Same Old New Thing or Same New Old Thing

25 May

Young Elephant Playing on The Beach [photo: John Linde]

Young Elephant Playing on The Beach [photo: John Linde]

You’d think that by now someone (not necessarily a clever someone) would have come up with a rubric having a little more pizzazz than the tired old equine that is regularly beaten around this time every year—beach read, summer reading. Personally, I have run out of fresh ideas of how to mock this empty category but as this annual light literary lifting does speak to the existence of the demand for such froth. – Thus I would feel remiss, as a responsible literary journalist, in ignoring,

A Game of Their Own  by Jennifer Ring

A Game of Their Own by Jennifer Ring

A Game of Their Own: Voices of Contemporary Women in Baseball by Jennifer Ring Softball so early cuts girls out of hardball it appears to be a little acknowledged that some women actually play and compete both nationally and internationally. In fact, Team USA captured a bronze medal at the fourth Women’s Baseball World Cup in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2010. Jennifer Ring, political science mentor at the University of Nevada, Reno( Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don’t Play Baseball)via interviews unpacks the previously unobserved history of women in baseball as well as making clear the challenges facing women hard ball players—the the relentless pressure to switch to softball as well as lack of support.

The Note Book  by Jeff Nunokawa

The Note Book by Jeff Nunokawa

Note Book by Jeff Nunokawa I am quite certain that this book may be one of the more unusual books I come across in the near term (additionally there is The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z. Danielewski and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s The Notebooks to this very short, short list) Princeton English mentor Jeff Nunokawa has been has posting brief essays on the Internet every single morning for the last eight years. This tome is something of a loose anthology of 250 of the most “powerful and memorable” of these essays, many augmented by various images originally posted alongside them. Nunokawa often begin with a quotation from writers such as —George Eliot, Henry James, Gerard Manley Hopkins, W. H. Auden, Robert Frost, or James Merrill and so on. Structurally, this collection (for lack of a better word) offers a purposeful incompleteness—allowing endless revision of the entries into this inadverdant journal). As the good professor advises early in his almost opaque introduction—go to the text, pick any item, in any order. Holding this virtual weave together is its creator’s sense of alienation. He offers:

The hunger for a feeling of connection that informs most everything I’ve written flows from a common break in a common heart, one I share with everyone I’ve ever really known.

The Notebooks  by Jean-Michel Basquiat

The Notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat

The Notebooks by Jean-Michel Basquiat & Larry Warsh Although I viewed the young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat as a sympathetic figure (an addict and young suicide0 it took me two decades to gain an appreciation of his paintings and point of view.Through August 23, 2015 the Brooklyn Museum exhibits Brooklyn-born Jean-Michel Basquiat’s (1960-88)Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks. The exhibition curated by Dieter Buchhart guest curator with Tricia Laughlin Bloom,is described here:

From 1980 to 1987, he[Basquiat]filled numerous working notebooks with drawings and handwritten texts. This facsimile edition reproduces the pages of eight of these fascinating and rarely seen notebooks for the first time.The notebooks are filled with images and words that recur in Basquiat’s paintings and other works. Iconic drawings and pictograms of crowns, teepees, and hatch-marked hearts share space with handwritten texts, including notes, observations, and poems that often touch on culture, race, class, and life in New York. Like his other work, the notebooks vividly demonstrate Basquiat’s deep interests in comic, street, and pop art, hip-hop, politics, and the ephemera of urban life. They also provide an intimate look at the working process of one of the most creative forces in contemporary American art. The notebooks are filled with images and words that recur in Basquiat’s paintings and other works. Iconic drawings and pictograms of crowns, teepees, and hatch-marked hearts share space with handwritten texts, including notes, observations, and poems that often touch on culture, race, class, and life in New York. Like his other work, the notebooks vividly demonstrate Basquiat’s deep interests in comic, street, and pop art, hip-hop, politics, and the ephemera of urban life. They also provide an intimate look at the working process of one of the most creative forces in contemporary American art.

Fellow 90’s celebrity painter Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic Basquiat provided rich snapshots of downtown Manhattan’s art scene in the time of Warhol along with an impressionistic thread of the young artist’s short life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeTT9XYesnw And the recent documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child filled in some blanks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTbykf5Fpl0

Sweet Mary Jane: 75 Delicious Cannabis-Infused High-End Desserts  by Karin Lazarus

Sweet Mary Jane: 75 Delicious Cannabis-Infused High-End Desserts by Karin Lazarus

Sweet Mary Jane: 75 Delicious Cannabis-Infused High-End Desserts by Karin Lazarus As legalization train gains speed the book publishing business will no doubt follow with an outpouring of pot inspired titles.

From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires  by Grete Stern &  Horacio Coppola

From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires by Grete Stern & Horacio Coppola

MOMA’s Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola is the first major exhibition (May 17–October 4, 2015) to focus on the German-born Grete Stern and the Argentinean Horacio Coppola, two leading figures of avant-garde photography As MOMA”S site points out,”The couple effectively imported the lessons of the Bauhaus to Latin America, and revolutionized the practice of art and commercial photography on both sides of the Atlantic by introducing such innovative techniques as photomontage, embodied in Stern’s protofeminist works for the women’s journal Idilio, and through Coppola’s experimental films and groundbreaking images for the photographic survey Buenos Aires.” The exhibition catalogue features a selection of newly translated original texts by Stern and Coppola, and essays by curators Roxana Marcoci and Sarah Meister and scholar Jodi Roberts.

Divine Punishment  by Sergio Ramirez &  Nick Caistor

Divine Punishment
by Sergio Ramirez & Nick Caistor

Divine Punishment by Sergio Ramirez, translated by Nick Caistor The benighted Central American nation of Nicaragua is a land of poets and baseball and the home of writer Sergio Ramírez , who served his country as Vice President under the beleaguered Sandinista regime. He is known for Divine Punishment, which Carlos Fuentes opined, the quintessential Central American novel.Ramirez used a famous criminal trial —the alleged murders in 1933 of two high society women and his employer by a social-climbing bon vivant named Oliverio Castañeda to examine Nicaraguan society at the brink of the first Somosa dictatorship. As the publisher describes ” Passion, money, sex, gossip, political intrigue, medical malpractice and judicial corruption all merge into a novel that reads like a courtroom drama wrapped in yellow journalism disguised as historical fiction posing as a scandal of the first order.”

 I Was a Child: A Memoir by Bruce Eric Kaplan

I Was a Child: A Memoir by Bruce Eric Kaplan

I Was a Child: A Memoir by Bruce Eric Kaplan Seemingly cartoonists are increasingly (or at least New Yorker cartoonists ala Rox Chast )creating memoirs mixing their offbeat experiences and points of view with their signature drawings,in Kaplan’s case family outings and life at home-road trips, milk crates, hamsters, ashtrays, a toupee, a platypus, and much more.The following video illuminates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfowzpAKqUg

Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World   by Eduardo Galeano

Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World
by Eduardo Galeano

Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World by Eduardo Galeano With the recent passing of the great Uruguayan author, soccer fan and social justice activis,t Eduardo Galeano the world has lost one of its most eloquent and humane critics of the regnant social order. His major works Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent and his Memories of Fire Trilogy should be must reading for anyone aspiring to some level of social consciousness. But perhaps as an introduction. The publisher describes Upside Down:

In a series of mock lesson plans and a “program of study” Galeano provides an eloquent, passionate, funny and shocking exposé of First World privileges and assumptions. From a master class in “The Impunity of Power” to a seminar on “The Sacred Car”–with tips along the way on “How to Resist Useless Vices” and a declaration of the “The Right to Rave”–he surveys a world unevenly divided between abundance and deprivation, carnival and torture, power and helplessness. We have accepted a “reality” we should reject, he writes, one where poverty kills, people are hungry, machines are more precious than humans, and children work from dark to dark. In the North, we are fed on a diet of artificial need and all made the same by things we own; the South is the galley slave enabling our greed

Eduardo Galeano and my  beloved Dalai Labrador, Rosie [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Eduardo Galeano and my beloved Dalai Labrador, Rosie [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Here’s Eduardo on Democracy Now https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shTJosdsM_0

A Narco History  by Carmen Boullosa &  Mike Wallace

A Narco History by Carmen Boullosa & Mike Wallace

A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the “Mexican Drug War” by Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace There is no more an intractable problem than the so called war on drugs or narco terrorism or whatever ever you choose to call the homicidal (but murder on a massive scale). Even the fundamental racism built into the American system offers the possibility of redress in a few generations. Mexican novelist Carmen Boullosa (she has written 15 novels,the latest isTexas:The Great Theft )Pulitzer Prize winning historian and a co-founder of the Radical History Review Mike Wallace concisely survey this debacle that has now killed well over 100,000 people. They even offer a solution. There is no shortage of literature that spotlights the Drug war and the separate foreign country that is the Mexican American border. Don Winslow’s magnum opus The Power of the Dog reads like John Lecarre with it plausible take on the complicity of the CIA and DEA,The Vatican, Wall Street, US organized crime, The Mexican Government and security agencies, Columbian Leftist guerillas—did I leave anyone out? Winslow’s long awaited follow up The Cartel is soon to be published (with a film version not far behind) The late Charles Bowdon made a career (in a good way) of spotlighting the deepening abyss of the Borderland. His bibliography is a rich wellspring of information and insights into this dark subject and a good place to start is Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields In Roberto Bolano’s epic 2666, that novel’s middle section “The Part about the Crimes” (some 200 pages) is a litany of the women murdered in Ciudad Jaurez in one year. And Teresa Rodríguez’s The Daughters of Juarez: A True Story of Serial Murder South of the Border chronicles this deadly mayhem Former Boston journalist Al Giordano has done the thankless work of focusing on this ‘story’ for years at The Narco News Bulletin Here’s report that is as good as fiction:

The current scandal over Colombian narco-traffickers paying prostitutes to provide sex services to DEA agents has an even deeper footprint in the agency than the current head of the DEA has conceded, court records stemming from past DEA operations reveal.

My Fight / Your Fight  by Ronda Rousey &  Maria Burns Ortiz

My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey & Maria Burns Ortiz

My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey with Maria Burns Ortiz Touted as the “the toughest woman on Earth” former Olympic judo medal winner Rousey tells her story.As these things go, its a good one. Ronda is a fighter. She competes in MMA (that’s mixed martial arts) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed_IA79GTPk She’s big (as in celebrification). She’s smart. Here she talks with male chauvinist pig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3o2OrCpO-k She appears to speak from the heart. Here with Mike Tyson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3QidHQTKy0 And the camera loves her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meOZsbuM8BQ She’s going to be really big.

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