Tag Archives: Books

Performing Arts: “The Letters Of Cole Porter” (New Yorker Review)

From a New Yorker online article review:

The Letters Of Cole Porter Yale University Press November 2019Beneath his smooth, genial, almost inhumanly productive and evasive surface, there were turbulent waters. His very name, for all its air of Ivy League ease, represents a burdened legacy. The Porters were his difficult, scapegrace father’s family; the Coles were his mother’s rich and ambitious Indiana family. He was a Porter by birth but, if his mother had anything to do with it, would be a Cole for life.

Certainly, Porter’s ghost could not ask for better care than he has been given in “The Letters of Cole Porter” (Yale), edited by Cliff Eisen, a professor of music history at King’s College London, and Dominic McHugh, a musicologist at the University of Sheffield (and the editor of Alan Jay Lerner’s letters). Laid out with a meticulous scholarly apparatus, as though this were the correspondence of Grover Cleveland, every turn in the songwriter’s story is deep-dived for exact chronology, and every name casually dropped by Porter gets a worried, explicatory footnote.

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New Literary Books: “Parisian Lives – Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir And Me” (Bair)

Deirdre Bair Parisian Lives Samuel Beckett Simone de Beauvoir and Me A Memoir BookDe Beauvoir and Beckett despised each other – and lived essentially on the same street. While quite literally dodging one subject or the other, and sometimes hiding out in the backrooms of the great cafés of Paris, Bair learned that what works in terms of process for one biography rarely applies to the next. Her seven-year relationship with the domineering and difficult de Beauvoir required a radical change in approach, yielding another groundbreaking literary profile.

Drawing on Bair’s extensive notes from the period, including never-before-told anecdotes and details that were considered impossible to publish at the time, Parisian Lives is full of personality and warmth and gives us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.

In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and recently minted PhD who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could write his biography despite never having written – or even read – a biography herself. The next seven years of intimate conversations, intercontinental research, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games resulted in Samuel Beckett: A Biography, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Deirdre to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir. The catch?

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Top New Travel Books: “52 Places to Go in 2020” (NYT)

Through more than 100 full-color photographs, “52 Places to Go in 2020” takes you to tranquil beaches, ice kingdoms, ground-breaking museums, jungle paradises, picturesque mountains and world-class restaurants.

And for those who like to keep their travels close to home, it contains seven surprising locations in America, including (spoiler alert) Washington, D.C., the No. 1 destination of 2020.

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Take a trip around the world with this must-have book detailing our selection of the top destinations of 2020. Whether you’re a frequent flier, weekend traveler or daring explorer, The Times’s annual “52 Places to Go” list will help you plan vacations, set aspirations and check off bucket lists. For the first time, the 52 locations are presented as a hardcover book packed with photographs, maps and information.

The Times has been publishing “Places to Go” in its Travel section since 2006 to inspire, delight and motivate readers to explore the world. This year’s list provides travel inspiration to cities and countries that are amazing, beautiful, culturally significant and, most important, timely. Each destination has a compelling reason to visit this year.

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Literature: “Prometheus Unbound” By Percy Bysshe Shelley First Published 200 Years Ago In 1820

Prometheus Unbound Percy Bysshe Shelley 1820Prometheus Unbound is a four-act lyrical drama by Percy Bysshe Shelley, first published in 1820. It is concerned with the torments of the Greek mythological figure Prometheus, who defies the gods and gives fire to humanity, for which he is subjected to eternal punishment and suffering at the hands of Zeus. It is inspired by the classical Prometheia, a trilogy of plays attributed to Aeschylus. Shelley’s play concerns Prometheus’ release from captivity, but unlike Aeschylus’ version, there is no reconciliation between Prometheus and Jupiter (Zeus). Instead, Jupiter is abandoned by his supportive elements and falls from power, which allows Prometheus to be released.

Excerpt:

As you speak, your words
Fill, pause by pause, my own forgotten sleep
With shapes. Methought among these lawns together
We wandered, underneath the young gray dawn,
And multitudes of dense white fleecy clouds
Were wandering in thick flocks along the mountains
Shepherded by the slow, unwilling wind;

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Political – Prometheus, then, is also Shelley’s answer to the mistakes of the French Revolution and its cycle of replacing one tyrant with another. Shelley wished to show how a revolution could be conceived which would avoid doing just that, and in the end of this play, there is no power in charge at all; it is an anarchist’s paradise.

Shelley finishes his “Preface” to the play with an evocation of his intentions as a poet:

My purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarize the highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral excellence; aware that, until the mind can love, and admire, and trust, and hope, and endure, reasoned principles of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the highway of life which the unconscious passenger tramples into dust, although they would bear the harvest of his happiness.

From Wikipedia

New Art Books: “Caspar David Friedrich – Nature And The Self” (Yale)

Caspar David Friedrich Nature and the Self Nina Amstutz February 2020In this revelatory book, Nina Amstutz combines fresh visual analysis with broad interdisciplinary research to investigate the intersection of landscape painting, self-exploration, and the life sciences in Friedrich’s mature work. Drawing connections between the artist’s anthropomorphic landscape forms and contemporary discussions of biology, anatomy, morphology, death, and decomposition, Amstutz brings Friedrich’s work into the larger discourse surrounding art, nature, and life in the 19th century.

Best known for his atmospheric landscapes featuring contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies and morning mists, Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) came of age alongside a German Romantic philosophical movement that saw nature as an organic and interconnected whole. The naturalists in his circle believed that observations about the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms could lead to conclusions about human life. Many of Friedrich’s often-overlooked later paintings reflect his engagement with these philosophical ideas through a focus on isolated shrubs, trees, and rocks. Others revisit earlier compositions or iconographic motifs but subtly metamorphose the previously distinct human figures into the natural landscape.

Nina Amstutz is assistant professor in the history of art and architecture at the University of Oregon.

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Rock & Roll Biographies: “Conversations With Tom Petty” (February 2020)

Conversations with Tom Petty book February 2020Author Paul Zollo conducted a series of in-depth discussions with Tom about his career, with special focus on his songwriting. The conversations are reprinted here with little or no editorial comment and represent a unique perspective on Tom’s entire career. Originally published in 2005 (also by Omnibus Press), Tom’s wife Dana has fully approved this updated edition, which retains its foreword by Petty, adds additional interview material, an expanded introduction as well as additional photos from Petty’s last ever live performance. This is, perhaps, as close as you can get to an autobiography by the great man.

Tom Petty has long been considered one of the great songwriters of American rock ‘n’ roll, as well as one of the key standard bearers of integrity in the music business. Conversations With Tom Petty is the first authorized book to focus solely on the life and work of the man responsible for some of the most memorable rock anthems of our generation, including: ‘American Girl’, ‘Breakdown’, ‘Refugee’, “The Waiting’, ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’, ‘I Won’t Back Down’, ‘Free Fallin’, ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’, ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’, ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ and many others.

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New Art Books: “Albrecht Dürer” By Christof Metzger (February 2020)

Albrecht Dürer by Christof Metzger February 2020This book showcases more than 100 of Dürer’s drawings including Hare, Self Portrait at the Age of 13, and Melencolia I, along with paintings and prints. Featuring scholarly essays and beautifully reproduced works, this book shows the reader not only how important Dürer’s drawings are to his own oeuvre, but also how he helped drawing become an appreciated medium in its own right.

During his lifetime, Dürer found tremendous success as a painter and printmaker, taking commissions from prominent figures such as Frederick the Wise and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. His drawings and studies reveal his interest in human proportions, anatomy, and perspective. Featured in this book are Dürer’s drawings from the Albertina Museum’s preeminent collection including family portraits, studies of animals and plants, and studies of the human body.

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