Archive for the ‘Books and Authors’ Category

SOMEBODY STOLE A BUNCH OF MY PLANTS, SO I JUST PLANTED MORE

July 10, 2013

FRONT PLATER

Well, the update here is that the same somebody who stole my plants before returned. The thief took the flower box you can see on the ground in the background and even dug out the tall pink caladiums from my big box. Bummer.

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ALICE MUNRO WRITES GREAT SHORT STORIES!

July 2, 2013

One of my very favorite writers, and one whom I encourage you to read, is Canadian Alice Munro.

Here’s the link to her statement about retiring at 82 years of age:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/books/alice-munro-puts-down-her-pen-to-let-the-world-in.html?smid=pl-share

SPREAD YOUR BROKEN WINGS AND LEARN TO FLY?

November 27, 2010

A few days ago I read a review of Jennifer Homans’ new book “Apollo’s Angels,” “This Ballerina Found History In Her Footsteps,” at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/arts/dance/21homans.html.

A former professional ballet dancer turned historian and critic, Homans has produced, according to reviewer Jennifer B. McDonald, an “enormous history of classical ballet.”

McDonald points out that Homans is not the typical academic who studies the political and cultural history of nations. Homans has actually tried to “locate those histories within her body.”

Two things got my attention immediately: I knew that Homans was the wife of Tony Judt, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in August. I was deeply moved by Judt’s series of memorable essays in “The New York Review of Books,” (I blogged about it) at the time.

Now knowing that she was “deep in the writing” of her book even as her husband was losing the ability to “walk, to breathe on his own,” that her own parents died last year, was very moving to me.

Ms. McDonald quotes her: “Tony always had a kind of moral core to the way he approached history . . . . He believed in truth, and I do too. Not that there is an absolute truth that you can hold on to, but you have to at least strive for a coherent story that’s going to make sense of everything in ways that are honest.”

McDonald also quotes Catherine Oppenheimer, a former NYCB dancer. “She completed this book through a tortuous time. A lot of people would have dropped it, but I thionk that was the dancer’s discipline coming back.”

Second, I also noticed that there were an inordinate amount of comments appended to the review – according to McDonald, what’s ignited the ire (in her slightly precious words, “ruffled swan feathers”)of ballet fans is Homans’ contention, after having tried to convince herself otherwise, that she feels sure “ballet is dying.”   

However, Homans does moderate her doom-saying. “To the extent that the epilogue of my book addresses choreographers and artistic directors, it is to say: ‘Look at the history. Ballet is in decline. Something needs to change.'”

I had also been thinking about my recent review of Cincinnati Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” which was beautifully danced and very satisfying to me.

I wanted to write more about the individual performances and patterns of the work, but decided to do a little more research to try to figure out what exactly the restaging of this ballet meant.

Why do we still (if “we” do) respond to ballets like this from another era? Surely things today are so much more modern. What does it mean to brag that a ballet is “historically correct” when we seem to share so few of the values of Petipa’s time today?

Just as I was pondering this, it was announced that Prince William had proposed to Kate Middleton (of course she accepted).  Well, wake up and smell the coffee! This was the biggest story in the media for a few days, and the intense interest in all things royal seems only to have intensified.

So I began to think maybe we are not that all that different in our interest in the passing down of tradition as exemplified in so many classical ballets.

Before my husband grabbed the (well, to be perfectly accurate, his) ipad to read before bedtime, I did have time to scroll through a few pages and notice that yes, this is a deliciously fat read, one I look forward to when he responds to the sleeping pill I slipped into his Diet Mountain Dew (hehheh just kidding sweetie) and I can snatch the reading device from his bedside table.

I did have the briefest moment, however, to speed read through Homans’ epilogue.

Interestingly enough, she addresses the same issues.  “If today’s ballets are mere shells, the reason may be that we no longer fully believe in them. We linger and hark back, shrouding ourselves in tradition and the past for a good reason. We are in mourning.”

Yes, very interesting stuff.

Back at you later.

CAUGHT (see starred update video)*

August 6, 2010

UPDATE:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/arts/christopher-hitchens-is-dead-at-62-obituary.html

Since I figured rightly it was a good read, I recently consumed (is that the word?) my first-ever book on the family iPad, an extravagant purchase by the significant other. Said cyber volume was Christopher Hitchens  Hitch-22 (of course a pun on Joseph Heller’s Catch-22).
It appears that “Hitch” as his friends call him, is today very sick with esophagal cancer. I watched him last evening interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN.

Oddly, in press before his most recent book was published, if I remember correctly, he indicated that his urge to write memoirs at a relatively early age was spurred by the loss of a friend who had died unexpectedly.

Well, as I frequently say, I have never been wrong before. Now as I review the page referenced (trusty Pad by my side) I see he  says that he actually came face to face with what he calls “the plain unadorned phrase that will one day become unarguably true,” when he read a published sentence ( a misprint) referring to him as the late Christopher Hitchens. The chapter of his book within which this revelation occurs is titled “Prologue with Premonitions.” As an epigraph to the chapter, Hitchens quotes Joyce’s Leopold Bloom in Ulysses: “Read your own obituary notice; they say you live longer. Gives you a second wind.  New Lease of life.”

It seems that, given Hitchens’ televised appearance and references to chemotherapy, perhaps that all that portentuousness is a bit disingenuous. If  the incident was indeed a spur to spill, it has been a good thing, as least for me as  I recommend this book as a VERY rewarding read:  Hitchens’ life has been a rich one and traversed many significant moments of modern history up close and personal, as they say. To date, the publication of the erudite and articulate telling of  his life story so far has put him on the best-seller list.  Perhaps he will live to read his obituary again.

Ostensibly an effort to explain his (political) midcareer swerve from Left to Right, the tracing of his path (from his mother’s early death by her own hand) through the present is filled with boldface names and racy dish, all told with a tongue-in-cheek insousiance. During the CNN interview, it was interesting to see Mr. Cooper throw Hitchens a cinema verite

Christopher Hitchens, James Fenton, Martin Amis

question about losing a loved one early and its potential effect, since Cooper, son of socialite Gloria Vanderbilt apparently witnessed his brother as he committed suicide by jumping from a building.

Cooper wonders if there, in the parlance of our times,  is ever “closure” on such events. I suppose as commentary on the importance of remembrance, Hitchens believes  there is not, and if one should  feel it, it is “as if some important part of you had gone dead.”

*more at http://www.theatlantic.com/video

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE CRITICS AMONG US

July 20, 2010

I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value. However, let it go. It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden. – Mark Twain