Life in These Hawaiian Islands

Trade Winds, Tsunamis, and the Coconut Wireless


Leave a comment

Sci Phi Journal

http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/?p=8139

Book Review: Prime Directive- Check Out Sci Phi Journal

Prime Directive: Check Out Sci Phi Journal

by Craig Bernthal

The shelves of drugstores and news stands used to be crowded with “pulp” science fiction magazines: Fantastic Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Fantasy and Science Fiction, all of which sold for very little and provided a lot of entertainment. Many of them started in the 1920s and featured wonderfully lurid covers of giant flies attacking battleships or luscious blonds being carted away or molested by robots, green aliens, or perhaps just posing in front of a rocket ship. They shared shelf-space with a similar array of detective, mystery, western, and romance publications. In the twenties or thirties, at the height of their popularity, some of these magazines sold up to a million copies per issue. America and Britain had some great writers who got their start in pulp fiction or wrote it: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudyard Kipling, Elmore Leonard and H. G. Wells, to name a few. Pulp fiction was a national writing workshop, providing an enormous market for new writers, and the product was not just formulaic. A great editor, like John W. Campbell of Astounding Science Fiction provoked wonderful, imaginative stories. This scene has now been replaced by the insipid university MFA writing program, which aims to produce sensitive stories for liberal professors, and pulp has given way to innumerable English Dept. journals. What a bad trade! We no longer see the successors to Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or even Updike and Roth. American fiction has become the Oprah book club.

Given this, I am to happily announce the birth of a new venue for the un-MFA’d story: Sci Phi Journal, edited by Jason Rennie. You can buy Sci Phi on Amazon for $3.99 an issue. It publishes bi-monthly, and the first three issues are out. (The cover art, by the way, is beautiful.) May it start a trend, a rebirth of the popular short story magazine, requiring an on-line drugstore to hold them all.

The premise of Sci Phi Journal is to present science fiction stories and essays about science fiction that are especially aimed at exploring philosophy, which of course includes politics. I was delighted to find so many good stories and essays in the first issues. I’ve never read an anthology in which I thought every entry enjoyable, but I found enough here to keep me happy.

Two stories and two essays represent that magazine at its best. First, the stories. Peter Sean Bradley, an attorney in Fresno, CA is an avid science fiction reader and reviewer. In “Ghosts,” issue 2, Bradley imagines a world in which most of the “people” we interact with are algorithms whom we can see only with “I” glasses—an extension of Google glasses—that allow us to see and interact with a more of less fabricated world that corresponds with our desires. The hero’s wife aborted the child that would have been their son, so now he has a relationship with an algorithmic son, 16, only visible through the glasses. The story grows out of a wedding between his half-sister and a shopping mall (yes, she’s marrying a shopping mall, which is represented as human by another algorithm). The story is a Swiftian send-up of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s proclamation in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning. Of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. . .” The story takes off from two contemporary reference point: the argument that we can define marriage in any way we want, and the proliferation of people living in the virtual world of headphones and cell phones, even as they navigate sidewalks and roads. Bradley asks, what if you put the shoe on the other foot and produced a universe to correspond with your meaning? The reversal demonstrates that Kennedy’s statement is more fantastic than Bradley’s story, and this is what science fiction at its best does for us: it changes our perspective just enough to show us the distortions in our own ideas and behavior. The story provokes pity in the reader, pity for the lonely solipsism which the protagonist realizes he is trapped in.

Another story, among several that impressed me, was Lou Antonelli’s “On the Spiritual Plain” (issue 2), about a planet on which, because of its peculiar electro-magnetic characteristics, one’s ghost (soul ? spirit?) becomes visible after death. Here the protagonist is a Methodist minister who first encounters the phenomenon when a workman is killed in an accident, and the ghost visits him. The story poses more questions than it attempts to answer, as the Methodist minister with the help of an alien “shaman,” for want of a better word, shepherds “Joe McDonald’s” soul to a place where it can leave the planet and “dissipate.” The story does not attempt to make a statement about the afterlife, but is a poetic meditation on of the process of dealing with death. All of the stories have a “Food for Thought” section at the end, which draws one’s attention to the philosophical issues involved. I have not decided yet whether these are more limiting than helpful. A good story speaks for itself in ways which only stories can speak. I found this story more evocative than the “Food for Thought” section that followed.

In the essay section, which is about half of Sci Phi Journal, one of my favorites was James Druley’s “Star Trek’sPrime Directive: Moral Guidelines, Exceptions, and Absolutes.” The Prime Directive was a fecund producer of plot ideas for Star Trek writers and clearly a reacton in the original Star Trek to our Vietnam intervention and of our current concerns over colonialism and genocide. Simply stated, the Prime Directive tells Star Trek officers not to interfere with the development of less technologically developed societies. To quote Captain Picard, “The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”

Druley, who teaches Logic, Ethics, and World Religions at Reedley College, uses the Prime Directive, its development and exceptions, to present a beautifully clear and thorough lesson on absolute v. relative moral guidelines. Bringing in Kant and Hobbes, Druley argues that their grounding of an absolute ethics is too shallow to have a reliable impact on behavior. There must be a deeply felt, internalized component of any absolute morality. He then examines religious grounding, Ideal Observer theory, and suggests that God, as the Ideal observer, is the only sure foundation for ethics. Star Trek furnishes a narrative backdrop for discussing these issues, joining philosophical abstractions to the concreteness of narrative. This is a great way to teach basic philosophical issues.

Finally, there is John C. Wright’s essay, “Prophetic and Atropaic Science Fiction.” Wright’s main goal in this essay is to distinguish science fiction from prophecy, and he does it by using a pagan source, Oedipus, and a biblical source, Jonah. Oedipus shows that no man escapes his fate and Jonah, the opposite, that man can use his free will to amend his life. They speak from two opposite moral perspectives. Science fiction is more on Jonah’s side. It is a very American art form, optimistic about our chances of living better, decent lives if we work at it. Science fiction writers believed we would have moon bases by now (2001: A Space Odyssey) or be exploring Mars; Wright notes that we have not done these things because they were out of reach, technologically, but because social engineers decided to spend the money otherwise, and here he becomes prophetic himself:

The problem, not to put too fine a point on the question, was that we had too many social engineers, that is socialists, here on Earth, and their promotion of a vision of the unworkable worker’s paradise composed of a collective they crave was at odds with the workable but imperfect free market democracy composed of individuals.

The collective requires doubtful, fearful and effeminate men. It requires men conditioned to think that asking for permission from the state before acting is normal. It requires men who think of licking the boot of a bureaucrat as an annoying but necessary trifle; men who think nothing wrong with disarming themselves upon request; going into infinities of debt upon request; surrendering their children to be educated by incompetent ideologues upon request. . .

If we are no longer pursuing the dreams of space exploration, it is perhaps because we are also no longer the kind of people who have the dreams that powered science fiction as a literary genre. You don’t find paragraphs like these in America’s Best Fiction or America’s Best Essays. Sci Phi promises a venue for marginalized conservative voices in at least one genre.

Sci Phi is a diamond in the rough. It needs better proofreading. It does have some stories that are clunkers. But its first issues are impressive and fun. If you are tired of the current state of American fiction, Oprah’s book club, the MFA program mass-produced, academically orthodox sensitive read, then this may be for you.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Some Book Suggestions from The Atlantic

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/12/the-best-book-i-read-this-year/383581/?single_page=true

The Best Book I Read This Year

Staff selections from a year of reading

The Atlantic

The Atlantic‘s editors and writers share their favorite titles—new, classic, or somewhere in between—from a year of reading.


Random House

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

So, we’re all inter-dimensional beings. Obviously. The body stays put, but the mind zaps between places and time, and with each passing moment there’s a new place and a new time to zap to. I think this is part of what David Mitchell is getting at with the six hugely entertaining novelettes that add up toThe Bone Clocks. The voices of the narrators—including a teenage girl in ‘80s England, a college playboy on a ski trip, and an Iraq War correspondent on leave for a wedding—ramble between past and present, between seen and speculated, and, when faced with what one character refers to as “the weird shit,” between disbelief and belief.

About that “weird shit”: Periodically intruding upon the disparate narratives is an invisible, centuries-long war between two tribes of magical—yes, inter-dimensional—immortals. If that sounds hokey, well, the uber-self-aware Mitchell surely wants it to be (my favorite meta moment of his: describing a washed-up author character using the very same phrasing that Random House used to market The Bone Clocks). Whenever the narrators’ chatty inner monologues clash up against mystical mumbo jumbo, it’s a thrill—both a demonstration of Mitchell’s diverse talents and a fission moment that produces some big insights about the world.

By the final chapter, set in a post-apocalyptic 2043, it’s clear that all of the plot’s conflicts have stemmed from humans’ impossible dream of living forever. In writing such a moving, hilarious tale about interconnected fates across eras, Mitchell proposes that there’s only one sane way to pursue immortality: Care for others.

Spencer Kornhaber, senior associate editor


Vintage Books

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf, who died at the end of November, published Plainsong in 1999, and it was a finalist for the National Book Award that same year. Like his other novels, it’s set in the fictional small town of Holt, Colorado, with its Main Street and Nexey’s Lumberyard and Schmidt’s Barber Shop. Haruf intertwines the stories of Tom Guthrie, a schoolteacher whose wife is bedbound by depression; their young sons Ike and Bobby; Victoria, a pregnant teenager whose mother has thrown her out; and the McPheron brothers, two elderly farmers and confirmed bachelors who offer Victoria a home for reasons even they don’t seem to fathom.

What could be a schmaltzy, feel-good story (it was even adapted into a Hallmark TV movie in 2004) is made more nuanced by the way Haruf juxtaposes kindness with cruelty, and makes both an integral part of the narrative. Holt has all the trappings of an idyllic American locale, but it has ugliness, too, even though the houses are painted pastel colors and the dust flying up from the tires of Guthrie’s pickup shines “like bright flecks of gold in the sun.” Victoria is abused by a string of people until the McPherons make room for her at their farm, but their openhearted, tender acceptance of her even after she briefly abandons them is heartbreaking.

Haruf’s language is vivid and spare when he describes the Colorado plains—“the country flat and whitepatched with snow and the wheat stubble and the cornstalks sticking up blackly out of the frozen ground and the winter wheat showing up in the fall-planted fields as green as jewelry.” Throughout the book, he’s clear-eyed when it comes to the darkness that permeates communities like Holt, but it’s the unexpected and profound humanity he also reveals that lingers long after the final chapter.

Sophie Gilbert, senior editor


Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

If it weren’t for its semi-alliterative subtitle, you might confuse Osnos’s debut book for a treatise on millennials. In a way, though, it is:China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy in October (according to the IMF) and by now it’s basically a truism to say the country poses some of the greatest opportunities and challenges of our time. (Yes, that means you, Generation Y’ers!)
Intimately aware of these trends, Osnos—aNew Yorker staff writer who lived in Beijing for eight years—portrays a China full of countless contradictions: between hyper-capitalistic levels of inequality and a Communist state; between a burgeoning ethos of individualism and a centuries-old tradition of Confucianism; between the stark reality of government censorship and the newfangled concept of the “Chinese Dream.” By zooming in on single Chinese, from the dissidents Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo to lesser-known (in the West, anyways) journalists, professionals, and entrepreneurs, Osnos shows that there is, in fact, no grand theory that can pinpoint where China is headed.

That’s a scary idea, especially for American readers who aren’t scholars of China’s rich history and culture (count me, despite being half-Chinese on my mother’s side, among these). Still, the book’s tripartite structure helps to translate China’s complexities into plain English, while Osnos, who occasionally inserts himself into the narrative, serves as a reliable guide. Age of Ambition is a fun read, too. Whether you’ve visited China or not, whether you speak Mandarin or not, you’re likely to walk away feeling that you’ve been there, have met an incredible cast of characters, and have satisfied a certain wanderlust.

Oh, and it won this year’s National Book Award for non-fiction. So you should read it and write to me with your thoughts. We can even start a book club. No censors allowed.

Andrew Giambrone, editorial fellow


Random House

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart

Between the 1970s and 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews emigrated to the United States. The seismic cultural shift undoubtedly provoked mass psychological trauma in this vast colony of refuseniks. Russians don’t believe in therapy, however, so it’s a good thing we have Gary Shteyngart.

Already famous for his satirical novels, Shteyngart turned the mirror on himself in his most recent work. Little Failure, the poignant and frequently hilarious account of the Shteyngarts’ voyage from Leningrad in 1979 and the author’s subsequent childhood in Queens is sure to induce a wheeze of relief among anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. (Upon meeting a one-eyed neighborhood girl, Shetyngart notes, “We’re suspicious of each other at first, but I’m an immigrant and she has one eye, so we’re even.”)

Witness the family eating home-cooked boiled eggs in a McDonalds to avoid splurging on a 69-cent hamburger. Or the elaborate nicknames kids think up for their unfamiliar classmates (the “Red Gerbil,” in Shteyngart’s case).

Eventually, the Little Failure (an actual term of endearment used by the author’s parents—my people express love in complicated ways) grows up, gets a book deal, and reckons with his roots.

There is joy and sorrow in being a foreigner. Shteyngart supplies both in perfect tenor.

Olga Khazan, staff writer


Faber & Faber

10:04 by Ben Lerner

I read books for the writing. Most people I know read books for characters, plot, emotions, relatability, insight, inspiration, an existential massaging of the mind, or some combination of those things. Those are fine reasons to read a book and enjoy a book. But they are not my reasons. I read books for the writing.

What is 10:04, by Ben Lerner? It is a book for people who like great writing—”great,” here, meaning frequently brilliant, electrically hyper-conscious, extravagantly verbose, aggressively sesquipedalian throw-the-book-across-the-room-in-despair-that-you-will-never-invent-that-metaphor-because-he-just-did writing. There are a bunch of adverbs. If you don’t like adverbs, that’s fine. Stephen King has lots of books.

As for the plot: Do not read this book for the plot. The plot is a sideshow. The protagonist, a neurotic New York Jew who thinks he’s dying (I don’t read books for their conceptual originality, either) is considering being the father of his platonic girl friend’s child while going through some professional and health crises. So, yeah, not exactly The Goldfinch. Nothing much happens, except for writing. But let me tell you: The writing happens.

“The city had converted an elevated length of abandoned railway spur into an aerial greenway and the agent and I were walking south along it in the unseasonable warmth after an outrageously expensive celebratory meal in Chelsea that included baby octopuses the chef had literally massaged to death,” is the first sentence. And there are so many more good ones.

Derek Thompson, senior editor


Graywolf Press

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

I have a Google Doc called “Prime Phrases,” in which I write down the sentences I come across while reading that hit me right, the indivisible pearls of truth you sometimes stumble upon that perfectly encapsulate some aspect of the human experience. They get stuck in my head, repeating there like catchy melodies, often for years. Here are some of the ones I saved from Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams:

“[There’s a] notion that empathy should always rise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.”

“This is the grand fiction of tourism, that bringing our bodies somewhere draws that place closer to us, or we to it.”

“They are wary of melodrama so they stay numb or clever instead.”

“A cry for attention is positioned as the ultimate crime, clutching or trivial—as if ‘attention’ were inherently a selfish thing to want. But isn’t wanting attention one of the most fundamental traits of being human—and isn’t granting it one of the most important gifts we can give?”

In her widely, deservedly, praised collection of essays, Jamison writes with this kind of insight and, frankly, empathy, with an enviable consistency. She brings compassion and attention to her subjects and clear-eyed intelligence to writing about emotion and pain, in a way that inspires me as someone who writes about health and minds and bodies, but also just as a person. I am so grateful to have read this book—it was like a tuning fork in my chest.

Julie Beck, senior associate editor


Bloomsbury Press

The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era by Douglas Egerton

No era of American history is as poorly understood—or in as desperate need of understanding—as Reconstruction. My high school textbooks, printed some 140 years after the fact, still told tales of corrupt Northern carpetbaggers and the noble “redeemers” who vanquished them. This volume is a heady antidote to all that claptrap.

While most histories of the era are framed on a national scale, Egerton instead looks at how Reconstruction unfolded at the state and local level. His crisp, immersive history follows an army of black activists, politicians, ex-slaves, educators, clergy, veterans and their white allies who hoped to remake the devastated South. Among their numerous reforms, public education saw perhaps the greatest victories: Black literacy, for example, increased by an astounding 400 percent between Appomattox and the century’s end.

Because many other reforms didn’t last, historians often describe the era as a “failed experiment.” But Reconstruction didn’t fail on its own accord, Egerton argues—”it was violently overthrown.” The Klan and its imitators assassinated black officeholders, burned down schools and churches, and intimidated voters of all races to restore white supremacy. In the North, wavering moderates undermined President Grant’s efforts to protect black rights with armed federal power. Against this tide, what Egerton calls “America’s most progressive era” faded into the long twilight of Jim Crow after 1877.

Black progressives still won more in defeat than many American social movements have in victory: Without the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the civil-rights movement of the 1960s would have been a stillborn dream. (Marriage equality and Roe v. Wade are also rooted in the Fourteenth’s expansive clauses.) There’s a black president and a black attorney general, but the racial economic gap keeps widening and people of color still languish by the millions in our carceral archipelago. Reconstruction—the struggle to build a genuine multiracial democracy upon the ashes of white supremacy—isn’t yet over. Indeed, it has only just begun.

Matt Ford, associate editor


Seal Press

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, edited by Sari Botton

Some books stop time, compelling the reader to devour them quickly in defiance of grumbling stomachs and tired eyes and longstanding brunch dates. Other books mark time, uniting with the reader at just the right moment in his or her life and coming to symbolize a change or feeling or era. For me,Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York was the latter: a last ode to the romance of being young in the city, shared with my best friend before she left for graduate school.

The book is a collection of essays based on Joan Didion’s 1967 piece “Goodbye to All That,” about her arrival in and eventual disillusionment with New York City. The line-up of 27 female writers is impressive, including Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Emma Straub, and Emily Gould, among others. Most of the stories take the same narrative arc: dreams of a glamorous, writerly life; enchantment with the city’s fast pace and beautiful brownstones; and an eventual intervention, including suitors, debt, job offers, and sheer exhaustion. Frankly, some are intolerably pretentious, the ones preoccupied with cocaine-infused nights and how “Brooklyn is nothing but a brand name” and taking a self-satisfied literary attitude toward homelessness. This kind of essay, in fact, is why people who don’t live in New York sometimes experience waves of bafflingly strong hatred toward New York.

But others in the collection are simple and charming. An ache for wood furniture. A bus ride from somewhere else, usually Minnesota, and arrival in a city full of light. The realization that one need not be writerly to be a writer. For me, these simple, lovely stories will always stand for an important moment in time, equally simple and lovely: sitting on the floor of a tiny apartment, several hundred miles from The City, reading these stories out loud and waiting for the next era to begin.

Emma Green, assistant managing editor


Knopf

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Whenever I’m feeling weary with the world, I find it sometimes helps to turn to a fictional world where things are even worse. Think babies roasting on a spit in The Road, children fighting to the death in The Hunger Games, or an all-powerful Internet company mining all of our private information in The Circle (ok, maybe that one isn’t so different from our world today). Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, released this fall, is one of my favorite post-apocalyptic books yet. It takes place in a world in which a deadly flu epidemic has wiped out most of the world’s population, and small bands of survivors are trying to find meaning in the life that remains.

What’s so great about Station Eleven is that it’s not all gloom and doom. The novel follows a few characters, all of who have some sort of connection to an actor, 51-year-old Arthur Leander (I picture him as a lithe Jack Nicholson). Leander dies of a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear in the book’s first chapter, the night the flu first touches down in North America, but his death is soon overshadowed by the specter of the epidemic.

You’d think a post-apocalyptic world would have no room for art or music, but that’s what sets Station Eleven apart: Much of it is specifically about the things the survivors hold on to from the past, things that might seem extraneous in a world without electricity or the Internet. One woman clings to scraps of a fanciful comic book called Station Eleven that was created pre-flu but never published, about a scientist living on a space station the size of the moon where it’s always dusk or dawn. Other people, a band of traveling musicians and actors, risk their lives to keep performing the pieces they remember, bringing art to isolated towns that didn’t know they needed it.

This book is not The Five People You Meet in Heaven, or Heaven is for Real: uplifting stories of people whose worlds end, but who find out that death leads us to a better place. It’s about the end of civilization, and that end isn’t pretty: there are bandits and killers and jerks. But it’s reassuring in its own way. In St. John Mandel’s novel, the world as we know it could end, and somehow, for some people, things might still turn out okay.

Alana Semuels, staff writer


Mariner Books

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri

In a perfect world, I would have read The Namesake when it was published in 2003 and given myself more than a decade to return to it. But I avoided it out of a misguided belief that my time would be better spent reading fiction that didn’t mirror my own experiences with my first-generation immigrant family. I was also scared to read Lahiri in particular, because in her short stories she’d mastered the art of writing about being a foreigner. As she explains inThe Namesake, “being a foreigner … is a sort of lifelong pregnancy—a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts.” Who would want to read about that? After all, in 2003, I was also a teenager doggedly rejecting my given Chinese name, a salad of vowels: Xiaoyu.

This year, for myriad reasons, I sought out books about being a stranger in a strange land. I found The Namesake unexpectedly comforting and intimate, because America is a strange land—a land of inches and pledges of allegiance and Super Bowls and lofty dreams—and Lahiri’s writing, about the life of a boy named Gogol Ganguli, born to immigrant Bengali parents, is exquisite. It wasn’t so much the relatability of Gogol’s coming-of-age story or the fact that we’re both indignant about our given names, but more Lahiri’s eye for detail that captivated me. She writes of calling relatives late at night to accommodate time zones, of making sure to become friends with other Bengalis (Gogol’s mother kept three address books containing their contact information; my mother taped a similar list of connections next to our phone), of understanding American holidays (the Gangulis learn to nail a wreath to their door in December; my parents learned that no one goes to work on Thanksgiving). But even if those experiences don’t inspire nostalgia, the writing is sublime enough for anyone—whether they bear a “normal” name or not—to enjoy.

Shirley Li, editorial fellow


Yale University Press

Global Crisis: War, Catastrophe, and Climate Change in the Seventeenth Century by Geoffrey Parker

I served on the jury of the Cundill Prize this year, and so I’ve already had one vote for best book. But if allowed a second, I vote for Geoffrey Parker’s Global Crisis: War, Catastrophe, and Climate Change in the Seventeenth Century, published by Yale in 2013. Most of us amateur readers of history know two things about the 17th century: that it was cold and that it was violent. Parker links those two conditions into one grand narrative that spans the planet from Ming China to Puritan New England.

We now debate whether the warming climate of our time is man-made. For human prosperity, however, the most urgent question about climate change is not its cause, but its speed. Beginning in the 1590s, the northern hemisphere was hit by some of the worst weather ever recorded: long and harsh winters, wet and cloudy summers. Harvests failed. Dynasties fell. States warred upon their neighbors. Societies dissolved in civil strife.

In Western Europe, natural disaster spurred an intense new desire to measure, understand, and control nature. When the climate warmed after 1715, global economic and military leadership had shifted from China, India, and the Ottoman lands to formerly fringe kingdoms like Russia and England.

Parker’s great book challenges all future political and military historians to integrate the study of tree rings and glacier cores into their work. And it challenges his readers to think hard about whether humanity in the 21st century will be any less vulnerable than it was in the 17th to sudden disruptions of the environment on which we depend for our subsistence fully as much as did our ancestors of 400 years ago.

David Frum, senior editor


Vintage International

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

America’s greatest black writers are often pigeonholed as being exactly that: black writers. They are writers who are black, blacks who changed the way America thought about black people. Pity the high schooler who skipsThe Invisible Man or Black Boy.

But when I opened Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, I discovered a tale about love and sex with men and women in 1950’s Paris and found, by the end, that this rich white protagonist’s sad wanderings meant just as much in a different way as anything fromNotes of A Native Son. There are plenty of good books about Americans drinking and lusting and hating in Parisian cafes, but not many that read like this:

“I don’t know, now, when I first looked at Hella and found her stale, found her body uninteresting, her presence grating. It seemed to happen all at once—I suppose that only means that it had been happening for a long time.”

Then there’s the description of a train ride:

I may be drunk by morning but that will not do any good. I shall take the train to Paris anyway. The train will be the same, the people, struggling for comfort and even dignity on the straight-backed, wooden, third-class seats will be the same, and I will be the same. We will ride through the same changing countryside northward, leaving behind the olive trees and the sea and all of the glory of the stormy southern sky, into the mist and rain of Paris. Someone will offer to share a sandwich with me, someone will offer me a sip of wine, someone will ask me for a match. People will be roaming the corridors outside, looking out of windows, looking in at us. At each stop, recruits in their baggy brown uniforms and colored hats will open the compartment door to ask Complet? We will all nod Yes, like conspirators, smiling faintly at each other as they continue through the train. Two or three of them will end up before our compartment door, shouting at each other in their heavy, ribald voices, smoking their dreadful army cigarettes. There will be a girl sitting opposite me who will wonder why I have not been flirting with her, who will be set on edge by the presence of the recruits. It will all be the same, only I will be stiller.

Baldwin’s novel is the fire last time, the fire this time. Dude can write.

Noah Gordon, editorial fellow


Anchor

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I first heard about Americanah I was hesitant: A love story that purported to simultaneously explore race relations, immigration, and gender from a black feminist point of view seemed heady and overwhelming for a bus read on my daily commute. But from the first scenes of a vulnerably wise, headstrong, eloquent young Nigerian immigrant named Ifemelu trekking to a faraway hole-in-the-wall outside Princeton to get her braids done just right, I was hooked. I didn’t know nor identify with Ifemelu on a demographic level, and neither did most readers, I suspect. But Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together a story that is at once raw, authentic, and lush. She traverses the past and present—from rural Nigeria to the rain-soaked alleys of London and the posh manicured lawns of American suburbia—so seamlessly that the story becomes one readers ultimately identify with, regardless of their unique personal experiences.

Ifemelu and her long lost love, the kind and ever-patient Obinze, are the central duo, whose struggles as a star-crossed couple separated by oceans and divergent life paths are painfully apparent and heartbreakingly honest. While the book isn’t flawless—some parts ramble a bit and the too-neat climax and subsequent denouement of Ifemelu and Obinze’s reunion has sparked passionate discourse—the strength of Adichie’s writing is its ability to achieve breathtaking literary depth without sacrificing clarity. Her language is simply gorgeous, illustrating the raucous streets of Lagos and the crumbling pieces of a fragile pair of hearts with vividness while weaving pointed commentary on race relations in the modern world.

Ifemelu, whose competing facades as an all-American yuppie success story and an African immigrant with a defined history battle throughout the novel, maintains a grace that ultimately triumphs. Americanah offers a critique of racial dynamics without being pedantic, a tumble into the dynamics of love without being omniscient, and an absorbing story that made me contrarily wish my morning commute was longer.

Tanya Basu, editorial fellow


CreateSpace Publishing

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Earlier this year, after exhausting my televised Sherlock Holmes options (the BBC’sSherlock, of course, and CBS’s Elementary), I decided to read the source material for the first time. The original Sherlock Holmes canon is extensive: Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and more than 50 short stories about the idiosyncratic detective. I decided to choose the easiest route and read them chronologically, so I started with A Study in Scarlet, which was published in 1887.

The novel opens with Watson narrating his return to England after serving in the army’s medical division in Afghanistan (a job that allowed for a timely update in the BBC’s version, which first aired in 2010). “I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained,” he says. With this, Doyle sets the stage for what any Sherlock fan knows: London is not an accidental setting—its geography and inhabitants and Holmes’s vast knowledge of both play a large role in every installment of his adventures.

However, about a third of the way through the novel, Holmes and Watson are no longer in London. In fact, Holmes and Watson are nowhere to be seen. We’re now somewhere in the American West with John Ferrier and a girl named Lucy. (I was reading on my iPad and was convinced that I had somehow downloaded a corrupted ebook.) I don’t want to give anything away (other than this sudden narrative shift, of course), but after a lengthy tale of forbidden love, forced marriage, and Mormonism (which was, in the Victorian age, a brand new religion), the story jumps back to London, and the mystery-at-hand is quickly solved.

Because I was already familiar with the characters of Holmes and Watson, reading the novel felt like literary deja vu, but in a comforting, not jarring, way. I could probably have predicted Watson’s catalog of Holmes’s attributes: “Knowledge of literature—nil … Knowledge of chemistry—profound … Plays the violin well.”

A Study in Scarlet is perfect for anyone else waiting for Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to return to the BBC as Holmes and Watson; it’s quick, entertaining, and if you’re not satiated, there are three more novels and nearly five-dozen short stories like it.

Nora Biette-Timmons, editorial fellow


Vintage

Another Country by James Baldwin

It’s absurd for me as a straight young healthy white dude to try and sell anyone on Another Country , the very premise of which is basically that I couldn’t if I tried, but, here we are. I spent college and graduate school studying science and medicine, and that’s my excuse for only now reading Baldwin. Which is not at all an excuse, but it’s an opportunity to yell about med school curricula ignoring social determinants of health, like all the conflict that goes into this story.

Another Country is especially relevant this year because of its incisive illustration of the social divides that dominated the year’s news, especially in these last weeks. It’s an acclaimed 52 year-old-novel that took Baldwin 13 years to write, including expat years in France, literally another country. The story is about fear and the rule of chaos and some universal humanity of characters across sexual and racial continua but divided on the same discrete lines that are carved today in basically the same place and just as deep, sort of bandaged but still raw. See, I am making it medical. Apart from the beat lingo and little else, it reads like it could’ve been written this year, set in the 1950s as some thinly veiled statement about how little things have changed. And not to end on the notes of despair, there’s also real love. And fake love, and everything in between.

James Hamblin, senior editor


Ten Speed Press

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, and

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

Here’s a working parent double header, bullet-pointed so you work/life balancers can keep at that whole Having It All business.

First up is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing—technically a how-to guide, but for those of us living in 550 square feet with a two-year-old, falling somewhere between science fiction and fantasy.

What’s so great about it?

  • It’s the only book I read cover to cover this year that didn’t have pictures. (My spouse threatened to put Kondo’s theories into practice solo if I didn’t finish.)
  • It’s a fast read (see previous).
  • The time-pressed can skip the OCD author’s quirky personal tales, but I found them reassuringly off-kilter. We’re all nuts.
  • The titular magic: Reading it, you glimpse a glittering mental freedom from the unread/uncrafted/unworn, buyer’s remorse, the nervous eyeing of real estate listings. Life’s overwhelm, conquered. Could it be possible?

The question you should be asking of everything you own: does this spark joy?

If not, discard it. Best of all: discard most of the papers you feel compelled to file.Papers will never spark joy. Then, once you’ve decided what sparks joy in your life—keep going.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (2011) is new to me because I’m new to toddlers. And if you know any young children, they will adore this book.

Chronicle Books
  • Get the hardcover with gorgeous oil-pastel illustrations.
  • Yes, toddlers will abuse the paper pages, from sheer delight. Tape will fix it.
  • Emphasize the sly internal rhyme. Stage-whisper the italics.
  • Saying goodnight to the trucks one by one is a perfect wind-down to bedtime.

You may find this sweet poem about the joy of working hard has you gawking like a kid as well when you walk by the real-life machines and their skilled operators. It’s worth the extra minute to stop and wave.

In short, 2014: TRUCKS, JOY.

—Jennifer Adams, associate director of production


Nightwood Editions

How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? by Doretta Lau

One reason I’m endeared to Canadian author Doretta Lau’s debut collection of twelve short stories is that all her cultural references are my own: touchstones of the aughts intellectual urbanite. An appreciation for the photographs of Jeff Wall. Wanting to watch Wong Kar Wai movies all night. Fugazi. The desire to date dead men (although I probably wouldn’t pick pianist Glenn Gould if I could choose from all of human history). Lau has the same uncanny talent as Banana Yoshimoto; the ability to turn a mundane day into a magical and meaningful one.

Lau’s offbeat stories document the follies and triumphs of youth via remarkably self-aware characters. Her cast includes competitive eaters struggling with romantic relationships, a sitcom actress in debt working at a funeral home, a screenwriter in mourning, and a photographer who accidentally auditions for a pornographic movie. My favorite is the young woman who starts receiving text messages from her neurotic future self, when mankind invents communicative time travel.

Stories about young, lost souls often make me cringe when they’re filled with unforgiving accuracy or indefinite nihilism. But Lau’s stories are optimistic and inventive; they feel like hindsight making sense and purpose of a confusing time. Part of the appeal is that when most of us become adults, our lives are structured around work, obligations, and sleep. There’s a lurking fantasy that living an unstructured life would make us less financially able, but free to pursue our passions—which would make everything less boring. Lau’s characters are never restrained by these daily rituals. They’re stories of people living unconventionally, but feeling the struggles of life and love nonetheless. These are stories of love almost lost, and losers almost winning. And when it’s over, even if they don’t get what they want, at least they leave knowing what it is.

Bourree Lam, associate editor


Sourcebooks

That Book About Harvard by Eric Kester

In That Book About Harvard, Eric Kester accomplishes a feat of Gordian difficulty—writing an unpretentious book about the most prestigious university in the world. In this memoir about his freshman year, Kester characterizes himself as an endearingly awkward football player trying to survive academically and athletically while also attempting—and most of the time failing—to gain footing in the social scene. Football practices, math tests, and failed pizza parties are backdrops for Kester to display his brand of self-deprecating humor, which is similar to that of David Sedaris. It’s difficult to read three sentences without laughing.

Kester’s college experience starts in the most embarrassing way possible: He gets locked out of his dorm in only his underwear, and the cute girl in the hall, on whom he has a crush for the rest of the book, witnesses this disgrace. The narrative continues with Kester meeting characters such as Tripp (“a member of [an] influential family, which is lucky for him considering he’s more than a few fries short of a happy meal”), Vikas (“only fourteen years old, a boy genius who was forced to enroll in a couple of Harvard’s math courses in order to challenge his freakish brain”), and Coach Mac (“tape measurer once proved that his neck was literally twice the girth of his head”).

Through these characters, readers get an unfiltered account of a university that’s often so shrouded by its accolades that an outsider can’t see beyond them. Kester explains, for example, that regular students who don’t get into Harvard are put on the waitlist, while legacies are put on the “Z-list,” meaning “the legacy is officially admitted into Harvard (saving the family from shame and embarrassment), though he or she must take one or two years off before coming to school.”

If you’re looking for a new voice and a fresh laugh, pick up this book and you’ll find it.

Philip Sopher, editorial fellow


Picador

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

From the basic description—a love story told entirely through dictionary entries—it’s easy to dismiss The Lover’s Dictionary as a gimmick. But with this book, as with the subject it tackles, a description doesn’t do the experience justice. Contained within a gimmicky conceit is a story that somehow manages to feel both universal and startlingly familiar.

The novel unfolds alphabetically rather than chronologically, beginning with aberrant and ending with zenith. Between the two, an anonymous narrator doles out the narrative one definition at a time, each entry building towards a larger picture while telling a small, complete story of its own. There’s a lot that isn’t said—we never learn the names of the two lovers, for example, or even the gender of the one being addressed—but there’s also a lot that’s said with very little.

Kerfuffle, for example, is: “From now on, you are only allowed one drink at any of my office parties. One. Preferably a beer.”

And qualm: “There is no reason to make fun of me for flossing twice a day.”

And obstinate: “Sometimes it becomes a contest: Which is more stubborn, the love or the two arguing people caught within it?”

But a book that celebrates the fluidity of words also rings true when acknowledging their limits, and its own. The entry for ineffable is: “Trying to write about love is like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.” If The Lover’s Dictionaryfails, it fails gorgeously.

Cari Romm, editorial fellow


Graywolf Press

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Last Monday, the Ferguson Commission was three hours into its introductions and housekeeping procedures when resident Dell Taylor interrupted. “We don’t expect you all to come up with a miracle. That’s why we’re here,” she pleaded, “But don’t waste our time with the same innuendoes and the same rhetoric.”

A familiar weariness, isn’t it, with the pathologically empty “conversation on race in America.” After Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Kimani Gray, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and all the evil they footnote, it’s telling that the gesture for racial solidarity—no longer the clenched fist—is unironically throwing our hands up and saying “Don’t shoot.” We need new language: something real enough to sink in and smart enough to set the status quo askew, something that can agitate without piercing the ear, something unheard and felt, and Citizen: An American Lyric is it.

These prose poems chronicle blackness in America. Microaggressions and wholesale bigotry, professional sports, the academy, the Internet, the parking lot, the bar, and the subway—where the author won’t give up her seat because “we are traveling as a family”—compose a 159-page tracking shot of “bodies moving through the same life differently.” Citizen is “an American Lyric,” a survey that sings. Read out loud and you can hear the music, for instance, in the refrain of “Stop-and-Frisk”: And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.

Poems are usually considered performance. For my money, Citizen is a public service. With more precision and brio than any writer this year, Claudia Rankine probes the so-called peace and tranquility of the United States, delivering no diagnosis or miracle cure, but something more dangerous: an inoculation.

—Zach Hindin, assistant editor


Vintage

What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg

Is there any book more cynical—or more accurate—about Hollywood than What Makes Sammy Run? If there is, it still couldn’t match the reaction Budd Schulberg’s rags-to-riches tale received when it was released in 1941 and led to the mother of all blackballs: Samuel Goldwyn subsequently firing Schulberg, Louis B. Mayer trying to get him deported, John Wayne challenging him to a fistfight at midnight in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Though critics on the far coast were nicer, the best praise it ever got was from Dorothy Parker, who said that it conveyed Hollywood’s “true shittiness.”

All because of one slim little novel, which taps so deeply and succinctly into the underside of the American rat race that it remains an essential parable even now. Schulberg’s book chronicles the rise of poor, ambitious Sammy Glick, whose ascent from newspaper copyboy to high-powered entertainment exec is every writer’s worst nightmare—he skates his way to the top passing everyone else’s ideas off as his own. Sammy’s the kind of guy who pays gossip columnists to write about him and tells his (legitimately talented) friend Al Maheim, “I’m catching the express now, baby.” You haven’t seen an outsized slicker like this since Gatsby, or maybe the last time you watched Swingers.

I came to What Makes Sammy Run? while I was interning at a Hollywood talent agency, and it very quickly became my guide and solace to a culture where assistants are still, literally, running. (To go to the bathroom, lest they drop a call.) It’s laugh-out-loud funny, depressing, and above all therapeutic. Sammy’s a monster, but he’s also a relief. These kinds of people may get ahead, the book conveys (as it keeps pace with all his running), but their triumphs will only ever be empty.

Katie Kilkenny, editorial fellow


Harper Perennial

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Around 2 a.m. one night, I’d given up trying to fall asleep, so I picked up my dog-eared copy of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and resumed reading. Soon, I was crying. Despite the tears (and with the help of intermittent bites of my post-midnight snack), I gulped down all of Gay’s essays.

I had expected to be devastated before I started the book having read Gay’s novel, An Untamed State, this summer. What I hadn’t expected was to be relieved. Just in her introduction, she’s able to put into words all my feelings about feminism: why it’s a term that needs embracing, why it isn’t perfect, and why that doesn’t matter. She has an ability to rummage through complex feelings and lay out the ones that fit her. She’s neither militant nor self-righteous; just really good at explaining where she’s coming from.

The essays jump from her childhood obsession with Sweet Valley High to why she hates Django Unchained. (“My slavery revenge fantasy would probably involve being able to read and write without fear of punishment or persecution coupled with a long vacation in Paris.”) She’s hilarious. But she also confronts more difficult issues of race, sexual assault, body image, and the immigrant experience. She makes herself vulnerable and it’s refreshing.

At the end of each essay the reader has the freedom to tie up loose ends (or not) and that’s the best part. Not everything has to line up neatly, and flaws are okay so long as they’re acknowledged. (It’s perfectly fine to think Blurred Lines is a catchy song, for example, but simultaneously decry how it promotes rape culture.) It’s a relief that Gay neither puts herself or her readers on a pedestal. Pedestals are boring, and it’s nice to be let off the hook sometimes.

Tanvi Misra, staff writer


Dey Street Books

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Would you like to be better looking, or richer, or better in bed? Would you like skinnier thighs and smoother skin? The world has you covered: Magazines and books—and also infomercials and YouTube videos and Dove chocolate wrappers—are teeming with tips aimed at aiding you in your quest to Become Your Best Self. What are relatively difficult to find in the marketplace, however, are tips that double as wisdom: advice concerned not just with making you more desirable, but with making you more awesome.

Yes Please, Amy Poehler’s entry into the crowded category of the Memoir Written by a Funny Person, is, above all, an advice book. And, in that, it is itself awesome. It may not be sheen-polished, like Tina Fey’sBossypants, or overtly literary, like Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, or sweetly self-deprecating, like Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)—but that, of course, is because Amy Poehler is not like those other authors. Instead, her book is messy and mischievous. It features asides like “Reasons we cry in an airplane” (“we are a little drunk”/”we are a little scared”/”we feel lonely, which is different than being alone”/”the pressure”/”the pressure! (different)”). It features notes and annotations from Poehler’s parents and co-stars. It takes on a witty stream-of-consciousness that hints at what might have happened had Jane Austen lived on into the age of the Strong Female Lead.

A common knock on comedians is that their humor, light as it may be on the surface, comes from a place of darkness: Funny people are funny people, we are taught to believe, because they are, fundamentally, sad. Not so Poehler—or at least not so the version of Poehler presented in Yes Please. The constant in her telling of her life, from her childhood to her motherhood to her transformation into an A-list celebrity, is a genuine love of other people, be they her friends or her kids or her collaborators. She observes them in fine detail. She gets her energy from them. She gets her joy from them. The advice she offers in Yes Please is explicit—take risks, value friendships, don’t fucking care what other people think—but also implicit. Poehler models generosity, and the fact that being one’s best self tends to involve an ability to see the best in other people. As she observes: “People are their most beautiful when they are laughing, crying, dancing, playing, telling the truth, and being chased in a fun way.”

Megan Garber, staff writer


Leave a comment

‘Clothes Don’t Just Make the Man, They Can Save the Man’

http://tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/187125/martin-greenfield-suits?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=0aebe030aa-Sunday_November_30_201411_27_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-0aebe030aa-207267161

‘Clothes Don’t Just Make the Man, They Can Save the Man’

In his memoir ‘Measure of a Man,’ Martin Greenfield recalls how he survived Auschwitz to become an iconic tailor to the stars

PrintEmail

Clothier Martin Greenfield in his atelier. (Getty Images)
Related Content

Country Music’s Sparkle King

Fashion designer Nudie Cohn, a Ukrainian-born Jew, gave country music its trademark rhinestone sparkle

School Ties

Ivy League style, the quintessentially WASPy American look defined by Jewish designers a century ago, returns to the runways for Fashion Week

Martin Greenfield is a legend in men’s fashion. He has hand-tailored suits for President Obama and President Clinton, as well as for such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino, Jimmy Fallon, and Johnny Depp. His Brooklyn-based company—Martin Greenfield Clothiers, which he runs with his sons Tod and Jay—creates custom suits for labels like DKNY, Rag & Bone, Ovadia and Sons, Band of Outsiders, and Brooks Brothers. Greenfield has even made his mark in Hollywood, creating suits for the TV shows Boardwalk Empire and The Knick, as well as blockbuster films including Ben Affleck’s Argo and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

But if Greenfield’s suits are famous, his personal story is less well-known. Now, in his new memoir Measure of a Man, Greenfield goes back to the beginning of his life—before he got his start in the American garment industry, to his childhood in Czechoslovakia and his time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Greenfield—then known as Maximilian Grunfeld—grew up in Pavlovo, a quaint Czechoslovakian village near the Hungarian border, overlooking the Carpathian Mountains. His father was an electrical engineer, his grandfather well known for building the synagogue, and the tight-knit town of some 50 families would eat Shabbat meals together every week.

The Nazis surrounded Pavlovo on the second day of Passover in 1944 and gave the Jews an hour to pack their belongings before they were stuffed into cattle cars and shipped to a ghetto in the Ukrainian town of Mukacevo. From there, Greenfield’s whole family was sent to Auschwitz, where he lost his parents, grandparents, brother, and two sisters—when Dr. Josef Mengele selected him to go right (life) and his relatives to go left (death). Greenfield remembers Mengele precisely because of the quality and shine of his black leather boots.

It was in Auschwitz, of all places, that Greenfield first learned how to sew. He worked in the concentration camp’s laundry room, where he stitched up a ripped SS shirt that had been thrown in the trash and wore it under his camp uniform. With his first stitch, Greenfield learned the power that clothing possesses. The shirt, he found, provided him with an unspoken elevated status, and as he writes in his book, he realized that “clothes don’t just make the man, they can save the man; they did for me.”

“Nobody in the concentration camp had a shirt, and it was a crazy thing to do but I put the shirt on,” Greenfield told me in his office on a recent visit. He sat in front of a wall filled with framed newspaper clippings, awards, and pictures of him shaking celebrities’ hands; a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe stood discreetly in the corner. “The shirt taught me that I had to be tough. Everyone thought I was important because of the shirt, and I was treated more nicely.”

Greenfield’s autobiography details the physical, psychological, and emotional abuse he endured under the Nazis. Morning call in Auschwitz was 4:30 a.m., when the prisoners stood in line for hours, freezing; they had hardly any food to eat and worked under horrible conditions with the constant fear of the smokestacks from the crematoria nearby. Prisoners were beaten frequently and shot at random. After Greenfield took a particularly gruesome lashing several months into his Auschwitz imprisonment, a merciful German reassigned him to the sub camp, Buna. Once the camp was bombed by the Americans in December 1944, the Nazis forced the most physically fit of Buna’s 10,000 prisoners on a death march, where they trudged 50 miles in the snow to the Gleiwitz concentration camp. Greenfield was then transported to Buchenwald, where he remained until the war ended.

Greenfield’s punishing experiences helped him develop an armor of gallantry—and an unprecedented level of chutzpah. In one incident soon after the war, a recently liberated Greenfield traveled back to Buchenwald’s neighboring town of Weimar to seek revenge on the mayor’s wife; when Greenfield had been assigned to do repairs on the mayor’s house after it was bombed, she had ratted him out to the SS for stealing pet food. Greenfield returned to her house with the intention to kill her, but once he pointed a gun at her head, he changed his mind. Instead, he stole her Mercedes Benz.

Greenfield wandered around Europe for two years after liberation, searching for a family he’d never find. Eventually, in 1947, he boarded a ship to America to live with wealthy, long-lost relatives. He changed his name, and with the help of a fellow immigrant he found a job at Brooklyn’s GGG Clothing, where he started his career as a floor boy, running items like fabrics around the shop to the factory’s hundreds of employees. The owner, William P. Goldman, took a liking to him and showed him the ropes. Greenfield made sure to learn every aspect of suit-making—hand-blasting, darting, piping, lining, blind stitching, pressing, fell stitching, armhole work—and quickly worked his way up the food chain. He was promoted, from blind stitcher to assistant supervisor, then to supervisor, then to head quality inspector, then to an executive.

GGG had a long roster of A-list clients. Everyone in the entertainment industry wore GGG suits, including such celebrities as Eddie Cantor, Paul Newman, and Walter Cronkite; so did major political figures. Greenfield had the chance to design suits for President Eisenhower in the 1950s, he felt a special connection to Eisenhower, who had liberated Buchenwald as a general in the U.S. Army. To offer the president unsolicited advice on how to end the Suez Crisis of 1956, Greenfield slipped notes into the pockets of Eisenhower’s suits.

“He’s got total confidence and has this amazing amount of trust in himself,” his son Tod mused inside the factory, shouting over the loud hum of sewing machines. “Rightfully so, he trusts his own feelings. He’s made it through all these things.”

In 1977, after 30 years at GGG, Greenfield bought the East Williamsburg factory from the Goldman family, renamed the company Martin Greenfield Clothiers, and continued serving a superstar clientele. He had developed an impeccable reputation by then and continued to work with big-name celebrities and political leaders. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he established relationships with department stores like Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, and Saks Fifth Avenue to make their suits. He also mentored some young fashion talent in the ’80s, including Alexander Julian, Perry Ellis, and Isaac Mizrahi.

Greenfield returned to the White House once again to design clothes for President Clinton. (He snooped through the president’s closet, he recalls in his book, gasping at the number of track suits.) By this point, his notes to Eisenhower had become somewhat notorious in the White House, so Clinton told him when they first met—before Greenfield had the chance to slip any notes in any pockets—that if he had advice to offer, he should send him a fax.

Despite experiencing difficult financial times throughout the years, an advantage to keeping his near-century-old factory open in Brooklyn is the ability to boast “made in America,” which is a credit most retailers who flock to foreign countries for cheap labor cannot brag about. A suit made at Greenfield can retail for up to $2,700 because of its handmade craftsmanship.

Greenfield explains in his book why his suits cost so much: “I refused to compromise. We would only use the highest quality materials and methods. My suits would feature hand-shaped full-canvas fronts, Italian and English woolens and cashmere, handmade horn buttons affixed with a smart button stance, endless hand-pressing to mold the jacket’s form, hand-stitched and functional buttons and collars with a gorge done right to ensure a snug fit around the collar shirt. And above all, only over my dead body would any suit made by Martin Greenfield ever feature fused or glued interlining.”

Between designer lines, assignments from Hollywood, and private clients, Greenfield’s operation is making 15,000 suits a year for some very dapper clientele. His approach has won him accolades from customers and fellow designers alike. Scott Sternberg, the celebrated founder of fashion line Band of Outsiders, wrote to me in an email: “Martin taught me everything I know about classic tailoring, in his kind and colorful and story-infused way. What’s wonderful about Martin is that he’s not stuck in the past. We’ve always maintained a healthy dialogue about the classic, ‘right’ way to do things, and my desire to try something new—a shape, fabric, technique. He has a respect for both history and the need to innovate and move forward.”

Ariel Ovadia, one of the twins behind men’s luxury brand Ovadia & Sons, told me: “When we first started, Martin took out the time to work with us on developing our clothing. His knowledge and expertise is a lost art and we are grateful to have the privilege of working with him and his sons.”

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s been a longtime client, said of Greenfield: “Frankly, I’m in awe of him. We’re talking about a man who fought to survive some of the worst mankind has ever shown, came to New York with nothing, worked hard, thrived, and took care of his family. Martin is some of the best we can offer. His is not just an only-in-America story, in many ways this could only happen in New York. And I don’t buy my suits anywhere else.”

***

Greenfield’s memoir explains not only his spunk and desire to persevere, but also the rich array of impossible characters who appear throughout his life. In one moment, he’s standing in line next to Elie Wiesel in Buchenwald and shaking Eisenhower’s hand. Several chapters later, Greenfield is having a drink with Frank Sinatra in Manhattan and then meeting Lana Turner on a movie set in Los Angeles. Shortly afterward, he’s mentoring fashion icons like Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. He wears a gold watch on his wrist with biblical images of the 10 Tribes’ signs on the front and an inscription that reads “Am Yisrael Chai” on the back; the watch, given to him by legendary Cadillac salesman Victor Potamkin, used to belong to Golda Meir. These fleeting characters demonstrate the incredible scope of Greenfield’s journey.

He ascribes these larger-than-life experiences to the opportunities America has to offer. “When I came here at the age of 19, and they gave me a green card and told me I was an American, I thought there was no other place in the world,” he told me. “The opportunities that are here! If you are willing to take time and study, be brought up by your parents the right way, you can be president! You can become whatever you want to become.”

Greenfield told me it was not easy to write the book. His son Tod noted that his father’s past was not something he often talked about—that is, until he spent hours divulging his story to a yeshiva student who had to interview a Holocaust survivor for a school assignment.

“After that day, he was much more open,” Tod said. “He told us and my mom his story, and when someone would ask [about his past] he would tell them. Also, he used to have nightmares and would wake up screaming almost every night. But after he told his story, he was much more peaceful. I guess it’s therapeutic to share after so long.”

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.


Leave a comment

The ARTINFO Bookshelf: 40 Books That Every Artist Should Own

http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/804318/%252522Art%2520and%2520Illusion%252522%2520E.H.%2520Gombrich

The ARTINFO Bookshelf: 40 Books That Every Artist Should Own, Part I

The ARTINFO Bookshelf: 40 Books That Every Artist Should Own, Part I
A few of ARTINFO’s 40 Books Every Artist Should Have: Phaidon’s “The Art Museum”, Edward Said’s “Orientalism” and more
(Courtesy Amazon.com)

ARTINFO has combed our bookshelves, looked through our dusty college syllabi, asked fellow artists, professors, and historians, and compiled a list of the tomes that every artist should read, own, and pass on. We’ve been careful to balance our selections between theory, history, reference, and practical guides, ranging from the semiotics of Roland Barthes to a gigantic biography of Pablo Picasso. Our list was so long that we had to break it into two parts. Here is Part 1, and check out Part 2 for even more books:

“Visual Thinking” by Rudolf Arnheim, University of California Press

Merging art and psychology, Arnheim (1904-2007) masterfully explains perception in the context of aesthetic imagery. His stance, specifically in “Visual Thinking,” is that all thought is based on perception. Its 35th-anniversary printing should be bought as a set with “Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye,” and read not just by artists, but also art critics, to understand the psychology behind our response to art.

“Camera Lucida” by Roland Barthes, Farrar Straus and Giroux and Hill and Wang (MacMillan)

Barthes is the grand poobah of French semiotics, and his texts have laid the groundwork for the codification of culture. They range from the edgy ruminations of “Image – Music – Text” to the intimate reflections of “A Lover’s Discourse.” But “Camera Lucida,” with its lyrical yet rigorous reflections on the images of Richard Avedon and Robert Mapplethorpe, is perhaps one of his most lasting contribution to writing about art.

“Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, Viking (Pengiun Group)

Based on the original, highly successful BBC television series of the same name, Berger created a masterpiece in 1972 by digesting complex ideas about image reproduction and popular culture, bringing theory to the masses with “Ways of Seeing.” He covers subjects including imagery in advertising, the notion of originality, and subjectivity in perception. While others have gone into greater depth with many of the topics he covers, Berger’s opus is a must-have for its succinct mastery and impressive compilation of complex theory.

“Art/Work” by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber, Simon & Schuster

Not every artist needs a career guide, but for those that do this is one of the best. Written by a gallery director and an arts lawyer this is first handbook of advice on the management of a full-time art career, offering some savvy advice about the business end.

“The Continental Aesthetics Reader, 2nd Edition” Edited by Clive Cazeaux, Routledge

This is different to another anthology, “Art and Theory,” because of its unique organization, which is by art historical movement and cultural milestone. The seven sections of the book range from German Aesthetics to Postmodernism and set art history off against literature, sociology, and philosophy in the writings of Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Zizek, Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, and many more. Compared to “Art and Theory,” this text has a broader range and suitable for artists whose work is cross-disciplinary.

“Art History: 4th Edition” by Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren, Pearson

While the art history textbook market has long been dominated by Gardner’s “Art Through the Ages” (now in its 13th edition) and “Janson’s History of Art: The Western Tradition” (in its 8th edition), a shift has been occurring in academia towards the use of Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren’s more recent, more student-friendly, inclusive, and participatory textbook “Art History.” Just as big, but not as costly as its ugly stepsisters, “Art History” strives to be more than just a survey, with engaging diagrams, materials, and methodological explanations, online complimentary software, and a decent revision to the art historical timeline which makes it more diverse. In addition, in comparison to Gardner’s tiny reproductions, Stokstad and Cothren are not skimping on the image quality and size, so the textbook is as good a visual resource for artists as it is a textual one.

“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Harper Collins

This is an original, psychology-oriented perspective on what some call “getting in the zone” but what unpronounceable Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi terms “flow.” What sets it apart, and makes it an apt text for art-making, is Csikszentmihalyi’s focus on satisfaction and happiness.

“History of Beauty” and “On Ugliness” by Umberto Eco, Rizzoli New York

OK, these are actually two books, but they are really two halves of a whole. For artists interested in aesthetic theory, the body, and kitsch, Eco is your man. A cultural critic, his sweeping knowledge unfolds in engaging story-like prose (he is also a celebrated postmodern novelist, of course) with direct visual examples. Well versed in art and philosophy, he cites an exhaustive list of examples, including Bosch, Brueghel, Goya, Milton, Goethe, and Ancient Greek amphorae.

“Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook for Art Students” by James Elkins, University of Illinois Press

Elkins examines the structure of art education and fixes a microscope on art school’s elusive “crit” system. Whether you are preparing for your first critique, or about to mount a major retrospective, his insights on what works, what doesn’t, and how to take and dish out criticism are invaluable. No one has tackled this subject quite as thoroughly.

“Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation” by E.H. Gombrich, Princeton University Press

A classic (it was published in 1960) if one is seeking knowledge on the contentious merger of the sciences and humanities, Gombrich uses Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Ancient Greece as examples in the history of picture making and perception. His approach is a uniquely rationalistic one, and still a refreshing take on the subject.

“Art in Theory: 1900 – 2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, 2nd Edition” Edited by Charles Harrison and Dr. Paul J. Wood, Wiley

One of the most widely used anthologies of art theory texts, and significant for offering a heaping helping of primary resources. The newly revised edition, updated to include the ‘90s, has essays ordered by art historical movements, including writing by Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Mark Rothko, Francis Bacon, and many more. Like, many, many more. It’s big — but don’t let it intimidate you.

“Illuminations: Essays and Reflections,” Knopf Doubleday, and/or “Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926,” Belknap Press of Harvard University

Benjamin has been for decades the sensitive art theorist’s go-to guru. His essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” is read widely by art history and studio art majors, and “The Task of the Translator” can also be mined for aesthetic insights. However, while “Illuminations” is both short and contains some of the most relevant essays Benjamin wrote on art, the first volume of Belknap Press’s “Selected Writings” series has some very poignant writings on illustration, children’s drawings, and perception that are incredibly suggestive for those interested in semiotics, color theory, and memory.

“The Pink Glass Swan” by Lucy Lippard, the New Press

Lucy Lippard wrote some of the most important essays on feminist art, politics, and activism in the 1970s, inspired by the women’s movement. This collection compiles highlights from her popular “From the Center: Feminist Essays on Art” and “Get the Message?: A Decade of Art for Social Change,” as well as pieces done originally for print in newspapers, magazines, and art catalogues. A must-have on the genre of feminist art writings, or for any artist navigating issues of politics and class in our troubled contemporary art world (see the title essay, a true classic).

“The Art Museum” Edited by Phaidon

All artists should have an image bible; something that is both an inspiration and a source for historical imagery. This book is it. While the quality of the reproductions might not be the best (they are a little dull, truthfully), Phaidon makes up for it with the tremendous trim size on this tome of images. This book is massive. The reproduction of the Sistine Chapel alone will take up half your dining room table. Try finding another version as complete, detailed, or as large in your Gardner’s, or even your Stokstad and Cothren. (Beware the price-tag, it’s expensive at $500.)

“Orientalism” by Edward Said, Penguin

The leading text on exoticism and “otherism,” Edward Said’s “Orientalism” blew readers away when it was published in 1979, creating a much-needed term to describe the way Western thinkers and artists had mistread the East as a fantasy projection of their own insecurities. This is mandatory reading for artists whose work focuses on issues of identity, race, culture, and history — and, now that we think of it, it should just be read by everyone in general.

“Anatomy: A Complete Guide for Artists” by Joseph Sheppard, Dover Publications

Every artist, whether interested in performance or painting, should arguably have a basic grasp of drawing — if not for the basic understanding of the human form in space, then for useful knowledge of composition and light. This is by far one of the most user-friendly and complete guides for artists of any medium to use in their studies. Take my word from having used this book myself.

“Seven Days in the Art World” by Sarah Thornton, W. W. Norton & Company

The first-person story of the journalist who infiltrated the art world and performed the impossible feat of making art the subject of a best-selling book. It’s an incredibly informative as a well-rounded view of the multiple cogs that keep the art world turning, from art publishing at Artforum to the well-assisted studio of a high-profile artist like Takashi Murakami. Thornton’s ethnography is an attempt to understand an unregulated, exclusive world of insiders, following a path from the making and selling of contemporary art to art school to the auction house.

“The Lives of the Artists” Giorgio Vasari, Oxford University Press

One might consider this a biography of the Italian Renaissance, told through the brief, individual biographies of the important artists of the day. Giorgio Vasari invented the term “Renaissance,” and simultanously invented its history by chronicling its progression from Brunelleschi to Da Vinci. The OUP edition features 36 of the most important entires, and is one of the most important sources an artist can have on this all-important period. (Nearly all of the text, in its unabridged English translation, can be found online here.)

“Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: Over Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin” by Lawrence Weschler, University of California Press

What better way to learn than from the master himself? This is considered one of the most vital books on a single artist’s experience creating work over a multi-decade career, and the conversations author Lawrence Weschler has put together are a first-hand account at the unique way Irwin, the Light and Space maestro, sees the world.

“A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel, 1907-1916” by John Richardson, Random House

John Richardson is the Robert Caro of artist biographers. Pablo Picasso is surely a colossal figure in the realm of history, and Richardson manages to dissect his life into a generous three-volume epic. As far as artist biographies go, this is the one to own, cherish, and study the hell out of. Not only does it detail Picasso’s life and work, but it also captures the era in which he lived, the movements he helped create, and his complicated relationships with contemporaries like Braque and Apollinaire. The second volume is the one we have picked out here, specifically for its great detail about his relationships with other artists of the time, but the other two (“The Prodigy 1881-1906” and “The Triumphant Years 1917-1932”) are also worth owning. Picasso changed history, and the modern day art world wouldn’t be what it is without him.

For questions or further book suggestions, write amartinez[at]artinfo.com

————————————-

http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/804318/40-books-that-every-artist-should-own-part-i

The ARTINFO Bookshelf: 40 Books That Every Artist Should Own, Part II

The ARTINFO Bookshelf: 40 Books That Every Artist Should Own, Part II
A few of ARTINFO’s 40 Books Every Artist Should Have: Susan Sontag’s “On Photography”, Rosalyn Deutche’s “Evictions” and more
(Illustration by ARTINFO)

ARTINFO continues its list of the 40 books every artist should own, following up Part 1 with another 20 essential picks for your library.

“Witness to Her Art” Rhea Anastas and Michael Brenson, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College

Using the work of six key female artists (Adrian Piper, Mona Hatoum, Cady Noland, Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker,Daniela Rossell, and magazine Eau de Cologne) as examples, this anthology of artist writings, primary documents, and criticism presents key insight into the legacy of the feminist movement.

“The Profitable Artist: A Handbook for All Artists in the Performing, Literary, and Visual Arts” Edited by Artspire, Co-published by the New York Foundation for the Arts and Allworth Press

The NYFA Web site is known to many as the first place to search for information on jobs, grants, and opportunities in the arts in New York. The non-profit organization has supplemented its online arm with this “best practices” how-to guide for managing a career in the arts. With valuable information on business, finance, marketing, and law balanced with interviews and case studies, the book is translatable to art careers in multiple disciplines. This book is about making a living. Who can sniff at that?

“Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking” by David Bayles and Ted Orland, Image Continuum Press

A grounded look at what it’s really like to sit down and make art. Made by artists for artists, this book is advertised as “not your typical self-help book,” with insights into the difficulties behind finding the rhythm in your art practice amid the other stresses of life. The book was a huge hit when it was first published in 1994, selling over 80,000 copies in its original Capra Press edition, mostly due to word-of-mouth endorsements.

“The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field” by Pierre Bourdieu, Stanford University Press

Leading social theorist Pierre Bourdieu continued his study on Flaubert’s influence on modern literature and crossed into the area of art, developing a theory of its autonomy in this 1994 work. Bourdieu builds a bridge between social relations and art, creating an indispensable interdisciplinary approach.

“Participation” Edited by Claire Bishop, MIT Press, co-published with Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

The CUNY professor sparked a whole line of books in this style with the now classic 2006 compilation of writing on relational aesthetics and performance art, featuring narrative analysis of historic works by El Lissitzky and Allan Kaprow, and essays by Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes, Felix Guattari, Joseph Beuys, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Hal Foster, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and many more (and the first translation to English of French guru Jacques Ranciere’s “Problems and Transformations in Critical Art”). The book is the ultimate introduction and definitive go-to source on the subject of participatory practice.

“Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility” James P. Carse, Ballantine Books (Random House)

For the game-lover in all of us, Carse’s course on games in business, politics, and personal life is a brainteaser totally valuable to artists whose work is playful or performative. Carse explains winning, losing, the mystique of property and power, culture and community — all things that are applicable to the canvas or your social life.

“100 Artists’ Manifestos: From the Futurists to the Stuckists” Edited by Alex Danchev, Penguin Classics

Discover the roots of all the ‘isms’ that your professor may have claimed your work derives from, as well as a few others. Danchev compiles 100 manifestos from the last 100 years written by artists from Rem Koolhaas to Billy Childish. If you’re interested in reading even more manifestos from outside of just the visual arts, check out “Manifesto: A Century of Isms” as well, although Danchev is our recommendation for the visual-art-centered bookshelf.

“Art As Experience” by John Dewey, Penguin Group

American philosopher, psychologist, and education reformer John Dewey (1859-1952) was one of the foremost respected authorities on literature, the effects of the arts, and aesthetic theory. His work still has the power to suggest new ideas. Summed up, a large portion of this volume is devoted to his argument about the centrality of the art object to culture.

“Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics” by Rosalyn Deutsche, MIT Press

The Columbia University feminist theory and modern and contemporary art scholar left her mark on theory with the 1996 critique “Evictions,” which combined urban theory and the history of art and architecture into a critique of democratic space. This text is valuable for the urban sociologist with aesthetic concerns as well as for artists whose work deals with space and class.

“Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel” by Ernst Haeckel, Prestel

Haeckel was the John James Audubon of plant life and sea creatures. The natural scientist, who first published his portfolio between 1899 and 1904 in separate installments, left behind some of the most delicately rendered interpretations of organic forms, proving a valuable resource for both scientists and artists alike.

“True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World” Anthony Haden-Guest, Grove/Atlantic Inc.

Interjecting both humor and insider experience into our list, Anthony Haden-Guest’s tell-all account of the boom of the art world in the 1980s, and then its bust, continues to be gripping reading.

“The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri, Basic Books

Reading this 1924 book is still like having the most dedicated of teachers with you at all times. Robert Henri’s mentoring words offer technical and critical advice that is inspiring, encouraging, and easily translated into many areas of life.

“Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia” by Richard Hertz, Hol Art Books

The birth of the so-called “Pictures Generation” begins here, with the story of Jack Goldstein and his CalArts classmates, who led a shift from Conceptualism to Pictures art in 1970s New York. Hertz weaves his story from the narratives of the art world’s own, including contributions by Tom Wudl, John Baldessari, Matt Mullican, Robert Longo, and more. Together, they reveal the evolution of Chouinard into CalArts, the dynamics of New York’s art scene of the ‘70s, and, of course, the compelling story of Goldstein himself. Nearly all CalArts alumi have read this book, myself included, and the phrase “CalArts Mafia” has taken root as an affectionate term for the vast network of artists working internationally, post-Goldstein.

“Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy” by Dave Hickey, Art Issues Press

Meditating on art’s function, dysfunction, and position in a democratic American society, “Air Guitar” has become widely read as a piece of cultural commentary over the years by theory students, critics, and artists.

“After Modern Art 1945-2000” David Hopkins, Oxford University Press

Hopkins’s text offers a valuable history of postwar art, compressing the widely varied movements of American and European art into a sensible timeline — no small task. Our only wish is that this book be updated as soon as possible, seeing as it cuts off at 2000, and over a decade of artmaking has passed.

“Concerning the Spiritual in Art” by Wassily Kandinsky, Dover Publications

The father of modernism and abstraction was also heavily invested in capturing “spirit” on canvas, and he delivers still intriguing words on color theory and the nature of art. A good compliment to this is his other famous work, “Point and Line to Plane,” which dissects the place of the line, point, and building blocks of composition in non-objective painting.

“Art School: Propositions for the 21st Century” Edited by Steven Henry Madoff, MIT Press

With the price of higher education soaring, students falling into debt, and institutions subsequently reevaluating and reorganizing curriculums and education models, today’s art schools face new challenges. Steven Henry Madoff and MIT Press look at the current state and future of art education. With accompanying essays by artists and educators such as Hans Haacke and Marina Abramovic, as well as questionnaires with Shirin Neshat and Mike Kelley, the anthology is critical for its unique view of academia from the perspective of those who have passed through it at different points in the last century — creating a roadmap of the major historical art schools, and hinting at the possible structures of new schools to come.

“I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette” Edited by Paper Monument

This was the first pamphlet published by the art-focused offshoot of literary journal n+1. Paper Monument’s guidelines for how to behave in the art world are both funny and serious in a “take it with a grain of salt” kind of way. Featuring the contributions of 38 artists, critics, curators, and dealers, from Paddy Johnson to Rachel Uffner, “I Like Your Work” helps avoid the possibly disastrous social interactions that might occur at a Thursday night opening otherwise.

“On Photography” by Susan Sontag, Picador (MacMillan)

Her book “Against Interpretation, and Other Essays,” published in 1966 put Sontag on the map as an integral voice in the cultural debate, with her now famous essay “Notes on Camp” and musings on arts and literature. Nearly a decade later, she packed hit the art world with another punch in “On Photography,” famously comparing the camera to a loaded gun.

“The Practice and Science of Drawing” Harold Speed, Dover Publications

Missing from most art schools these days is concrete technical instruction, and though Harold Speed’s book was written over a century ago, it can still fill that void. Speed’s instruction on line drawing, mass drawing, visual memory, and materials (with accompanying plates and diagrams) serves as the perfect place to being learning the traditional skills.

For questions or further book suggestions, write amartinez[at]artinfo.com


Leave a comment

Doc to Peekay: Originality and New Thinking

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/63.Bryce_Courtenay

“Always in life an idea starts small, it is only a sapling idea, but the vines will come and they will try to choke your idea so it cannot grow and it will die and you will never know you had a big idea, an idea so big it could have grown thirty meters through the dark canopy of leaves and touched the face of the sky.’ He looked at me and continued. ‘The vines are people who are afraid of originality, of new thinking. Most people you encounter will be vines; when you are a young plant they are very dangerous.’ His piercing blue eyes looked into mine.’ Always listen to yourself, Peekay. It is better to be wrong than simply to follow convention. If you are wrong, no matter, you have learned something and you grow stronger. If you are right, you have taken another step toward a fulfilling life.”
Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One