Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe

Reading the accompaniment to the eponymous Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition, it becomes clear why the ideas of this "comprehensive anticipatory design scientist" remain so provocative. The thrust of the lead curator's essay and the majority of the plates emphasize Fuller's (1895-1983) architectural and design legacy. Those pages concentrate on his most surreal schemes, such as: "Sketch of Zeppelins dropping bombs and delivering 4D towers to be planted in craters"; his spaceship-reminiscent Dymaxion House; his three-wheeler Dymaxion Car; his Dymaxion Map of the world, and his most identifiable creation, the geodesic dome. The essays that are most revelatory are those that address Fuller's relationships with an enormous range of artists and innovators who inspired or collaborated with him on status quo–skewering concepts. What a summer back in 1948 at Black Mountain College, where he participated in an Erik Satie production that also involved choreographer Merce Cunningham, composor John Cage, and artists Willem and Elaine de Kooning! One of his great friends from his impecunious Greenwich Village days was the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who worked with Fuller on "4D Transportation Unit" (ca. 1932) and the Dymaxion Car. While this book will expand the public's appreciation of Fuller's legacy, it also contains curious omissions. Given that that the most famous geodesic dome in the public consciousness, the Disney Epcot Center (1982), which has a Fuller signature phrase ("Spaceship Earth") for its name, is not even mentioned seems odd. Nor is I. M. Pei -- known for such Fuller-like geometric constructions such as the Louvre Pyramids (1989). Also, as a visit to Fuller's Wikipedia page will reveal, his associations were also far more diverse than this book would suggest. Perhaps the authors considered it too wacky to mention that he went on several speaking tours (1976-79) with Werner Erhard, himself a controversial utopian and founder of the EST (Erhard Seminars Training) courses, but to omit Erhard and so many other notable talents and eccentrics Fuller cavorted with is to undervalue his omnivorous guileless curiosity, which, arguably was the true secret to his polyphonic genius.

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.

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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."