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ON COMPROMISE

ART, POLITICS, AND THE FATE OF AN AMERICAN IDEAL

A thoughtful, defiant polemic that should provoke heated discussions.

A literary scholar and cultural critic argues that democracy is better served by hashing out conflicts than by compromising.

Ranging widely in art, literature, popular culture, philosophy, and politics, Smith mounts an impassioned critique of compromising, which she insists is “unsatisfying, awkward, boring, haphazard.” Compromises, she writes ruefully, “might be the best we can get, but they do not and should not please us.” Although she admits that compromises are sometimes necessary, she rejects them “as a value, as a way of appealing to moderation” and avoiding radical solutions. They are designed to preserve the status quo of hierarchies and power. “People do lose in all compromises,” she asserts; “it’s just a matter of who feels it.” Accused of being “hostile, critical, even mean” when talking with people whose ideas she opposes, Smith admits that she is drawn to “uncompromising figures”—such as editor Margaret Anderson, who advertised her modernist literary magazine Little Review as aesthetically uncompromising, or even far right icon Ayn Rand—and to illiberal forms, “from the polarizing rhetoric of manifestos to the brutality of minimalist sculpture, from the strident aesthetic of punk to the categorical abstraction of the Russian avant-garde.” The author praises those willing to take strong stands, change their minds, and argue forcefully for a new position rather than those who believe “that unsatisfactory things can be made satisfactory, at least temporarily. That the pain and loss generated by a bad situation can be managed, or made fair, or tolerable, even if the underlying conflict remains.” Democracy, she asserts, is messy and contentious; it involves confronting pain and realizing the limits of our ability to solve every problem with a compromise. Democracy suffers “when we are asked to compromise on our principles in advance in order to be practical, palatable, or unthreatening to those who want to maintain systems of injustice.”

A thoughtful, defiant polemic that should provoke heated discussions.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64445-060-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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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CINEMA SPECULATION

A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.

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The acclaimed director displays his talents as a film critic.

Tarantino’s collection of essays about the important movies of his formative years is packed with everything needed for a powerful review: facts about the work, context about the creative decisions, and whether or not it was successful. The Oscar-winning director of classic films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs offers plenty of attitude with his thoughts on movies ranging from Animal House to Bullitt to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Big Chill. Whether you agree with his assessments or not, he provides the original reporting and insights only a veteran director would notice, and his engaging style makes it impossible to leave an essay without learning something. The concepts he smashes together in two sentences about Taxi Driver would take a semester of film theory class to unpack. Taxi Driver isn’t a “paraphrased remake” of The Searchers like Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? is a paraphrased remake of Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or De Palma’s Dressed To Kill is a paraphrased remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But it’s about as close as you can get to a paraphrased remake without actually being one. Robert De Niro’s taxi driving protagonist Travis Bickle is John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. Like any good critic, Tarantino reveals bits of himself as he discusses the films that are important to him, recalling where he was when he first saw them and what the crowd was like. Perhaps not surprisingly, the author was raised by movie-loving parents who took him along to watch whatever they were watching, even if it included violent or sexual imagery. At the age of 8, he had seen the very adult MASH three times. Suddenly the dark humor of Kill Bill makes much more sense. With this collection, Tarantino offers well-researched love letters to his favorite movies of one of Hollywood’s most ambitious eras.

A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311258-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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