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OLD IN ART SCHOOL

A MEMOIR OF STARTING OVER

A spirited chronicle of transformation and personal triumph.

A noted historian tells about her daring career move to become an artist.

At the age of 64, Painter (American History, Emerita, Princeton Univ.; The History of White People, 2010, etc.), president of the prestigious Organization of American Historians, former director of the Association of Black Women Historians, and author of seven books, enrolled as an undergraduate at Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University. In a candid, captivating memoir, the author recounts her experiences at Rutgers and in a Master of Fine Arts Program at the Rhode Island School of Design, which raised for her salient questions about identity, creativity, ageism, and racism. Some teachers proclaimed that she would never become an Artist because she “lacked an essential component, some ineffable inner quality.” Although as a professor she believed heartily that skills could be learned through seriousness, persistence, discipline, and hard work, she felt her teachers’ condemnation “piercing my student’s psyche,” causing her to question her ability and the quality of her work. Often discouraged, still she defiantly pursued two goals: “to make work that engaged the eye” and to celebrate, in portraits, her “intellectual women friends.” One teacher dismissed her second goal as mere “illustration.” As to the first, she discovered throughout her art education the vagaries of criteria used to assess quality. During her first year at RISD, she felt reduced to a “pathetic, insecure little stump,” unsure whether her teachers and classmates “were critiquing me, old-black-woman-totally-out-of-place, or critiquing my work, which was not good enough.” Painter admits having felt like a misfit in art school, which leads her to reflect about ageism and racism (both rampant in the rarefied art world). Awarded studio residencies, including an artist-scholar residency at Yale, she proved her worth. The author offers perceptive insights about the meaning of art: the difference between thinking like a historian and an artist; the “contented concentration” she feels when making art; and the works of many black artists.

A spirited chronicle of transformation and personal triumph.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-061-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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