miliosr

What Are You Reading?

92 posts in this topic

So, I've finished reading Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids and quite enjoyed it.

Just Kids is Smith's retelling of how she met her friend Robert Mapplethorpe and their time together in New York. The book begins during the summer of 1967 (when Smith arrived in New York) and continues up to the release of her landmark album Horses in 1975. (There is also a relatively brief coda that deals with the period 1986-89.)

The book is beautifully written and, whether or not you like Smith and/or Mapplethorpe's work, the book tells a very interesting story of how two talented misfits became artists. Just Kids is also a love letter of sorts to the New York of that period and it really conjures up a time and a place which has vanished.

While I loved Just Kids, I wouldn't say this book is the last word on Robert Mapplethorpe. It would best be read in tandem with Patricia Morrisroe's biography of Mapplethorpe (which Smith hated.) The Morrisroe book does a better job of conveying day-to-day events but the Smith book is superior in terms of capturing the unique dynamic of the Smith-Mapplethorpe relationship.

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While I loved Just Kids, I wouldn't say this book is the last word on Robert Mapplethorpe. It would best be read in tandem with Patricia Morrisroe's biography of Mapplethorpe (which Smith hated.) The Morrisroe book does a better job of day-to-day events but the Smith book is superior in terms of capturing the unique dynamic of the Smith-Mapplethorpe relationship.

Well put, miliosr. I heard Smith speak and drew the same conclusion--she was, actually, oddly conservative about RM's art, while wonderfully vivid and candid about their time in NYC together, and their friendship.

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Currently reading Frances Welch' "Life at the Court of Anna Anderson: A Romanov Fantasy".

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I'm reading Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman. She was related to Diana, Princess of Wales. It's an interesting biography of someone almost as famous as Diana was and how their lives were very similar.

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I am reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.

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I'm reading Phillip Roth's Goodbye Columbus.

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I am reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.

Which translation, Rosa? I bought the latest but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

Thanks for starting the thread, miliosr. I am currently reading The Last Coach by Allen Barra and dipping into Le Morte d'Arthur again.

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I am reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.

Which translation, Rosa? I bought the latest but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

It is the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation.

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Currently about halfway through the Ashton biography. And for a change of pace starting my third trip through Paul Scott's Raj Quartet.

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I'm currently reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. Before that I read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Catching up on early feminist literature. :clapping:

Also dipping into the Percy Jackson books because my son is so absorbed by them.

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While I loved Just Kids, I wouldn't say this book is the last word on Robert Mapplethorpe. It would best be read in tandem with Patricia Morrisroe's biography of Mapplethorpe (which Smith hated.) The Morrisroe book does a better job of conveying day-to-day events but the Smith book is superior in terms of capturing the unique dynamic of the Smith-Mapplethorpe relationship.

Well put, miliosr. I heard Smith speak and drew the same conclusion--she was, actually, oddly conservative about RM's art, while wonderfully vivid and candid about their time in NYC together, and their friendship.

Smith has always maintained that she struggled with Mapplethorpe's S&M photos. She wrote a piece about Mapplethorpe for Details magazine in the early 1990s in which she wrote that she found the pictures "very difficult." In the book, I like how she doesn't adopt a revisionist history about that aspect of Mapplethorpe's work. (Likewise, I admire her for not pretending in the book that she understood Mapplethorpe's coming out at the time or that she was happy about it.)

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While I loved Just Kids, I wouldn't say this book is the last word on Robert Mapplethorpe. It would best be read in tandem with Patricia Morrisroe's biography of Mapplethorpe (which Smith hated.) The Morrisroe book does a better job of day-to-day events but the Smith book is superior in terms of capturing the unique dynamic of the Smith-Mapplethorpe relationship.

Well put, miliosr. I heard Smith speak and drew the same conclusion--she was, actually, oddly conservative about RM's art, while wonderfully vivid and candid about their time in NYC together, and their friendship.

She was here in Seattle last week and my partner and son saw her -- a very sweet anecdote about how she and Mapplethorp were walking down the street when her cover of Springsteen's Because the Night was sounding out of every doorway and window. Mapplethorp turns to her and says "you got famous before me!"

And I just finished Laura Shapiro's biography of Julia Child -- a very nice pocket-sized read. (and Shapiro used to be a dance critic here...)

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She was here in Seattle last week and my partner and son saw her -- a very sweet anecdote about how she and Mapplethorp were walking down the street when her cover of Springsteen's Because the Night was sounding out of every doorway and window. Mapplethorp turns to her and says "you got famous before me!"

Through the magic of the Internet sandik:

This is the one of the strongest vocal performances of this song I have ever heard her give. While it was a disappointment to her fans that she only released one album between 1979 and 1996 (and performed live fewer than a half dozen times between 1980 and 1994), the time off preserved her voice to the point that she sounds better at 63 than she ever did during the 1970s.

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I took a break from my favorite topics to read Joan Schenkar's new biography, The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Llife and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith. I've only read two of her books (both of them in the Ripley series), but Highsmith -- Tom Ripley, too -- frequented streets and places in the West Village and elsewhere in an around New York City that I knew very well in my youth. Although her days there were in the 40s and 50s, many of the people and places she knew were legends when I came of age the following decade.

For someone who was crochety, rude, self-centered, secretive, and sometimes paranoid in her old age, Highsmith certainly managed to leave behind a lot of material about her personal life, all of which Schenkar seems to have absorbed. It's more than I wanted to read. But Highsmith herself continued to fascinate right to the end, even when I wanted to throttle her.

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Through the magic of the Internet sandik:

This is the one of the strongest vocal performances of this song I have ever heard her give. While it was a disappointment to her fans that she only released one album between 1979 and 1996 (and performed live fewer than a half dozen times between 1980 and 1994), the time off preserved her voice to the point that she sounds better at 63 than she ever did during the 1970s.

Oh thank you for the link -- this was great! I was sorry to have missed her talk, and especially to have missed this...

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I'm reading Alberto Moravia's The Conformist and rereading Beowulf because a student I tutor is in the midst of it.

PeggyR, I've read The Raj Quartet one and a half times. Never finished the second run through as I got bogged down in schoolwork. I'd like to go back and reread them all again, especially in the current political climate.

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I just finished Alison Weir's "The Lady In The Tower", a superb, highly detailed and moving book about the last days of Anne Boleyn's life. Highly recommended!

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I have a copy of the Patti Smith book coming -- to be lent by a friend who says he loved it because of the period it covers, the vanished world of the lower east side and the last real bohemia which finally ended about 1985. It was just the point both of us moved to New York and you did feel something was over, that you were passing through the same setting still slightly warm with remnants of artworks of the seventies, at least down on the Bowery and in SoHo.

I'm still reading Javier Marias' Your Face Tomorrow, part 1, very stop and go but with brilliant meditative stretches, like reading Montaigne. It's about M15 and M16 and spying and the rarified world of Oxford and the Spanish Civil War. In real life Marias' father was falsely denounced by a fellow academic, a friend, and as a result couldn't teach again.

Here's a snippet-view of Sir Peter Wheeler talking -- he's based on Marias' friend the scholar Sir Peter Russell. Marias published Your Face Tomorrow in three parts so that his father and his friend, who were both very frail, could at least read a part of the novel:

When you’re young, as you know, you’re in a hurry and always afraid that you’re not living enough, that your experiences are not varied enough, you feel impatient and try to accelerate events, if you can and so you load yourself up with them, you stockpile them, the urgency of the young to accumulate scars and to forge a past, it’s so odd that sense of urgency. No one should be troubled by that fear, the old should teach them that ... At the end of any reasonably long life however anodyne and grey and uneventful, there will always be too many memories and too many contradictions, too many sacrifices and omissions and changes, a lot of retreats, a lot of flags lowered and a lot of acts of disloyalty, that’s for sure ... Too much accumulation. Too much vague material collected together, too much for one story, even for a story that is only ever thought .. Not to mention the infinite number of things that fall within the eye’s blind spot ...

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Just finished "Thomas Hardy" by Claire Tomlin which I found quite good. She (and everyone else who writes about Hardy, it seems) praises "Thomas Hardy, A Biography Revisited" by Michael Millgate which is 625 pages of pretty densely typeset pages but I think I will hold off on that one. Tomlin concentrates on Hardy's poetry which I am beginning to "get" or at least enjoy. Hardy had quite a life--began as the son of a domestic servant, toward the end was the host to the Prince of Wales and his retinue for a luncheon. He lived to his eighty-seventh year but what was really telling is who he knew.

He was invited to dinner with Tennyson when Tennyson was Poet Laureate and who complimented him on "A Pair of Blue Eyes". Hardy was a witness at the wedding of Harold MacMillian (the grandson of his publisher) who, decades later, became Prime Minister so he was involved with some of those who personified both the Victorian period and the post-war period. He was friend and, to some extent, mentor to T. E. Lawrence, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and other very 20th century writers.

One lovely stanza from "Snow in the Suburbs" which Tomlin writes "dates back to the freezing winter...of 1880":

The steps are a blanched slope,

Up which, with feeble hope,

A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;

And we take him in.

-----

Still reading At Swim Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill a maddening but very, very good novel of Ireland in 1916.

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Hardy was a witness at the wedding of Harold MacMillian (the grandson of his publisher) who, decades later, became Prime Minister so he was involved with some of those who personified both the Victorian period and the post-war period.

What a span!

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He [Hardy] was friend and, to some extent, mentor to T. E. Lawrence, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and other very 20th century writers.

Including Auden. Thanks, Ed, for sending me back to my copy of Thomas Hardy Selected Poems (which I bought in all places Fresno California!) and these wonderful lines ---

"Close up the casement, draw the blind, shut out that stealing moon ..."

"The Roman road runs straight and bare As the pale parting-line in hair Across the heath ..."

&

"What past can be yours O journeying boy Towards a world unknown ... "

"A little boy with a violin At the station before the train came in ... As the fiddle began to twang, and the man in the handcuffs suddenly sang With grimful glee: 'This life so free Is the thing for me!' ..."

&

Coming up Oxford Street: Evening

"The sun from the west glares back,

And the sun from the watered track,

And the sun from the sheets of glass,

And the sun from each window-brass..."

which leads perhaps, through Auden, to Elizabeth Bishop's Letter to N.Y.:

"and coming out of the brownstone house

to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,

one side of the buildings rises with the sun

like a glistening field of wheat.

"Wheat, not oats, dear I'm afraid

if it's wheat it's none of your sowing..."

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which leads perhaps, through Auden, to Elizabeth Bishop's Letter to N.Y.:

"and coming out of the brownstone house

to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,

one side of the buildings rises with the sun

like a glistening field of wheat.

"Wheat, not oats, dear I'm afraid

if it's wheat it's none of your sowing..."

Pretty good, and probably doesn't lead to Georgia O'Keeffe's

'I just think New York's wonderful

It makes all the European cities look like villages'.

My sentiments exactly, and I consider it a poem even if she didn't.

Which then reminds me, though may not lead elegantly, as with Quiggin's, to Joan Didion's 'New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.'

Didion wrote a marvelous essay in 'The White Album' on o'Keeffe's evening star that she used for a number of water colours. They are two of a kind, but I don't know if they lead to each other. With the 'don't tread on me' attitude firmly entrenched in either, they might not like the idea. I don't even know if they met. I've memorized parts of 'The White Album', especially the page about the party that Janis Joplin came to 'at the big house on Franklin Avenue', so I'm reading these again in my mind right now. The opening long essay says that the 'big house' would be demolished (this was written in the late 60s or 70s), but it wasn't, because I've been to it. I asked her about it at a reading and she told me it was still there and gave me the number afterward. It still had panel trucks that scared her to the point of writing down their license plate numbers and storing them in a drawer, but I didn't think the house was that big.

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Patrick:

the party that Janis Joplin came to 'at the big house on Franklin Avenue

I’ll have to read the White Album again -- it always is checked out or missing at the library. The house on Franklin may have been Preston Sturges’ -- big perhaps in comparison to the little guest house where a gardener friend used to live - or big in comparision to the little cottages on surrounding streets called exotically Heliotrope or Poinsettia. Joan Didion seems both to want to throw herself into the sixties and yet stay aloof. Too bad there isn’t more about Janis Joplin (though there’s the nice detail about her ordering Benedictine & Brandy) or Morrison. Interesting that both Didion and Elizabeth Bishop interviewed Kathleen Cleaver in San Francisco, bodyguards and security and all.

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