Metropolitan Stories

Christine Coulson  |  Fiction 2019

It is my fault this book is receiving one heart.  I seem to have misheard or misunderstood the interview I listened to on NPR.  The author is a 25-year veteran of the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  As I understood from the interview, this short book was filled with vignettes written by the pieces of art in the Met.  It sounded as though the pieces of art were going to speak and tell a story.  In the first chapter, this is what happens.  A 1749 chair crafted for the Duchess of Parma is eager to attract a modern-day child to her lap, to drool and wiggle.  She cheers this little guy on!  But mom reaches out in the nick of time and grabs the little boy before he is able to put his rump or even his fingers on the chair.  The chair was sad.  Ingenious!

In the second chapter, the Director of the Museum is looking for a Muse to bring to a meeting.  The curators of numerous exhibitions bring more than a hundred art pieces to the Director’s office.  The Three Graces, naked, headless, and inextricably linked together, are sent back.  “They shuffled out clumsily. The stuttering step of the conjoined, silent in their headless disappointment.”  (pg 16) Zeus’s nine daughters disagree over whether the Director is “a real creep” or “hot” or “a total god.” (pg 17)  Broken and naked women muttering among themselves arrive from the Romans and Greeks section, and the Director simply stares.

These chapters were absolutely delightful!

And then, they were done.  I made it through 2/3rds of the book, but Coulson left her artwork behind and told stories of some of the 2200 members of the Met staff.  Unfortunately, since she spent 25 years there, she must have assumed these stories were unique and bizarre and interesting, but you could tell the exact same stories (in a different physical setting) about the high technology and hospital organizations I have worked in.  Not interesting.

Maybe she is inspired by her own Muse and creates other stories from works of art by the end of the book, but I perused to the end and didn’t see any more.  She certainly seems to have the ability to do so.

I SO wish she had written what I though she had written, rather than what she actually wrote!