‘In the Margins’ Offers a Path Into Elena Ferrante’s Mind – The New York Times

No Comments

In pieces both philosophical and practical, the pseudonymous author shares her conceptions of writing and reading.

On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing
By Elena Ferrante
Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
111 pages. Europa Editions. $20.

A couple of years ago, Elena Ferrante accepted an invitation to deliver three lectures to the public in Bologna, Italy. The request was oceanically broad: Ferrante was asked to speak about anything that might be of interest to a general audience. Anything! Then the pandemic happened, and public life ceased.

But Ferrante had already written the texts. As a result, they were delivered belatedly — in late 2021, by an actress named Manuela Mandracchia performing as the pseudonymous Ferrante. A portion of the event is available on YouTube, where one can watch Mandracchia-as-Ferrante speak to a masked audience. Her pouf of hair glows magenta beneath the stage lights; her hand gestures are hypnotic. Even if you don’t understand Italian, it’s worth a glance to see how the lectures — designed for oral delivery in Ferrante’s native language — burst to life when they emerge from a human body.

The fact that the body does not belong to Ferrante is conceptual icing on the cake for English-language readers. An author writing under a pen name for a faraway audience in a foreign tongue is already three layers of interpretation away from readers who may now read these incandescent lectures, rendered into English by Ferrante’s longtime translator Ann Goldstein. “In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing” also includes a fourth lecture, originally delivered at a separate conference by a person who was also not Ferrante.

Ferrante conceives of the writer, with a nod to Virginia Woolf, as a “hypersensitive plurality all concentrated in the hand provided with the pen,” less an embodied entity than a flood of “pure sensibility that feeds on the alphabet.” Thus, perhaps, her choice to remain anonymous — a choice that has been goosed by the possible revelation of her identity by an Italian journalist, using financial and real estate records. If you think enigma is more interesting than doxxing, however, it’s easy to remain unaware of the author’s supposed real name. In this and in other works, Ferrante reminds us what a gift anonymity can be to the reader. How refreshing to access words without fighting through the obscuring fog of a “brand.” (If anonymity is its own sort of brand, at least it is one with a minimum of noise and commotion.)

In any case, the author has responded generously, in her own way, to the question of “Who is Elena Ferrante?” The datum of a name is nothing next to the bounty of self-disclosure in these lectures and in “Frantumaglia,” a collection of interviews and correspondence originally published in 2003 and translated into English (also by Goldstein) in 2016. For those who wish to burrow gopher-like into the author’s mind, Ferrante has prepared a tunnel.

In one lecture, she refers to a notebook she kept as a teenager. “The writer,” her young self wrote, “has a duty to put into words the shoves he gives and those he receives from others.” Interesting that “the writer” is configured as male — an assumption that Ferrante claws into at other points in the book. But equally salient is the idea that prose is a translation of violence into language. Ferrante’s fiction brims with combat. The physical encounters in her novels — not just those that are blatantly assaultive, but those regarding sex, romance and family — often prickle with a sense of repulsion.

She writes about balancing her taste for boundaries and tidiness — for staying within the margins — with a competing lust for disorder and clamor. Love stories become interesting to Ferrante at the moment when a character falls out of love; mysteries gain intrigue when she understands that the puzzle won’t be solved; a bildungsroman strikes her as satisfactory “when it’s clear that no one will be built.”

In her theory of writing, Ferrante stands opposed to someone like Joan Didion. Didion famously insisted that she wrote in order to find out what she thought. (“Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.”) In Ferrante’s case, the act is a flawed transcription of what she calls “the brain wave.” For Didion, everything was gained in the voyage from mind to pen; for Ferrante, much goes missing.

As much as “In the Margins” is a philosophical monograph on the nature of writing, it is also a practical manual. Ferrante furnishes tips. She doesn’t present them as such — there’s no prescription, only an outline of what she’s learned and how it’s helped her (and by implication, how it might help anyone else).

Among the non-tip tips: Surrender your ambition to reproduce, in grammar and syntax, the “whirlpool of debris” that constitutes reality. Instead, study the work of your favorite authors for the “rich repertory of tricks” they use to invent, rather than document, what is real. If writing in the third person doesn’t work for you, try first person.

We’ve discussed Ferrante’s approach to writing. What about reading? For one thing, she is a rereader, circling the same texts for decades. She describes the hallucinogenic realization that to read a book is to absorb, consciously or not, all the other books that influenced that book, as well as the books that influenced those books, and so on; to interpret even one paragraph on a page is to vector endlessly back in time.

She cites Laurence Sterne’s “Tristram Shandy” and Denis Diderot’s “Jacques the Fatalist and His Master” as “books that discuss how difficult it is to tell a story and yet intensify the desire to do it.” This collection, brief and clear as it is next to those other volumes, does the same.

Categories: books

The Books That Shaped Us: A Virtual Times Conversation – The New York Times

No Comments

In a live audio conversation on March 10, two New York Times Book Review editors and the writer Alexander Chee discussed the books that changed their lives.

What are the books that made you see the world a little differently? The books that inspired you or taught you something new? The books that made you … you?

On March 10, MJ Franklin, an editor at The New York Times Book Review, held a live discussion with the writer Alexander Chee, author of “The Queen of the Night,” and Lauren Christensen, a Book Review editor, about the books that shaped them.

The conversation, which took place on Twitter Spaces, a live audio feature on the social media platform, included submissions from Times readers on books that impacted their own lives. Replays of the discussion are available for 30 days following the livestream.

Categories: books

Best New Science Fiction Books to Read in March 2022 – Den of Geek

No Comments

But she cannot take them to the stars, not quite yet. Her adversary is at her heels, the future of the planet at stake, and obeying the First Rule is no longer an option.

For the first time in one-hundred generations, Mia’s family will have to choose to stand their ground, risking not only their bloodline, but the future of the human race.

A darkly satirical thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who sacrifice all to make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them.

Buy Until the Last of Me by Sylvain Neuvel.

Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell

Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell

Type: Novel
Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: March 1

Den of Geek says: Another of this month’s harder science fiction releases has gained praise from Adrian Tchaikovsky and comparisons to Ann Leckie.

Publisher’s summary: Seventy-five years from today, the human race has been cast from a dying Earth to wander the stars in a vast fleet of arks—each shaped by its inhabitants into a diverse and fascinating new environment, with its own rules and eccentricities. 
When her sister disappears while responding to a mysterious alien distress call, Eryn insists on being part of the crew sent to look for her. What she discovers on Candidate-623 is both terrifying and deadly. When the threat follows her back to the fleet and people start dying, she is tasked with seeking out a legendary recluse who may just hold the key to humanity’s survival.

Buy Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell.

Categories: books

16 New Books Coming in January – The New York Times

No Comments

This month brings memoirs from Carl Bernstein and Bernardine Evaristo, a biography of Lorraine Hansberry, two high-octane thrillers and much more.

This coming-of-age debut follows David, a teenager on Florida’s Gulf Coast, as he battles drug addiction, dips in and out of jail and eventually, falls back on his love of reading to find solid ground.

A cast of teenagers defend against a number of adversaries — from a widespread mental health crisis years after the outset of the coronavirus pandemic to a malevolent man resembling Jeffrey Epstein — in this new thriller from Hawley, known for his work on TV series such as “Bones” and “Fargo.”

In Queens, a group of young friends — who describe themselves as “the color of 7-Eleven root beer,” “the color of sand at Rockaway Beach when it blisters the bottoms of our feet” and the color of soil” — make their way in New York and beyond.

Bernstein begins his memoir in 1960, when he landed his first job in journalism: as a copy boy at The Washington Star. Bernstein chronicled many of the country’s most riveting stories even before he broke news of Nixon’s Watergate crimes, and he recounts his experiences with a mix of wonder and pride.

Rationality, reason and logic have been heralded as the foundation of a clear mind, but Mlodinow, a physicist, argues that taking our feelings into account can help us make better decisions. He offers plenty of real-world examples, including his parents’ experiences as Holocaust survivors.

This debut story collection centers on two Taiwanese Americans growing up in Los Angeles as they explore class, sexuality, friendship and family secrets — and, later, how to sustain their friendship through the ups and downs of young adulthood.

In this new thriller, a case of mistaken identity places Demi in the cross hairs of a wealthy couple, Lyla and Graham, who have devised a sinister game that plays out at their Hollywood Hills mansion.

A political scientist outlines the reasons the United States may be on the brink of another violent civil conflict.

Joan, an I.C.U. doctor at a New York City hospital, fends off suggestions from her sister-in-law that she’s not a real woman without children of her own, while mourning her father and dealing with her widowed mother. She’s solitary, literal-minded and extremely awkward — all of which contribute to the hilarity of this novel.

Hansberry is best remembered for her acclaimed play “A Raisin in the Sun,” the first by a Black woman to be performed on Broadway. “Never before, in the entire history of the American theater, had so much of the truth of Black people’s lives been seen on the stage,” James Baldwin wrote. Shields, the biographer of Harper Lee and Kurt Vonnegut, draws on correspondence, interviews and more as he delves into Hansberry’s upbringing, politics and sexuality.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer reflects on meeting her spouse and the death of her father as she examines the role that discovery and loss play throughout everyone’s lives, from the large scale (wars, displacement, pandemics) to the intimate (hunting around the house for a misplaced trinket).

In Prose’s charming, eccentric debut, Molly — who struggles with social skills and cues — takes pleasure in her solitary job cleaning rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel until she finds herself a suspect in a guest’s murder.

In this memoir, Evaristo, the first Black woman to win the Booker Prize, reflects on her decades-long career.

Yanagihara, the editor of T Magazine and the author of “A Little Life,” imagines alternate Americas, the first in 1893, when the country consists, post-Civil War, of separate territories; another in 1993, when a Hawaiian man living in New York reckons with his past as the city confronts H.I.V.; and the third in 2093, when America is beset by pandemics and authoritarian rule.

Perry, a professor of African American studies at Princeton and an Alabamian, argues that to understand the full history of America, one must study the South. Examining the region, she writes, “allows us to understand much more about our nation, and about how our people, land, and commerce work in relation to one another, often cruelly, and about how our tastes and ways flow from our habits.”

The first comprehensive anthology of Hurston’s nonfiction brings together previously published and new work, touching on everything from jazz to school integration.

Categories: books

The best books of 2022: A preview – VOGUE India

No Comments

In 2019, mere weeks after publishing his celebrated novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and receiving a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Ocean Vuong’s mother died following a short battle with breast cancer. Yet if the title of Time Is a Mother, Vuong’s second poetry collection, appears to suggest this might be a circumscribed exploration of grief in the aftermath of this event, its approach is unusually wide-angle. Stories of personal loss are woven into vignettes and memories that explore the most sweeping of subjects—addiction, racism, war, death, family—through Vuong’s gentle, modest voice and the occasional touch of wry humour. So, too, does he once again prove himself the rare writer in whose hands experiments with form can become a thing of beauty in and of themselves. With On Earth, Vuong used his experience as a poet to reshape the contours of the first-person novel into something more amorphous; here, Vuong’s experience with prose feeds back into his poetry through cinematic poems like “Künstlerroman” and “Not Even,” where full, novelistic paragraphs are delicately strung together with single-word stanzas, open and closing like concertina windows into the lives of those whose stories they tell. (One of the few more overt tributes to his mother consists simply of an itemised list of her Amazon purchases, before delivering a gut punch in the form of a “warrior mom” breast cancer awareness T-shirt.) After all, despite its technical prowess, the most striking thing about Vuong’s writing will always be its warm, beating heart even in the face of life’s cruelties. The penultimate poem, “Dear Rose,” is written directly to his mother as a kind of sensorial biography of her journey as an immigrant from Vietnam to America—napalm on a schoolhouse, bullets in amber, churning fish sauce, dew-speckled roses—images both dazzling and devastating; in the end, she simply leaves “a pink rose blazing in the middle of the hospital.” It’s a body of work as hauntingly beautiful as it is ultimately hopeful, and very possibly Vuong’s best yet. —L.H.

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (April 5)

Categories: books

Readers Pick the Best Book of the Past 125 Years – The New York Times

No Comments

In October, as we marked the Book Review’s 125th anniversary, we invited readers to nominate the best book published during that time. This was a nod to our history: In its first few decades, the Book Review often asked readers to anoint the best books, the best short stories, the best poems. We wanted this project, like those early ones, to reflect readers’ tastes and preferences.

Responses began pouring in from all 50 states and 67 countries. In November, we presented a list of the 25 most-nominated books (one per author) for a vote. After tallying more than 200,000 ballots, the winner, by a narrow margin, is …

The Winner

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

“I am 52. I grew up in public housing, on welfare, parented by angry, erratic alcoholics, with little guidance and even less continuity. Atticus, Jem, Scout, Calpurnia and Dill taught me everything I needed to know about life, love, friendship and honor. These lessons reverberated throughout my life and I truly believe that my path would have been very different without them.”

Corina Jensen, Stanhope, N.J.

“Each time I read it with my students, I find in the author’s words something brilliant and entirely new to discuss with my classes. ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”

Ronnie Madanick, Dade County, Fla.

“I grew up in a small, insular, white, Protestant town in the West, and this book first exposed me to the cruelty of racism. I do believe it changed my life and made me a person who cares about social justice. Plus, it is beautifully written with characters I have loved my whole life. I always wanted to be Scout.”

Nancy Foxley, Fort Collins, Colo.

Our critic reconsiders “To Kill a Mockingbird”

When you revisit in adulthood a book that you last read in childhood, you will likely experience two broad categories of observation: “Oh yeah, I remember this part,” and “Whoa, I never noticed that part.” That’s what I expected when I picked up “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was voted the best book of the past 125 years by readers in a recent New York Times poll. Two decades had passed since I’d absorbed Harper Lee’s 1960 novel. And yes, there was a huge amount I’d missed on my first time through, ranging from major themes (the prevalence of child abuse) to minor details (unfamiliar words, like “flivver”).

Inexcusable lapses in reading comprehension also surfaced, such as the fact that I hadn’t realized Mrs. Dubose — the cranky neighborhood villain — was a morphine addict. (“Mrs. Dubose is a morphine addict,” Atticus states in the book. In my defense … well, I have no defense.) As an adult, I can perceive why the novel might hold enduring appeal for many and enduring repulsion to perhaps just as many. I cannot fathom the complexities of teaching it to elementary school students in 2021, especially after reading online accounts from teachers on both the “pro” and “against” sides.

The Runners-Up

2. The Fellowship of the Ring By J.R.R. Tolkien

“The depth of lore for an imagined world and the story of friendship that it accompanies lay the foundation for the rest of the fantasy genre that would follow. Yet few stories live up to the standards set by Tolkien.” Owen Clarke, Provo, Utah

The Fellowship of the Ring

3. 1984 By George Orwell

“It still resonates with us up to this day, around 70 years after it was written. Its warning against the excesses of human pride and hunger for power and its challenge to use our love of freedom to guard against these problems are timeless and universal.” Kathlynn Rebonquin, Mandaluyong City, Philippines


4. One Hundred Years of Solitude By Gabriel García Márquez

“As a piece of literature, it was an earthquake moment, shattering the expectations of a typical realist novel and spawning influences in authors and works from Japan to India and beyond. Out of all the works to have emerged in the last 125 years, none has created a ripple effect, or changed the landscape of literature, as much as this has.” Rizowana Hussaini, Guwahati, India

One Hundred Years of Solitude

5. Beloved By Toni Morrison

“It’s not a bump in the night, subtle haunting. It’s loud and sick. There are images and emotions from ‘Beloved’ that are stuck in my mind now permanently. This ghost story has taught me more about the legacy of slavery than history books ever did.” Brontë Mansfield, Chicago, Ill.


The Nominations

The story of the nominations we received is not consensus, but diversity — not just in the sheer number of books that readers nominated, but in the ways that they interpreted what “best book” meant. Of the more than 1,300 books nominated, 65 percent were nominated by only one person. And only 31 percent nominated a book that made it to our list of 25 finalists. Here are some titles that speak to the breadth of readers’ choices.

  • Science Fiction

    Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

    “A bone-chillingly beautiful and heartbreaking tale of exactly what could happen if we don’t take steps now as a society to address social inequalities and the climate crisis.”

    Courtney Daron, Anaheim, Calif.

  • Nonfiction

    The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

    “A beautifully written, sweeping history of the past century in America. Never heavy-handed, Wilkerson’s storytelling places real people in real places, making it possible for any reader to grasp the various impacts of inequality and inequities that still plague America.”

    Patricia Methe, Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Horror

    Dracula by Bram Stoker

    “Grabbing the dark corners of one’s imagination for 125 years.”

    Eleanor Najjar, San Francisco, Calif.

  • Cookbook

    The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer

    “It may be thin on plot or character, but it opened new worlds to me and my family.”

    Cody Clark, Houston, Tex.

  • Children’s Book

    Watership Down by Richard Adams

    “Yeah, yeah, I get it — James Joyce, Toni Morrison, Yasunari Kawabata, Clarice Lispector, Gabriel García Márquez —they’re all great, they changed fiction forever. You’re not wrong. But answer me this: How many of them wrote a book entirely about rabbits that could make you laugh, cry, get angry and question the deeper meaning of life?”

    Brian Dowd, Edgartown, Mass.

  • Self Help

    The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

    “His opening sentence, ‘Life is difficult’ affirmed my real-life experience. His wise insights into discipline, grace, love, and sin offered hope when I needed it. I ultimately attended seminary and became a pastor who often gifts this book.”

    Marcia Bilyk, Knowlton Township, N.J.

Why readers nominated

Some readers prized lyrical writing above all.

“Silko wonderfully mixes narrative forms, incorporating poetry, rituals and Native American creation stories in a web-like structure that mirrors Pueblo Indian identity and perspective. … Her spectacularly descriptive language, the depth with which she portrays the human condition and the melancholy tone inspire readers.”

Dana Raja Wahab, Miami, Fla. on “Ceremony,” by Leslie Marmon Silko

For others, an author’s imagination was everything.

“It propels the Modernist advances of books like ‘Ulysses’ into the postmodern world, kicking and screaming. It’s a book of superlatives: It’s the smartest, stupidest, most sacred, most profane, most profound, phantasmagoric, lyrical, direct, demanding, rewarding book I’ve ever read.

C. Bleakley, Milan, Italy on “Gravity’s Rainbow,” by Thomas Pynchon

Many nominated novels expanded the kinds of stories told in literature.

“I first read this book in high school in a rural town in New Hampshire. I was one of about 10 people of color in the whole town. This book was the first time I felt seen in an English classroom in white America. The narrator’s impotent rage, and this unshakeable feeling of being a blank slate for others to place their own expectations and guilt (“No don’t worry, you’re one of the good ones.”), all resonated with me. This is one of those books that awaken something in you, and it did in me.”

Ruth Ramjit, New York City on “Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison

Other readers considered a book’s influence and legacy.

“It exploded the idea of what literature can be.”

Susannah Breslin, Burbank, Calif. on “Ulysses,” by James Joyce

Many people nominated children’s books — especially the ones that fostered a lifelong love of reading.

“From cadence and rhythm to the art and story itself, “Where the Wild Things Are” is the most perfect book. This is a hill I will die on.”

Sara Beth West, Chattanooga, Tenn. on “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak

Most popular authors

Three writers — John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner — received nominations for seven of their books.

Other popular authors included James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood and Virginia Woolf, who each had five books nominated.

And readers nominated four of Joan Didion’s books: “The Year of Magical Thinking,” “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” “The White Album” and “Play It as It Lays.”

stack of books

A love for literature

Finally, so many nominations we received spoke to deeply personal relationships with books.

“The Nobel Prize winner’s novel evokes the best of modern literature, whilst keeping the classics’ heart and soul at the center of it. The central love story involves not only the two main characters, but the city of Istanbul as well (if not above), thus making it simultaneously intimate … and part of something grander.”

Dalila Sadinlija, Bosnia and Herzegovina on “The Museum of Innocence,” by Orhan Pamuk

“It’s a book … no, THE book about books, celebrating a seemingly idealized (but true!) relationship between a reader and a bookseller. There’s no better epistolary, literary memoir, bathed in the glow of wartime and mid-century New York City, looking eastward to romanticize a ration-booked London that knows its classic authors.”

Darren Sextro, Kansas City, Mo. on “84, Charing Cross Road,” by Helene Hanff

“​​This book captures what it means to be human. The writing is exquisite — you feel the pain and joy of the characters. The world building is subtle but profound. It is simply stunning.”

Chelsea Brislin, Lexington, Ky. on “Never Let Me Go,” by Kazuo Ishiguro

“Because it rails against darkness. Because it’s a testament to the enduring power of love to carry us and transcend death itself. Because it taught me to keep the fire burning, always.”

Max Widmer, New York City on “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy

“I’ve never been more engrossed in the minutiae of nature. Reading this book nudges and reminds me to slow down and absorb the utter beauty surrounding me each day.”

Brandon O’Connor, Chicago, Ill. on “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” by Annie Dillard

Illustrations by Timo Lenzen.

Designed by Deanna Donegan, Rebecca Lieberman and Hang Do Thi Duc. Edited by Tina Jordan, Rebecca Halleck, Joumana Khatib and John Williams, with contributions from Scott Blumenthal, John Cruickshank, Asmaa Elkeurti, MJ Franklin, Jennifer Harlan, Marie Tessier and Urvashi Uberoy. Additional production by Aliza Aufrichtig.

To Kill a Mockingbird: Cover image via Raptis Rare Books. The Fellowship of the Ring: Cover image via Heritage Auctions, HA.com. 1984: Cover image via Bauman Rare Books. One Hundred Years of Solitude: Cover image via Harper Perennial Modern Classics. Beloved: Cover image via Heritage Auctions, HA.com.

Categories: books

Our Writers Pick 20 Books About Art and the Art World to Keep You Reading Well Into the New Year – artnet News

No Comments

One of the best parts of a holiday vacation is finally getting to curl up with a good book (perhaps that one that’s been waiting patiently on your nightstand for months!).

Below, we’ve selected 20 novels, memoirs, biographies and other books all themed around art or the art world. Happy reading!

1. Far From Respectable: Dave Hickey and his Art by Daniel Oppenheimer (2021)

From From Respectable: Dave Hickey and his Art by Daniel Oppenheimer. Courtesy University of Texas Press.

From From Respectable: Dave Hickey and His Art by Daniel Oppenheimer. Courtesy University of Texas Press.

The late art critic and iconoclast Dave Hickey rose to fame with his cult classic book from 1993 The Invisible Dragon. “Bad taste is real taste, of course, and good taste is the residue of someone else’s privilege,” he famously wrote. His writings are a contentious takedown of the art establishment and they encourage us to rethink out relationship to beauty. David Oppenheimer’s new book traces the history of this unique mind and his impact on art and writing.

Find it at: University of Texas Press.

—Kate Brown

2. The Gilded Edge: Two Audacious Women and the Cyanide Love Triangle That Shook America by Catherine Prendergast (2021)

The Gilded Edge Two Audacious Women and the Cyanide Love Triangle That Shook America by Catherine Prendergast. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

The Gilded Edge: Two Audacious Women and the Cyanide Love Triangle That Shook America by Catherine Prendergast. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

In this Gilded Age tale of a bohemian fairy tale gone wrong, Catherine Predergast delves into the history of the Carmel-by-the-Sea artist colony on California’s Monterey Peninsula—and how a tumultuous love triangle turned deadly. It stars a talented female poet, Nora May French, who has been unfairly forgotten in U.S. literary history. 

Find it at: Penguin Random House

—Sarah Cascone

3. My New Novel by Ottessa Moshfegh (2021)

Ottessa Moshfegh, “My New Novel” / Issy Wood, “The down payment” (New York: Picture Books | Gagosian, 2021)

Ottessa Moshfegh, My New Novel and Issy Wood, The down payment (New York: Picture Books | Gagosian, 2021) 

Although it never directly targets the art world, Moshfegh’s standalone story nevertheless implicates some of its most exhausting characters by mercilessly satirizing the creative process (or what passes for it, at least) of a man with more resources than talent, vision, or commitment. But the best contemporary-art connection lives outside the pages; as the inaugural entry in Gagosian’s new “Picture Books” series, which pairs celebrated authors with celebrated artists, every copy of My New Novel comes with a limited-edition poster of a painting made by Issy Wood that was made in response to Moshfegh’s story. 

Find it at: The Gagosian Shop.

Tim Schneider

4. The Ultimate Art Museum by Ferren Gipson (2021) 

<em>The Ultimate Art Museum</em> by Ferren Gipson (2021). Photo courtesy of Phaidon.” width=”600″ height=”545″ srcset=”https://northlightbook.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/our-writers-pick-20-books-about-art-and-the-art-world-to-keep-you-reading-well-into-the-new-year-artnet-news-3.jpg 600w, https://northlightbook.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/our-writers-pick-20-books-about-art-and-the-art-world-to-keep-you-reading-well-into-the-new-year-artnet-news-27.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2021/12/the-ultimate-art-museum-en-6296-standing-front-3880-copy-e1640006616667-50×45.jpg 50w” sizes=”(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px”></p>
<p id=The Ultimate Art Museum by Ferren Gipson (2021). Photo courtesy of Phaidon.

Ferren Gipson’s fascinating book offers a curated collection of global art in the form of an imaginary museum for children ages eight to 14. Gipson is a museum tour guide, walking the reader through 40,000 years of art, ranging from prehistoric caves to contemporary paintings across three wings, 18 galleries, and 129 rooms. There are also interactive elements such as “detective” boxes and fold out-maps. 

“I think it’s good for people of any age to share their thoughts and opinions on art, and to feel encouraged that there are no wrong or bad opinions,” Gipson told Artnet News. “There are so many ways to approach an artwork, from how it makes you feel, to the symbolism within the piece, and beyond. I think one of the most important things to do is to make sure people know their opinions are welcome and valid.” 

Find it at: Phaidon

—Eileen Kinsella

5. Walking Through Water in a Pool Painted Black by Cookie Mueller (1990)

Cookie Mueller, Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, new edition: Collected Stories (1990). (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents).

Cookie Mueller, a member of John Waters’s legion of weirdos known as the “Dreamlanders,”  writes prolifically about her life as an outsider, scoundrel, druggie, and glamour hound throughout 40 years of hard-lived life. Mueller’s prose might trick you into thinking you’re reading simple drinking stories, but really she’s presenting ideas about mortality, loss, joie de vivre, and the how the hippie generation permanently changed American culture. The book is one of the most popular books published by Semiotext(e), the art book publisher founded by Sylvère Lotringer, who died earlier this year. Best enjoyed with a hard drink in a dimly lit dive bar. 

Find it at: Semiotext(e), Mast Books

—Annie Armstrong

6. The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet: A Novel by Maureen Gibbon (2021)

The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet: A Novel by Maureen Gibbon. Courtesy of Norton.

The Lost Notebook of Édouard Manet: A Novel by Maureen Gibbon. Courtesy of Norton.

This work of historical fiction transports the viewer to 19th-century Paris, where Édouard Manet, ravaged by syphilis, manages to paint his final masterpiece, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. Author Maureen Gibbon explores the artist’s inspirations in his final years, including Manet’s mysterious muse, Suzon.

Find it at: W.W. Norton

—Sarah Cascone

7. 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir by Ai Weiwei (2021)

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows by Ai Weiwei. Photo Courtesy Penguin Random House

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows by Ai Weiwei. Photo Courtesy Penguin Random House

This highly anticipated memoir by one of the world’s most famous Chinese artists is more than just a personal tale, but a story that mirrors the evolution of China from over the past century. It’s told through the experiences of three generations of Ai’s family: the artist’s father, Ai Qing, a famous poet, Ai Weiwei himself, and his son Lao. This English version of the book offers Western audiences a glimpse into the life and trauma that was endured by generations in the country. 

Find it at: Bookshop.orgPenguin Random House 

—Vivienne Chow

8. Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari (2021)

Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari. Courtesy of Source Books.

Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari. Courtesy of Source Books.

This suspenseful novel starts out at an art school in 2018, with a talented young student setting up a studio visit in Maine with her mentor, a professor who didn’t quite make good on his early artistic promise but still commands a certain amount of respect. The narrative is soon complicated by flashbacks to the events of 30 years earlier at a Maine artist colony and a slowly unraveling mystery takes a dark turn thanks to one of the character’s long-simmering desire for revenge. 

Find it at: Sourcebooks

—Sarah Cascone 

9. Belonging and Betrayal: How Jews Made the Art World Modern by Charles Dellheim (2021)

Belonging and Betrayal: How Jews Made the Art World Modern by Charles Dellheim. Courtesy of Brandeis University Press.

Belonging and Betrayal: How Jews Made the Art World Modern by Charles Dellheim. Courtesy of Brandeis University Press.

As restitution cases related to artworks looted or sold under duress to Nazis in the 1930s and ‘40s continue to make their way through the courts, Charles Dellheim investigates the unanswered question of how so many Jews came to own such important works of art in the first place, despite being an outsider group. 

Find it at: Brandeis University Press

—Sarah Cascone

10. The Art Fair Story: A Rollercoaster Ride by Melanie Gerlis (2021)

Melanie Gerlis, The Art Fair Story (2021).

Seasoned art market reporter and Financial Times columnist Melanie Gerlis has done a deep dive into the art fair, the trade shows that have been going on for half a century and are now part of the fabric of the art industry. In a scintillating read, Gerlis charts the rise of these platforms from their postwar origins to the globalized mega-events they have become today—and raises important questions about their uncertain future in a transformed world. 

Find it at: Lund Humphries

Naomi Rea

11. Dark Mirrors by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa (2021)

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa's Dark Mirrors (2021). Courtesy of MACK.

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa’s Dark Mirrors (2021). Courtesy of MACK.

Wolukau-Wanambwa covers a great deal of ground in the 16 contemplative essays of Dark Mirrors, touching on the practices of image-makers like Deana Lawson, Arthur Jafa, Rosalind Fox Solomon, and Paul Pfeiffer along the way. If there’s anything that unites them all it’s an interest in the shifting ways images shape contemporary dialectics—especially around race—and how artists observe, probe, and unpack that process. 

Find it at: MACK Books

Taylor Dafoe

12. Creatives on Creativity by Steve Brouwers (2021)

Creatives on Creativity by Steve Brouwers. Courtesy of ACC Art Books.

Creatives on Creativity by Steve Brouwers. Courtesy of ACC Art Books.

Steve Brouwers, a Belgian creative director, presents a series of interviews with 44 successful makers of all stripes—including Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaert, artist Ryan Gander, and illustrator Maira Kalman—sharing their thoughts on the creative process and their inspirations, fears, and failures. 

Find it at: ACC Art Books 

—Sarah Cascone

13. Still Life by Sarah Winman, (2021)

Image courtesy Putnam Publishers

Image courtesy Putnam Publishers.

This art-centric piece of historical fiction spans four decades, kicking off in Tuscany in 1944 as Allied troops are advancing. Ulysses Temper is a young English solider who accidentally meets Evelyn Skinner, an older art historian who is in the country to try to salvage an important painting. Their initial spark of connection touches off a course of events that shapes Ulysses’s life for the next 40 years, including an unexpected inheritance that prompts his return to the hills of Tuscany. Winman has garnered much-deserved praise for her sweeping poetic prose in a rich narrative that weaves together love, war, art, the ghost of E.M. Forster, and an epic flood. 

Find it at: Penguin Random House

Eileen Kinsella

14. Luisa Roldán by Catherine Hall-van den Elsen (2021)

Catherine Hall-van den Elsen, Luisa Roldán. Courtesy of Getty Books.

The first book in the new series “Illuminating Women Artists” is dedicated to the Spanish Baroque artist Luisa Roldán (1652–1706), known as La Roldana. (A second, about Artsemisia Gentileschi, is due out in February.) In addition to highlighting her considerable skill in sculpting polychrome wood and terracotta sculptures, Catherine Hall-van den Elsen delves into 17th-century Spanish society, painting a picture of what life would have been like for a woman of the era, and the challenges faced by women artists in particular.   

Find it at: The Getty Shop

—Sarah Cascone

15. Writings on Art 2006–2021 by Robert Storr (2021)

Writings on Art 2006-2021 by Robert Storr. Courtesy HENI Publishing.

Writings on Art 2006-2021 by Robert Storr. Courtesy HENI Publishing.

This new compilation of writing, published last month, pulls together 51 of Storr’s most captivating articles, essays, and other texts from the past 15 years. The esteemed critic writes passionately and intelligently about 45 international artists, including El Anatsui, Francesco Clemente, and David Hammons—sometimes in texts published in English for the first time. The book is the follow-up to Storr’s essential volume one, titled Writings on Art 1980-2005, which was also edited by Francesca Pietropaolo. 

Find it at: HENI Publishing

Kate Brown

16. Authority and Freedom: A Defense of the Arts by Jed Perl (2022) 

Authority and Freedom: A Defense of the Arts, by Jed Perl (2022), Courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse.

Authority and Freedom: A Defense of the Arts by Jed Perl (2022), Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

This forthcoming book is written by former New Republic art critic Jed Perl, who is the author of eight books, including a two-volume biography of Alexander Calder. Perl’s new tome tackles, in the words of Guillaume Apollinaire, a “long quarrel between tradition and invention.” Analyzing the work and lives of creative geniuses in a variety of disciplesfrom Mozart and Michelangelo to Picasso and Aretha FranklinPerl argues that authority and freedom are the “lifeblood of the arts.”

Find it at: Penguin Random House

Katya Kazakina

17. Magritte: A Life by Alex Danchev (2021)

Magritte: A Life by Alex Danchev. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Magritte: A Life by Alex Danchev. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Believe it or not, this is the first major biography of the renowned Surrealist René Magritte. Author Alex Danchev argues that the Belgian artist is one of the most important image makers of the 20th century, having influenced such disparate figures as Jasper Johns and Beyoncé. Beyond illuminating lesser-known details of the artist’s life and career, the book includes 50 color illustrations as well as more than 160 black and white images, including legendary works as The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe) and Man in a Bowler Hat

Find it at: Penguin Random House

—Sarah Cascone

18. How to See: Looking, Talking and Thinking About Art by David Salle (2016) 

David Salle’s How to See (2016). Courtesy of W.W. Norton.

David Salle’s criticism reads like a conversation with an artist, because, well, it basically is. Each essay in the painter’s first book of critical essays (we hear another one is in the works) offers cerebral ruminations on art that can challenge your sensibilities, make you laugh out loud, and, of course, teach you how to see art as an artist does. 

Find it at: W.W. Norton

—Annie Armstrong

19. The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz: A Powerful True Story of Hope and Survival by Thomas Geve (2021)

The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz: A Powerful True Story of Hope and Survival by Thomas Geve. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz: A Powerful True Story of Hope and Survival by Thomas Geve. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

For 22 months, 13-year-old Thomas Geve survived the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the Allies freed the prisoners, he was initially too weak to leave. He spent his two months of recovery making over 80 drawings, 56 of which are published here with a revised version of Geve’s first-hand account of life in the camp. “These stories,” he wrote, “give voice to my comrades who did not get to see the day of liberation. My world was their world as well. My words would give their personalities and dreams, which had perished so unfairly and too soon, eternal life.” 

Find it at: Harper Collins

—Sarah Cascone 

20. Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz (2021)

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz. Courtesy of Norton.

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz. Courtesy of Norton.

Archaeology fans will be fascinated to learn more about the rise and fall of four ancient cities: Rome’s Pompeii in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius; Cambodia’s stone temples at Angkor Watt; the massive mounds of Cahokia near modern-day St. Louis, and the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey. Annalee Newitz visited all four sites and was able to identify the environmental changes and political turmoil that helped lead to the demise of these once-thriving settlements—and she considers what lessons about urban life contemporary society can draw from ancient history. 

Find it at: W.W. Norton

—Sarah Cascone

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Categories: books

34 Great Books to Read Right Now for Any Mood or Interest – Real Simple

No Comments

When we’re looking for good books to read, we browse bestseller lists, click around Goodreads and Instagram, and ask friends for their recommendations. But the usual blanket categories and genres can be a bit too broad, and often, we’ve found that we get the best recommendations when we choose books based on our mood or our interests.

If you’re looking for interesting books to read, we’ve compiled a list of 34 super-specific recommendations you won’t be able to put down. This list has you covered, no matter how you’re feeling.

RELATED: The Best Books of 2021

Categories: books

26 books you should read this summer – University of Sydney

No Comments
photo of a book cover with the words The Address Book

The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth and Power by Deirdre Mask (2020)  Recommended by Professor Bill Pritchard, geographer and Head of School, Geosciences 

Until reading this book, I never thought to ask the question why addresses exist. But in this book, Deirdre Mask tells the history of how street addresses came into being. Not to plot-spoil the saga too much, but it was part extension of the state (no taxation without a way of sending tax bills), part social climbing (a street address can bring cachet) and part navigation (that place where the bakers are we should call Baker Street). At different points in history, the imposition of street addresses was accompanied by riots, as citizens saw this as their freedoms trampled. But in the final chapters of this book, Mask arcs forward to the present, and asks what it’s like not to have an address. In the slums of Kolkata and the homeless kerbsides of New York, not having an address means not being able to access social services. And in the backwoods of West Virginia, not having an address was seen as a libertarian badge of honour until people found they couldn’t get Amazon deliveries. This is a great geographical journey through the most assumed of commonplace things. 

Categories: books