From the cover of Alma Thomas, by Ian Berry.
“Vincent is a waiter at Coffee House. It’s called just that—Coffee House. The name hasn’t changed in a hundred years, even if the business has.” From its opening lines, Ghachar Ghochar—Vivek Shanbhag’s novella about the secrets of a nouveau riche family in present-day Bangalore—exudes such a sly, ironic charm that it’s easy to forget you’re reading a translation. Ghachar Ghochar introduces us to a master. I can’t wait for his translator, Srinath Perur, to show us more. —Lorin Stein
Among the many, many, many reasons to miss the Obamas is their smart and wide-ranging taste in art. They chose three Alma Thomas paintings for the White House, one of which, Resurrection, was placed in the Old Family Dining Room, making it the first work by an African American woman to hang in a public area of the White House. Thomas made Resurrection in 1968, only eight years after retiring, at age sixty-eight, from teaching junior-high art in Washington, D.C., and devoting herself to painting. Resurrection consists of concentric circles of paint daubs, her signature “Alma Stripes,” radiating outward in rainbow colors that are electric with possibility. All of her early works are of a piece—brightly hued and joyous, like oversize pointillist versions of Sister Corita Kent posters. The Studio Museum in Harlem gave Thomas a show last year, which I missed, but a gorgeous catalogue is now available (which makes me doubly sad I missed the show). Alongside NASA’s Apollo missions, Thomas made her Space series, which, though formally similar to the earlier work, seems tempered in mood. Snoopy Sees Sunrise on Earth, from 1971, depicts a globe of color stripes floating on a pale blue-green field: I sense her awe of the cosmic scene, but also perhaps its fragility. “I began to think about what I would see if I were in an airplane,” she explained of the series. “You look down on things. You streak through the clouds so fast you don’t know whether the flower below is a violet or what. You see only streaks of color.” —Nicole Rudick Read More