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2 june 2016

The first thing you notice about Frank Stella: A retrospective after removing the catalog from the slipcase is that you really need the slipcase. The book is a large-format but lightweight thing, essentially a paperback bound in boards: but the boards are cut away to follow the contours of one of Frank Stella's typical bas-relief images. As a result the boards don't do a very good job of holding the book together. There may be a metaphor there for the artist initially ceding control over his work to elements of chance and the vagaries of materials (and afterwards binding the results together under tight control), but that's a stretch; and it's only partially a workable metaphor for Frank Stella's art anyway.     read more

1 june 2016

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr's 2014 Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, is both lyrical and a real page-turner. It reminded me of all kinds of other fictions: The Tin Drum, The English Patient, The Shadow of the Wind, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Invention of Curried Sausage, "That in Aleppo Once …" The Maltese Falcon, The Red Violin, People of the Book. That said, it's not really close to any of those works in subject or method, so for me it's in the best literary traditions: allusive and dialogic without being derivative.     read more

31 may 2016

Ten Plus One starts off as a hard-boiled procedural about an urban sniper. Before long it's turned into a cozy whodunit with an honest-to-Christie list of potential victims culled from the program of a long-ago amateur theatrical. Ed McBain welds genres together into a weird miscellaneous construction that is highly artificial, nickel-plated, and metaliterary – and compellingly suspenseful even 53 jaded years later.     read more

28 may 2016

John Szwed's Billie Holiday is an odd critical biography, written in short bits with some repetition, as if it were a bunch of columns stitched together (though I see no sign that it is). It's meta and sometimes esoteric; it's unconventionally organized; it's consistently interesting.     read more