I admit, I skipped around. Still I've read most of it and the writing is so elegant, the encounters so well-told that I feel confident assigning fourI admit, I skipped around. Still I've read most of it and the writing is so elegant, the encounters so well-told that I feel confident assigning four stars. Encounters between James Baldwin and Richard Avedon; Gertrude Stein and Carl Van Vechten; Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell; Willa Cather and Sarah Orne Jewett, and many other American artists and writers.
Here is Rachel Cohen on Bishop and Lowell: "Lowell was someone who consumed, who had no boundaries at all, who made epics, who put everything in. Bishop selected, she made discrete things; as befitted a geographer, she had a clear sense of boundaries. He thought the best you could be was inclusive; she thought the best you could be was exact."
And Sarah Orne Jewett in a letter to the young Willa Cather: ...You must find your own quiet centre of life, and write from that to the world that holds offices, and all society....In short, you must write to the human heart, the great consciousness that all humanity goes to make up. Otherwise what might be strength in a writer is only crudeness, and what might be insight is only observation; sentiment falls to sentimentality--you can write about life, but never life itself....To work in silence with all one's heart, that is the writer's lot; he is the only artist who must be a solitary, and yet needs the widest outlook upon the world. ...more
A beautifully researched dual biography of two of my favorite children's book authors: Harold and the Purple Crayon's Crockett Johnson and A Hole is tA beautifully researched dual biography of two of my favorite children's book authors: Harold and the Purple Crayon's Crockett Johnson and A Hole is to Dig's Ruth Krauss. Giants in the field of Children's Literature, Krauss and Johnson paved the way for a fresher approach in storytelling both in words and pictures. Krauss, with her background in anthropology, often collected children's words and phrases and used them to tell a story, capturing their surprising and refreshing worldview and phrasing. Johnson's minimal approach in line and word, his humor and also his sophistication (never talking down) made his books unlike anyone else's and beloved by so many. Unlike so many biographers, Philip Nel does not take a psychoanalytical view or speculate unnecessarily. Instead he writes from the record, using interviews, notes, and above all, the many works these prolific artists created. An unlikely couple, as different in background as temperament, Johnson and Krauss's marriage and sometimes artistic partnership not only endured but also apparently prospered as well. Krauss's partnership with Maurice Sendak also launched Sendak's career and the couple's friendship with Sendak was a formative one for him. One of the things I love about the book is that it shows us how these two artists worked all their lives on their art, supporting themselves, while also continually growing and evolving as artists. Krauss studied poetry with Kenneth Koch and became part of the New York Poetry School, writing poem plays that were staged and performed. Late in life Johnson began painting visual representations of mathematical theorems and had gallery shows of his art. Friends with many avant-garde artists of their day, the couple's story is an inspiring and historically important one. A respectful and well-written biography, one that gives both of these seminal American artists and storytellers their due....more
I was not prepared for how fascinating and beautiful this novel is. Yes, Sketchbook and Maureen of Goodreads had recommended it, but I suppose I had DI was not prepared for how fascinating and beautiful this novel is. Yes, Sketchbook and Maureen of Goodreads had recommended it, but I suppose I had Du Maurier's biographer (Margaret Forster) in my ear: there are three Du Maurier novels that remain masterpieces; this was not of them. In fact, checking now, I do not even find it in her index though I know it was mentioned, at least a couple of times, in her text. Richly imagined, original in its execution, this is a novel as much about art, the life of artists, commercial success versus following one's voice/vision, as it is about family, its demands, deep bonds, and pleasures. The novel opens as the three grown children of two successful artists--a dancer and singer--who are themselves artists: Niall, a composer, Maria, an actress and Celia, talented at drawing (though she does not devote herself as the other two do)--are called parasites by Charles, Maria's husband. The term sets the three, and the novel, along journeys into their pasts and present, and with a sudden decision on Charles's part, their very different futures. Du Maurier does a masterful job of following each of these three very different characters, providing in doing so, her own version of point-of-view: there is a we, a community voice for the three siblings (half-siblings) as well as the p.o.v. of each. While Maria is self-absorbed, beautiful and charismatic, Celia is dutiful, devoted to her father and caretaking. Immensely talented yet unable to meet the selfish requirements of being an artist, she chooses instead to care for loved ones. Niall finds success as a composer but cares little for it and for a long time is ambivalent about writing the music, songs he hears in his head, that may not meet with such success. And between Maria and Niall, siblings by upbringing but not by blood, there is a deep--erotic, sympathetic--bond. I'll be reading more of Du Maurier's lesser known novels soon, hers is a singular talent. Like Niall, she too found much commercial success as her earnings supported her family (husband and three children), all the while striving for--and deserving but not always receiving--literary acclaim.
This was a gift from a friend... An interesting idea...except one doesn't really want to read the book, having read such emails before in one's inbox--This was a gift from a friend... An interesting idea...except one doesn't really want to read the book, having read such emails before in one's inbox--little is done here to provide context or reimagine them... they are just presented with illustrations and I don't find the illustrations particularly interesting or wonderful....more
Heard the author speak at my college...a fascinating group of African-American painters (one woman among the men) who painted quickly for money ratherHeard the author speak at my college...a fascinating group of African-American painters (one woman among the men) who painted quickly for money rather than high art, yet their paintings beautifully evoke the Florida landscape and dreamscape. Sold for $25 each in the 60's and 70's, they are now collectors' items, selling in the thousands....more
My life has surely improved since being introduced to David Shrigley by Comrade, aka David (of GR-fame). First off, the bright yellow cover with orangMy life has surely improved since being introduced to David Shrigley by Comrade, aka David (of GR-fame). First off, the bright yellow cover with orange band (mine is orange, not violet as pictured) and goofy face are bound to cheer you...open the thick book and you're in Shrigley-land, a world of off-beat humor that's near impossible to describe. Shrigley's idiosyncratic drawings and handwriting, his lists and found objects are surprising, funny, sometimes tinged with sadness, sometimes provocative, always delightfully original. Here are some that I think might work here (something is lost of course in transcription, as they are not printed in Shrigley's distinctive scrawl): "Once I saw some text written down on a page. It wasn't printed but hand-written in black (ink, I presume) probably with some fairly sophisticated writing tool (definitely not a stick, possibly a ball-point pen). Since I cannot read I do not know what it said. It might have been written in a foreign language or have been obscene. It might have been important or it might have been very trivial; I just don't know. I still wonder about it sometimes when I am watching my girlfriend read the newspaper."
NO TOURNAMENT First Louse: Let's have a tournament. Second Louse: What kind of tournament? First Louse: A tournament to see who is the better between us Second louse: To what end? Fist Louse: To establish dominance. Second Louse: But we are lice and have no hierarchy. We do not even have names.
Note: Not everyone will appreciate his worldview, it goes without saying. I thought my son who's 15 might like the book. He looked it over, "What do you call this kind of art?" was his unimpressed response. My cats however appeared to enjoy it as they sat near me while I read it, cover to cover.