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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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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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