An engrossing feast for the eyes and the emotions.

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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