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LECTURE

A lively and playful challenge to resuscitate a form that has been considered all but dead.

An attempt to revive the format and reclaim its place in literary tradition.

In this entry in the publisher’s new Undelivered Lectures series—joining Namwali Serpell’s Stranger Faces—creative writing professor and Guggenheim fellow Cappello argues for everything she thinks a lecture should be: playful and provocative, to be sure, and perhaps incorporating elements of stand-up comedy, performance art, and improvisation. It should not conform to the clichés that most commonly come to mind: pedantic, didactic, boring. “The lecture will have succeeded if, like the essay, it cannot be summarized, but only experienced,” writes Cappello, who effectively demonstrates the connection between the lecture and the essay. While the former is performed and the latter written, they share a similar mindset and spirit. The lecture’s “geography is a the­ater-cocoon, descended from the study carrel where you read, the dark corner of the library you retreated into, which was descended from the cubbyhole you stowed your books and drawings in in kindergarten.” However, don’t confuse the future of the lecture with the popularity of one of its current forms: TED Talks, which “give me the creeps….They all have a whiff of organized religion about them and the feel of the sermon on the infomercial mount.” As her “lecture on the lecture” has led to this book, the author intersperses examples of note taking. These notes, which one might take while listening to a lecture, or use to compose one, show the ways in which the mind works and ideas connect (or not) as the lecturer searches for the form and cohesion through which she can convey her message. Cappello also shows how the tradition of the lecture has too often minimized, belittled, or excluded women. As she argues, the lecture must be better than that, and this is a good introduction to the art.

A lively and playful challenge to resuscitate a form that has been considered all but dead.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-945492-44-0

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Transit Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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THE BACKYARD BIRD CHRONICLES

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

A charming bird journey with the bestselling author.

In his introduction to Tan’s “nature journal,” David Allen Sibley, the acclaimed ornithologist, nails the spirit of this book: a “collection of delightfully quirky, thoughtful, and personal observations of birds in sketches and words.” For years, Tan has looked out on her California backyard “paradise”—oaks, periwinkle vines, birch, Japanese maple, fuchsia shrubs—observing more than 60 species of birds, and she fashions her findings into delightful and approachable journal excerpts, accompanied by her gorgeous color sketches. As the entries—“a record of my life”—move along, the author becomes more adept at identifying and capturing them with words and pencils. Her first entry is September 16, 2017: Shortly after putting up hummingbird feeders, one of the tiny, delicate creatures landed on her hand and fed. “We have a relationship,” she writes. “I am in love.” By August 2018, her backyard “has become a menagerie of fledglings…all learning to fly.” Day by day, she has continued to learn more about the birds, their activities, and how she should relate to them; she also admits mistakes when they occur. In December 2018, she was excited to observe a Townsend’s Warbler—“Omigod! It’s looking at me. Displeased expression.” Battling pesky squirrels, Tan deployed Hot Pepper Suet to keep them away, and she deterred crows by hanging a fake one upside down. The author also declared war on outdoor cats when she learned they kill more than 1 billion birds per year. In May 2019, she notes that she spends $250 per month on beetle larvae. In June 2019, she confesses “spending more hours a day staring at birds than writing. How can I not?” Her last entry, on December 15, 2022, celebrates when an eating bird pauses, “looks and acknowledges I am there.”

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593536131

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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