An engrossing feast for the eyes and the emotions.

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FOR THE PEOPLE

THE PAINTINGS AND WRITINGS OF ED RATH

A painter plumbs dark subjects—anxiety, loss, 9/11—with a deceptively simple and bright style in this lush coffee-table art book.

Rath, a Brooklyn artist, has a technique that might be called childlike if the child in question were a precocious Picasso. His acrylic-on-canvas compositions are flat and depthless; his figures are rudimentary and archaic to the point of cartoonishness; wind and the flight paths of insects are traced by curving vapor trails. But an unsophisticated look doesn’t mean a deficit of imagination, visual interest or creative resources. His landscapes and cityscapes—the bulk of the selection—teem with gnarled trees, creeping vines, buzzing wasps and ornate flowers, and throb with rich, chiaroscuroed colors—arresting red skies, black rivers, cool blue nightscapes. Yet the people who move through them seem too distracted and glum—such as the ones in the satirical “Happy Couples United in Heaven”—to notice their glowing surroundings. Rath uses this contrast between intense settings and numbed, depressive human affect to address a wide range of subjects. Some are personal, such as a series of paintings provoked by the death of his wife Laura; some, such as “Trickle Down Economics,” a portrait of a nude man rummaging through garbage, are overtly political. Rath’s 9/11 series features fireballs, panicky crowds and pensive subway riders. It seems that only when people are entirely absorbed into nature, as in “Old Couple,” a portrait of Rath and Laura as trees, that they can really be happy. The author includes some written meditations on his art and captions for a few of these superb color reproductions. Sometimes these writings are unnecessarily didactic (“This painting shows the thousands of people walking home to Brooklyn, while the World Trade Towers burn,” reads the caption for “Exodus”—and, sure enough, it does). But Rath’s more poetic reflections—“Laura came to me in dreams, beautiful and vigorous. She walked in a field of diamonds”—reinforce the impact of his already very expressive paintings.

An engrossing feast for the eyes and the emotions.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1441539038

Page Count: 141

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2010

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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