Displaying articles for: November 2007
It would be easy enough to lose any critical perspective before the magnitude of the bargain this set represents, but how do the performances measure up? Happily, there's plenty to please the savvy listener here. The symphonies under Kurt Masur are equal parts elegance and muscle, just as they ought to be, and you'd be hard pressed to find a finer string quartet cycle than the Guarneri's. If Clara Haskil's and Arthur Grumiaux's violin sonatas suffer from 50-year-old sound, the playing is first class, and overall the collection strikes a good balance between quality, fidelity, and economy.
The bottom line: When a day's pay buys a lifetime of listening, something's right with the world. -
Whereas her late husband and collaborator, Tibor Kalman, used the graphic arts for in-your-face and very graphic social commentary, Maira Kalman's manner of self-expression is ruminative and playful. She is at her thought-provoking best when juxtaposing various views literally and figuratively -- as evidenced by her stupendous illustrations for Strunk and White's Elements of Style or her collaborations with National Lampoon cartoonist Rick Meyerowitz on "New Yorkistan" and the New Yorker Sub Culinary Map (all 468 stations were renamed for local food specialties). A fan of walking and wandering, she takes snapshots of people everywhere -- on the street, or in the Hermitage Museum -- and then will paint Fauvist primitives from her photographs. She gravitates to marginalia that puts new spins on the familiar: rarely acknowledged, executed Bolsheviks, Nannerl Mozart (Wolfgang's sister), Marie-Antoinette's best friend, international candy wrappers, the "things that fall out of books," and even a found collection of "the mosses of Long Island." Over the year, she chronicles her visits to her aunt in Tel Aviv and Paris parks, and, back in New York City, such distinguished 90-something figures as singer-philanthropist Kitty Carlisle Hart, French artist Louise Bourgeois, and photographer Helen Levitt.
Because this is a sketchbook (a complete compilation of her monthly blog, previously posted online with The New York Times over the 12 months between May 2006 and April 2007), you will not find such polished work as what has appeared in The New Yorker. Here she gives herself permission to mull over random, poignant observations -- that her husband is buried nearby to Ira and George Gershwin; that the ice cream man still sells lemon ices on the beach in Tel Aviv; that pinky-pink Parisian pat‚ is an excellent cure for bad-dream malaise. With Kalman, her watch on the zeitgeist is always set on "Askew," which is lucky for all of us who can't tell you who we are, either. -
The 160 color illustrations depict with exquisite artistry an array of exotic plants and animals brought to Europe's attention as a result of 15th- and 16th-century voyages of exploration. Renowned naturalist David Attenborough and expert colleagues contribute a series of engaging essays that illuminate the history of our urge to depict the natural world and the particular perspectives and achievements of the artists mentioned above. -
MSCL starred a radiant Claire Danes in her first feature role, as Angela Chase. Danes?s preternaturally insightful performance anchored the show, but the subplots concerning the supporting characters -- particularly Wilson Cruz?s ahead-of-its-time portrayal of gay teen Rickie Vasquez -- were never mere filler. This new six-disc collection presents the 19 episodes along with some worthwhile extras, including a documentary on the show?s creation, commentary on six episodes, and remembrances from the cast, all of whom are appropriately grateful for having been there. -
Jerome Charyn's fiftieth book may be his best. Abraham Lincoln, known to his contemporaries as a man who loved to tell a good story, steps down from history's pedestal to narrate his improbable career with wit and charm. A bravura act of literary ventriloquism.
The name Eliot Ness and his struggles to bring down Al Capone have passed into the annals of pop heroism via "The Untouchables." But Douglas Perry's biography reveals the less glamorous -- yet no less thrilling -- truth behind the crimefighting myth.
Hassan Blasim offers his first-hand account of contemporary Iraq, in surreal short stories alive with awe, empathy, and a native son's vantage point.