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Posts Tagged ‘books’

A Conversation About John Cage and William Gedney’s Iris Garden

May 27, 2014 | by

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Iris Garden is a 2013 book that combines John Cage’s stories with William Gedney’s photographs—including several of the composer himself—with an ingenious design evoking Cage’s affinity for chance. The stories and photographs were selected by the photographer Alec Soth: twenty-two of the stories are from Cage’s series Indeterminacy, conceived in 1959, which featured stories of varying length, each intended to be read aloud over the course of one minute; and forty-four photographs from the William Gedney archive, shot from the 1950s to 1989 and housed at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

Leanne Shapton and Jason Fulford are the founders of J&L Books.

Leanne Shapton: As soon as I started flipping through this book, I thought, I’m so happy art publishing allows for this. It’s a strong book, but it’s quiet and subtle, and the design would never make any marketing department happy.

Jason Fulford: The book comes completely apart, literally. Even the endpapers slide out, and the cover can be unfolded—so you can read it in any order. It reminds me of how my Hasselblad disassembles. You can take all of the pieces apart and lay them out on a table. 

LS: I went to the back of the book and read Cage’s statement, which helped me “read” the book. He wrote: “My intention in putting these stories together in an unplanned way is to suggest that all things—stories, incidental sounds from the environment and by extension, beings—are related, and this complexity is more evident when it is not oversimplified by an idea of relationship in one person’s mind.”

JF: Cage stays with you your whole life. You keep coming back to things you loved about him when you were fifteen, and they still relate to you at forty. Actually, I guess I probably learned about him in my twenties. Did I ever tell you a story about Lee Elickson, the American filmmaker who lives in Amsterdam? When he was fourteen or fifteen, he had a chance to meet John Cage. He brought an empty sheet of music and asked Cage to sign it. Cage asked, What are you gonna do with it? So Lee had to think fast and said, After you sign it I’ll put it on the forest floor for a week, let nature make its marks, and then have it performed by an orchestra. So Cage was like: Oh, okay. Lee still has the paper, but he hasn’t found an orchestra yet to perform it. Read More »

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Books from the Met, Unsorted

May 21, 2014 | by

A Stallian, Habiballah of Sava, 1601-6

Habiballah of Sava, A Stallion, 1601-6

A Prospect of the City of London, Westminster and St James Park, Johannes Kip, 1710

Johannes Kip, from A Prospect of the City of London, Westminster and St. James Park, 1710

Camera Work, No. 14

Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Work, No. 14, 1906

Alphone J Lie'bert Barracks Post, Place de la Bastille Canal Tunnel and July Column, 1871

Alphonse J. Liébert, Barracks Post, Place de la Bastille; Canal Tunnel and July Column, 1871

bauhaus archive Gertrud Preiswerk

Gertrud Preiswerk, from the Bauhaus Archive

La Caricature Charles Philipon 1830-35

From La Caricature, a journal founded by Charles Philipon, 1830-35

Fishes

Fishes, Seki Shūkō, from the Meiji period (1868–1912)

Le Jardin des Supplices Octave-Henri-Marie Mirbeau, 1902

Le Jardin des Supplices, Octave-Henri-Marie Mirbeau, 1902

Manuscript Illumination with the Visitation in an Initial D from a Choir Book late 19th c

Manuscript Illumination with the Visitation in an Initial D, from a choir book, late nineteenth century

The Singer of Amun Nany's Funerary Papyrus

The Singer of Amun Nany’s Funerary Papyrus, c. 1050 BC

Two Lovers in a Landscape, 17th c, Iranian

Artist unknown, Two Lovers in a Landscape, seventeenth century, Iranian

Yesterday, the Met released nearly four-hundred thousand images—394,253, if you’re counting—into the public domain. Verily this is a horn of digital plenty, and the museum has made it easy, even fun, to peruse: users can sort the images by artist, maker, culture, method, material, geographical location, date, era, or department. To give you a sense of the collection’s scope, I sorted it, not especially imaginatively, to show only books, which left me with an unwieldy 2,701 results—and then I dove in. Above are a few of the more striking images I found, all of them deeply miscellaneous.

There’s something enjoyable in a stochastic approach to browsing, though you’d be right to call it dilettantish. The pieces I found have nothing in common—no cultural background, no thematic unity, no philosophy or aesthetic, no chronology, not even a shared mode of production—except that they all come from books, and they were all created by, you know, the people of Earth. Imagine wandering a library in complete disarray, with no organizing principle and no particular ambition: all the context disappears, along with most notions of the cumulative, but it’s hard not to come away feeling humbled by the vastness of artistic accomplishment. If this is a cheap kind of awe, it doesn’t feel that way; a few minutes of randomized images did wonders for my sense of humanism, and I saw only an infinitesimal fraction of the collection.

You can peruse the Met’s online collection here, as purposely or as arbitrarily as you’d like. Bookmark it and return whenever you’re feeling misanthropic.

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On Knowing Things

April 14, 2014 | by

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Photo: Allen Timothy Chang

Yesterday, I was one of several people manning a book-centric advice booth as part of a New York literary festival. For days beforehand, I was paralyzed with nerves. I couldn’t face the other, more legitimate advice-givers; I felt like a charlatan and an impostor. I had something of an existential crisis.

I have always wanted to be a maven. But my standards are high, because I once knew a true maven. She was not a know-it-all; she just knew everything. I met her when I was nineteen and my college boyfriend and I were traveling through London. Lise, who at the time was in her seventies, was a friend of his family, and she was the sort of hostess who welcomed friends, and friends of friends, and acquaintances of friends, to stay with her in her flat, south of Hyde Park.

She was an imposing sort of person, her already-deep voice further deepened by years of chain-smoking. In later years, she had a stern doctor and would periodically use some sort of early e-cigarette, but the Marlboro Reds would generally reappear on the kitchen table. As would the whiskey, the butter. She could speak Russian and German and French and had worked as a translator. Meals at her house lasted for five hours, and at the end everyone was drunk but her. Formerly involved with helping end theater censorship in England—and the widow of a spy-turned-diagnostician-turned-mystery-writer—she seemed to know everyone. Beckett and Pinter and Peter O’Toole would all turn up in her stories; other Sunday lunch guests might be Labour whips, or countesses, or just someone’s young daughter who had lost her way and needed a place to stay for a while. Read More »

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Show, Don’t Tell

April 11, 2014 | by

Pio_Ricci_Das_bewunderte_Geschenk

Pio Ricci, Das bewunderte Geschenk (The Admired Gift), 1919, oil on canvas.

Recently someone gave me a book. It was a book, she said, that she knew I would love. She had read it and thought of me at once. It was a supremely kind gift. My heart sank.

There are few things more oppressive than the things you are supposed to love—books, movies, records, people—things that somehow match the shorthand you show the world and mirror back just how crudely you have caricatured yourself. When someone says I will like something, I tend to assume the something in question will be precious, tedious, and often aggressively eccentric. Sometimes I do like these things, which is the worst outcome of all.

In the case of this particular book, I already knew. This is an author who people have assumed I have loved since I learned to read. Her novels, generally set on the Upper West Side or in Greenwich Village, are populated with the youngish, Jewish bourgeoisie of the Cuisinart generation: good educations, artistic leanings, and improbable names. Sometimes they have affairs with one another; often they are surrounded by antique china. This author has a cult following. Read More »

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This Author Hates His Book’s Cover

December 19, 2013 | by

Tom-Cox-Paris-Review

“I was realistic about the book’s marketing … it was, after all, a memoir about some cats, and no state-of-the-nation literary epic. Nonetheless, Simon & Schuster’s birthday-cardish cover—an anonymous actor kitten sitting in a pair of jeans, against a sky-blue background—seemed a curious choice.” —Tom Cox

 

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Best of the “Best”

December 11, 2013 | by

bestof

2013 might well be called the year of the best-of list. If you don’t have the time or energy to read through the hundreds of them, here is a handy-dandy infographic (a cheat sheet of sorts) by A Case for Books that collects those titles most often cited by critics on said lists.

 

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