bringing these books to my daughter has had the beneficial side effect of bringing me back to them.
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