The first time I came across Michelle Blade’s artwork, I was immediately struck by its hypnotic vibrancy. Her paintings are often vast landscapes with an almost hallucinatory effect, but they maintain warmth and intimacy. I’m reminded of the poet and artist William Blake’s magnificent paintings when looking at Blade’s. They both portray the complicated human experience through beautiful symbolism. I know very little about William Blake, but what I do know is he was a huge reader and spent much of his career painting scenes inspired by his favorite authors. So, it’s no surprise to me that Michelle is also a prolific reader whose bookshelves are filled with a wide variety of literature.
We were lucky to get a chance to speak to Michelle about her love of reading. She tells us about her earliest memories of loving a book, her reading rituals, the last great book she read (plus much more!).
Michelle Blade is also a fantastic ceramist. You can see her work at Good Kind Work.
You can follow her on Instagram @MichelleBlade.
If you had to write the author bio for your imaginary book jacket, what would it say?
Michelle Blade is an optimist, dedicated painter, ceramicist, mother, avid runner and seeker. She loves to utilize her curiosity through color, hiking, eating, reading and friendships. She currently lives in Glendale, CA.
What’s your earliest memory of falling in love with a book?
I have a couple of touchstone memories. One is of my dad reading Tom Sawyer out loud to me when I was in the third or fourth grade. I loved hearing the cadence of his voice and Mark Twain’s words. My Dad is an avid reader who taught me the importance of spending time with books and these moments planted the seed for my love of literature.
A few years after, probably in middle school, I remember reading The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and being transformed by its message. In my young adolescence, it sparked a real awakening. I think Carlos Castaneda took over on that same note in my adult years.
What books are on your nightstand?
- The Dream Colony: A Life in Art by Walter Hopps with Deborah Treisman
- Donald Judd Complete Writings
- My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman
- Selected Poems by Mary Ruefle
- Index Cards by Moyra Davey
What are 3 books you think Glitter Guide readers should read and why?
My Meteorite by Harry Dodge: This is the type of book I crave all the time. It’s a first-person memoir mixed with science and art. It’s absolutely wonderful and I cannot stop recommending it to friends.
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan: Reading this book felt like nourishing existential homework. I love the exploratory arch of Pollan’s historical research vs. his personal research with psychedelics.
I Love Dick by Chris Kraus: Great feminist reading about confronting sexuality through art — a totally inspiring combination (also loved the tv adaptation).
What was the last great book you read?
Agnes Martin: Pioneer, Painter, Icon by Henry Martin
Both are fantastic reads.
If you were to write your own memoir, what would the title be?
That’s a hard ask! Maybe:
Bone, Breath and Gesture.
How do you like to organize your books?
My books are grouped in a few stacks around the house organized by “currently reading” and “inspiration.” Most finished books are put up on a shelf and organized by theme and taste, sometimes size and color. I also have a separate art monograph and poetry section in my studio when I’m in need. It’s a very personalized system.
What is a book you love but no one else has heard of?
A friend recommended The Wall by Marlen Haushofer at the beginning of lockdown last year and I loved it. It’s a sci-fi, dystopian fiction about a 40-something-year-old woman surviving a cataclysmic event that ultimately leads to her facing fear and loneliness, which is documented through journal entries. It is a powerful, slow and poetic read that pulled me into looking at isolation in a really interesting way.
What literary character has stuck with you long after you finished the book?
I think the voices that stay with me are not singular fictional characters but books that are written in the first person. Like, Henry Miller’s voice in The Colossus of Maroussi still rings so clear to me 18 years after I first read it. Or Eileen Myles’s in her essays in The Importance of Being Iceland. These are the voices that stay with me.
Do you have any favorite local bookstores?
I’ve been going to Skylight Books in Los Feliz since I was a teenager, and it still holds a spell over me.
Do you have a preferred setting or any rituals when you read?
I have young kids, so any kind of a preferred ritual is a daydream. Regardless, I still try to wake up every morning and sneak out to my living room with a cup of coffee to try and read. I usually get about 10 to 15 minutes before my youngest wanders out. I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks in my studio while I work as well.
Which 3 authors would you like to have a drink with?
Maggie Nelson, Derek Jarman and Suzan-Lori Parks
What is currently on your TBR pile?
- White Noise by Don DeLillo
- A Night of Serious Drinking by Rene Daumal
- The Flame: Poems Notebooks by Leonard Cohen
- Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne