Books and Arts

October 05, 2007

Forever. Yes, a pleasant, moving, even amusing documentary about a cemetery. Of course it happens to be Père-Lachaise in Paris, resting place of many luminaries. The Dutch director Heddy Honigmann has made the human most of the surprisingly varied visitors and their reasons for being there. (9.24.07) The Last Winter. Set in a station on an Alaskan oil pipeline, the story quickly moves from physical adventure, which is not scanted, into deeper realms of self--a change brought about by the very setting.

Not Hot
October 04, 2007

Author's note: The movie The Hottest State, which had a limited opening several weeks ago, was supposed to be released more broadly two weeks ago. A few days before the opening, though, the studio announced that the film was being delayed, and would be released the subsequent week. Early last week, it was again delayed, with a planned opening this Friday. I double-checked with the studio that this date was certain and, when assured it was, finished this review.

Books: The Writing Dead
September 24, 2007

Postal Indiscretions: The Correspondence of Tadeusz Borowski Edited by Tadeusz Drewnowski, translated by Alicia Nitecki (Northwestern University Press, 384 pp., $35) The book is small, about the size of an ordinary paperback, and heavier than it looks. Its cover bears neither a title nor the name of an author, just an upside-down red triangle with a "P" inside and the number 6643. Its cardboard binding is covered in fabric: a soft, flannel-like material, warm and fuzzy to the touch, striped blue-gray. It is one of the most remarkable documents to emerge from World War II.

A Modern Aesop
September 24, 2007

is professor emeritus of ancient history at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Travels with Herodotus By Ryszard Kapuscinski Translated by Klara Glowczewska (Alfred A. Knopf, 275 pp., $ 25) Ryszard Kapuciski died earlier this year at the height of his powers. Beginning as a local reporter for the Polish newspaper Sztandar Modych, or The Banner of Youth, he rose to international eminence with his reports from many of the most turbulent places on the planet, and at the age of seventy-four, when he died, he was universally acknowledged to be as great a writer as a reporter.

Films: Trying to Live
September 24, 2007

Forever First Run/Icarus Great World of Sound Magnolia The Bubble Strand The first surprise about Forever is that it attracts. This is a documentary about a cemetery, and the very idea draws us. True, this is the most renowned cemetery in the world--Pere-Lachaise in Paris--but still it seems amusingly perverse that we want to see it, to find out what the film will do with a lot of graves and monuments. Obviously part of the draw is that many of the deceased in this place were famous.

Poems: Four Poems
September 24, 2007

I know you are alive. Otherwise what sense would there be in the shadow and light of faraway cold stars, reflections of a crystal world?

The 'Laughing Boy' and the Invention of Sculpture
September 24, 2007

Desiderio da Settignano: Sculptor of Renaissance Florence National Gallery of Art I. Sometimes a whole art, a whole era, a whole world, may be found in a room. Now on view at the National Gallery of Art is a small but exquisite show that includes some of the most astounding accomplishments in the history of Western sculpture. Its subject is Desiderio da Settignano, not a household name but one of the colossal talents of the early Renaissance.

The Other Founding
September 24, 2007

The Jamestown Project By Karen Ordahl Kupperman(Harvard University Press, 380 pp., $29.95) Captain John Smith: Writings, With Other Narratives of Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America Edited by James Horn (Library of America, 1,329 pp., $45) Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America By Benjamin Woolley (HarperCollins, 469 pp., $27.50) Nothing succeeds like success in America, especially in the writing of popular history.

Stolen Moments
September 10, 2007

Abbey Sings Abbey Abbey Lincoln Love Is What Stays Mark Murphy Near the end of 1956, two young jazz singers made their first albums: Abbey Lincoln's Affair … A Story of a Girl in Love, released by Liberty Records, a quality-conscious shoestring operation, and Meet Mark Murphy, issued by Decca, then a major jazz-pop label. Lincoln was twenty-six and black and a woman, Murphy twenty-four and white and a man, and both had talent and looks. For half a century, they followed separate and circuitous but roughly parallel career paths.

Poem: We Can't Say Those Things Anymore
September 10, 2007

You have the instincts of a roadhouse hen hypnotized by a toothpick. How's about another hogshead from the pantry? She's not Helen, after all. I blew it--that's what the glassblower said, speaking freely out of the part of him that was an idiot. That ought to get their goat. Too bad about the goat. We'll get it right next time. By Lee Upton