If I chose to look at my life through a particularly self-critical lens, my personal narrative would boil down to the story of a woman who spent her entire adulthood trying to get good at something, anything. Beginning in my twenties and with no noticeable talent besides writing, I took classes in a string of leisure-time activities that I hoped would turn into something to love.
What's surprising in the photographs of August Sander is that it's not only the clothes and hair—which change most noticeably over the years—that seem solidified in the past; the faces, too, are stuck like fossils in the geology of time. People just don't look like this anymore. There are, at the risk of sounding silly, no proto-dudes or babes here.
Two books exploring England's master-servant divide suggest the ways in which servants were at once tirelessly kept in their place and capable of transcending it, standing in for figures other than themselves.
Unsystematic searching, idiosyncratic linking: These are valuable as ever but harder to get to now. To the challenge of making imaginative connections has been added the challenge of making them visibly our own, off the preprogrammed, data-mined, hyperlinked grid.
There are two types of nonbelievers in the world: those who were raised without religion and stayed firmly in the realm of the godless, and those who were brought up with religion and rejected it. In some ways, the journalist and essayist Barbara Ehrenreich, who was raised an atheist and educated as a scientist, is the ideal guide for nonreligious people through the world of the spiritual, or at least the inexplicable.
The writing of Lynne Tillman feels free. Unruly, personal, and provocative, it's also freeing for the reader. Tillman's new collection includes essays (and interviews) on a wide range of topics, ordered like an alphabet book, A to Z. The table of contents points to the author's versatility and prolific output—really, isn't the question what wouldn't Lynne Tillman do?
HOW DOES a contemporary artist take on the cosmic? Last year, Lutz Bacher dumped hundreds of pounds of smashed coal slag onto the floor of a darkened exhibition hall. She then planted black television sets and shattered mirrors into the piles of soot. There is a single picture of this installation,
In his first purely autobiographical work, My Lives (2006), amid chapters titled “My Mother” and “My Friends” and “My Master,” Edmund White nestled “My Europe,” a bit overpromising in its scope since for practical purposes it was the story of the time he spent in France. White moved
Two rather astute voices were in my ear as I read Megan Hustad’s beautiful but ultimately unsatisfying new memoir: that of the “worker in song” who’s giving Leonard Cohen head in the Chelsea Hotel; and that of Joan Didion, circa Slouching Towards Bethlehem, who delivers a characteristically morbid
German by the grace of Goethe: A century ago, this formulation served, for many German Jews, as a kind of motto. Never mind that, like so many progressive reforms in Germany, full emancipation of the Jews had been a top-down affair, pushed through by Otto von Bismarck without much pressure from below.