Vote for ten books you want to read (or reread) from the year of Woodstock, Stonewall and Nixon’s inauguration – and join us on a literary journey.
One Grand Books is launching its first book club, and we’re inviting you to join us—whether local or long-distance readers. In the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Stonewall, and Neil Armstrong’s “small step for mankind,” the 1969 Book Club will look at novels published in that momentous year – which began with the inauguration of Richard Nixon. What, if anything, do they reveal about the concerns of the age, and how do they speak to us today? In literary terms, it was an extraordinary year, with groundbreaking novels by Philip Roth, Ursula LeGuin, and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as some enduring bestsellers, among them Mario Puzzo’s The Godfather and Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. It was also a year in which second wave feminism made its influence clear in novels by Margaret Atwood and Iris Murdoch, among others, and when the singular talent of Maya Angelou was announced with the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. What’s more, all of these titles have all had five decades to demonstrate their longevity and worth.
Televisions and movies would have us believe that the time from late November to the new year is a run on love, togetherness, and eggnog sipped in front of an open fire, but real-life seldom plays out so nicely. There are a multitude of reasons to dread the holidays, but whom amongst us hasn’t inwardly groaned about the family visit? Between the awkward conversations around the dinner table, or the long played out family feud, the holidays can invoke dread in the best of us.
This Sunday marks the 152nd anniversary of Charles Dickens first visit to the United State, to read before a packed audience at Boston’s Tremont Temple. In a gushing story at the time, the New York Times reported that the hall was filled “by perhaps one of the most appreciative, fashionable, and brilliant audiences ever assembled in New England.” These days that kind of language is largely reserved for the peacock parade that is the annual Met Ball, or the Oscars red carpet. Try to imagine such a dandy crowd taking even a moment out of their self-absorption to listen, as they did in the Tremont Temple, to a recital of The Pickwick Papers (unless that person was Hugh Dancy, who chose the book for his bookshelf). Yet in 1867, such was the fervor for Dickens that police were drafted in to prevent, as the Times put it, “any confusion or disturbance attendant upon the grand rush into the hall.” Within three years the writer would be dead from a stroke, at the age of 58, brought on it was suggested, by an emotional reading he’d given of the death of Nancy in his novel, Oliver Twist. Even if apocryphal, it’s a fitting finale for one of the most enduring of all writers.
Roger Ebert called Bernardo Bertolucci one of the great painters of the screen. It’s a distinction the director—who has succumbed to cancer at 77—proved many times over, from his sprawling Oscar favorite The Last Emperor (1987) to the lush and undervalued Stealing Beauty (1996). In The Dreamers (2003), an audacious big screen adaptation of the novel by film critic Gilbert Adair, Bertolucci unleashes his painterly instincts right out of the gate with the graphic design of his opening credits. Scored to a guitar-rock soundtrack, the sequence sees the camera descend the Eiffel Tower, with arbitrary, architectural color blocking a la Mondrian. The names of cast and crew are alternately obscured and revealed amid the tower’s bolted beams, and the emergence of the title itself points to a definite ’60s Mod influence—the font suggesting it leapt from a Euro band’s vinyl album cover.
EVERYONE’S KIND OF STUPID ABOUT LOVE, OR ATTRACTION MAGIC
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
Can you believe I just quoted Rumi? What nerve! Who am I, Oprah? What is this, yoga? I’ve finally gone too far. But just because I had the chutzpah to bust out the ancient Persian mystic poetry doesn’t mean you don’t have to reckon with the realness of my Rumi quote, because that’s what the love chapter of this book is all about. If you’re here for the secret to getting cute Jane or hot Johnny to be obsessed with you, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say: your idea is a bad idea, and your plan is a bad plan. It’s an eminently doable sort of magic but also some of the most fuck-up-able. I’ll outline some better ideas and plans so that you can get what you actually want, which, it turns out, is not just more attention from the person who chooses not to spend their attention on you. This is a hard truth that a lot of us end up banging our heads against again and again, like a locker door in a 1980s rom-com, but that’s okay. We’re all burdened with juvenile-flavored fantasy when it comes to love and romance; there have been a lot of movies, you guys! So much bullshit messaging coming through and gumming up the works.
Meghan Udell, a producer of the Deep Water Literary Fest, read over 120 books this year. She picks her ten favorites.
Every year on my birthday I set a personal goal for myself. For all intents and purposes, it’s exactly like a New Year’s resolution, except I get the distinct and petty pleasure of telling people, “I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.”
Cecil Beaton may be best known for his society portraits, but like Bill Brandt and Robert Capa, some of his most powerful photography was taken during the Second World War.
By Bella Bathurst
At the outbreak of war in 1939, the British establishment mistrusted photography almost as much as they mistrusted Nazis.“Snappers” were seen as vulgar and intrusive, and though the military benefits of the medium had already been proven during the First World War the armed services did their very best to avoid any connection with it.Their enemy had no such qualms: when war broke out, all professional German photographers were conscripted into a specialized unit known as the PK (Propaganda Kompanien) and instructed to “influence the course of the war by psychological control of the mood at home, abroad, at the Front and in enemy territory.”Those who did not – who failed to produce patriotic or compelling images, or who refused to shoot certain subjects – were reassigned to the Russian Front.