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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July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

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).