A bright, graceful, close-up view of nature.

A LITTLE BOOK OF LOVING AWARENESS

In this debut inspirational art book, a painter combines thought-provoking quotes with opulent depictions of the beauty of plants and animals.

Although Linden describes herself in a preface as “a painter, not a writer,” she introduces this work with a series of mini-essays that are engagingly personal as they reveal her process. In “On early inspiration,” she recalls a summer camp experience in which counselors “would line all us little folk up in a row, on top of a small hill overlooking the lake” to recite the Sufi poem “Look to This Day.” The inspiration she gained from intoning the “ancient exhortation” exerted a lifelong influence on her art, she says. “My studio” and “Painting process” describe the artist’s work space (“Canvasses…piled high, some on walls, some littering the floor…a profusion of color, enough to brighten the dullest day”) and how she approaches her art, which she defines as a holistic, healing practice through which “Painting becomes meditation.” In other sections, Linden examines the roles of flowers in lore, medicine, and cuisine. It’s a welcome introduction that makes this collection of carefully chosen quotes and meticulous artwork feel vivid and warm. Linden’s paintings depict oversized flowers and some animals, expressively drawn and vibrantly colored. Some owe a debt to Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, which Linden indirectly acknowledges by including an O’Keefe quote about her own artistic philosophy. The author’s work does not, however, seem derivative. From the achingly sensuous “Cattleya Orchids” to the stylized angularity of “Garden of Earthly Delights,” she approaches her floral subjects with keen observation and affection, and the results bear repeated examination. The quotes interspersed among the pictures, at irregular intervals, come from widely varied sources, including Pablo Picasso, Lewis Carroll, and the Bible, and generally promote optimism and courage. All in all, Linden’s so-called “little book” is an affirming and satisfying meditation.

A bright, graceful, close-up view of nature.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5043-9374-4

Page Count: 72

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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