This is a readable and insightful history of the study of cave painting as seen through its major practitioners, especially the Abbé Breuil, André LerThis is a readable and insightful history of the study of cave painting as seen through its major practitioners, especially the Abbé Breuil, André Leroi-Gourhan, Max Raphael, Jean Clotte, and many others not so widely known outside the field. Curtis has done thorough research in the major documents, has visited many of the major caves, and has consulted directly with experts in the field, especially Jean Clotte himself, one of the chief figures in the exploration of Chauvet cave. The central chapters introduce the work of the important explorers/scientists and their professional experiences in reporting their discoveries. Curtis lays out the politics of archaeological study clearly and sympathetically, while also showing the quite steady advance of the field even over the objections of its detractors. Curtis’s combination of close study of documents and direct experience in the caves enables him to provide an intimate and detailed account of specific pieces of cave art and the feeling of slipping and sliding through wet, muddy, steep passageways in the caves he visited. Readers of an artistic rather than scientific bent will be amazed at the close description of many of the works, including an account of the stroke order of major paintings. By the end of the book, one comes away with a fuller than expected understanding of the social organization and artistic practices that produced these remarkable ancient works. Though much remains to be understood about Paleolithic cave painting, Curtis’s study shows us what an amazingly coherent view can be pieced together out of close attention to the research that has already been done. ...more
One delight from my current stack of reading is Virginia Morell's _Animal Wise_ in which she tells the stories of ethologists of various sorts workingOne delight from my current stack of reading is Virginia Morell's _Animal Wise_ in which she tells the stories of ethologists of various sorts working with, respectively, ants, fish, birds, rats, elephants, dolphins, chimpanzees, dogs, and wolves. Morell is a science writer rather than a scientist, but she does her job very effectively and writes engagingly about the work of the real scientists who are trying to map animal behavior and communication. She is able to balance an obvious enthusiasm for her subject with a sometimes skeptical reserve about the findings of the scientists she is reporting on. Still, she makes their work seem very persuasive in regard to findings about how and what animals communicate to one another. The book, by the way, is available in various formats -- print, Kindle, and Audible. I have both read it and listened to it in the last two formats. Very well read by Kirsten Potter....more
I am in that hopeless state of reading too many books at the same time, but they are (almost) all so delicious! One is Mary Austin's _The Land of LittI am in that hopeless state of reading too many books at the same time, but they are (almost) all so delicious! One is Mary Austin's _The Land of Little Rain_ which I highly recommend. She is an ethologist and ecologist somewhat ahead of her time, I think, though I know little about the history of either subject. But in writing about the desert, she has a whole-world view that enables her to see the necessary connections among all the parts. And when she wants to show you the desert-dweller's view of things, her prose gets right down there on the ground with the mice and insects and looks out at the landscape. There's a very touching passage in which she describes two larks, themselves wilting in the heat, trying to spread their wings to shield their nest from the midday desert sun. This is a book written out of close observation, and Austin’s perceptions are borne out by later more formal scientific studies as recorded in books such as Virginia Morell’s recent _Animal Wisdom_. (By the way, I read this book on my Kindle app in the version introduced by Robert Hass, not the version noted above introduced by Terry Tempest Williams.)...more
I grew up in a small town in Iowa where people had names like Paul Paulsen and Andy Andersen. As a kid I would not even have imagined a name like MahmI grew up in a small town in Iowa where people had names like Paul Paulsen and Andy Andersen. As a kid I would not even have imagined a name like Mahmoud Darwish, though in birth date he and I were near contemporaries. But the history of our times has opened new realities for culturally deprived people like me.
Darwish’s book is an excellent entry to some of those realities. He has given us a grim and poetic evocation of the competition for memory between oppressor and oppressed – in this case, Israeli and Palestinian, though the lessons extend far beyond (Native Americans, Guatemalan Maya, Chinese dissenters, to name a few), as Darwish himself recognizes at moments in his book.
Resistant voices have the power to widen discussion, to add facets and perspectives that have been missing. Darwish’s book certainly does this for me, and maybe for you, too....more
I really think Christie Ann Reynolds is a little bit mad, my evidence being the intimacy of consciousness and image one experiences in her poems:
“OutI really think Christie Ann Reynolds is a little bit mad, my evidence being the intimacy of consciousness and image one experiences in her poems:
“Out of my head fell a harp. Villagers stood at the hairline break it made in the earth, waiting behind their o mouths.” ------ “Make me invisible I said to the moth. Shook it gently then madly inside the planet I’d made of my hands.”
Who can believe this didn’t happen to her? Or was it to me? Or you?
If you want to find out who you are, or aren’t, read Reynolds’ chapbook Idiot Heart. If you already know, or really don’t care, just read her titles: “Destiny: in progress,” “Keep your cuneiform to a minimum,” “An expletive written beautifully across the bed,” etc.
For meditative readers more interested in tracings of the zone “entre solitude et néant” than explorations in literary form, the forty-one poems of AnFor meditative readers more interested in tracings of the zone “entre solitude et néant” than explorations in literary form, the forty-one poems of Anne Pion’s La forme des pierres aprés le passage du vent will be a rewarding adventure. Every fifth poem or so is followed by a commentary called “Laboratoire a création,” usually a prose passage looking into creative or philosophical issues pertinent to the main themes of the book. The volume is a physically beautiful production thanks to the use of paintings by Fabienne Verdier, whose deft brushwork complements the themes and moods of Pion’s poetry. Beginner’s French (like my own) will take you a certain distance, leaving enough puzzles for later reading. A book not easily acquired but a treasure for the long-term shelf, since it’s the kind of book that you can never say you have really finished reading....more
A “Portico” and nine short stories imbued with qualities of Guatemalan and Mayan anthropology, history, myth all cast in the literary style of “naturaA “Portico” and nine short stories imbued with qualities of Guatemalan and Mayan anthropology, history, myth all cast in the literary style of “natural dreamscapes” sometimes given to prolixity but overall devised “to reach the sweet inmost core of the delicate stone which juts from the jungle floor.” A re-invention of a Guatemala lost to its own people with some hope that “theirs one day shall be what at present rests in other hands.” For bold and determined readers only....more
An excellent collection of prose and poetry, first time in English, by the Chinese dissident who was given an eleven-year prison term in December 2009An excellent collection of prose and poetry, first time in English, by the Chinese dissident who was given an eleven-year prison term in December 2009 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. The editors have organized twenty years of Liu's work under rather innocuous thematic headings, but the better way to read the book is to spend an hour numbering the 40-some pieces in their chronological order and then reading in that sequence in order to watch Liu's thoughts develop over the two decades covered in this book. The work begins just before Tiananmen 1989, when Liu was a visiting professor at Columbia, and ends with the documents related to his latest imprisonment. If he serves the full term, he will be 65 when he gets out this time, and will have spent 18 of the past 23 years under some form of detention. An emotionally and intellectually rich personality, well worth getting to know....more
Julio Cortázar’s From the Observatory is reading for the agile mind that can groove on the counterpoint of eels in the water and stars in the sky. TheJulio Cortázar’s From the Observatory is reading for the agile mind that can groove on the counterpoint of eels in the water and stars in the sky. The slim volume opens with a one-page explanation of the materials used followed by a full-page black-and-white photograph of a stone or concrete stairway centered in the frame and ascending steeply away from the viewer toward what appears to be a small temple at the top. It’s hard to make out exactly what’s there. But a little research will show you that the stairway is actually the gnomon of the large Samyat Yantra at Jai Singh’s observatory in Jaipur, alluded to in the title of the book. The tonalities of the photographic print capture the shades and staining of the steps while the sidings of the gnomon reflect bright sunlight and the background of the whole photograph, which might have been a blue sky, is totally darkened. The book has some 31 photos similarly rich in tonalities and even richer in design, at least eight of which I find deeply inspiring. If you are a reader who might be intrigued by “a hole in the net of time,” or the possibilities of “a breach in succession,” if you are an artist who can think of yourself “as a mortal provoking the cosmic bull,” this is a book you had better get your hands on fast. “Try it,” Cortázar urges us, “not to know, not for anything.”...more
A good one-day read. Based on Erdrich’s trip to islands in Lake of the Woods (northern Minnesota and southern Ontario), especially the island where thA good one-day read. Based on Erdrich’s trip to islands in Lake of the Woods (northern Minnesota and southern Ontario), especially the island where the Ernest Oberholtzer foundation is located. Oberholtzer was a friend of nature and the Ojibwe people. At his death, he left behind a large book collection that Erdrich introduces to us. In addition, she gives us interesting commentary on Ojibwe rock art, language, and culture throughout the book. One of my favorite examples is her discussion of terms of farewell in Ojibwe. She mentions that for her people “goodbye” is “too final,” so instead they have invented terms like “weweni babamanadis, which translates roughly as an admonition to be careful as you go around being ugly in your ugly life.” The narrative, published by National Geographic, is a travel memoir and, as such, is rather light reading: interesting topics but no deep treatment of anything. Since the Oberholtzer library is constructed as the goal of the trip, one wishes for extensive treatment of that portion of the trip. ...more