Charmed Lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor

I was in England for a few days, and I saw an incredible number of incredible things1 which I will slowly recount as I remember them with renewed excitement. One of those incredible things was this completely random little exhibition2 right off the hellscape that is Room 43 at the British Museum. It was called Charmed Lives in Greece. It was awesome. Patrick Leigh Fermor had permeated my bubble of focus at some point as a “read someday” kind of guy, now elevated to a “read immediately” kind of guy, but I’d never really heard of John Craxton or Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika. I particularly loved the interplay between the three, and especially the signed books they had out. As much as I’m a sucker for the NYRB classics, they really lose something without those Craxton covers.4

I’m always drawn in by peeks into community among creative workers. That’s one of the big reasons I was so head over heels for In the Land of Pain, and probably one of the reasons I always come back to the compulsively self-documenting French. I love seeing the interplay between different creative minds. In In the Land of Pain, there’s this anecdote about something someone said about surgery being like a knife through a banana, if I remember correctly, and I just loved how that statement echoes and worms its way into so many minds, which is only possible because they were in a moment together. There’s just something really fascinating about that. So, independently, a lot of what’s in this exhibition really is great, but I think it’s viewing it together that finally got my attention.5

Anyway, I read The Violins of Saint Jacques on the plane home because they happened to have it at a bookstore, and it was better than fine but really just okay, but I’m really excited to read A Time of Gifts. Always nice to find yourself drowning in a new obsession.

It’s on until July 15th! Go see it if you can. It’s small but I really liked it. It’s also near all the Minoan stuff by the way!

It’s entirely possible I fell in love with John Craxton’s cats.
  1. A sample: Assyrian wonders, Titian cheetahs, much theater, much Shakespeare, Beheading of Lady Jane Grey, the incredible cruise ship exhibition at the V&A, so many books I was too lazy to carry, the Franklin Expedition statue thing, the transport museum in Coventry, one truly beautiful afternoon walk with a lot of cygnets, an infinity of fast casual meals, and all the stuff I’m forgetting but took notes on. By notes I mean pictures of placards on my phone.
  2. I always do a double take whether this should be exhibit or exhibition. Wikipedia exonerates me: it’s confusing because I’m American.
  3. I love this room because it has all the things and leads to all the things. I hate this room because it echoes and is full of school groups and rude tourists is more or less tailor made to give me a panic attack. This trip I made it, oh, five minutes? And then had to reassess the situation over a sandwich. This particular combination of noise, crowds, and uncertain navigation, coupled with my desperate need to look at something closely, married to my knowledge that such is going to be impossible and will always be impossible, gives birth to the blinding nothing that is being overwhelmed by crowds.
  4. Rich benefactor, who art imaginary, please bestow these signed first editions upon me. Amen.
  5. Also I’m going to Crete in the fall for a week-ish and so I’m full-steam ahead on a Greece infatuation.