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Archive for the ‘arts’ Tag

Friendship’s Trials and Tribulations   Leave a comment

interstings

Titles, like first lines, can make or break a novel’s appeal. Certainly, if Meg Wolitzer had called her most recent book The Borings, instead of The Interestings, it might not have garnered much attention (which it has). Yet, there’s something pretentious about it, which is just the tone – along with some irony – the author instills in this contemporary epic about friendship, love, human potential and disappointment.

Wolitzer’s account moves back and forth through time, but it all pivots around the beginning which occurs at a camp for the arts in the summer of 1974. “The Interestings” is the name six teenagers give themselves; it’s meant to separate them from everyone else in camp. They’re talented, to varying degrees, mostly privileged and self-absorbed. Even as they move through adulthood, they carry those same qualities. Yes, they mature and Wolitzer is at her best illustrating their personal struggles and triumphs, but they can’t quite shake idea of their old moniker.

The power of friendship, particularly among four of the six, is an underlying theme and it, more than anything else, drives the novel. The characters’ ability to fit in and accept themselves also delivers some impact.

The exhaustive story spans more than five decades in a way that’s reminiscent of Forest Gump. Instead of a sound track to identify the passage of time, Wolitzer relies largely on political events. Although the characters are interesting, it’s not as much as they think – or as much as we want them to be.

The Interestings
Four Bookmarks
Riverhead Books, 2013
468 pages

 

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Artistic Personas   1 comment

Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of Patti Smith or Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, is more than an autobiographical look at the relationship between the two artists. It also examines life and culture in the late 1960s and 1970s.

I’m just young enough that Smith was never on my radar when I was growing up. And, I’m just old enough to be aware of the controversy caused by a retrospective of Mapplethorpe’s work with the National Endowment for the Arts – long after his death. I might have skipped this book if not for a friend’s recommendation. I read it, and I’m glad.

Smith and Mapplethorpe met and lived together in New York City when they were  kids (twenty-year-olds) at a time when the underground music and art scenes were beginning to materialize. Their timing was perfect: she became part of the former and he part of the latter. Their paths crossed with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Todd Rundgren, Sam Shepard, Andy Warhol and many others.

Just Kids reflects the impressive strength of friendship Smith and Mapplethorpe created with one another. This is a love story, even though each went on to have different partners; it’s also Smith’s homage to her late friend and the era in which they emerged. Her voice is honest and unrestrained. It’s easy to imagine the romance of their early lives as they lived hand-to-mouth, meeting other up-and-coming artists all while discovering their own artistic personas.

Just Kids
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
HarperCollins, 2010
283 pages

Posted August 26, 2012 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

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Family Pride   2 comments

This week my younger brother reaches a milestone birthday. Late last year he published
a book. Both of these events are significant, but it’s the latter that makes me exceptionally
proud and very jealous. He wrote a book! And it’s published! Although I have the copy he
gave me, when I saw the book  in a bookstore, I was thrilled beyond words – so I took a
photo.

Once I decided to start my blog I knew I did not want to review meals made by friends or
myself, and I thought I should not review books written by friends or family members. I
didn’t really think the issue would arise regarding books by people I know; but it has, and
I feel the same. I don’t want to review my brother’s book because of my background as a
journalist and my, perhaps misplaced, desire for objectivity. I can say with all sincerity he
has written an attractive, informative book about architect Wallace Neff whose fascinating
building process involved the use of balloons and concrete. I’d never heard of this before.
I can say the book is well-researched and well-written. But I can’t, I won’t, rate it because
to say I love it could be misconstrued as sisterly-love-induced bias. Conversely, if I say I
despise it that could be chalked up to good old fashioned sibling rivalry. I don’t hate it, and
I do love my brother.

Happy Birthday, Jeffrey! Keep writing. You make me envious – and proud!

No Nails, No Lumber: The Bubble Houses of Wallace Neff
By Jeffrey Head
Princeton Architectural Press, 2011
176 pages