We now bring you another edition of Media Monday. There are lots of good books to talk about, so I won't tarry.
Jeanette Winterson reviews Renegade: Henry Miller and the Making of "Tropic of Cancer" by Frederick Turner. Turner is in good company, as none other than George Orwell, Norman Mailer, Kate Millet, and Erica Jong have taken on the subject of Henry Miller and his book (a book that reviewer Winterson calls "so great that it takes the world nearly 30 years to face up to it"). Reporting on such a controversial and brilliant novel almost assures that the key messages will change over time. Winterson notes that "Turner cleverly places Miller in a line of American folklore heroes, real and invented, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Like Huck Finn, Miller the man wants to avoid growing up. Like Mark Twain, Miller the writer wants the flavor and feel of 'brawlers, outlaws, gamblers . . . whores.'" But she feels Turner has ignored the more unsavory parts of Miller and his novel in an effort to create this mythos, particularly the frequent misogyny of Miller's prose and of the time in which he was writing.
As reviewer, Sarah Wheeler points out in her review of Alec Wilkinson's The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andree and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration, "The history of 19th-century Arctic exploration is gruesome. Ice floes throttle creaky ships, men vanish into the white silence, and the North Pole remains elusive." In other words, people died, and they died grisly deaths. "Then a Swedish aeronaut had a new idea. Approaches by sledge and ship had failed, so why not fly to the pole?" Thus, follows the story of Salomon August AndrÃ©e, told by Wilkinson (a New Yorker staffwriter), in a "prose style (that) suits the spare polar landscape, making his occasional poetic touches even more effective. (He describes, for example, the men rowing over the icy sea 'as if already in the afterlife.')"
You can read more about author Alec Wilkinson in this recent interview conducted by our own Neal Thompson.
Pamela Paul has a story/review of a classic young adult novel, one that I had no idea was a half century old. "For those who came of age anytime during the past half-century, the most startling transformation occurred upon reading Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery Medal-winning classic, A Wrinkle in Time, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year." In talking about the book's protagonist, Meg Murry, Paul puts an interesting spin on the story with this line: "Meg Murry, in short, was a departure from the typical 'girls' book' protagonist "” as wonderful as many of those varied characters are. Meg was a heroine of science fiction." You can read the rest of the article here.
Tomorrow Seira Wilson's post celebrating the 50th Anniversary will be posted on Omni. It will feature an exclusive view of an original manuscript page, so be sure to return tomorrow to read her post and check out Madeleine L'Engle's original work.
Reviewer Kathryn Lang has a review of a fictionalized biography of a Polish-Russian painter named Tamara de Lempicka (the artist is real; it's the biography that isn't entirely). The book is by the author Ellis Avery and is titled The Last Nude. Lempicka was a sensation in Paris for her art, her good looks, and her lifestyle. Lest you think she's some irrelevant artistic shooting star that's dissolved into the scrim of the past, Lang points out that the portrait by Lempicka on the cover of The Last Nude sold for $8.48 million in November. She's relevant. And she's interesting. And so is the book. Lang writes, "Avery deftly re-creates a lost period. Here, she embellishes the details of Lempicka's year-long affair with Rafaela Fano, the 17-year-old, dark-eyed beauty on the novel's cover whom Lempicka painted several times after meeting her in the Bois de Boulogne, a haunt for Parisian prostitutes."
Paula Broadwell and Vernon Loeb's All In: The Education of General David Petraeus is reviewed by Thomas J. Barfield, who points out that "popular generals in unpopular wars attract attention." There have already been two biographical accounts of his successful surge under President Bush, and in this new book the authors "employ a similar format to examine his implementation of the Obama surge in Afghanistan." Petraeus only led the Obama surge for a year before he was made head of the CIA, but he was by all accounts successful in Afghanistan, and in this book we "learn about the complexity of the Afghan situation and are introduced to a not-easily-categorized strategy that attempted to adapt to Afghan realities."
Michael Dirda takes a look at a fascinating book titled Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use by G. Thomas Tanselle. Personally, I found the review to be spellbinding (is that an unintentional pun?). The first dustjackets came into existence around 1820, and in so many ways they serve as archeological and forensic pointers to the life of a book and the mindset of publishing. One interesting detail: "Before 1820, publishers didn't need slipcovers for their wares. Although some books might be issued in temporary boards with spine labels, most were typically sold as loose sheets. Purchasers would then commission bookbinders to sew these pages together and attach plain or decorative covers to the resulting text-block." A lot has changed since then, to say the least.
The influence Gil Scott Heron has has on music has been immense. In the words of reviewer Lynell George, "While boomers found a slogan in the refrain of his hit 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,' the post-soul generation found a template in both his delivery and his reportage from the streets, dubbing him the 'Godfather of Rap,' a title he'd once famously dodged with the response 'Don't blame me for that.'" His memoir titled The Last Holiday: A Memoir is described as being "as much about his life as it is about context, the theater of late 20th century America "” from Jim Crow to the Reagan '80s and from Beale Street to 57th Street. The narrative is not, however, a rise-and-fall retelling of Scott-Heron's life and career. It doesn't connect all the dots. It moves off-the-beat, at its own speed. It lingers on certain life chapters he preferred to recall (playing piano for his grandmother's sewing circle in Tennessee, getting lost in books, taking a leave from school to work on his first novel, 'The Vulture,' meeting his long-time collaborator Brian Jackson at Lincoln University)."
Want to know how Facebook has changed the world? Read Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power: A Memoir by Wael Ghonim. Ghonim is described as "an unlikely rebel," and that's certainly true. He was "Google's top marketing representative for the Middle East, based in Dubai. His opposition to Hosni Mubarak's regime was far down on his personal list of interests. But it was there. Waiting." Ghonom started the Facebook page that helped set off the Arab Spring. Reviewer Scott Martelle writes, "It's an engaging read, and it offers a sharply detailed look from the inside of an uprising that owed almost as much to social media connections as it did to anti-Mubarak passions."
National Public Radio has a review of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking that states "Introvert Susan Cain is here to make the case for people who like to work in peace and quiet. Today's workplaces are designed for extroverts, she says, and put too much emphasis on group work. Cain's new book is called Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking."
Adam Mars-Jones writes about Jeanette Winterson, who wrote the cover review of this week's Times Book Review (see above). It states in part, "I was friendly with Jeanette Winterson in the 1980s "“ we even went away for a weekend together. I went slightly cool on the friendship, though she didn't exactly do anything wrong." If you'd like to know why, read on.
NY Magazine has a story about Ben Marcus, who stopped by the offices last week and was completely charming and disarming.
Want to know what literature teaches us about love?
Bet you can't guess the five books that inspire the most tattoos.
Here's a great piece on designers' favorite book covers that they had to scrap.