Category Archives: Art

Zero History by William Gibson

Zero History by William Gibson

G.P. Putman’s Sons, New York, 2010

Borrowed from my library.

I have very eclectic taste in books.  I love  Science Fiction.  I have very specific tastes in Science Fiction.  There used to be a book store in Santa Monica, California, called ” A Change of Hobbit”, I would get lost in there for hours.  That is where I first discovered William Gibson, just when his novel “Neuromancer” was published.

According to SciFi geeks, Gibson invented the term “cyberspace”.    His work has evolved over time to include alternative history and speculation about near-future urban environments but Zero History is different.  This is no longer science fiction,  this is the present becoming the future faster than it takes to read a sentence.  And the past just seems to disappear.

Hurbetus Bigend, the head of Blue Ant, a company that finds the next big, big thing and is all over viral marketing, wants to get into the military contracting business.  After all, war is recession proof.  He sends Milgrin, a ex-addict who owes Bigend his life, to steal the design of some street wear from a threatening looking man on the US east coast.   He hires Hollis Henry, former lead singer in the band Curfew, to find the designer of a very secretive line of fashion called Gabriel Hounds.   In the midst of all this Bigend’s activities pisses off another military contractor named Gracie and all hell breaks loose.  There is this and so much more than this, wrapped up in a book that feels like a movie or ten movies on big screens or like sitting in front of a hundred CCTV screens trying to track the latest social menace.

Zero History, along with the other novels in what could be  called the ” Blue Ant” trilogy, crosses barriers and enters the arena of literary fiction.  Evolving technology, street fashion, pop culture and last stage capitalism all play a part in this tightly woven thriller.  I love how William Gibson’s mind works,  he fits things together in ways that are very, very smart,  all the while seeming to spin out of control.  Reading his books makes me happy.  Weird, huh?

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Filed under Art, Canadian, CanadianBookChallenge5, LiteraryFiction, SpeculativeFiction

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss

By Edmund de Waal

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.  I may have first read about this on the Guardian website, then Nancy Pearl’s comments on NPR made it a must read.

What really drew me to this book was the collection of netsuke that is at the center of the story.  When I lived in Cambridge I used to visit the Boston Museum of Fine Art and became totally enthralled by the tiny carvings in the Asian collection.

Having inherited a collection of  264 netsuke that has been in his family since the 1870s, Edmund de Waal decides to find out where these wonderful objects came from, who has owned them and where they have been kept.  He has written a memoir about the Ephrussi family, drawn from interviews,  journals, memoirs, newspaper clippings and history book that starts with a great-great uncle who lived in Paris. The Hare with Amber Eyes reads as if De Waal had lived through all this history,  shared meals with these people, visited art galleries.  He has gotten to know them.

Though the Japanese were extremely rare in Paris in the 1870s – there were delegations and diplomats and the odd prince – their art was ubiquitous.  Everyone had to get their hands on these japonaiseries:  all the painters Charles was starting to meet in the salons, all the writers Charles knew from the Gazette, his family his family friends, his lover, all were living through this convulsion.  Fanny Ephrussi records in her letters shopping trips to Mitsuu, a fashionable shop in rue Martel that sold Far Eastern objects, to buy Japanese wallpaper for the new smoking-room a guest bedrooms in the house that she and Jules had just finished building in the place d’Iena.  How could Charles, the critic, the well-dressed amateur d’art and collector, not buy Japanese art.  From pages 48/49.

De Waal, an artist who works in porcelain, takes just as much care with this story as he does with his artwork.  This is his family and he treats them with honesty, care and respect.  Some of this history is sweet and rich like a fine pastry, some of it is filled with horror and loss.

It is on this visit that I go to the Jewish archive in Vienna, the one seized by Eichmann, to check up on the details of the marriage.  I look through the ledger to find Viktor, and there is an official red stamp across his first name.  It reads “Israel”.  An edict decreed that all Jews had to take new names.  Someone has gone through every single name in the lists of Viennese Jews and stamped them`Israel’ for the men, `Sara’ for the women.

I am wrong.  The family is not erased, but written over.  And, finally, it is this that makes me cry.  From page 259.

But it is De Waal’s passionate love of these objects and the tactile sensations his wonderful writing brought to my reading that makes this book a favorite for 2010.  Edwurd de Waal is an artist, he builds objects with his hands, he has built a beautiful memoir with words, tender and filled with love.

You take an object from your pocket and put it down in front of you and you start.  You begin to tell a story.

When I hold them I find myself looking for the wear, the fine cracks that run alongside the grain of some of the ivories.  It is not just that I want the split in these wrestlers – a tangle of hopelessly thrashing ivory limbs – to have come from being dropped onto Charles’s golden carpet of the winds by someone famous ( a poet, a painter, Proust) in a moment of fin-de-siècle excitement.  Or that the deeply ingrained dust lodged under the wings of a cicada resting on a walnut shell comes from being hidden in a Viennese mattress.  It probably doesn’t.  From page 349.

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Filed under Art, History, Memoir, Review

Drawing Down The Moon by Charles Vess

Drawing Down The Moon: The Art of Charles Vess

Introduction by Susanna Clarke

Dark Horse Books, Milwaukie, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

A beautiful book containing illustrations and drawings covering Vess’  long and successful career.  Drawing Down The Moon includes images from his collaborations with Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

These images are very detailed and  intricate.  They have depth and an edge to them that is unexpected in most “fantastic” art.   I love Vess’ sense of color.  Visit Dark Horse to see more.

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Filed under Art, Graphic Novels, Illustration, Review

Sunday Salon

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A good week, mid-winter break  and sunshine!  This time of year can be  dreary in the Pacific Northwest but we had sun and fine weather.  The crocuses are up and the other day I caught several bees out in the blossoms.img_2632

I treated myself to trip to the art museum and saw an exhibit of 17th to 19th century art from Rajasthan, India called Garden and Cosmos.  For a century or two these painting have been hidden away in a fort in northern India, never seen until their discovery a few years ago.  Lush, amazingly beautiful paintings.  I am going to splurge and buy the catalogue.

I finished several books this week including A Mercy by Toni Morrison.  It is a wonderful, short novel but, in my opinion, isn’t as fine as some of her other work.  It felt rushed to me, and the characters seem a bit shallow.

51bgzr4cupl_sl160_Got some great titles from SPL so I am set for the week.  Started a book called Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes by Daniel L. Everett.   This one fills my anthropological cravings. From page 85: Pirahas laugh about everything. They laugh at their own misfortune: when someone’s hut blows over in a rainstorm, the occupants laugh more loudly than anyone.  They laugh when they catch a lot of fish. They laugh when they catch no fish.  They laugh when they’re full and they laugh when they’re hungry.  When they’re sober,  they are never demanding or rude.  Since my first night among them I have been impressed with their patience, their happiness, and their kindness.

I have got to cut down on my holds at the library or I’ll never get to those marvelous ocean books that came in the mail!

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Filed under Art, Sunday Salon

Turning Wall

I know this is supposed to be a blog about books but there are a few websites I visit almost every day.  “Wooster Collective” is one of them.  “The Wooster Collective was founded in 2001. This site is dedicated to showcasing and  celebrating ephemeral art placed on streets in cities around the world.”

That site led me to this video, which I find amazingly wonderful.

I’m not sure where the following quote comes from but it describes the installation.

“The most daring piece of public art ever commissioned in the UK, Turning the Place Over is artist Richard Wilson’s most radical intervention into architecture to date, turning a building in Liverpool’s city centre literally inside out. One of Wilson’s very rare temporary works, Turning the Place Over colonises Cross Keys House, Moorfields. It is on a light sensor and will run during daylight hours.

Co-commissioned by the Liverpool Culture Company and Liverpool Biennial, co-funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency and The Northern Way, and facilitated by Liverpool Vision, the project is a stunning trailblazer for Liverpool’s Year as European Capital of Culture 2008, and the jewel in the crown of the Culture Company’s public art programme.”

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