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Showing posts from 2010

Contemporary Fiction: Reading Richard Yates, Young Hearts Crying

"If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies the tragedy."  -Richard Yates

                The novels of Richard Yates have recently attained the commercial level of respect that critics have long demanded.  For over thirty years Yates published a series of devastating portraits of suburban anomie, artistic frustration, and men failing in every way at work, in love, inside themselves.  Yates’ novels include Revolutionary Road (1961), A Special Providence (1969), Disturbing the Peace (1975), The Easter Parade (1976), A Good School (1978), Young Hearts Crying (1984), and Cold Spring Harbor (1986).  To coast on Revolutionary Road’s success, his early stories were collected in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (1962); again in 1981, alongside the 20th anniversary of Revolutionary Road, a second collection of later stores appeared, Liars in Love (1981).  Inexplicably, from the publication of his last novel in 1986,…

German Impressionism and American Romantic Literature

I don’t generally get excited much about Impressionism.  As I remarked to a friend, there is just such a large volume of it and so many of the landscapes and portraits fail to distinguish themselves, one painting to another.  Undoubtedly the movement’s style is remarkably distinguished from the Romantic or Naturalist paintings of the mid and late 19th century, and yet something is still unsatisfying about knowing that Degas painted so many dancers or that Monet painted so many water lilies.   Hesitations aside, however, I visited the German Impressionism exhibits- and yes, there are two (sort of)- in Houston right now.  The primary exhibit, “A Variation of Impressionism” German Impressionist Landscape Painting, fulfilled my every expectation.  The works looked like Impressionist paintings in style and content, and they looked indistinguishably like one another.  There are over ninety landscapes painted by three German Impressionist masters- Max Lieberman, Lovis Corinth, and Max Slevogt…

In Hindsight: Buick's Child of the Fire (Duke UP, 2010)

Kirsten Pai Buick's recent book on American sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis is getting pretty great reviews, as well it should.  Buick, an art historian, succeeds in presenting Lewis as the consummate 19th century American artist in response to the Emersonian desire for a uniquely American expression- something perhaps that Whitman achieved in poetry, or others in paint.

Lewis, with an African American father and mixed African American/Ojibwa mother, was uniquely positioned in the mid-19th century with insights into cultures- enslaved and freed African Americans and dispossesed and migratory Native Americans- that enabled her to artistically engage, as did earlier novelists like James Fenimore Cooper, with the boundaries and experience of race and mixed race identities in 19th century America.  Born in 1844, Lewis received an education at the radically progressive Oberlin University, in an antislavery stronghold of Ohio- a school which pioneered integrated university training of blac…

In Other People's Houses: Dana--Thomas House, 1904

After watching the first half of the PBS/Ken Burns documentary today I was reflecting on the Dana-Thomas House that he built in Springfield, Illinois.  It was finished in 1904 and has changed hands a few times, but remains open to the public and I was fortunate to see it the Summer of 2009.  The Prairie House phase of his, which I generally understand to have included this home, might be my favorite works.  My earliest exposure to Wright would have certainly been the Guggenheim, built in 1959, when I visited NYC about 10 years ago.  Also in NYC, but within the Met, is the 1912 living room created for a now demolished home in Deephaven, Minnesota.  This Dana-Thomas home, however, was the first intact home that I had visited.  Photography of the interior is prohibited, but some of the exterior shots are my own. 

[Edit, May 2015: has a nice Frank Lloyd Wright page up and have requested that I share the link.  Here it is ]

The Beats: Pictures of a Legend | The New York Review of Books

The Beats: Pictures of a Legend | The New York Review of Books

This is a really insightful review of Allen Ginsberg's photographs, on exhibit at the Natinoal Gallery of Art. I saw these when I was in DC this August, and was really pulled in by Ginsberg's annotations and stories appended below each photograph.
(here's the Gallery link)