Displaying articles for: January 2011

Alice Neel

If you can read the succinct yet jam-packed teaser of an initial chapter in this first book-length biography of the painter Alice Neel, in which author Phoebe Hoban enticingly and zestily catalogues the highlights of Neel's career, and then still resist plunging immediately into the text that follows-well, you must be an unimaginative, unromantic Philistine of the grossest sort.  Neel's life in tantalizing outline -- born with the twentieth century, artistically active in every decade from the 1920s to the 1980s, stylistically adventuresome, uncompromisingly principled, mentally eccentric, bohemian by nature, acquainted with many famous fellow creators and colorful lowlife characters, adopted by feminists as a standard-bearer, finally endowed with elderly fame -- constitutes the archetypical painterly arc, a narrative of mythic proportions.  How could anyone with even a shred of imagination and joie de vivre fail to fall headfirst into this story?

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Swallow

Urgent health bulletins are issued, warning parents to beware of their children swallowing tiny magnets, which can lead to perforated bowels.  The internet becomes fascinated by tales of a pea sprouting and growing in a man's lung, or an aspirated piece of a plastic cup from Wendy's causing two years' worth of breathing trouble in an inattentive individual.  The x-ray of a dog with an enormous kitchen knife occupying almost the whole length of its innards mesmerizes the random web-surfer's eye.  A video of Michel Lotito, known as "Monsieur Mangetout," racks up a quarter-million views on YouTube.

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Everything You Know is Pong

In my later teenage years, my aspirations toward becoming a writer were crystallized in large part by viewing a feature in the surrepetitiously obtained, newly minted issue of Playboy for November 1971.  The article that struck me so forcefully was a profile of Henry Miller and his joyfully unrepentant and hedonistic lifestyle, earned after decades of hard knocks and bold prose, of which I then knew little and cared less.  The most striking, even surreal photograph of the whole piece showed a fully clothed Miller, aged eighty, playing ping pong with a naked woman, identified as one Candice Thayer.  Any hormone-stoked would-be male author could only dream of attaining such a vocational heaven, made all the more desirable by its supreme frivolity and the apparent absence of any actual writing chores.   

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Katherine A. Powers: The Reader, Live

We're always thrilled to see one of our many wonderful contributors get some well-deserved attention, and this marvelous interview with Katherine A. Powers, a regular BN Review contributor and a columnist for the Boston Globe, is a treat for any book lover, as well as for those of us who admire Katherine's vast reading experience and wizardly way with a sentence.

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2011 Newbery and Caldecott medalists

The American Library Association has announced the 2011 recipients of its top awards in children's literature.  Clare Vanderpool's debut novel Moon Over Manifest, a quirky coming-of-age tale set in a Depression-era Kansas railroad town, was awarded the John Newbery Medal for "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." 

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April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.

Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet

Amara Lakhous delivers a mystery novel with its finger on the hot-button issues of today's Europe.  Immigration and multicultural conflicts erupt in the Italian city of Turin, as journalist Enzo Laganà looks to restore peace to his native burg.

Papers in the Wind

In this insightful novel by Eduardo Sacheri, a young girl left destitute by the death of her soccer-playing father is uplifted by the bold schemes of her uncle, his pals, and one newbie player to the professional leagues.