30,000 Years of Art

Phaidon Press had great success with The Art Book, an illustrated, pocket-size survey of the history of art from antiquity to the present. 30,000 Years of Art outdoes even that, with 1,062 pages and 1,000 illustrated plates, all in a massive coffee-table book that weighs in at 13.2 pounds (the latter according to my creaky bathroom scale). Beginning with the Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel (Germany, 2800 B.C.) and the Venus of Willendorf (Austria, 2500 B.C.) and ending with James Turrell's as-yet-unfinished project to transform the Roden Crater, an extinct volcano located in Arizona's Painted Desert, into an observatory, the book offers an exhaustive comparative history of world art. (The first examples of art A.D. -- a vase from Thailand and an Italian fresco -- don't even show up until page 310). The appendix offers a timeline showing developments throughout each part of the world. This is the kind of book that offers, say, the paintings of Monet and Manet juxtaposed against a Malaysian headboard and a Monaggan mask in the section on late-19th-century art. The contrasts throughout are fascinating and instructive. As a reference for scholars, a tutorial for students of any age, or simply tabletop entertainment to flip through at will, this book is, pound for pound, the most thorough and comprehensive art course one is likely to find between two covers. -

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."