Book Recommendation: Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore
I’m one of those promiscuous creative-types. That is to say, I dabble in a bit of everything. Sometimes inspiration moves me to write, sometimes to paint, sometimes to whip up a wicked confection. So when I stumbled on Sacré Bleu, admittedly a book I had not heard of, my interest was certainly piqued. A novel that bills itself as a “brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late-nineteenth-century Paris” seemed like just the thing to keep this jane of all trades interested — and I wasn’t wrong.
Historical fiction this isn’t, unless you mean in the DaVinci Code sense. Within the first few pages, we find ourselves in 1890s France with a freshly murdered Vincent Van Gogh, seemingly over a painting in blue. And so we start our wild blue chase across the centuries, spurred on by our protagonist, a baker-turned-painter, Lucien Lessard. His is a life of a wannabe Neo-Impressionist, and with his best friend Henri Toulouse-Lautrec at his side, he begins to unravel the mystery of his murdered Dutch colleague.
For every raunchy jokes and scene of midnight debauchery within the pages of Sacré Bleu, there was a deeper, captivating energy that egged me on. The book is written through the unmistakable lens of a painter, in a way I have seldom encountered outside of artist journals. Moore writes about the dire importance of light, the frustration, the often maddening impulse to create, in a way that’s rings stingingly true.
For instance, peppered throughout the book are brief interludes which serve to add a backdrop of both “historical” context and plot-driving mysticism. It’s here we find the true allure of a certain shade of blue, ultramarine. Painters out there are familiar this pigment for its as much for its costliness as its borderline absurd vibrancy. Throughout history, from the tomb paintings of Egypt to the sacred images of the Virgin Mary and Picasso’s series in blue, this color reigns supreme. And within these interludes, we discover a more occult reason for it’s magnetism.
What comes of Sacré Bleu and our hero Lessard’s quest is a bigger question: What is the standard when you are doing something that’s never been done? What kind of muse inspires that? These are questions that as a writer and painter pester me to disquiet at best and to profound torment at worst. But even beyond the artistic spirit, the urge to create is innately human. The hunt for inspiration is at the heart of Sacré Bleu. It’s an itch we’d all love to have scratched.
Source: Procured from the newsstand downstairs from my office.