|Author Edmund de Waal with his inherited netsuke|
My uber-bookstore friend, Liz, told me early in the year that I had to read The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss. When I read what the book was about -- tiny Japanese figurines called netsuke, a famous Jewish banking dynasty, Vienna and the Second World War -- I hesitated. Non-fiction and written by a British ceramist, it just didn't interest me, particularly the netsuke. I trust Liz, though, and bought the book anyway, and let me tell you that this was probably the best read of the year for me -- a powerful true story, beautifully written and filled with suspense, art and tragedy.
Stories are a kind of thing, too. Stories and objects share something, a patina. I thought I had this clear, two years ago before I started, but I am no longer sure how this works. Perhaps a patina is a process of rubbing back so that the essential is revealed, the way that a striated stone tumbled in a river feels irreducible, the way that this netsuke of a fox has become little more than a memory of a nose and a tail. But it also seems additive, in the way that a piece of oak furniture gains over years and years of polishing, and the way the leaves of my medlar shine.
Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss