The 2018 Nonfiction Challenge Part VII: The Arts in July
This is a continuation of the topic The 2018 Nonfiction Challenge Part VI: The Great Outdoors.
This topic was continued by The 2018 Nonfiction Challenge Part VIII: Short and Sweet in August.
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Welcome to what seems likely to be a hot and steamy introduction to July in many parts of North America -- I hope the rest of you are having an easier time of it weatherwise! If it keeps up like this, we may all be grateful to retreat indoors to the air-conditioning, or find a tree to sit quietly underneath, and delve into a compelling non-fiction book about the arts, while sipping on our Pimm's, our lemonade, our iced tea, or other icy beverage of choice...
Yes, the theme for July is the arts. Ballet to classical music; jazz and rock and roll; sculpture and painting, and the people involved in these pursuits -- oh, and writers and books about literature and books, of course! I just read an article that the current White House inhabitants have paid almost no attention to the arts, so let's make up for that. Acting and drama? Writing? Any form of artistic creativity is fair game. Just try to avoid the "how to write a bestseller" type tomes, or things of that kind. But if you can find a book about creativity -- why not? I may read something about the story behind the writing of Hemingay's "The Sun Also Rises", and something about the demise of the New York City Opera. But if you want to read about Dante or rap music, it doesn't matter.
As always, come back and tell us about it, please...
To assist you with your planning:
What's on deck for the rest of 2018:
August – Short and Sweet: Essays and Other Longform Narratives -- self explanatory. Essays from any anthology, longform pieces from the New Yorker, etc. Please make them reasonably long and not just an 800-word news feature from Mashable. Think, New York Times Magazine, perhaps, or London Review of Books, or...
September – Gods, Demons, Spirits, and Supernatural Beliefs -- from the Book of Common Prayer to things that go bump in the night. A biography of the Dalai Lama? Go for it.
October – First Person Singular -- This is the spot for anything first person. Anything that anyone has written about themselves and their lives in any way. Tina Fey? Paul Kalinithi? (sp?)
November – Politics, Economics & Business -- The stuff we all know we should know about but sometimes hate to think about, especially these days. Call it the hot button issues challenge. Immigration/Racism? Banking regulation? Minimum wage debates?
December – 2018 In Review -- Frustrated because you've got leftover books? You've got too many book bullets from other people? Or -- omigod -- that new biography was just published and you must must must read it? Or you've been reading the lists of best reading of 2018 in the NY Times and just realized, omigod, you MUST READ this one book before the end of the year? This is your holiday gift, from the challenge that keeps on giving...
Some suggested reading ideas for this challenge
Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy by Benjamin Balint
The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature by Bill Goldstein
The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy by Daniel Kalder
The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly
The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell
The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio by Andrea Mays
Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain's Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour by Richard Zacks
Worlds Elsewhere: Journeys Around Shakespeare's Globe by Andrew Dickson
Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica by Matthew Parker
Sea Fever: The true adventures that inspired our greatest maritime authors, from Conrad to Masefield, Melville and Hemingway by Sam Jefferson
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn
The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik
The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
Wit's End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table by James R. Gaines
Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility:The Lives of Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth by Marian Veevers
Sharp: The Women Who Made An Art of Having An Opinion by Michelle Dean
Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World by Miles Unger
The Museum of Lost Art by Noah Charney
Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King
The China Collectors: America's Century-Long Hunt for Asian Art Treasures by Karl Meyer
The Contemporaries: Travels in the 21st-Century Art World by Roger White
Bricks and Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made by Tom Wilkinson
Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman
The Rape of Europa by Lynn Nicholas
Dietrich & Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives by Karin Wieland
The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook
The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro
Duende: A Journey In Search Of Flamenco by Jason Webster
Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others by Stacy Horn
Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution by Jon Friedman
Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed the World by Norman Lebrecht
The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 by Harvey Sachs
The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece by Eric Siblin
In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art by Sue Roe
Novels related to this month's theme:
No, they don't count for the challenge! But if you run across a great work of fiction that you'd like others to be aware of, here's a place to flag it.... Just post it downthread, or send me a PM, and I'll add it to the list.
Madame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen by Kate Taylor
The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson (About Chekhov, and a possible missing/rediscovered manuscript...)
Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt (about Alma Mahler, wife of Gustav; and the whole Vienna Secession movement in art and music.)
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain (about the Hemingways...)
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
The Conductor by Sarah Quigley (about the premiere of Shostakovich's 7th symphony during the Leningrad siege)
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (a version/retelling of the Tempest, but also about the theater)
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith (Dutch golden era art vs modern day art market
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
The Hound in the Left Hand Corner by Giles Waterfield (museums and art)
Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale
Any Human Heart by William Boyd
Pretty much anything by Susan Vreeland
The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
I'm already ahead of the game for July, I just started Mark Rothko: Toward the light in the Chapel by Anne Cohen-Solal.
I bought it after seeing a production of 'Red' a couple of months ago, and wanted to read more about Rothko.
I have a number of newish potential books that fit this category, so I'll try and focus on them next month.
I'm going to read Upbeat: The Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul MacAlindin. I heard the author interviewed on the radio when the book came out, and the whole thing just sounds extraordinary.
I will be reading Ready For a Brand New Beat by Mark Kurlansky (subtitled "How Dancing in the Street Became the Anthem for a Changing America"). It looks like a fun read.
Just to add to your fiction list: I'd recommend just about any title by Susan Vreeland. I have read everything she has written, I think, and loved them all. I have read a few from your list, as well.
June was an exceptionally busy month so I'm still finishing up my outdoor book. I hope to do better in July, when I plan to read the following:
We Followed Our Stars by Ida Cook - memoir by a popular Mills & Boon/Harlequin author about using opera as a cover while helping Jews flee Nazi Germany. It was rereleased as Safe Passage.
The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman
Dancing with the Enemy by Paul Glaser
I'll defintely read the catalogue that I purchased at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona on Wednesday, Kader Attia: Architecture of Memory. Attia, a French-Algerian artist, was chosen as the winner of the biennial Joan Miró Award last year, and the museum had a temporary exhibition of his work on display, which I found stunning and deeply moving. I actually enjoyed that exhibition more than viewing Miró's works, including the ones I hadn't seen on previous visits, which is saying something. The catalog, which comes from an exhibition of Attia's works at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne that ended in January, consists mostly of images, but there is enough text there, and enough meatiness to the exhibition, to make it worth reading and reviewing.
Time permitting I'll also read Pity and Terror: Picasso's Path to Guernica, which is another catalogue based on the exhibition I saw at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid last year. That museum houses Guernica, which is on permanent display there IIRC, but the ?temporary exhibition included sketches that Picasso made before he created his masterpiece, along with information about what happened on that terrible day in 1937, and how it affected and inspired him. I'll attend a talk during next month's Edinburgh International Book Festival about Picasso, and James Attlee will talk about his latest book Guernica: Painting the End of the World, so I would like to read this book beforehand. If I don't get to it this month I'll definitely read it in August.
I am reading Defiant Spirits The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven by Ross King. For those who are not familiar with Canadian art- The Group of Seven are painters who changed the way Canadian artists looked at the north. I think that King is showing the international influences on these painters.
>13 torontoc: I thought that this was one of King's best books, although publishers stupidly make it hard to get south of the border. King is Canadian, so grew up knowing about these artists; his study of impressionists and others clearly allows him to situate them in world art history, as plein air artists. I was dismayed to see that when the AGO's show of Lawren Harris works traveled to Boston's MFA, the book not only wasn't available for sale, but those in the museum's big bookstore weren't even familiar with it! It's an excellent, excellent, book.
I haven’t finished my June book yet but I already have my book for July checked out from the library. I’m going to read The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah
>12 kidzdoc: Those sound fascinating, especially (for me at least) the Guernica exhibit. In spite of "Guernica", I never really think of Picasso as being a politically-engaged painter (after all, he lived reasonably comfortably and quite safely in Paris throughout the occupation, in spite of the fact that the Nazis hated his work and they would have seen, on his application for French citizenship, that it had been rejected because the French thought he was too much of a Communist. Meanwhile, even lesser-known artists who weren't Jewish, like the Spanish surrealist Remedios Varo, had to flee altogether. Still, those who didn't toe the Nazi artistic line couldn't paint -- literally didn't have access to paper, paints, etc. Matisse fared better under the Nazis after signing a declaration of Aryan ancestry and could exhibit and work until he was too ill to continue (although his family were extensively involved in the resistance.) I've always wondered whether someone powerful in Berlin said, nope, don't touch these guys... (in spite of "Guernica".) There's some kind of possibly apocryphal story of a Gestapo search of his studio, to make sure he wasn't painting, during which the goons spotted a photo of Guernica and asked Picasso whether he had "done that." He replied, "No, you did." If true, it's amazing he survived those years!!
Both of those works sound fascinating. A good/great museum catalog is a wonderful thing, chock full of insightful essays.
I will be reading Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King. I read Brunelleschi’s Dome: How A Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by King many years ago and liked it, so when Mad Enchantment was on sale at Barnes & Noble and I had another 10% off, I purchased it. Now is a great time to read it.
Some GREAT books here. I'll be back later to do the little images... and update the lists.
Since it is art month I am going to try to hit all of the arts closest to my heart. I have started reading Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. This is a book of essays about reading and writing. In one essay I have read already she discusses the differences in writing from using her fountain pen to using her computer. She also tackles the issue of proof-reading and distracting finding mistakes in spelling and punctuation can be for the reader. If I don’t finish this one this month, I will hang it over to next month.
>18 Chatterbox: it was Molina I saw as Rothko Suz. He is reprising the role in London at the moment.
I plan to read The Art of Botanical Illustration by Wilfred Blunt.
>9 jessibud2: Thanks for mentioning Susan Vreeland. I've been meaning to read The Forest Lover for awhile.
Anyone interested in a short, hilarious fiction book that is jam-packed with artists (such as Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison to name a few), I recommend Waiting for Gertrude by Bill Richardson.
>25 GerrysBookshelf: - Oh, I adore Bill Richardson! Have you read his Bachelor Brother books?
By the way, other books by Vreeland (who, sadly, died recently, I heard) include Clara and Mr. Tiffany (about the glass artist, Tiffany), Luncheon of the Boating Party (about Renoir), and her one book of short stories, Life Studies is one I particularly enjoyed. Which is unusual for me as I am not generally a fan of short stories. But in this one, the stories each take a different perspective of a familiar artist, sometimes not even mentioning the name of the artist. Often more about peripheral characters to the main artist. A very creative and lovely book.
>26 jessibud2: I’m reading the Bachelor Brothers books now. I requested them from my library as soon as I finished Waiting for Gertrude. They are delightful - and I really like the parrot, Mrs. Rochester!
I’ll read Outwitting History: the Amazing Adventures of a man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky and try to squeeze in Bird by Bird too.
>30 banjo123: Oh, that book was my intro to Egan, and I LOVED it. I would really like to see some of Curtis's work.
>31 Chatterbox: It was a fabulous exhibit as it combined Curtis's work with work and commentary by contemporary Native Americans.
I've started an audiobook about Monteverdi. Very nice to be able to listen to examples of the music right away.
I saw one of his opera's, the Incoronazione di Poppea, some time ago. The music is wonderful, but I was intrigued by the contrast, a beautiful love duet between two absolutely vile people: emperor Nero and his lover Poppea.
So I'd like to know more about what inspired this.
>24 jessibud2: Oh it does sound like those two books would overlap. Might have to see if my library has that one.
>32 banjo123: What an excellent curatorial approach!
>33 EllaTim: Are there lots of examples of the music? That would be a great way to "illustrate" audiobooks about music and musicians -- there is a detailed book about Bach, for instance, that would really benefit from this. And it would be a brilliant way to really make the maximum use the audiobook format...
I've started THE AGE OF EMPIRES, Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties,
but likely will not finish it until next July.
In the meantime, I will complete THE PAINTED ART JOURNAL by Jeanne Oliver
and one that likely inspired her, A LIFE IN HAND, Creating the Illuminated Journal, by Hannah Hinchman.
Three related art infused novels: THE SECRET DIARIES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE, A Month in the Country (movie is not on Netflix any longer), and A Room With a View.
Susan Vreeland died about a year ago. August 27, 2017. According to Wikipedia. I was sad to see this, as I had the pleasure of meeting this author when the American Library Association met for their summer conference in Washington, D. C. back in 2007. She and I rode a bus from the hotel to the convention center and I listened in on a conversation that she had with another librarian. Later I met her and talked with her when we both were attending a Sunday exhibition at the Phillips Memorial Gallery. The painting of the Luncheon of the Boating Party is on permanent display there. She was going to view the painting and I was going to see the Jacob Lawrence exhibit when all of the paintings in his Great Migration series were gathered into that one place. It was an event I will always remember and she was part of it. I did not know that she had died, so was surprised when I looked it up after reading your post.
I thought that Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Clara and Mr. Tiffany were her best works. I do have a signed copy of Luncheon of the Boating Party in my collection so now will have to find time to read it.
>38 benitastrnad: - I also really loved Girl in Hyacinth Blue. I also recently listened on audio to her last work, Lisette's List but felt it was not one of her strongest ones. The narrator, on the other hand, was excellent. The only books of hers I have not read are The Passion of Artemisia and What Loves Sees. The book of short stories that I mentioned was a bit of a departure from her usual style but it was really terrific.
Lovely that you got to meet her.
Did you see the film in a theatre?
The book was great, but I was also looking forward to a visual interpretation of the mural.
I'd give a shout out to Laura Cumming's book, The Vanishing Velazquez, which is one of a handful of books I've read about art that are non-fiction but that feel as compelling as if they were novels. (Since this is a thread devoted to non-fiction...) It juxtaposes two stories: that of the painter's life, and the mystery surrounding a suddenly appearing portrait -- is it or isn't it by Velazquez?? It the era before photography (this was early Victorian England) and the techniques that art historians now use to study works and authenticate them, or even the ability to compare brush strokes, technique, etc. of verifiable works by the artist (scattered all over the place in an era when travel was more difficult and access wasn't always possible), proving attribution was tough, but the owner -- a bookseller -- was absolutely convinced that his find was by the Spanish master, and became obsessed by it. For audiobook fans -- it's also an amazing audiobook.
I just realized that Cumming wrote another book, about self-portraits, and I think I'll get a copy for my Kindle. It's not very pricey...
Also adding for this month: George Lewis' amazing and comprehensive
POWER STRONGER THAN ITSELF: The AACM and American Experimental Music!
>40 m.belljackson: yes, the first time in a theatre. I have the dvd now, and it has been rewatched a couple of times.
>35 Chatterbox: Yes, lots of examples. And the writer illustrates things he's talking about by playing them on the piano. It's very useful, as you hear immediately what is meant.
Audiobooks are really ideal for a book like this.
I just finished reading a book I've owned for ages. I needed something light and uplifting after reading the harrowing Holocaust biographical fiction We Were the Lucky Ones. My book to celebrate the Arts is The Mozart Effect.
Btw, Suzanne, Campbell recommends toning to help relieve migraines. It's basically humming the vowel sounds ah, ee, oh over and over with the mouth slightly open. I think Campbell's theories have been pretty much disproven, but it might be a relaxing exercise.
I'll try anything re migraines (well, almost.) And yes, I'll be updating covers over the weekend. I have been postponing it as it's finicky and my brain and finicky are not happy together right now.
I am reading two books about books -- one by Susan Orlean, an e-Galley/NetGalley of Susan Orlean's upcoming book, The Library Book, about the arson fire that destroyed half a million books and lots of other stuff at the main branch of the Los Angeles public library on the same day that Chernobyl blew up. I'm at the point in the narrative where Orlean tries to burn a book -- suitably, it's Fahrenheit 451 -- to understand viscerally what it's like when a book "dies" by fire. Orlean's book will be out in October.
My other is also an advance copy, this time The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, who runs Scotland's largest second-hand bookstore. It sounds like Scotland's Strand. Fergus the Fat (resident feline) just fell asleep on top of it, so I shall have to go and read a novel instead, but first of all went down the rabbit hole exploring the bookshop, Wigtown (where it resides, which sounds like a Scottish & smaller version of Hay-on-Wye). It's making me think that there simply AREN'T good second book stores around in the US, routinely. We don't have charity shops that carry books, the way they do in the UK. I'm losing the bookstore habit because there are fewer bookstores... Thank heavens for libraries!
>48 Chatterbox: Wigtown is Scotland's official book town, so yeah basically our Hay-on-Wye. I've not been yet, but it's on my list for my significant birthday next year to do a long weekend down there. Did you see this recent NYT article about one of the other shops in Wigtown? https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/books/open-book-wigtown-bookstore.html
We are really lucky that we have some great second hand book shops in the UK. The one we visit once or twice a year (on visits down south to see family) is Barter Books in Northumberland (far north of England). It's brilliant, and now that I've finally got the bug for exchanging books I'm not going to read again (instead of keeping them because maybe someone else in the house might vaguely want to read them at some undefined point in the future) I love that I even get credit for the books we get from there. It's just great, and as it's based in a disused railway station they've been able to make it really quirky (eg the cafe is in the old waiting room, and they have a model railway on top of the shelving in part of it). The website is here: https://www.barterbooks.co.uk/
>48 Chatterbox: >49 Jackie_K:
In Madison, Wisconsin, the hospice and Goodwill stores carry books and
you can sometimes locate local festivals that have used book displays.
At the Sun Prairie Strawberry Festival in June, I found Julian Barnes' Something to Declare,
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte,
Marmion by Sir Walter Scott
(so old it has no copyright date, printed by Donohue, Benneberry & Co. in Chicago),
and a couple, like LEEWAY COTTAGE that I had read many years ago and donated...
and will re-donate...
>48 Chatterbox:, >49 Jackie_K: - Ha! I was just about to post that link to that article in the NYT! Wow, what a place!!
Jackie, when I read what you wrote about Barter Books, it rang a bell for me. I clicked on your link and sure enough, yes, it's what I remembered. That story about the origin of the *Keep Calm* story! Isn't that delightful!
>51 jessibud2: Indeed! Actually a friend of mine has written a book about the Keep Calm poster (it's popular non-fic, although based on an aspect of her PhD thesis): https://www.waterstones.com/book/keep-calm-and-carry-on/bex-lewis/9781904897347
Barter Books is one of my favourite favourite places in the UK! :)
>46 m.belljackson: I could not get a good image for your Chinese art catalog that didn't distort all the other images -- sorry. It's just an odd shape and whatever I did, it didn't work. Please forgive me -- tried all kinds of variations in display, but no luck. If you want to post an image independently, please go ahead. My apologies.
Yes, I saw the story about the Wigtown bookstore -- what a great idea! And I was interested to read that they are thinking about trying to expand it to another area or two.
>54 m.belljackson: OK, I've used that. You can't see the title or author on it, just the image, however... My Google search only picked up another one, which was horizontal, on a red background. Nice, but not usable. Although I suppose that some of the other links that I assumed were just images from the exhibit were in fact the cover -- but the title and author just faded into the image so that I couldn't tell it was a book cover. So.... Yes, great image. But as a book cover -- nope, it's a fail, since no one looking at the image could tell it was a cover!! LOL....
On a separate note, and since this IS arts month -- the art of cover design is so tricky. Finding a design that is in keeping with the idea of the book, that isn't garish or intrusive, that is clever, that conveys the information, that makes the book jump off the shelf to a reader's attention... I like "Ex Libris" because it's clever -- the whole idea of the bookplate as a cover illustration. I like "Infernal Library" because it's ominous -- warplanes above, and the books seem to be the bombs, with the title on one of the books falling from the sky (weaponized books...) The Kurlansky book is clever, because all the title info is designed as if on a record label, which ties to the book's subject, while "Symphony for the City of the Dead" has a cover with colors and design emulating a propaganda poster of the era in style and simplicity, if not subject matter (no propagandist would emphasize destruction) and the Soviets were masters of this, just as the symphony was designed as musical propaganda. Others are beautifully designed, but those are my faves, because they aren't just lovely illustrations, but are clever and thoughtful.
Mark Rothko: Toward The Light in the Chapel (Annie Cohen-Solal) ****
A fine introduction to the life and work of Mark Rothko, contextualised within his era and the culture he came from. I hadn't realised he committed suicide. I now need to go to the Tate Gallery and sit in front of some of his work.
I was led to reading this after seeing the play 'Red' about the painting of the Seagram murals.
Suz, off topic a bit but maybe for next year, what would you think of Food as a theme for a month? There are plenty of good NF books out there about food that aren't cookbooks, whether restaurant or chef memoirs, history of specific foods, how certain ethnic cuisines have evolved through travel, etc. And of course, it would spill over into drink, as well....I was just looking at my own shelves and have counted more than a few books that would qualify.
Just an idea.
I finished my last book for last month’s Great Outdoors challenge. I ended up really liking Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. I listened to the recorded version that was read by the author. It took me some time to become accustomed to his laconic and, it seemed to me, lazy delivery, but in the end it worked for me. The book made my Best of 2018 list.
I posted my full review over on the page for last month, so if you want to read it just go back one month.
I started reading Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King and have read 30 pages so far. This one looks like a huge book, but it has almost 75 pages of notes and index in the back, so it really is only 350 pages.
As soon as I can get to the public library I will start listening to Symphony For the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson
>59 jessibud2: Absolutely. I love the idea of shaking up the categories. I'll probably start thinking seriously about what to do next year in October or so. I think we also under-represented science/technology topics this year. And I'm interested in finding new or different ways to tackle the topics, beyond the sort of Dewey Decimal type approach.
Oooh, a heads up for arts-related non-fiction reading later in the year. Colm Toibin has a new book due out in late October: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce. Essentially, he is writing about the fathers of three of Ireland's greatest writers of the very late 19th century and early 20th century, presumably as an attempt to explain how and why each turned to the kind of writing that they did -- each distinctive but each creating works of tremendous merit or arguably genius. Just flagging this for those for whom this will be of interest. Pub date is October 23 in the US -- publisher is Scribner. it's on NetGalley for request, if you're feeling lucky. Are you feeling lucky?? :-)
It took a while but I think that I have come up with a book about writing that would fit, Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. The blurb says "it examines the secret history of the genre's bad reputation."
I will also try and squeeze in one of the smaller books from my Thomson collection, if time permits. >13 torontoc: >14 Chatterbox: I have Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven on my shelves and am interested to hear what you think of it Cyrel and it is good to know that you thought so highly of it, Suz. I had the pleasure of seeing some of the works of members of the Group of Seven at the McMichael Art Gallery last month thanks to Shelley.
>64 Familyhistorian: That sounds great! I've seen some of the "Dangerous" books, but mostly aimed at young kids. This sounds like fun!
OH, I LOVE the McMichael. It is one of my happy places. You just have to look out the windows to catch glimpses of some of the scenery that these artists painted (although I suppose that Kleinburg now is more built up than it was even the last time I was there, the setting for the gallery itself must still remain relatively buccolic.) And it's just the right size for the collection, and of course, designed to fit the collection that it does house. Wonderful.
>65 Chatterbox: I don't think that Kleinburg has built up that much. I was surprised by all the little towns in Ontario. I got to see a lot of them while I was there. We didn't see the grounds of the McMichael at their best because it was raining when we got there but the rain let up when we went to see Tom Thomson's shack which is now on the grounds. Was that there when you went?
I am looking forward to Dangerous Books for Girls. It is a slim volume unlike some of the kids' "Dangerous" books so probably not like them except for the title.
>66 Familyhistorian: Oh yes, the shack was moved from Canoe Lake way back in the 1960s, I think. While it has probably been eight or nine years since I was at the McMichael, it has been a pilgrimage site for me for eons. Basically, "who can I get to drive me to Kleinburg on this trip back to Toronto??"
It's a ritual that my mother sends me a Group of Seven calendar every year, too. It's the only gift that I will allow her to spend money on for me.
And my tall tea/coffee mugs have Group of 7 paintings on them (from the AGO, a gift from my elementary school friend -- a fellow Canadian that I was at school in London with back when we were 7, 8 years old -- we are still in touch and she now lives in Toronto where, when not running a nonprofit organization dedicated to global peacemaking and jetting off to Congo, etc., she hangs out at the AGO.) I love art. I love old friends.
I've picked up The Trip to Echo Spring although haven't got too far with it. Mostly it's reminding me of a friend whose parent had problems with substance abuse and was an artist. They (the friend) got very wound up when anyone suggested that art and bad behaviour were somehow a productive combination, and pointed to the way that expectation was gendered. I'm not sure Laing is going to convince me (or even is trying to convince me) of anything different. She does write beautifully.
Book Lover's Page a Day for July 10th recommends Julian Barnes' THE NOISE OF TIME:
"In the 1930s, as Stalin and the Soviet Union begin censoring art, Shostakovich faces a dilemma:
Does he risk his life by continuing to make his controversial music after Stalin has denounced it,
or does he conform to Soviet values and survive?"
A POWER STRONGER THAN ITSELF: THE AACM by George Lewis addresses the same concerns,
with loss of livelihood, not lives.
Experimental Music in the U.S. was censored by majority critics to direct audiences back to "traditional" Black Music performances.
>69 m.belljackson: Yes, I put The Noise of Time on the list of novels related to the theme. It's very good; Barnes has a keen understanding of music in general and really "channels" Shostakovich. A bit episodic, perhaps, so I found it a little unsatisfying in that respect, but Barnes is a remarkable prose stylist, too. He looks at the conflicts between those composers who had "expatriated" themselves from Russia and Shostakovich, and how Barnes imagines the latter must have responded to what he might have seen as scorn/disdain from the presumably more principled expats who hadn't had to sacrifice their ideals.
I just finished Susan Orlean's upcoming book (thanks to NetGalley), and all bibliophiles definitely should read The Library Book. It's the story of the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library over time, and of a massive fire that destroyed hundreds of thousands of books in 1986 -- the largest and most destructive fire ever. But it's less a whodunnit than a book about the library's role in the city, before and since, and about libraries more broadly. It's really very encouraging to read about the commitment of the next generation of librarians and book people and how they are coping with all kinds of challenges, from the changing nature of what a library is and who it serves to maintaining the amazing collections (menus dating back to the 1930s from area restaurants! A map to a World's Fair at which the Rose Bowl made its debut as a venue! Scores donated by famous composers!) Being in LA, the movie folks use the library as a key research resource, but apparently are the worst at returning books -- and they had such a strong propensity to "unofficially borrow" research materials in two person teams (one person outside, one inside, with the latter shoving materials out the window to his buddy outdoors) that the library officials had to nail windows closed and put bars on them. It's a marvelous chronicle of people and the institution they work for, underscored by the mystery of the fire and the enduring mystery of the way in which libraries have a hold on our memories and imaginations. 4.5 stars. Due out in the fall, I think.
So glad that I read this book!
Defiant Spirits :The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven by Ross King I like the work of this author. King looks at the time in Canada in the early 20th century when a number of artists developed what has become known as the painting style of the Group of Seven. He shows that the artists who came from very different backgrounds, were influenced by theirs studies in Europe, a ground breaking art show by Scandinavian artists in Buffalo and most important, sketching and painting in Northern Ontario. These artists were not the first to go up north on canoe trips to search out a wilderness that was distinctly Canadian. King writes about the support of the director of the fledgling National Gallery of Canada, faithful benefactors, and the terrible reviews of the Canadian art critics. Under much duress and with a lack of sales of their work except for the National Gallery, the artists looked to change and perfect their style to describe the landscape. Two of the group were soldiers during World War 1. Their experiences in battle and recording the effects of war certainly had an effect on their lives. King does chronicle some of their lives although he does end his account at about 1931. The reader learns about the tragic end of Tom Thomson's life. King believed that this group of painters " were at the forefront of a cultural awakening in English Canada". His argument about their importance was so coherent- I gained more of an understanding about the role these artists have played in the creation and recognition of Canadian culture.
>74 torontoc: had to go and check out their art. Had not heard of any of them, but love the art, so will be following in your footsteps with that one Cyrel.
>75 Caroline_McElwee: I would recommend that you look at the work of Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson J.E.H. MacDonald and A.Y Jackson- my favourites!
I finished reading Ex Libris:Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. This book is a commonplace. That is a book about books that is full of comments from other books. I just learned that! And I love the idea, as that is what I do in my book diary. I write comments I come across in the books I am reading. Fadiman’s book is much more sophisticated than mine as she is a long time writer for the New Yorker and editor of other magazines. This book is a collection of various essays she has done over the years that reflate to books, writing, and reading. One of the essays is about proof reading for spelling and punctuation mistakes!
This book was fun to read, and I laughed out loud when I read her advice to friends who lament the fact that their children don’t read. She always asks if they have books in the bathroom. She thinks that books, magazines, etc. in the bathroom are a sign of a reading household. This book was my Bathroom book. In fact that is were I read it!
I have a good start on Mad Enchantment and so far am finding it a very interesting book about Monet and Impressionism in general.
>77 benitastrnad: The three of us read rather a lot yet we have no books in the bathroom. Or the TV room, or the kitchen or the hallways.
>77 benitastrnad: My Mum and Dad just picked this up from a secondhand shop. I was very impressed. I love this book and have not managed to find a secondhand copy despite looking!
>82 charl08: I saw one today in an Oxfam shop in London Charlotte, I can't get back there until next week, but shall I grab it if it is still there?
>83 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks Caroline! I quite enjoy the chase, but the thought is much appreciated.
I finished my audiobook on Monteverdi, and enjoyed it!
Review here on my thread:
It's an audiobook in Dutch, so I'm afraid not for a lot of people here, but I'm certain there must be something similar available in English.
Listening to this book has been rewarding for me, I gained a better understanding of Monteverdi's place in musical history, and of him as a composer.
He actually was a real bookish composer, as he places a lot of value on the texts of the songs. He liked to compose for the theatre, and wrote a number of opera's.
And I am doing a relisten of the Poppea, enjoying the wonderful music, but paying more attention to the story as well. There's a very good version on YouTube, with subtitles: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rZZyySg6JZU
Who is stronger, has more influence on people, the two goddesses of Virtue and Luck, are competing, but Love, well Amor, comes in between, and proves he is the strongest. Through the story of emperor Nero and his infatuation with Poppea. It's a cynical story, Virtue loses all out. Comment on the Princes and Kings of his days? I guess so.
The lovely music does add a dimension to this story.
>88 Jackie_K: I'm not massively familiar with Monteverdi's music (other than the Vespers, which are gorgeous) - I had no idea he had written operas as well!
>88 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie. The Vespers are wonderful, I agree. He has written a lot of music, for the church, songs: his madrigals, and some operas, the Orfeo, which is said to have been the first opera.
It seems a lot of his music has disappeared, particularly the music for the church, but it seems there are chests in Venice that contain unknown music, and still have to be opened...
Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading: A charming book about books at its best when it explores the sheer emotionally fraught way that child bookworms react to books. Relatable, though Mangan and I, for the most part, read entirely different kinds of books. (I think I'm the only woman on the planet who's never read a Judy Blume novel.)
I'm amused that Bookworm ends with a paean to Summer of My German Soldier, one of a scant few books I loathed as a preteen. I reread it as an adult, thinking that perhaps I'd been too close-minded. Nope. It still is terrible.
Ex Libris is one of my favorites. I love the image of Clifton Fadiman yelling, "Source!" and young Anne and her brother trained, Pavlovian-style, to chorus the (correct) answer.
THE PAINTED art journal by Jeanne Oliver offers a vidid concrete sequential contrast to A LIFE IN HAND,
the other art and writing journal that I'm still reading.
It features "24 Projects to create your visual narrative" and moves from an early sadness directly into detailed specifics
for gathering personal materials, tools, and supplies. Full page color photographs extend readers' imaginations into new possibilities
for presenting their memories as the author uses her own visual memories to illustrate how a story can be developed into art.
I love her windmill design and the connection to her early country life, but find her palette kind of dull, maybe reflective of her sadness.
She spends a lot of time, which readers may question, adding to "vintage books" to make her journals.
Her own storybook lacks diversity in people and animals, nor do her final artworks compel my attention.
The strong messages of "remembering and honoring" the "big story(ies)" that each of us holds feels valuable and authentic,
as does Jeanne Oliver's plan to "create rituals" to inspire your own memory research and creating.
In place of giving away things that readers love, cherish, and have saved,
she wants to inspire their transformation into beautiful art journals.
I finally started this month's book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the unlikely ascent of "Hallelujah" by Alan Light. I love the song and find all the different interpretations interesting. K.D. Lang's version is my all time favorite though. I've only read the introduction and part of the first chapter so far though.
Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means "Glory to the Lord." The song explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist. I say all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have an equal value. It's a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way, but with enthusiasm, with emotion.
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing
A short volume to reacquaint us with her before we are left with re-reads.
Fine hardcover copy of DEFIANT SPIRITS arrived yesterday from abe.com for around $6.00 - new one was around $67!
I am a little more than half done with Mad Enchantment by Ross King and I am learning so much about France, Monet’s freinds at the end of his life, and about the series of paintings that he did starting in 1914 that he continued to paint, all they way to the end of his life. Right now the author is talking about the series of paintings that he did of the willow trees in his garden. These are part of the water lily series, but sort of separate. The series are a different size and show a different emotional side of Monet than what people think of when they think Monet. These are painted in the lurid light of the setting sun, using colors a that are highly unusual for Monet. They are tortured and twisted and symbolic of the torture that France, because of the war, and Monet because of his age was going through. Monet knows he has limited time to finish these paintings and they are his way of not going gently into that good night. I will never look at these paintings as wonderful anti-depressants again. They are rage.
Slight change in plans. Instead of reading Pity and Terror, Picasso's Path to Guernica I've decided to read a very similar and slightly more comprehensive book that I also bought last year, Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon by Gijs van Hensbergen. I started reading it yesterday, and it's very good so far.
I finished Kader Attia: Architecure of Memory this weekend, but I found the essays about Attia's work to be largely over my head. I'll try to find more information about his work, and write a review of it before the month is out.
I'm still reading The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink. I have warmed up to this book, I think because she has related these writers to her family experience of alcoholism.
Particularly struck by the diverse range of reads this month.
I finished Mythmaker. Mr. E read this for a Reading merit badge and I thought it looked good. This is a short, broad-brush look at the life of J.R.R. Tolkein. It's well written and engaging, full of fun tidbits about the writing of LOTR and The Hobbit. For example, I never knew that the Entish habit of saying "Hoom, Hoom, Hroom" was modeled after C.S. Lewis. A great non-fiction book for young fans of Tolkein, and enjoyable for older ones too.
I'm absolutely loving Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Lamott's humorous touch is very entertaining.
>98 nittnut: Oh, that sounds like a good one. I have several biographies of Tolkien on MT TBR, but for some reason they seem a bit daunting.
>99 streamsong: It is definitely short (manageable) for crazy summer days.
I guess it's time to boost the conversation a little and make our way to 150 posts.
I finished reading the e-galley of Mad Scenes and Exit Arias by Heidi Waleson, the saga of the life and death of the New York City Opera by the opera critic of the Wall Street Journal.
It's a fascinating book, about how and why this second opera company in New York came to be born in the middle of the 20th century as "the People's Opera" -- an affordable, accessible (kinda sorta) alternative to the stodgy, posh, costly Met. In some ways, it became the victim of its own success and its own hubris, as well as changing times, and the fact that it never really had a solid strategic vision or an idea of itself as anything other than an anti-Met. Part of the problem, as Waleson makes clear, was the move to Lincoln Center: sure, this gave the company access to a bigger theater, and more performances, but dramatically boosted their costs and the theater was one designed to meet the very different accoustic needs of a ballet company. Beverly Sills was great for the City Opera, but can you build an institution around a single star? And what happen when she leaves? And when she joins the board of the MET??? Throw into the mix the struggle between music unions understandably eager to win living wage contracts for members (at a time when people were drifting away from committing excitedly to subscription models to opera) and really bad governance at the board level, and the whole thing was a recipe for disaster. It's a pity, because as I read this, I was reminded of so much of the innovative programming that NYCO did, and how it helped to launch the careers of American composers and singers when the Met and others were fixated on European grand opera and really couldn't give two hoots about commissioning new works (they'd still rather pay for a new production of a Puccini warhorse than pay less to get a new work by, say, Jake Heggie. Which is why I'm so interested in what smaller or regional opera companies are doing.) In many ways the most interesting part of this book, which will be out in the fall, wasn't the exhaustive detail about the many times the City Opera narrowly avoided bankruptcy and its eventual slo-mo fall, but the broader transformation of the American opera scene. In a way, we've lost a company but gained a new world.
The book will be out in the fall, I think; I'd recommend it to opera and music buffs or New Yorkers. Probably not as much for the casual reader.
>100 nittnut: Yes, it is time to start thinking about chatting about what we've been reading a bit more and aiming at the 150 post mark, if possible. I've been remiss myself; I'm back where I was two years ago, with my friend in hospital with an intestinal blockage. In the last 24 hours he's had three medical procedures (endoscopical in nature, since because of his cardiac problems, surgery is deemed exceptionally risky/life-threatening) as the urgency of addressing the blockage has mounted; the first two didn't do anything, and since the first he has been sedated and intubated, so I have been in a position of making medical decisions as his healthcare proxy, for the first time, which is kind of weighing on me. The third procedure did help, and the next step, I think/hope, will be to wean him off the ventilator, but that's up to the team in the cardiac ICU. Complicating life is that I have to dash back to Providence to pay rent, pay cat sitters (all with $$ that I'm not sure I have...) and pick up migraine meds, and then dash back, overnight Sunday/Monday, and get back here as fast as humanly possible. So, please bear with me if I'm not as chatty as possible.
I will be hovering on Tuesday to post the August challenge, and am going to try to read one more book if I possibly can!! I have The Diary of a Bookseller that Benita kindly nabbed for me at the ALA conference, an ARC that is precisely what the title suggests, with the bookseller in question being in Scotland, and also a book that I really want to read but that requires a little more focus, about Virginia Woolf, Eliot and others, and the critical year of 1922 (I think that's the year, anyway!!) in which modernism moved decisively forward.
>93 quondame: on Susan's recommendation I picked up the Le Guin essays and will finish that today, so for a change, I will have finished two books this month.
Best wishes for a good resolution for your friend and smoother sailing for you...the rest of us will likely pick up the slack with not real boring entries, eh?
On migraine cures - in place of a once a month shot, some of us would prefer to be knocked out for a month,
then wake up with no migraines EVER.
>105 m.belljackson: Oh, I could get behind that idea. A month's rest and no migraines EVER AGAIN??? Perfection.
I read a WHOLE PAGE of the adventures of a bookseller today. A page. I ask you...
>102 Chatterbox: That sounds like a lot to have to deal with. Wishing you strength.
>101 Chatterbox: I think it sounds really interesting. A bit of background on the choices that are made, how economy plays a role in this. I understand choosing the big Puccini opera's. It's the same with ballet companies, doing The Nutcracker is a must to draw public. But contemporary composers should definitely be heard as well.
I'm listening to a second audio by the same writer, this time about music history and music history theory. The first a bit more interesting to me than the second. I don't think I'll be able to finish it this month, I'd like to give each chapter some time to sink in.
>102 Chatterbox: sorry to hear about your friends health. Supporting someone in extremis is stressfull, and battling your migraines too. Holding you in my thoughts Suz.
>108 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks Caroline.
>107 EllaTim: One of the most interesting parts of the book definitely was how they go about creating a whole season -- balancing what appeals to what groups, new vs old works, revivals of very old (Baroque) operas vs. stuff that they have in their repetoire and have sets for and that won't cost much to produce vs. commissioning something that will be v. popular but will cost more. With the added factor of "what is the Met going to do" and how are tastes changing... In City Opera's case, they were trying to be slightly ahead of the current, but not too far, and sometimes misjudged that. But just to be inside that -- and I would love to be a fly on the wall in that process, whether theatrically (at a theater festival or rep theater designing a season) or an opera. I still think the Met does too many old war horses because that's what audiences expect. They think they expect opera and the house is soooo big that the Met can't really afford to take big risks trying to fill them with more unusual stuff. It's almost as if they need a smaller second stage for that.
I realized that I had forgotten to post that I finished reading/listening to Symphony For the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson.
Anderson is a YA author and this is a work of YA nonfiction. As such it is well done. However, I would consider it an introductory volume to the work of Shostakovich - not a definitive work. Also, it is limited in scope. It is specifically about the Siege of Leningrad and the writing of the Seventh Symphony. To tell that story it is necessary for the author to write a more extensive biography of the composer, but it is not necessary for him to delve into the very nuanced life of the composer and the decisions that he made during his lifetime. I think that the author does a very good job of introducing YA’s to an important cultural and historical event for which there is little comparison.
I listened to this book because last year here on LT there was some discussion about the recorded version of this book being of poor quality. It was narrated by the author and, yes, there were some mispronunciation of place names as well as people names. These should have been taken care of in editing and that was not done. For that - blame the producer of the recording. I agree that if an author writes a book on a subject it behooves that author to be as informed as possible. That includes knowing how to pronounce names.
A recorded version of a work of this nature is the perfect venue in which snippets of musical works could be introduced to the listeners. That was not done and I was disappointed. However, I am sure that in order to do so, royalties would have had to have been paid. Even though I would have liked to have heard musical examples, I do not consider it “necessary” to the book. After all, if I had read this book I wouldn’t have had sound recordings included.
All of that said, it is apparent that the author is not a professional narrator. There is a certain naivety in his reading that was audible. Given that this was a YA book that is excusible.
All-in-all, I enjoyed this book and learned much about the Great Terror and what it must have been like to live under those conditions. I knew about the Seventh Symphony and its importance to the world during that period of WWII and I think the author did an excellent job of conveying that importance to his intended audience. I think that this book would be a great classroom tool as well as a book that could enlighten many readers. even adults.
For some reason this review double posted so I deleted the second one.
I set a rather ambitious goal for this month with a book about the art of reading and writing, music, and painting. I am happy that I got them read without hanging at least one of them over to next month.
All of them were very good books and I am glad I read them. I think this was a great category and hope that it will be included in next years list of topics. I have more titles that I would like to read about this topic and needed this push to get some of them read.
I've finished The Trip to Echo Springs. Olivia Laing writes about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cheever, Carver, Tennessee Williams and Berryman. She digs into their archives and visits places they lived in, writing about the journeys as well as where she visited. I really loved her recent book about art, The Lonely City and whilst this one had wonderful aspects, she writes beautifully, it didn't quite work as well for me. Talking about their drinking (or rather, their alcoholism) just seemed so sad (all these people throwing their talent away through booze), and I found the book sad for that reason.
Writing about visiting Hemingway's place in Key West:
The house was very stately, with yellow shutters and wrought-iron verandah that ran right around the second floor. I ducked inside and made a beeline for the bookshelves. Poise: How to Attain It . Danger is my Business. Buddenbrooks. Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales. On the Eve by Turgenev. Two copies of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. There were bits of Africana dotted here and there...
I've started reading The Unpunished Vice. White opens with 'Reading is at once a lonely and an intensely sociable act.' Intriguing stuff. A page later I've added his novel Fanny: a fiction - about Fanny Trollope to my wishlist.
I've not finished Ursula Le Guin's British collection of essays, but will keep reading them in small chunks I think.
Back from vacation - I finished reading The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the unlikely ascent of "Hallelujah" by Alan Light. It's very much a biography of a song and I enjoyed it.
I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to read for August's topic so I think I'll wait to see what other folks are going to read.
>102 Chatterbox: Notice how I mentioned we should talk more and then swanned off? I am so sorry about your friend. How difficult to be making health care decisions for someone else and not be near home. Best wishes for your friend and for you balancing everything.
I've got a couple in mind for August, hoping they fit the category. Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurty, which I suppose also fits this month, and I'm thinking of as essays? Also The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For by David McCullough, which I bought in DC last fall and have yet to finish. A collection of speeches is rather like a collection of essays, no? Yes?
>118 nittnut: Yes, the "chatter gods" will come after you for swanning off like that!!
>110 benitastrnad: Interesting commentary on that, Benita, thanks. I think I have higher expectations of getting pronunciations correct when the author is the narrator. Even if you don't know when you set out to narrate, make a list of the names and places that might be tricky and double and triple check... I was surprised and impressed when the narrator of my book called me to do just that with a list of words, some of which I thought were fairly straight forward (that will teach me to make assumptions!) and some of which made me stop in my tracks and go, yeah, I'm not 110% sure that this is THE accurate way to pronounce it. It's the way that I pronounce it, but is that correct usage? I wouldn't want to swear to it... In at least one case, it wasn't... *sheepish*
So now I have higher standards for narrators, too. So when listening to Vanishing New York a few months ago, an otherwise fascinating book and lively audio, I howled in pain when the narrator pronounced Houston Street like the city in Texas. NOOOOOOO. It's HOW-stohn. And it wasn't just once, but over and over and over. This is a cardinal sin, and happened in a book ABOUT the city.
>119 nittnut: Yes, anything anthology-like will count. Equally, if all people feel motivated to do is read a bunch of isolated New Yorker articles, that's fine too. The idea is that each piece should stand on its own. So, if you're reading an entire book, make it a book composed of segments that are self contained -- an essay or narrative segment that can be read independently of the others in that book. Equally, someone could come to a book and read only one or two essays from that book, even if the pieces are linked, and not feel they have lost or missed out on something.
I don't know what I'll do yet; probably scan my library using the tag "anthology"!
I've been on holiday this month and not made much reading progress, so I doubt I'll finish Upbeat (about the formation of the Iraqi National Youth Orchestra) before the end of the month. I am about a fifth of the way through it, so it will be August before it's done (I'll come back here and review it - I'm enjoying it very much so far). Luckily I have a couple of short reads planned for August's challenge, so should be all caught up before September. One is an anthology produced for the 10th anniversary of the Hexham book festival (it doesn't have an ISBN so I'm not sure it'll have a touchstone or LT entry, but I'll see if I can get the link), and the other is one of the Penguin 60s Classics (little books produced for Penguin's 60th anniversary), Charles Darwin's "The Galapagos Islands" which features two essays - the book title is the first, plus one on Tahiti.
>121 Chatterbox: - Re pronunciation in audiobooks. I was once listening to the audiobook version of Susan Vreeland's Luncheon of the Boating Party, which is historical fiction, not NF. The narrator was also not the author, but the story takes place in France (it's about the back story of Renoir's famous painting) and she was so bad at pronouncing names of places and people, that I actually stopped listening before the first disc was finished. She was massacring the language! Luckily, I happened to own the hard copy so I took my time and read it. But it was a real head-scratcher as to why the audio company would even hire a narrator who was so inept at even attempting to pronounce French names. I've listened to several other books where the narrators did a much better job at proper pronunciation of French words.
>124 jessibud2: Yes, lousy pronunciation of foreign language -- even a few words here and there -- is one of the primary reasons I end up returning audiobooks. I just think that they get a good narrator, generally --and it's a tough skill -- and assume that not enough of us will even notice.
Once again, I failed to read anything for this month's theme. I have hope for August - I plan to read Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay...
#124 & 121
I think that Slavic and Russian place and proper names are hard for many people to pronounce. I good producer of audio books will have taken note of that and done some fact checking, or in this case pronunciation checking. I am not picky about whether it is toe-mate-oh or ta-maht-oh, but when a company is producing a recorded version of a book it is beholden on that company to get some things correct. Books are often the authority on things and I would bet that most people will think that the way a word is pronounced on a recorded version of a book is the definitive way of saying that word. Pronunciation is to recorded books as spelling is to the written books.
>102 Chatterbox: I hope your friend is on the mend now and life is starting to get back to normal for you.
I am still reading my way through Dangerous Books for Girls it is interesting but too many other challenges and library book holds have got in the way this month. I am still hoping to finish before the end of the month.
To get us closer to 150 while staying with books,
the next couple of posts will have the Famous First Lines
of a few of the books that have kept me from reading more of this month's non-fiction:
1. Steam belched and hissed. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. (clue = recent YA)
2. LEODOGRAN, the king of Cameliard,
Had one fair daughter, and none other child;
and she was fairest of all flesh on earth...
4. My father was born in the last third of the nineteenth century,
an era of great cultural, economic, and religious upheaval in Igbo land.
(clue = copyright 2012)
Not sure what I will read for the topic next month. I do know that I have to read Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard before it is due at the library. I put a hold on it around the same time as I did for her SPQR. When I saw the size of SPQR I wondered what I had done to myself but, thankfully, her manifesto is a much smaller book. Would the manifesto work for next month's challenge?
I may try to use next month to just catch up on the challenge reads that I have so far not finished. At least 2 sit by the bedside with bookmarks in them.
I have put some of the Ross King books on the to be read pile. They sound very interesting (especially the Group of Seven one).
>139 Familyhistorian: The book's descriptions say the manifestos are essays based on lectures -- that sounds like exactly the right sort of content for this challenge!
This question reminded me of something else that would work. Some of you in Canada might remember the CBC Massey lectures, named in honor of Vincent Massey, former politician, diplomat and the first Canadian-born Governor General of Canada. They are delivered by some notable literary figure on a topic of some interest. Work done for these lectures by Northrop Frye became The Educated Imagination and advanced important work by C.B. Macpherson on the definition of democracy. I recently picked up a copy of Adam Gopnik's lectures on winter, and there's a collection by Alberto Manguel. They are always five lectures. Here's the detail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massey_Lectures
I liked The Diary of a Bookseller, about a second hand bookseller in Wigtown, Scotland, but ultimately the author becomes just as annoying as he is interesting. He rants endlessly about Amazon and how it is killing off the book trade (even though he himself keeps misplacing books his customers order, can't fill the orders he gets and sees his rating fall; and chronicles the kind of interaction with customers that would alienate me, a rabid book lover. For instance, someone had been in his store briefly during a festival, spotted an interesting book, and calls him later to ask him the title. He refuses to give it to her, saying he knows she'll just order it from Amazon (his phobia...) but that she can order it from him and he'll send it to her. How does he know she doesn't just want to give the name of the book to a friend who might be interested? It's absurd, and offensive. I would never go back to ANY bookstore that treated me like that. I think Amazon's model is dangerously Pac-Man like, but shooting a Kindle and putting it on display is just weird. For all the fun it was to read about what it's like to get insights into what it's like to run the book bus ahead, and the quirky details about eccentric customers who muddle up authors names or confuse them with titles, etc., the author is peculiarly self-righteous. He doesn't like librarians, because they destroy the value of a second hand book by adding stamps, etc. to them. And if you're looking for someone who genuinely seems to ruminate on books that he loves to read, look elsewhere. 3.85 stars.
Thanks for the link to the Massey Lectures. I know I have Winter sitting on a shelf somewhere. I had a peek at the site and there are some very interesting ones.
>144 Chatterbox: Thanks Suz. Hmm, I probably could have figured it out myself if I had read the description on the inside of the cover where it says "In two provocative essays, Beard connects the past to the present as only she can, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated powerful women since time immemorial."
>148 Familyhistorian: Really enjoyed Women and Power - Beard's style is always engaging I think.
I've got Zadie Smith's new collection of essays, Feel Free, so will try and get to this this month.
>144 Chatterbox: - I have read a number of The Massey Lectures and a few years ago, I started to collect them. I have listened to the Gopnik collection on audio, and several others as they were broadcast on the radio. As well, I own but have not yet read the collections by Margaret Visser, Lawrence Hill, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Clarkson and several others. Thanks for putting that idea in my head; maybe I will pick out one of them for next month.
Great, folks -- you'll need to give me a few hours to get somewhere I can set up the next month's thread. I am just racing off to the hospital and there is no wi-fi in patient rooms.
I finished Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon by Gijs van Hensbergen early this morning, which was very good. It begins with Picasso's annual summer visit to Spain with his family in 1934, the year that would be the last he would spend in his homeland. That fall an uprising by left wing miners in Asturias was brutally repressed by General Francisco Franco, with the resultant death of approximately 4,000 miners and their supporters. Continued clashes between the Nationalists and the Republicans led to civil war in Spain beginning in July 1936, and early the following year the Nationalists led by Franco was making inroads into Northern Spain, although his troops met with strong resistance in the País Vasco (Basque Country). Franco enlisted the support of Hitler's Luftwaffe, which conducted a terror bombing raid on the city of Guernica (or Gernika in Euskera, the Basque language), the spiritual center of the Basque Country, on Monday April 26, 1937, the traditional market day when roughly 10,000 residents and visitors would shop in open markets throughout the city. The bombing campaign, which was designed to break the spirit of the Euskadi resistance, left over 1,600 people dead, and after news and photos of the tragedy reached Paris Picasso quickly drew sketches and completed his masterpiece painting, in a period of only five weeks, doing so in time to have it displayed in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition that summer.
This book next describes the painting's impact during World War II, within Europe and in the United States after it was transported there for safe keeping shortly before German troops invaded France. At the same time, the author describes Picasso's political activities and artistic work in France during the war years, and his decision to become a member of the French Communist Party after the war ended, which caused the US government to bar him from entry during the Red Scare and anti-communist hysteria during the 1950s, when his great work continued to be displayed there.
Guernica's impact on major postwar artists is also discussed at length in this book, along with the political situation in Spain and the US, followed by its return to Spain in 1981 once the country had instituted a stable democracy, and its installation into its permanent home in 1992 at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, where I saw it for the first time last summer.
Guernica is a superb and comprehensive exploration of Picasso's greatest and most influential painting, which I would recommend to anyone interested in Picasso and his work, especially those of us who are fortunate to have seen it. I'll attend a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival next month which will feature two authors that have written new books about Guernica and Picasso's political activism, and I'll undoubtedly pick up and read those books as well.
I finished the last of my ambitious line-up for this month! Three books! Yeah for me.
I read Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King for my final book for this months challenge. It was very good and I enjoyed reading it.
As I stated earlier, I will never look at these last paintings of Monet the same way again. It is easy to get lost in the beauty of the colors, but there is a dark side; an undertone to these paintings that isn't readily seen on the surface. Especially the ones done of the willows or the rose arbor. When the last paintings of the rose arbor were revealed many people dismissed them as the poor attempt of an old blind man to keep painting. The colors are lurid red, yellow, and orange: colors that Monet did not use often. The paintings are violent, but King points out that they are really pushing Impressionism to it extremes and are almost the early beginnings of Abstract Expressionism. King says that they were early influences on Pollock, and have nothing to do with visual impairment. Once I learned what was going on in Monet's life and his feelings about what was happening to France during WWI and how that affected Monet's painting all the way from the subject matter he choose to the colors and time of day that he choose to depict on canvas. Monet is often called the painterly anti-depressant because his paintings are so warm and comforting, but the paintings done from 1914 through the end of Monet's life are anything but warm and comforting. The violence around him is seriously a part of these paintings that makes them the antithesis of an anti-depressant. His twisted drooping willows are a symbol of a country and a man bowed but not giving up and his huge last paintings that were donated to the French government are very much a part of WWI.
This was an excellent book about the last great burst of creativity from the master of Impressionism. I now have a visit to the Orangiere in Paris on my list of museums to visit - someday.
>153 kidzdoc: it is an amazing piece of art Darryl, and still disturbs. Putting the book on my list.
>154 benitastrnad: Nice review of Mad Enchantment, Benita!
>155 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe!
>156 Caroline_McElwee: Right, Caroline. I was in awe when I saw it, and its preceding sketches, at the Museo Reina Sofía last year, but I have a much greater appreciation for it now. I had intended to visit Gernika on market day when I was in Bilbao last year but didn't, due to unpleasant weather. I'll certainly go there when I return to the País Vasco.
I bought this book from Daunt Books last year, so I assume that you'll be able to find it. I'll see James Attlee speak on the 24th of next month about his latest book Guernica: Painting the End of the World, which was published this past October. Olivier Widmaier Picasso, Pablo's grandson, will also talk about his book Picasso: An Intimate Portrait during the same event.
One more celebration for this ART Month: Online "My Modern Met" has a quick and fun demonstration of Watercolor techniques.
Even if you don't want to paint, it's intriguing to see what's behind the effects.
The Watercolor feature is below The Bouffant Baby!
Hope to hear good news from the hospital...
I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird
”Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do---the actual act of writing---turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”
Anne Lamott has written a few novels and a lot of non-fiction, some of it much too spiritual for my taste. But in this book she shares her ideas about the writing process that are all part of the syllabus that she uses in her writing classes at UC Davis. Some struck me as invaluable, some seemed pretty obvious and many were downright hilarious and that’s why I liked this book. She said a lot of things that could apply to almost any career path you were contemplating and would hold you in good stead. With humor and sympathy for those struggling with the writing process she explained why so many writers fail miserably before they finally succeed. By so explaining I had to wonder why any books have ever gotten written. It sounds like a horrible slog.
She stresses that you should write about your childhood and quotes Flannery O’Connor who said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. And my mind immediately goes to The Glass Castle, Liar’s Club, Angela’s Ashes and other books that found great success because the author survived a truly awful childhood and I think O’Connor may have hit on something here. At any rate, Lamott is pointing out that within ourselves we have many stories that need telling and some of them may even be interesting to other people so it’s a good place to start. I think she’s probably right. Recommended.
>159 brenzi: - I am currently reading a book called Why We Write About Ourselves and am on the Anne Lamott section right now. I have only read one book by her (Help, Thanks, Wow) so I am not so familiar with her works. But she does say that she LOVES writing memoir. This book is probably one I will count for October's first person theme. It contains short pieces by 20 authors who have written memoirs, about half of whom I never heard of, but the other half I have read at least something by them. It's a quick and interesting read. Fun to see your comments just now about Lamott. I may seek out that book.
I finished my book for the month, just a little late. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. It was really interesting to learn more about Edward Curtis, what a character, and also more about that period in Native American History. If I knew more about photography, that part of the story would have been interesting as well. His photos are amazing.
The book also touches on some of the controversies about Curtis; whether he was romanticizing Native American life by focusing on pre-contact life; and some of the ways he really pushed to get access to ceremonies, with negative effects on his Native American contacts. I do think that this could have been expanded in the book, which focuses more on the respect that Curtis had for Native Americans and spirituality.
It is an interesting issue, because without Curtis's work, a lot of traditional language and culture would have been lost, and today some tribes are using his work to re-discover lost traditions. So much was positive, and he definitely had a lot of respect for the subjects of his photography.
I think that this months challenge was a rip roaring success. I can’t believe the fascinating variety of titles that the group read - and every one of them was interestin. This was a good challenge and if we do this one again next year I already know what I will read.
I finished my book for July's challenge a bit late but it was a little while ago. I have been thinking about the book since. Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained was a thoroughly researched book about the subject, from the history to the present state of the industry – it is doing extremely well.
There were numerous passages in the book that made me sit up and take notice, like this one from page 154:
These books are a conversation between women. And a different picture of femininity emerges than from what is traditionally portrayed in other mass media, such as magazines, movies, or televisions shows. The organization Miss Representation recently researched and discovered that only 29 percent of top speaking roles in Hollywood films are women. Less than a quarter of films feature a female protagonist and even fewer feature leads that are women of color. In television, women have 43 percent of speaking roles – but they were much younger than their male acting counterparts.
Where will she find stories that are actually about women? In a romance novel.
The Vanishing Velazquez by Laura Cumming
The Vanishing Velazquez was my art book for the non-fiction challenge.
The book tells the story of an English bookseller who buys a painting at an estate sale only to determine that the painting is a portrait of King Charles I painted by Diego Velazquez. The book traces Snare's life and the impact that the painting has on it as well as the legal and scholarly fights over whether the painting truly is by Velazquez.
Cumming uses the book to not only trace Snare's life but the life of Velazquez. Despite being a royal court painter, there is much that is not known about what is probably Spain's greatest artist. It is clear from the writing that Cumming believes Velazquez to be one of the truly great painters, an assessment I am inclined to agree with.
For all the books strengths, the ending was a little flat for me.
This topic was continued by The 2018 Nonfiction Challenge Part VIII: Short and Sweet in August.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.