Engrossed in Teju Cole’s Open City

One Shoe Off - John Brewster, 1807

This week I’ve been absorbed in Teju Cole’s Open City, a substantial, meditative book reminiscent of Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, at least over the sixty or so pages I’ve read, contemplatively.

Like Submergence, Cole’s début novel sends you out of the book seeking out the references.

In a painting titled One Shoe Off, which held me transfixed the moment I came before it, the neatly tied bow of a shoe on a little girl’s right foot echoed the asterisks of the flow pattern. The other shoe was in her hand, and red pentimenti were visible around her heel and the toes of the now unshod left foot. The child, as secure within her own being as were all Brewster’s children, had an expression that dared the observer to be amused.

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