Tag Archives: art

Books Acquired Recently

Bergen, David. The Age of Hope. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012.

Bergen is one of my favorite novelists, and I just found out that he has a new book out. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been published in the U.S. yet–aside from Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, Canadian writers get zero respect here–so I had to find a copy from Canada online. I was able to find one from a bookseller in Ontario via abebooks.com.

Braddock, Jeremy. Collecting as Modernist Practice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2012.

I have always loved collecting things, so this book sounded appealing. As it turns out, the book considers anthologies as collections as well as discussing collecting objects, which is something that I am also quite interested in. I am looking forward to reading it. This, Lukas’s, and Wiebe’s books were bought from amazon.com.

Lukas, Paul. Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted, from the Everyday to the Obscure. New York: Crown, 1997.

I really enjoy Lukas’s Uni Watch blog, in part because we share the same obsession with aesthetic detail. I just found out that he published this book on the subject fifteen years ago, and bought it right away. It looks like a nonfiction version of Nicholson Baker’s novel The Mezzanine, which is a good thing.

Wiebe, Dallas. Skyblue the Badass. Garden City: Doubleday, 1969.

I have been reading a fair amount of Mennonite literature over the past year after a long hiatus from the field. I’ve been struck by how few U.S. Mennonite novels there are in comparison to the Canadian tradition (including David Bergen), and have been making a concerted effort to read the few U.S. novels that do exist. Wiebe was one of the first U.S. Mennonite writers, but I’ve only read a few of his poems and one or two of his essays. All of his fiction is out of print, but I was able to find a copy of Skyblue the Badass (I couldn’t find any of Our Asian Journey) for $46.00. I bought it with some birthday cash. It’s in very good condition, and I love that the back cover has a note from my main man George Plimpton.

George Plimpton's note about Paris Review Editions.

George Plimpton’s note about Paris Review Editions.

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Books Acquired Recently: Holiday Edition

My family exchanged gifts today rather than on the 25th. Here is a list of all of the books I was fortunate enough to receive:

Bechdel, Alison. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For. Boston: Houghton, 2008.

I read an article in the New Yorker about Bechdel earlier this year and decided that I wanted to check out her work. I look forward to reading through the comic strip that put her on the public radar.

Eagleton, Terry. The Event of Literature. New Haven: Yale UP, 2012.

I don’t always agree with Eagleton, but I enjoy his work because it is at the very least thought-provoking. His latest book sounds interesting.

Glimcher, Mildred L. Happenings: New York, 1958-1963. New York: Monacelli, 2012.

I am very interested in the New York art and literary scene of the 1950s-1960s, and this book documents how artists of the time were stretching the boundaries of what “art” could be and how it related to performance.

Jones, Hettie. How I Became Hettie Jones. 1990. New York: Grove, 1997.

I’ve done writing about Jones’s ex-husband, Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), and, as I mention above, I am interested in their artistic millieu, so I’ve been wanting to read this memoir for a while.

Jones, L.H. The Jones Second Reader. Boston: Ginn, 1903.

This book is one of my grandfather’s old school books that he kept until his recent death. I am honored to have it in my possession.

Marshall, Ian. Class of 92: The Official Story of the Team That Transformed United. London: Simon, 2012.

I became a Manchester United fan in 1991 as an eleven-year-old, just before their greatest generation of players began taking the pitch. I am very excited to read more about their time before they broke into the first team.

Shaw, Lytle. Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2006.

As I’ve written here before, O’Hara is one of my favorite poets, so I acquire books about him rather compulsively.

Swartz, Ted. Laughter is Sacred Space: The Not-So-Typical Journey of a Mennonite Actor. Harrisonburg: Herald, 2012.

Swartz is an actor whom I have met and seen perform several times. As a side note, Herald Press’s headquarters was in Scottdale, Pennsylvania for its entire history until just recently. I was shocked when I looked at the copyright page and saw that they have moved.

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Visiting Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty

Today with three friends I visited Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, a piece of land art near Corinne, Utah, that was built on the shore of the Great Salt Lake in 1970. It was an amazing experience! I had seen numerous pictures of the Jetty in art history textbooks, but it was wonderful to get to experience it for myself. The scenery surrounding the piece is beautiful (the sky is amazing in many of the photographs below), though it is made even more sublime by the presence of Smithson’s work, which is made out of natural materials while simultaneously epitomizing the artificial. The Jetty would still be a fascinating landscape if it had somehow appeared organically out of the lake, but I appreciate it more because it is, in fact, an intentional something, because it is art, because it is artificial. It makes the lake–which is impressive-sounding until you actually see it and realize that it is this weird, uncategorizable entity of liquid death, neither lake nor sea–more interesting. It is in the lake, but not of it. Anyone who has the chance to see it should. It is a worthwhile trip, one of the most exciting things I’ve done in years.

What follows are some selected photographs of the Jetty that I took while exploring it. They move in chronological order from arriving in the small parking lot just above the piece through walking onto the Jetty and around it to the extent possible (the innermost swirl was enough underwater to be unwalkable, though it was still visible) to walking back toward the parking lot. At the beginning of the day it was overcast, but several hours later when we returned to the car it was wonderfully sunny, as can be seen in the final photograph.

The Spiral Jetty from the parking lot in the morning.

 

The Jetty on the way down the hill toward it.

 

At the beginning of the Jetty.

 

The center of the Jetty as viewed from the beginning. Note how the lake reflects the sky.

 

Walking along the Jetty. Note that this is its widest point, and it is actually much narrower than it looks in aerial photographs.

 

Another view of the center of the Jetty.

 

The Jetty viewed from within its first spiral.

 

Sean standing at the center of the Jetty.

 

The Jetty in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Books Acquired Recently

Kroll, Eric, ed. The Art of Eric Stanton: For the Man Who Knows His Place. Cologne: Taschen, 2012.

This book collects many of Stanton’s erotic drawings from the 1950s and 1960s, many of which appeared in Irving Klaw’s publications (Klaw is the man who made Bettie Page famous). It fits perfectly with my scholarly interests in the history of print culture and the depiction of sexuality in literature. In flipping through the book, it is clear that it reaches Taschen’s usual high production standards. I look forward to perusing it further.

Bought on amazon.com.

Léger, Tom, and Riley MacLeod, eds. The Collection: Short Fiction From the Transgender Vanguard. New York: Topside, 2012.

I attended a reading featuring six of this book’s contributors last night, and it was probably the most enjoyable reading I’ve been to in the past decade. The stories were both funny and powerful, and the collection is apparently the first collection of transgender fiction to be published in the United States (which is surprising, but that’s what the editors claim), so I was happy to buy it. The best part of the evening was discovering that one of the contributors, Casey Plett, was raised Mennonite in Manitoba! It is always exciting to discover new Mennonite authors, but it is especially exciting to discover new queer Mennonite authors because I am currently working on an essay about the intersection between queer theory and Mennonite literature.

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Ervin Beck on David Foster Wallace

There is a fascinating, impressively-researched article about David Foster Wallace’s relationship to religious faith by Ervin Beck in the latest issue of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing. Wallace is one of my favorite writers, and Beck is a former professor of mine and one of the most important mentors that I’ve had, so I was very excited to read the article this afternoon. Despite its sectarian-sounding title (“David Foster Wallace Among the Mennonites;” Mennonites [including lapsed Mennos such as myself] love to talk about famous people’s connections with Mennonites, with Rembrandt being the most common example. Contemporary examples of celebrities who are either Mennonite or had/have strong Menno connections include Phyllis Diller, Newt Gingerich, Matt Groening, and the Canadian authors Rudy Wiebe, Di Brandt, and Patrick Friesen), the article is of interest for anyone who enjoys Wallace’s work or is interested in contemporary fiction. As is well known, Foster lived a tortured life, struggling with mental illness and constantly feeling that his work was never good enough despite its brilliance. Beck’s article does a beautiful job of sensitively addressing these issues and the role they played in Wallace’s interactions with his Mennonite acquaintances. This is no surprise, as Ervin is one of the sweetest, kindest persons I have ever had the privilege to meet.

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Books Acquired Recently: Rocky Mountain MLA Edition

I’m currently at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association conference, which has been fun so far although the conference hotel does not have free internet access. This afternoon I took a stroll through the book fair and picked up a few things (plus ordered several more that I will write about when I receive them):

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land and Other Poems. Ed. Joseph Black, et al. Peterborough: Broadview, 2011.

I love Eliot–he’s another one of those Modernists that I enjoy, but feel guilty about enjoying–and teach him from time to time. This volume, which I got free as an exam copy and might actually assign sometime, includes Eliot’s first three books of poems. I’ve assigned Broadview’s texts before, and have always been happy with them because they are handsome (much nicer looking than Norton critical editions), inexpensive, and well-supplemented by scholarly paratext.

Max, D.T. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. New York: Viking, 2012.

I love Wallace’s writing (everyone who cares about literature should read Infinite Jest) and have wanted to read this biography since I read a review of it in the New Yorker and a short excerpt in Newsweek (of all places!). The Penguin publishing group always has fantastic deals at these kinds of conferences, as was the case here: I paid $10.00 for a $27.95 book!

Moon, Michael. Darger’s Resources. Durham: Duke UP, 2012.

I picked this up for free as a review copy from the Rocky Mountain Review. A free book in exchange for writing a review that will be published sounds like a swindle to me! The book is about Henry Darger, a janitor who wrote and illustrated an epic (over 15,000 pages) story about a children’s war in his spare time that was not discovered until after his death. The story of him as an outsider artist is quite fascinating and very controversial (some call his illustrations child pornography because the children are often naked, but others argue that the children’s nudity is innocent because there is evidence that Darger was mentally disabled [e.g., the naked girls in his book have penises, apparently because Darger had so little sexual knowledge that he did not realize how females differ from males]), so I am excited to read Moon’s book.

Patell, Cyrus R.K., and Bryan Waterman, eds. The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.

I find the Cambridge Companions series very useful, thus as a New York City native I was intrigued by this volume. It was on sale for $11.00, down from $24.99. Aside from looking generally interesting, it has chapters on several of my particular interests, including Walt Whitman and the city’s role in LGBT literature.

 

 

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Left Field Cards and Some Thoughts on Obsession

I just read an article by Paul Lukas (http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/fandom/post/_/id/6053/the-coolest-baseball-cards-of-the-year) about Left Field Cards (http://www.leftfieldcards.com/index.html), an art project by Amelie Mancini that consists of quirky sets of baseball card-esque postcards. I love paper culture, and I love baseball, and I love the nostalgia evoked by baseball cards (I collected them avidly as a boy), so I absolutely love these cards! Their retro style is aesthetically pleasing, and I appreciate their hand-made quality. I also like that Mancini has depicted four Mets (Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, and Kevin Mitchell) in only thirty cards.

But what I especially love about Left Field Cards is the inspiration for the project. Mancini’s biographical statement reads in part that

“She moved to New York in 2006 and didn’t know what a curveball was until a couple of friends took her to Shea Stadium one evening of [sic–Mancini’s slight misuses of English make her story even more lovable] 2007. The Mets lost that night to the Phillies, but Amelie fell hard for America’s national pastime, becoming increasingly obsessed with the game and eventually making it one of the center themes of her work. Fascinated by baseball cards, she decided to print her own and started Left Field Cards in 2011.”

I am always drawn to stories of people’s obsessions, and I think that the tale of Mancini’s discovery of baseball is beautiful (Lukas’s article gives further details). For many years as a teenager and younger adult I was jealous of stories like hers, of people who just had a passion grip them completely and let it become Their Thing. I wanted the same kind of experience; I was obsessed with finding an obsession (Sorry! I couldn’t help myself.). It took me way too long to realize that I already had an obsession–books, both reading and collecting them. So now I worry about cultivating my obsession instead of acquiring one, but I still find stories of other people’s obsessions powerful. It feels like we are part of a club, that even if I know nothing about the subject of someone else’s obsession, I know a little something about them and how they feel. There is a sense of community that forms via these stories, and making connections to one another is one of the essential aspects of living a satisfying life.

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