Nikolas Jones ’14 – This summer, I am living in a small studio apartment where my seventh story window overlooks the Montparnasse Cemetery. This room is my home base for my travels across the city of Paris. Some days, I wake in the morning and walk the streets until night, only returning to the room a few hours after the sun is has gone down. Other days I never leave this room. And my writing manifests in different ways each day.
The other day, while sitting in the Luxembourg Gardens, I wrote on the backs of ten receipts from my bag, wallet and pockets. If a phrase, sound, idea etc. comes to mind, I’ll take notes on the back of my left hand when I have no paper. I take a black composition notebook with me to observe the churches. I write in a sketchbook when I am in my room. And it is the combination of all these things that has made my time in Paris worthwhile. For the first time since deciding I want to be a writer (undefinable by a single date, but more a developed period of time while under the guidance of Professor Hudson and Freeze these past few years), I have almost complete free reign to spend my days writing.
My project this summer is to observe the churches of Paris, and use those observations in the development of a novel. While on an immersion trip May 2012, some of the intermingling of commercialism and spirituality seemed problematic to me. These buildings appeared to be much more “museum” than “place of worship.” Thousands of people go through these buildings for their historical or artistic significance, yet seemingly many fewer are using these buildings for solely spiritual purposes. And I am not exempt from these actions. I go to the churches, many times only to observe the artwork, people or architecture. And I think the churches should be open for such things. Because the buildings hold art themselves. The buildings often are art themselves. So as I make my rounds to various churches, I am looking at the buildings as a place of community and I want to see how the community interacts in these buildings.
Reed Hepburn’12 has been with me often since I arrived, helping me move into my apartment on May 23rd. It has been great to have a fellow writer and friend from back home around to share ideas, discuss novels and poetry, or explore the city. His ability to speak French where mine is sub-par at best has also been quite convenient. We’ve drank wine by the Seine with co-workers at Shakespeare and Company, celebrated Bloomsday (the date in which James Joyce’s Ulysses is set) in a Scottish pub called The Highlander, had meals with friends in Montmartre, explored the Luxembourg gardens, and played and sang guitar together. As far as my project goes, having someone who is familiar with my own work like Reed has been good during the times when I find myself stuck. His input is one I trust, and has helped me move along in my writings of various poems or fiction writing.
Along with writing and visiting churches, I am volunteering at Shakespeare and Company bookstore. I spend between 8-12 hours a week stocking books on the shelves, setting up for readings from various poets, novelists or speakers. My time in the bookstore has been quite pleasant, and has continued to exacerbate my love of books. While moving books from the stockpile to the shelves, I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I want to read. Since I arrived, I have read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Often when I am immersed in a book, the story, setting or mood reflects into my everyday life and writings. In my next blog, I will discuss the interaction of my readings with my specific adventures in Paris. Themes of celebration, vanity and desolation run through these three books respectfully, and I will show how reading these books during my time in Paris has affected my mindset in daily life.