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MarvinRand-CaliforniaCaptured1MarvinRand-CaliforniaCaptured2Those smitten by “Mid-Century Modern” will find plenty to like in “California Captured” (Phaidon, 2018), a book of photographs by Marvin Rand (1924-2009), documenting the work of architects whose buildings help mythologize a place and time.

Roth“Is it me? Is it me  Me Me Me! It has to be me—but is it!” Philip Roth, The Conversion Of the Jews (1959)

Philip Roth (1933-2018) made identity issues — particularly Jewish identity — the centerpiece of his oeuvre, and with it behavior that ultimately undid the ‘self’ he sought to achieve.

Many of the disgraced men in recent times followed Roth’s notions of freedom.

 

riflemanHamletIt’s become fashionable for ‘elite’ schools in the U.S. to dump Shakespeare from their curriculum, and with it the lessons to avoid bad behavior and tragic-waste outcomes (To be rather than not to be). But judging by the way things are (not), most parents and teachers didn’t get those lessons either.

LeeChild17Lee Child in action on the sidelines of Thrillerfest XII.

Morgam-ThoreauThis Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal, billed as “the most comprehensive exhibition devoted to the life of one of America’s most influential authors and thinkers, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862),” is at the Morgan Library and Museum through September 10.

“All this is perfectly evident to the observant eye, thus each wind is self-registering.” Thoreau (last journal entry)

AntiquarianBookFair17aAntiquarianBookFair17cThe New York Antiquarian Book Fair runs through March 12 at the Park Avenue Armory.

charlottebronte2charlottebronteCelebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth, The Morgan has assembled an exhibition of material related to her life (1816-1855) from its own archives and those in England. The centerpiece of the show, which runs through January 2, 2017, is a portion of the original Jane Eyre manuscript.

 

KeysOfTheKingdom“As you know from the congressional inquiry, two years before the attack, bin Laden threatened the kingdom with revolution unless al-Qaeda’s operatives were given access to and support from the Saudi’s agents in the U.S. The old king capitulated.” Senator Bob Graham, Keys to the Kingdom, (Vanguard Press, 2011)

The ‘principles’ underlying the U.S./Saudi relationship are not only unsound but evil, with decades of slaughter to show for it. The latest being the destruction of Yemen and Syria. Those who have sought for Assad to “go” have brought hell to Syria and likely to themselves.

On a day that saw President Obama received coldly in Saudi Arabia and 500 refugees drown while fleeing murderous wars initiated by Saudi Arabia and supported by the U.S., one can only hope that the next U.S. president will freeze Saudi assets, halt weapon sales, and establish a no-fly zone over that country. But that would be unlikely if Hillary Clinton is the next president, given the enormous sums gifted to the Clinton Foundation by the House of Saud.

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BookFair2016BookFair2016aThe 2016 New York Antiquarian Book Fair is at the Park Avenue Armory through April 10.

“In nature’s infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read.”
Shakespeare, Anthony & Cleopatra

LeftBankBooks1LeftBankBooks3LeftBankBooks2Last day for Left Bank Books.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

AliceInWonderlandAliceInWinderland2“Dear dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same person when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is, ‘Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Alice 150 Years in Wonderland is at the Morgan Library & Museum (June 26-October 26, 2015).

The show includes: the original manuscript of Alice on loan from the British Library, drawings, proofs, rare editions and correspondences.

Artwork: John Tenniel

BEA2015aBEA2015bThis year’s BEA, May 27-29 at the Javits Center, welcomes China as the “global market forum guest of honor.” BookCon follows on May 30-31.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Books-Gorbachev (2)Books-BushClinton (2)With book culture in America disappearing, a recent book sale in NYC featured an interesting juxtaposition.

One vendor had signed first edition copies of memoirs by George H.W. Bush and “Hillary” for $175 each. Across the aisle a vendor was selling a first edition signed Mikhail Gorbachev volume for $900.

Faulkner-Hamlet (2)The United States continues to be a place where new things need to look old, and old things (and people) need to look new.

For example, this 2003 copy of Thomas Jefferson—Basic Writings has a dust jacket made to look old (see brown spots). It sits next to a 1940 first edition copy of William Faulkner’s The Hamlet, considered by many to be an important work in American literature—but with a dust jacket that one ABAA book dealer recently wrote was “too ruff…to be able to resell.”

What would Faulkner say about that? Perhaps: “I told you so; blame the Snopeses, with their snap-on bow ties, acting like Sartorises!”

One shouldn’t disregard shabby volumes. In his introduction to “Nostromo” (Doubleday, 1924), Joseph Conrad writes that his inspiration for the work came from “a shabby volume picked up outside a second hand bookshop.”

HavelALifeRemnickZantovskyTwenty-five years ago (Nov. 17)  the peaceful Velvet Revolution brought an end to Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia, and led to play right and dissident leader Vaclav Havel (1936-2011) becoming President.

Mr. Havel’s former Press Secretary, Michael Zantovsky, is out with a book that some are calling the definitive biography of Havel. He was interviewed about the book by David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, before an audience last evening at Bohemian Hall in NYC.

Mr. Zantovsky described Vaclav Havel, as “a hero for what he has done,” but also as a flawed man filled with “guilt and doubt,” who made mistakes but was committed to telling the truth.

When asked why Havel supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq? Zantovsky said “because Havel trusted the American President.”

The American people and the world are learning there is no future in trusting American Presidents—who are guided more by Bolshevik values than the truth. Ironically, it’s the American leadership that has become Bolshevik (collapsing societies) in recent years, with the Russians (and Czechs) more Jeffersonian.

In his conversation with Mr. Zantovsky, Mr. Remnick suggested that the Czech Republic’s post-revolution success was an “outlier”, and that other countries in the region, especially Russia (and Putin) have disappointed. Later LE asked Mr. Remnick why he was down on Putin? He responded with a question: “I should be high on him?” LE then suggested that the U.S. government has done more harm in the world than Putin and Russia in the last 25 years. Remnick closed with: “It’s a longer conversation,” and left.

“I favor ‘antipolitical politics.’ that is, politics not as the technology of power and manipulation, of cybernetic rule over humans or as the art of the utilitarian, but politics as one of the ways of seeking and achieving meaningful lives, of protecting them and serving them. I favor politics as practical morality, as service to the truth, as essentially human and humanly measured care for our fellow humans. It is, I presume, an approach which, in this world, is extremely impractical and difficult to apply in daily life. Still, I know no better alternative.” Vaclav Havel, Open Letters (Random House, 1991)

Photographs: Stephen Wise

NYNOW2014-BooksClassic. A book which people praise but don’t read.” Mark Twain

Photograph: Stephen Wise

JohnDean073014bJohn Dean, White House Counsel for Richard Nixon (1970-73), was hawking his latest book: The Nixon Defense on the Upper West Side this evening.

It seems an odd title for the book given Dean’s role in the Watergate break-in, and the subsequent bringing down of the Nixon White House.

Mr. Dean recounted confronting Nixon with the news that a “cancer” had formed on his Presidency, and yet it doesn’t appear that Mr. Dean did anything, as White House Counsel, to prevent the cancer in the first place.

He was asked about “Nixon’s illegal (secret) bombing of Cambodia” and why he didn’t say anything to oppose it? Dean replied: “Why did I (as Counsel) not step in and say something about his bombing of Cambodia and the additional deaths that that would cause? The primary reason is because I was totally unaware of all those activities.”

That’s unlikely given that the press reported the story in May 1969.

Referring to the ‘secret’ bombing of Cambodia (1969-70), Walter Isaacson said in his book Kissinger: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 1992): “American policy was edging toward what had heretofore been an unfamiliar realm: the use of military power not anchored by concerns about morality and international law.”

Analysis: Even a casual reading of American history, reveals that the U.S. government’s disconnect from morality and international law began long before the bombing of Cambodia. While Nixon may have been forced from office, his pardon by President Ford (a former member of the Warren Commission) represents the continuation of a pattern of no accountability in Washington, that continues to this day.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

GATSBYGatsby to Garp at the Morgan Library & Museum through September 7, 2014

BookfairTheKingInYellowThe 1895 psycho-thriller “The King in Yellow,” by Robert Chambers, is making a comeback. Climbing to #7 on Amazon’s list last week, the book seems to have struck a chord with young people, but not the book selling elites. None of the vendors at the recent Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair had a copy for sale. Most hadn’t even heard of the work. One reason might be that “The King in Yellow” offers a prophetic glimpse of the “Imperial Dynasty of America” — one that delights young people but makes their elders nervous.

In the city of New York the summer of 1899 was signalized by the dismantling of the Elevated Railroads. The summer of 1900 will live in the memories of New York people for many a cycle; the Dodge Statue was removed in that year. In the following winter began that agitation for the repeal of the laws prohibiting suicide which bore its final fruit in the month of April, 1920, when the first Government Lethal Chamber was opened on Washington Square.

“Ah! I see it now!” I shrieked. “You have seized the throne and the empire. Woe! woe to you who are crowned by the crown of the King in Yellow!” The King in Yellow (F. Tennyson Neely, 1895)

TheBloodTelegramTheBloodTelegram3TheBloodTelegram2 (2)Gary J. Bass presented his book, “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide” (Knopf, 2013), to a mostly South Asian audience, last evening at the Aicon Gallery in NYC.

LE Observation: The immorality of Nixon/Kissinger realpolitik in 1971, vis-a-vis Pakistan and Bangladesh, is being invoked by ‘human rights’ activists — intent on justifying immoral interventions in places like Libya, Egypt and Syria, as they ‘attempt to bring about a new world from deliberately created chaos.’

Bolshevism (anarchy from the top) is being repackaged as ‘humanitarian intervention.’ The Obama administration is murdering the state of Syria by encouraging and supporting the terrorist forces seeking to remove President Bashar al-Asaad. Messrs. Kissinger and Obama are no better than Charles Taylor — all of whom should be at the Hague, along with both Bushes and Cheney.

bea2013aAttending Book Expo America in recent years — one couldn’t help but feel a sense of emptiness, even nothingness, as American society disintegrates under a torrent of egos and algos. That said there were signs of life this year especially from some self-published authors we met, including Gary Heyward author of Corruption Officer: Perp With a Badge.

Trends

  • Hybrid Authors (traditional and self-published) are doing the best.
  • Digital Sales have leveled off.
  • Publishers are going all out with data-mining, algorithms and social media to push their books.
  • Buzzwords: ‘magic,’ ‘revenge’ and ‘doomed.’

GaryHeyward

ElizabethGilbertElizabeth Gilbert, author of best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, is coming out with a new book later this year — The Signature of All Things. She signed galleys for the trade today at BEA.

IanRadziwellMcCartheyJanis Ian, Carole Radziwill and Andrew McCarthy signing their latest works for bloggers.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

TovarYDeTeresaSadaMexico is the guest of honor at this year’s BookExpo America. An inaugural reception was held 5/29 at America’s Society in NYC.

Top: Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, Director of CONACULTA; Carlos M. Sada, Consul General of Mexico in New York

Bottom: Felipe Ehrenberg, artist; Mauricio Marcin, curator

Photographs: Stephen Wise

FelipeEhrenbergMauricioMarcin

OtisYChandler (2)IDPF Digital Book at BookExpo America welcomed Otis Y. Chandler of Goodreads, along with noted author Malcolm Gladwell and Brad Stone, author and senior writer, Bloomberg Businessweek.

Goodreads, recently acquired by Amazon.com, helps people find books and “bond through sharing magical experiences,” according to Mr. Chandler.

Messrs. Stone and Gladwell both have books coming in October 2013 — The Everything Store and David and Goliath, respectively.

When asked if he planned to get on Twitter to promote his next book, Gladwell replied: “The more of me the better, who says that’s true?”

Photographs: Stephen Wise

IDPFStoneGladwell (2)

FinanceThieves

TomasHalikTomas Halik (right), author of Patience With God, spoke this evening at the Czech Center in Manhattan. Fr. Halik worked as a psychotherapist during the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and at the same time was secretly ordained as a Catholic priest and active in the underground church. In his book Night Of The Confessor (Image Books 2012), Fr. Halik  writes: “I would like to share how the present period — this world and its extrinsic and intrinsic aspects — is viewed by someone who is accustomed to listening to others as they acknowledge their faults and shortcomings, as they confide their conflicts, weaknesses and doubts, but also their longing for forgiveness, reconciliation, and inner healing — for a fresh start.”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

BrainOnFire (2)New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan, at a Barnes & Noble event last evening, presenting her book: Brain On Fire — My Month Of Madness.

Commentary: The only boundaries and taboos in American society are those restricting an honest exploration into the root causes of her pathologies.

Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was one of the preeminent Abstract Expressionists and a spokesperson for that generation of artists. A 3-volume set dedicated to Motherwell’s life and work has been published by Yale University Press. It is described as the “definitive resource on Robert Motherwell’s paintings and collages, featuring previously unpublished materials and documentation of nearly 3,000 works.”

In 1948 a group of Abstract Expressionists founded a school they called ‘The Subjects of the Artist’. According to Motherwell, the name “was meant to emphasize that our painting was not abstract, that it was full of subject matter.”

“I think that abstract art is uniquely modern — not in the sense that word is sometimes used, to mean that our art has “progressed” over the art of the passed; though abstract art may indeed represent an emergent level of evolution — but in the sense that abstract art represents the particular acceptances and rejections of men living under the conditions of modern times.” RM

Harper Collins Publishers held a launch party for The Art of War, a grapic novel, this evening at White Cube in New York.

From the press release: The graphic novel adapts Sun Tzu’s iconic strategy text into a thriller set in a violent near-future when financial markets are militarized and China is the world’s dominant economy. Written and storyboarded by Kelly Roman and illustrated by Michael DeWeese, the book took six years to create and will be published on July 31 by Harper Perenial, the literary fiction imprint of HarperCollins.

Commentary: Sun-Tzu said: “The state is impoverished by the army when it transports provisions far off.”

David Major, president and founder of The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre) and retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, addressed ThrillerFest VII, 7/13. The title of his talk was: Insider’s View of Betrayal.

“I want the world to remember the betrayers forever.” David Major July 13, 2012

“I’m going to…try to get Hoover and the Secret Service together…They (the FBI) had the stuff on Oswald but didn’t give it to the Secret Service.” President Lyndon Johnson, September 28, 1964 (commenting to Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield on the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy)

Commentary: Mr. Major defined ‘betrayers’ — traitors, as those people who “violate the trust placed in them.” History has shown that betrayal happens when individuals divulge state secrets, but also when they withhold information, as the FBI did before and after the Kennedy assassination, and as the Justice Department has done recently in the Fast & Furious program.

Since World War II there have been 448 traitors apprehended in the United States, according to Mr. Major — including Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen etc. But there has also been betrayal, without accountability, by leaders who believe that withholding information (obstructing justice) somehow serves society and the cause of democracy. Mr. Major commented to LE — “This idea of not revealing information — there’s a long history of that.”

Thriller readers are increasingly women, and not just Republican women. British author Lee Child, seen here at ThrillerFest 2012, is big with the ladies (looking for a “he-man” as one put it). His character, Jack Reacher, is being played by Tom Cruise in an upcoming film based on One Shot (2005).

David Morrell (lower photo) is the award winning author of First Blood, the novel in which Rambo was based. He is co-founder of ITW — International Thriller Writers.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

The 7th ThrillerFest is underway in NYC. The annual confab brings together readers, authors, and aspiring authors of Thriller novels — along with agents and industry luminaries to nurture and expand the genre.

“‘Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

During the week when sales of Fifty Shades of Grey broke 20 million copies in the U.S., we were able to get just $2 (from Strand in NYC) for this first edition, 20th printing, book club copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

David Maraniss talked about his just released biography of Barack Obama this evening in New York. He commented that the “venom in the modern political world” had dissuaded him from pursuing the project for a while, but then decided to follow his philosophy, which is “go where there is.” He said his research for the book had taken him around the world — over 40,000 miles. His goal was to get at the sociological forces that shape Obama — “the world that created him and how he reinvented himself.”

The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist described discrepancies between what he had discovered about the President’s past and what Obama had written in his own memoir. He recounted a meeting with President Obama in which he shared the book’s introduction and table of contents. After reading it, Obama said, “I found it interesting that you call my book fiction.” Maraniss replied, “No I call it literature.”

Maraniss’ book focuses on Obama’s early life, including his parents and grand parent’s stories. He mentioned several times a sense of “randomness” in Obama’s life, with the repeating theme of “loss — leaving and being left,” and the ongoing “search for home.”

Commentary: People decry the venom in American politics today, and yet are indifferent to the bigger problem of untruthfulness — which transcends politics and has become a national epidemic. Mr. Obama’s deficits as a human being have made him a sympathetic figure for some, but also affected his judgement and job performance — making him an easy target for interest groups that have been able to get their way with him, to the detriment of the nation and world. As an aside — Mr. Maraniss leaned on “randomness” in a sophomoric way, especially for someone in his position.

Anthony Beevor, the British historian, is out with a new book: The Second World War.

The work begins in August 1939 with Russian General Zhukov’s defeat of of the Japanese at Khalkhin Gol on the Mongolian-Manchurian border. Mr. Beevor pays particular attention to the Eastern Front, which he said resulted in 90% of the German casualties.

WWII has been called ‘the good war’ by some historians. Commentating on that, Beevor said there should be “no triumphalism — Eastern Europe was sacrificed to save Western Europe.” He mentioned the Japanese had authorized cannibalism at the end of the war, as if to suggest that their savagery necessitated nothing less than the nuclear bombs that they got in August ’45. He noted that in May ’40 Churchill was under pressure to negotiate terms with Hitler to end the war, but seemed thankful that didn’t happen. Mr. Beevor compared Europe of 1938 with Europe today, saying that back then people were not informed about the true nature of the threat, as today they are not informed about the nature of the economic and financial threats they face.

Anthony Beevor lamented the “betrayal and perversity” on all sides during World War II, which he said resulted in 60-70 million lives lost. When asked if his book was “anti-war”? He said he didn’t disagree with that assessment.

Commentary: Two of the dirty secrets of World War II — how the U.S. entered the war — before Pearl Harbor (which may have caused Pearl Harbor), and the decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan, even though Japan had tried to surrender, were not addressed by Mr. Beevor.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

They were waiting for him. Skeleton, Midget, Balloon, Yoga, Electra, Popeye, Seal Boy. The freaks, waiting in the middle of the night, in the dry grass…The freaks stood over the sprawled Illustrated Man, holding their tent stakes loosely.

Finally they rolled him over on his stomach. Blood ran from his mouth. They ripped the adhesive from his back. They stared down for a long moment at the freshly revealed picture. Someone whispered. Someone else swore, softly. The Thin Man pushed back and walked away and was sick. Another and another of the freaks stared, their mouths trembling, and moved away, leaving the Illustrated Man on the deserted road, the blood running from his mouth.

In the dim light, the unveiled Illustration was easily seen. it showed a crowd of freaks bending over a dying fat man on a dark and lonely road, looking at a tatoo on his back which illustrated a crowd of freaks bending over a dying fat man on a…

Ann Patchett, best-selling author and independent book store owner, received the Most Engaging Author Award at this year’s American Booksellers Association Luncheon.

The ABA has 1900 independent book store owners as members. After years of store closings, the last two years have seen an uptick in membership and store openings. There are reports of former Borders employees opening their own stores in locatations that had been Borders.

A Harper Collins executive told LE that independent book stores represent 15-20% of their sales. And e-books deliver 60% of the sales of some titles. Nevertheless, the publishers we spoke with said they were committed to doing all they can to help independent book sellers survive and thrive.

Commentary: If publishers really cared about independent book sellers they would find books to publish that made people want to live — in the ‘ordinary world’, rather than books that make the ordinary world disappear.

From this year’s Book Expo America.

Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco are out with a new book, Days Of Destruction Days Of Revolt (Nation Books 2012).

Joe and I set out two years ago to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in the country (U.S.) that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. We wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like when the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profits. We want to look at what the ideology of unfettered capitalism means for families, communities, workers and the ecosystem.

Commentary: The US seems incapable of correction and reform. Its misguided mindsets and systems are winning, while the country withers, and its hollow leaders threaten the world. 

Photograph: Stephen Wise

DanRather050212Former CBS newsman Dan Rather is out with a new book, Rather Outspoken. He talked about it this evening in Manhattan.

In his remarks Mr. Rather lamented the “corporatization, politicization, and trivialization” of news in America, suggesting that an “independent press is the beating heart of freedom and democracy.”

Rather described as “scandalous” and “outrageous”, the fact that so few news organizations had constant coverage of the wars the U.S. is engaged in, chalking it up to ‘expense’ and ‘trouble’ — “who needs the trouble?”

He said that prior to 1982, network bosses, like Bill Paley of CBS, saw news as a “public service” rather than as a profit center, and suggested that any talk of “public interest”, today, would get a person “thrown into a mental hospital,” because of the heavy focus on profits and returns.

Commenting on a question about Osama Bin Laden, Mr. Rather said, “Bin Laden wanted the U.S. to overreact to 9/11 and spend itself into oblivion…”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

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