Here we have two very famous paintings by the amazing Henri Rousseau: “The Snake Charmer,” and “Tiger in a Tropical Storm.” (Note: we also looked at “Tiger in a Tropical Storm” in a previous post.)
Putting these two paintings side-by-side is going to help us home in on the emotional insight in each one.
Look at “Tiger in a Tropical Storm.” You can click the red arrow in the lower right to get the image to stay on the screen. See how vividly it depicts the tiger’s fear, and how everything is frighteningly in motion.
Now take a look at “The Snake Charmer.” By contrast it’s easy to notice how serene, harmonious, calm, and peaceful it is. Rousseau is communicating something to us emotionally about serenity. Do you feel it?
This is one of Rousseau’s most famous paintings – “Tiger in a Tropical Storm.” Rousseau’s paintings pack a big emotional wallop. You feel the fear, the desperation of the tiger. The white light on the top of the tiger’s head and on the nearby leaves shows the light of a lighting bolt that is alarming him. You feel sympathy for the tiger – and yet, you also feel the tiger is a monster that could eat you. All this can be referenced and pointed to in intellectual terms, in words such as these. Beyond that is the vast and deep emotional content of the work, which can only be appreciated through the use of your emotional ability. Do you feel it?
Today we’ll have a look at one of the most famous paintings of all time, Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” It depicts the moment when Jesus has just informed the disciples that one of them will betray him.
The first thing you notice, as a way of finding your way in to the emotional meaning of the painting, is that nobody is feeling the way Jesus is. He’s full of a holy sadness and regret. Nobody else is feeling that at all. To me this communicates an awe of the holy emotions of Jesus, and shows the disparity between those emotions and those of his disciples.
Take a look at the painting. Do you feel it?
Here’s a solid example of emotional insight from Jane Austin.
After playing some Italian songs, Miss Bingley varied the charm by a lively Scotch air; and soon afterwards Mr. Darcy, drawing near Elizabeth, said to her:
“Do not you feel a great inclination, Miss Bennet, to seize such an opportunity of dancing a reel?”
She smiled, but made no answer. He repeated the question, with some surprise at her silence.
“Oh!” said she, “I heard you before, but I could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say ‘Yes,’ that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kind of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all—and now despise me if you dare.”
“Indeed I do not dare.”
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.
This conveys emotional insight all the way through, of course. Perhaps the easiest example to get with from this passage is, “Indeed I do not dare.” You can feel Darcy’s admiration for Elizabeth, his respect for her. You get a sense of his emotion about her and what that emotion means. Read it again – do you feel it?
Here’s another big, easy-to-get with example of emotional insight from J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” Holden Caulfield is trying to find his little sister Phoebe at her school:
I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another “Fuck you” on the wall. I tried to rub it off with my hand again, but this one was scratched on, with a knife or something. It wouldn’t come off. It’s hopeless, anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world. It’s impossible.
A short time later Holden is waiting to meet his sister. He’s looking at the exhibit of mummies in the Museum of Natural History in New York.
I was the only one left in the tomb then. I sort of liked it, in a way. It was so nice and peaceful. Then, all of a sudden, you’d never guess what I saw on the wall. Another “Fuck you.” It was written with a red crayon or something, right under the glass part of the wall, under the stones.
That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact.
One thing I’m noticing more and more lately is that there are cases where intellectually it may not be at all apparent what the emotional insight is referring to; and there are other cases where there’s no doubt about it. This example from “Catcher” is an example in which the author is putting the literal thing he’s having the emotional insight about right in front of you — all the FU’s he sees written on walls in places they should never be.
What Salinger is conveying here more than the literal fact of those FU’s — it’s the emotional impact they have on him; it’s how Holden feels about them and the meaning of those emotions. If you read the passage you’ll feel the emotional insight Salinger is communicating. It can’t be expressed in any other words. That’s why we need works of art!
(Illustration via Listal)
In this passage from J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” Holden Caulfield has finally gotten back to his house. He’s sneaking in so as not to wake his parents, whom he’s trying to avoid. He’s hoping to talk to his dear sister, Phoebe.
It was dark as hell in the foyer, naturally, and naturally I couldn’t turn on any lights. I had to be careful not to bump into anything and make a racket. I certainly knew I was home, though. Our foyer has a funny smell that doesn’t smell like anyplace else. I don’t know what the hell it is. It isn’t cauliflower and it isn’t perfume–I don’t know what the hell it is–but you always know you’re home.
That’s a perfect example of emotional insight. Intellectually you might say, “Of course you know you are home. It’s your house and you opened the door with your key.” Yes, of course. But emotionally something happens that is beyond that – something that can’t be expressed at all in any intellectual terms. It’s a meaning that can only be felt and understood by the use of your emotional abiliy. It can only be expressed in a work of art.
Read the quote from “Catcher” again. Do you feel it?
One of the things I do regularly on this site is to post big, easy-to-get-with examples of emotional insight. Emotional insight conveys a meaning that can only be grasped using your emotional ability.
Here’s another great example, from Robert Frost.
Love and a Question
by Robert Frost
A stranger came to the door at eve,
And he spoke the bridegroom fair.
He bore a green-white stick in his hand,
And, for all burden, care.
He asked with the eyes more than the lips
For a shelter for the night,
And he turned and looked at the road afar
Without a window light. read more →
I’ve posted previously about how a work of art communicates a meaning that only your emotional ability can appreciate. Today’s Dylan Thomas poem, “In My Craft or Sullen Art”, is a great example.
In My Craft Or Sullen Art
by Dylan Thomas
In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms, read more →
Marnie Pehrson explains how to find out how many books you have to sell on Amazon to obtain Amazon best-seller status in the category of your choice.
…and, incidentally, how to figure out how many books everybody else is selling in any category you want. Brilliant!
What standard of achievement in terms of self-published book sales is the threshold for impressing pros in the traditional publishing world? Major book agent Mollie Glick. provides the answer:
The Book Doctors: What is the threshold for sales of a self-published book that make you go, “Wow!”? And in what time frame are you looking for with these numbers?
Mollie Glick: Good question. I’d like to see someone selling at least 5-10k copies and hopefully more like 20k on their own. And it’s not so much about the time frame as what price they’ve set their novel at. A novel selling hundreds of thousands of copies at a dollar a pop is still intriguing, but you do wonder whether those fans will keep buying once the book costs more like ten dollars.
A guest post on Renee Pawlish’s blog provides tips on using the free promotional features of Amazon’s KDP Select program:
I wanted to share some of the information I have gathered from two 2-day free events with Amazon. It took a while just to get to the point where I could understand some of the complexities of the industry. I have created a simple template to share with you in order to record your information whenever you begin a new campaign. You can print out this template and record the numbers manually if you like. For the purposes of this look-see I am limiting the data to February 1 & 2, as well as Feb 13 & 14, 2013, a snapshot in time. I will also draw some amateur conclusions from this set of data. It is not meant to be representative, as on any given day the data may not reproduce from one instance to another due to the variables noted above.
This was one of the first 3D movies my wife and I saw together. We liked it. 90 minutes of food jokes, but they keep being funny.
I watched it last year on a 3D TV and, unlike most 3D movies I see that way, it gave me a headache. I’m guessing they’ve improved the 3D for the sequel.
Library Thing has made a list of 261 titles that were a part of Monroe’s personal library. Books on the list include: Out Of My Later Years by Albert Einstein; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert; The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner; as well as poetry collections from Robert Frost, John Milton, and Edgar Allen Poe, among others.
Writer.ly is giving away free copies of Guy Kawasaki’s new book, “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book”, to people who register. A nice deal!
Bo Bennett has built a ebook company over the last two years that manages 2,000 titles. He’s just released a free book of promotion and marketing tips.
Readers who think marketing advice is necessarily complicated, esoteric, and expensive will applaud Bo Bennett’s decision to release his new ebook ’50 Tips for Promoting and Marketing Your eBook’ at no charge through his company’s own bookstore. The book offers tips that come not from a single author, but from Bennett’s experience supporting and observing the successes and failures of hundreds of author-clients at his firm, eBookIt.com.
- Emotional Insight about Serenity from Henri Rousseau | Vik Rubenfeld Author Blog on Emotional Insight in an Amazing Painting by Rousseau
- Emotional Insight from “Catcher in the Rye” Part II | Vik Rubenfeld Author Blog on Emotional Insight from T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song”
- Emotional Insight from “Catcher in the Rye” Part II | Vik Rubenfeld Author Blog on Kick-Ass Emotional Insight from Dylan Thomas
- Vik Rubenfeld on 50 Rudyard Kipling Poems Discovered!
- Dec. 14, 2012–The Prodigals Are Coming Home on The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Rembrandt
- 29 Nov 2011The Appreciation of Art is a Use of Emotional Ability (with an Example from F. Scott Fitzgerald) 6 Comments
- 15 Nov 2011Site Launch Post 2 Comments
- 09 Jan 2012Bet You Didn’t Know They Talked About Sex Like This in the 1800′s (Emotional Insight from Walt Whitman) 2 Comments
- 11 Jan 2012Emotional Insight from Earnest Hemingway 2 Comments
- 17 Dec 2011Interview with Yours Truly Today on the Great Site, “I’m a Book Shark” 2 Comments
Hire My Cover Designer
Contact Derek Chiodo at eCoverMakers. He did a fantastic job on the cover for my novel, "Conquest."