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.

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.