F-ing hilarious, especially as read by Brian Cranston. Cathartic for all parents of kids who won’t eat, for whatever reason. This may not be to your tF-ing hilarious, especially as read by Brian Cranston. Cathartic for all parents of kids who won’t eat, for whatever reason. This may not be to your taste, and that’s fine. It happens to hit me right in the funny bone....more
**spoiler alert** What a charming, attractive and engaging book! It’s a simple romance, obviously modeled along the lines of many children’s picture b**spoiler alert** What a charming, attractive and engaging book! It’s a simple romance, obviously modeled along the lines of many children’s picture books, YA novels, cartoon movies, etc, but with a crucial difference: the two lovers are young men. In ever other way, it follows an enjoyably predictable script, narrated in rhyme. Other than the gender of the lead pair, there is the usual narrative arc, beginning with dissatisfaction, leading to adventure and peril, and satisfyingly leading to a very traditionally-styled Happily Ever After. (Spoiler Alert: if soppy weddings gross you out, you will not enjoy this book.)
Sure, it’s syrupy sweet. Yes, in terms of plot structure and character development, it is highly derivative. As a book marketed to children, it is utterly and somewhat pointedly sexless (that is, sex-free, Rated G). And the illustrations are exceedingly conventional, in terms of gender norm depictions. (Cis-normative in the extreme).
But therein lies its success, as well. It is an attractive and credible - in the fairytale world sense - depiction of a sweeping Disney-style (that dragon will look familiar to anyone who has watched Sleeping Beauty) romance between two men. Well-paced and succinctly told, as befits a children’s picture book, it tells its story boldly and in clear language. If it comes across as dated and cloying at times, so be it. It is true to its genre, as true as the love between the Handsome Prince and His Brave Knight (check out the stubbled jawline on him, btw).
I am going back to the bookstore to read it again....more
A very well-written, if at times overly adulatory, biography of the artist Willem de Kooning. It draws upon first-hand accounts and sources, and is veA very well-written, if at times overly adulatory, biography of the artist Willem de Kooning. It draws upon first-hand accounts and sources, and is very complete in most respects. However, the depiction of the artist’s wife, Elaine, is unflattering, and seems to fall short of a more honest appraisal of her abilities and importance as an artist. She is generally given short shrift, and is brushed off as something of an annoyance, which does not do her justice, either as an artist or as his wife. Despite her absence for long stretches, she always returned to him, and they were clearly drawn to each other, regardless of affairs or differences.
I was also surprised to note that the authors made no mention of the important Abstract Expressionist artist Grace Hartigan, who knew and was influenced by de Kooning. Reading about her life and work in the extraordinary not-yet-published book Ninth Street Women, by Mary Gabriel, there is a noteworthy description of her meeting de Kooning early on in her career and development as an artist in their shared territory of lower Manhattan. Yet his biographers did not see fit to include this significant exchange, nor even make reference to Hartigan.
In fact, most of the women in this biography are depicted as entering and leaving de Kooning’s life as if through a revolving door, with only slight mention of their professional work and impact, despite the fact that many of them were part of the artistic community in which de Kooning lived and worked for the entirety of his adult life. His professional world is depicted as largely male-dominated, which may have been true in the 60s and 70s, but was emphatically not the case in the 40s and 50s, when the burgeoning Abstract-Expressionist community of artists in New York was filled with and often led by a significant number of vibrant and active women, among them his own wife.
This biography contains many interesting anecdotes, and includes analyses of a good sampling of de Kooning’s work covering most of his major stylistic periods. It proceeds chronologically, and covers a great deal of territory, especially concerning de Kooning’s upbringing and early education in Holland. There are many valuable firsthand accounts included here, from friends and family, fellow artists and assistants, and observers of the NYC art world. An immense and impressive amount of work was required to bring all of these many threads together - successfully - into one coherent work. I only wish that some of those threads were not cut short or left out in places, to the detriment of our fuller understanding of the world in which de Kooning lived....more
Reading and studying 19th century collections of folktales is by turns intriguing and exasperating. This assemblage of stories is, like many of its coReading and studying 19th century collections of folktales is by turns intriguing and exasperating. This assemblage of stories is, like many of its contemporaries, of inestimable value simply due to the author-editor’s direct proximity and access to the original tellers, many of whom he identifies by name, in addition to their hometown, as well as other salient or what Leland might term “picturesque” details regarding their life and folkways.
But there is no avoiding the high-handed insufferably patronizing tone, the florid and overtly “literary” style - so at odds with the material retold - and the egregiously biased, racist and sexist world view and core beliefs that Leland brings heavily to bear upon his subject matter. It goes deeper than his casually cringe-worthy use of terms like “Red Indian”, “savage”, and “heathen”, which to him would simply have been socio-culturally accurate descriptors for his informants, for whom he expresses a sort of benevolent imperious regard.
In his introduction - always read the introduction!! - Leland lays out his “angle”, which boils down to his strongly-held certainty that much of the essential source material for the Algonquin tales he has been collecting are ultimately derived from Norse - that is to say, White European - sources. By precisely what means the Algonquins - and also the Eskimos of the far north, and the Chippewa people of the western territories - received this material from the Norse Eddas, he cannot, of course, really say, although he at various times intimates that rumors of Viking settlements in New England and eastern Canada most likely account for the introduction of their tales into the stream of Native folklore. He also asserts - and this is more attestable and likely - that some Algonquin tales may incorporate French Canadian story elements, due to their recent cross-cultural contact.
Leland can be forgiven his outlandish musings and imaginative flights of fancy regarding tale transmission between wildly disparate cultures, as this was common enough among folklorists of his time. What is less forgivable - particularly from the vantage point of our century - is his a prori assumption that Algonquin (and Eskimo and Chippewa) peoples were incapable of producing the extraordinary depth and breadth of narrative which he discovered them to be in possession of. This skepticism on his part, born out of racism and cultural imperialism, drove him to find an answer to the question of how a “Red Indian” could produce and narrate and pass down through unimaginable antiquity stories that are sophisticated, intriguing, multi-layered, by turns tragic and comic, and altogether vastly entertaining.
Sometimes, the simplest and most obvious answer is the true one. Algonquin cultures - in particular, those of the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Micmac collected here - are most likely exactly as they seem. They are a product of - and a tribute to - the people who told them and passed them down, in much the same way that the Norse Eddas are the product of theirs. They owe little or nothing to imaginary White interlopers, and the occasional points of similarity that Leland eagerly notes and makes much of are a reminder of something essential which he failed to see: our greater shared humanity. It is this underlying equalizer which transcends boundaries of time and geography and race, which produces shared experiences and common folkloric motifs throughout the world, and inevitably makes us equals, no matter where we are from.
More than just a fabulous five-way biography of five extraordinary artists, this is also the biography of a place and time and an art movement, a wayMore than just a fabulous five-way biography of five extraordinary artists, this is also the biography of a place and time and an art movement, a way of life, and a community. Mary Gabriel has fleshed out the story of the artists of the New York School, centering on their heyday during the 40s and 50s, but giving the necessary background material of their Depression-era development.
If this sounds dry and academic, it’s not. The world of the Ninth Street Women and their colleagues, friends and lovers was vibrant, dangerous, and exciting, and this book gives us the closest thing possible to a first-hand view. Mary Gabriel is sensitive to the fact that they did not live in a vacuum, but very much within a diverse and tumultuous community, one composed of complicated and ever-evolving men and women. Living amongst each other in a kind of near-incestuous intimacy, everyone within that community influenced and was influenced by each other. Yet despite their invaluable and interwoven contributions to American Art, the primary subjects of this book were virtually written out of history - mostly by virtue of being ignored and not written into Art History in the immediate decades after their flourishing - as a result mainly of systemic sexism, but perhaps also jealousy and pique on the part of at least one prominent ex-lover art critic.
Thanks to painstaking scholarship and the dedicated preservation of primary materials - interviews and letters and conversations by and with family and friends - Mary Gabriel has brilliantly succeeded, not just in piecing together the necessary and extraordinary lives of Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler. She has reset them in their proper context within the turbulent and fertile development and flowering of the Abstract Expressionist movement and the New York School, and she has restored them to their proper place in the firmament of American Art History....more
A nice collection of folktales, legends and myths from the native nations of the northeast, retold in relatively short and simple format, accompaniedA nice collection of folktales, legends and myths from the native nations of the northeast, retold in relatively short and simple format, accompanied by simple black and white illustrations. Suitable for reading aloud, for elementary and middle school readers especially. There are some very good notes in the appendix, with historical background on many of the represented tribes and nations....more
A harrowing and festeringly detailed account, ripped from 18th century headlines, of teenage life in London. Told from the perspective of a teenage giA harrowing and festeringly detailed account, ripped from 18th century headlines, of teenage life in London. Told from the perspective of a teenage girl raised in a working class family and then abandoned when she is “ruined”, it rains a pitiless light down on some of the darkest and most miserable times and places in human history. Not an uplifting read by any means, but quite informative, effectively evoking the sights and smells of London in the 1760s. You won’t expect a happy ending, nor will you get one....more