A vibrant portrait of Iran combining documentary realism with visual poetry.

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IRAN BEFORE...

The soulful Iran of a half-century ago comes to life in these luminous photographs.

Briskin was a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran in the late 1960s and took many black-and-white photos in the capital, Tehran, and the cities of Arak, Kashan, Hamadan, Esfahan, and Qom. His various subjects illustrate an older, poorer, less urbanized Iran of small villages and modestly scaled towns powered by animals and human sweat. Many of the images capture everyday work: a barefoot man straining to push a cart piled high with watermelons, a porter teetering along with a platter of food on his head, a silversmith carving a delicately filigreed design of an ancient Persian winged bull on a tray, a youth welding a window grate without face mask or gloves to protect him from the geyser of sparks. There are quiet pastoral scenes of shepherds with their flocks and boys threshing hay as well as bustling scenes of shoppers in bazaars and crowds thronging religious festivals. Women appear, working in headscarves and practical trousers in the countryside and shrouded in demure chadors in cities. And there are numerous grand shots of mosques, with vast arches opening onto cavernous interiors that dwarf worshippers kneeling in prayer. Briskin’s photos are visually striking and have a near-palpable texture. One can almost feel the gnarled, rough-hewn surfaces of a grindstone and wooden axle in a mill or the decorative tiles bubbling out of a mosque wall. The region he photographs is a semiarid plateau, and the landscape of billowing, rocky hillsides is a singular presence in his exterior shots. The ambient light is even more extraordinary in his interiors. Many photos depict dramatic contrasts of dim, shadowed workshops, arcades, and mosque spaces pierced by dazzling shafts of sunlight. The people he photographs are endlessly fascinating—absorbed in their labors; lost in religious transports; trudging through snowdrifts; staring back at the camera with expressions that convey boredom, tension, wariness, and occasional flashes of joy.

A vibrant portrait of Iran combining documentary realism with visual poetry.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73409-880-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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