Friday, August 29, 2014

Spotlight on books into film: Cloud Atlas, The Book Thief, The Duchess, As I Lay Dying, et al.

From young adult to adults-only, you'll doubtless find something to your taste in "Reel Good Reads," our current Spotlight roundup of books that have been adapted to film. I'm itching to see the movie version of The Book Thief (above), a novel I found absolutely riveting. And conversely, having seen the movie first, I'm looking forward to reading and savoring the ins and outs of the complex narrative that comprises David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas. I loved the Keira Knightley film about Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire (below), so I definitely want to delve into Amanda Foreman's award-winning biography of same.
And did you know that James Franco had starred in an adaptation of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying?  The LA Review of Books gave Franco props for his directing:
Faulkner’s famously fragmented novel is composed of 59 first-person chapters, written in the voices of fifteen different characters. Translating such a polyglossic text to the screen poses some daunting challenges, which may explain why Franco is the first director to make the attempt. In Faulkner’s novel, form and content converge: the disjointed narrative structure, which lacks a presiding narrator, manifests the isolation that defines the characters’ lives, which are marked by hidden secrets and unspoken desires. In an effort to convey the splintered, often opaque quality of the novel’s writing, Franco employs several unconventional techniques, including hand-held camera work, split screen compositions, and rapid cutting between simultaneously occurring events.
The cast of Franco's As I Lay Dying.
At times, these devices work effectively, such as when the Bundrens’ wagon and the coffin splash into the river on the first day of their journey. Here, the divided screens convey the watery struggle through the eyes of different characters, enhancing the sense of confusion and chaos. In several of the film’s most compelling moments, Franco offers refreshingly direct access to Faulkner’s monologues, such as Cash’s 13-point explanation of the coffin design or Dewey Dell’s sensuous description of her love affair in the cotton fields, which are delivered in tightly-framed shots of the characters looking unswervingly into the lens…. As I Lay Dying is one of Faulkner’s most formally daring works, but it is also one of his most socially and politically engaged novels. As Faulkner biographer Joseph Blotner explains, Faulkner started writing the book the day after the Wall Street collapse in October 1929, and completed it in a short, two-month burst. As such, it can arguably be considered America’s first novel of the Great Depression. While there’s no indication that Franco intended the film to be a political work of art, it comes five years into the deepest economic recession since the 1930s. Seen in context of the current era’s mortgage foreclosures, declining wages, and financial suffering, Franco’s adaptation of Faulkner’s novel about the plight of an impoverished family isolated and stymied by economic hardship and social obstacles reminds us that high-minded works of art — even a period piece like this one — can also speak to contemporary historical concerns.
On a related note of page to screen, The Washington Post praised the late, great Oscar-winner Robin Williams's "world-class performance" as an honest salesman whose life is shattered in Seize the Day (1986), the only novel by Saul Bellow ever adapted to film.
Have you any favorite novel to film adaptations?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unabashed bardolatry: free Shakespearean image resources from the Folger Library

A delightful new online resource has been created by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., which has opened up its visual archives to the public here. (This is the announcement of its free terms of use.) At left is The Folger's statue of Puck, the mischievous fairy from A Midsummer Night's Dream, by New York sculptor Brenda Putnam (1890–1975). She was the daughter of Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress.
In addition to its priceless Shakespeare folios, quartos, manuscripts, scholarly books, and other resources on the Bard, "the world's largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials" houses a beautiful recreation of an Elizabethan theater, in which plays and concerts are staged in an intimate fashion. (The American Shakespeare Center, in Staunton, Virginia, has a replica of the Blackfriars Playhouse, putting on classic plays by Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and successors.)
A Blackfriars production of Hamlet.
The Folger's Elizabethan theater.
 Below are a few samples of the newly available images from the Folger's collection.
Act IV, Scene 1: Titania: "Come set thee down upon this flowery bed"; a Currier & Ives lithograph.
Below, Falstaff and a portrait of the actor Edmund Kean.
Opera reminiscences,1829. Desdemona and Otello, dedicated to the admirers of William Shakespeare, by William Heath.
By Faustin, 1875
Romeo and Juliet, the tomb scene (Act 5, Scene 2); artist and date unknown.
A Pair of Spectacles, or, The London Stage in 1824–5, by Charles Williams (detail below).
The Seven Ages of Man, published by William Cole, early to mid-19th century (detail below). An illustration of Jacques' monologue in Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It.
All the world’s a stage,
        And all the men and women merely players;
        They have their exits and their entrances,
        And one man in his time plays many parts,                       
5      His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
        Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
        And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
        And shining morning face, creeping like snail
        Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,  
10    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
        Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
        Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, 
        Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
        Seeking the bubble reputation
15    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
        In fair round belly with good capon lined,
        With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, 
        Full of wise saws and modern instances;
        And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
20    Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
        With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
        His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
        For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
        Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
25    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
        That ends this strange eventful history,
        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Check out Daedalus Books' ever-changing and always available resources on the Bard here!
See more Daily Glean illustrated features on Shakespeare here.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Focus on London: Up, Down, and Inside Out

The Public Domain Review recently featured a rarity called The London Guide and Stranger’s Safeguard against the Cheats, Swindlers, and Pickpockets (1819). Its frontispiece is pictured at left. From its "Glossary of Cant Terms" comes mizzle ("to get away slily"), dive ("to enter the pocket)", patter ("examination before magistrates"), toggery ("clothing"),  and bon ton ("high life women").
"It was once the seat of the world's mightiest empire and the most populous city on the planet, while the list of historical figures, notable personalities, and literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic talents who have called it home is simply staggering." From Jonathan Oates' Unsolved London Murders: The 1920s & 1930s to the photo book A Century of Royalty (culled from the pages of the Daily Mirror) to Jane Austen's London to PBS's Secrets of Underground London to Peter Ackroyd's London Under there's something for everyone in the Daedalus Books Spotlight on the great  metropolis of London. 
George V (left) with Generals Foch and Haig after the Battle of the Somme in World War I. (A Century of Royalty)
How do you curate themed displays online when you're a virtual bookseller? One way is through the ever-changing "Spotlight" features you'll find by clicking on a tab at the top of our main page. And if you sign up for e-mail notifications (top left of main page), you can get a discount on your next order as well as being informed of all future Spotlights. Recent ones have been "A Taste for Adventure," "Back to School for Grownups," "Paris," "Duke Ellington," and "The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War." Our Forums are pretty fab too (watch for one beginning in the fall on the Roosevelts.)
Princess Margaret with the Beatles. (A Century of Royalty)
If you enjoy watching historical crime series, snap up the Sergeant Cribb DVD set before it sells out. (He's a detective working for Scotland Yard in the Victorian Era; we also have the Father Brown complete collection and a documentary on the notorious serial poisoner William Palmer.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tennis anyone? Vintage posters and Hollywood photos

Whilst I and my fellow tennis fans are gearing up for the last grand slam of the year in Flushing Meadows, I thought I'd share these colorful vintage posters of the sport. They come from a recent auction catalog by Swann Galleries.
I also find these photos of golden-age Hollywood stars on the court quite enjoyable. First up is Kate Hepburn, one of the sportiest stars of them all. In the photo at right, she poses for a publicity picture with professional athlete Gussie Moran on the set of Pat and Mike. (Courtesy Everett Collection.)
The  photos below show Judy Garland and Paulette Goddard playing tennis at the Ambassador Hotel for charity.
Nice pickup, Barbara Stanwyck! Then it's game, set, and match. Below, Ginger Rogers really goes for her shots—and manages to look fetching at the same time (just as she did in those impossibly intricate routines with Astaire).
Above, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard goof off in their own giddy fashion. Below, pals Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart try a spot of table tennis, while the happiest couple in Hollywood, Bacall and Bogey, take a break from same.
Balancing Bacall's devastating voice and looks and her aura of patrician self-possession was a down-to-earth sense of humor and fun. That's why Bogart (and the couple's fans) loved her so much. She'll be greatly missed, and remembered fondly forever via her films.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wonderful animated gif book illustrations from the Smithsonian and U. Iowa Libraries

Whoever is curating the Smithsonian Libraries' Tumblr page of vintage book illustrations ("Turning the Book Wheel") is having way too much fun for government work! Huffington Post has put together this slideshow of their favorites, but it's worth bookmarking the original site and checking back from time to time for more Puckish gifs and captions.
Hope that perks up your mid-week! Over at the University of Iowa Special Collections, Colleen Theisen uses gifs to present such items as miniature alchemists' books and Cris de Paris, a set of 23 cards, each featuring a “cry” heard around Paris circa 1829.
Below, from a scrapbook on The Hanlon Brothers, an influential circus and variety act. Performing first as children in the 1840s and continuing into the early 20th century, they became known for their acrobatics and death-defying stunts such as the “Perilous Ladder.”
Who else but the Smithsonian would have the very first issue of Wonder Woman?
 You'll find more comic book lore and history here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fakes! The overt and covert business of art forgery

There are about 5,000 artists in the Chinese city of Xiamen who paint oil paintings for hire full-time. They toil for dozens of companies whose business it is to supply both Chinese and world art markets with low-cost but pretty darn authentic looking reproductions of masterworks by famed artists ranging from Leonardo to Warhol. Monets are by far the most requested, but the offerings are manifold. As the samples below from "Refine Gallery" show, you can have pretty much anything your little heart desires. As Refined's sales pitch states: "Our best and professional artists paint all top quality paintings, the reproductions will resemble the original in the color, details and proportion nearly 90–95%." All for less than $100 too, usually—including shipping!
I would be the last to diss anyone for craving to have their favorite painting done up right and given pride of place in their own personal salon. Here's a little gem by Gaugin I'd love to have reproduced for my personal atelier.
M. Loulou. Oil on canvas, 1890. Barnes Foundation. What artwork would you have reproduced?
Chinese fakery is not relegated to exports. In one recent high-profile case, an entire museum of indigenous works there closed because all of its 40,000 pieces were reportedly faked. Does anyone else think that is hilarious/insane? But many Western art "experts" should be beaten about the head with their own auction catalogs as well. Some authorities estimate that up to half of all art in circulation posing as original is fake. Chinese immigrant artist Pei-Shen Qian blithely faked Rothkos, Pollocks, etc for years to earn extra cash—until he was caught up short by seeing one of his own phonies marketed in Manhattan for a price tag of $8.3 million. He asked for, and got, a raise—but it was nothing like the $33 million netted by his now-indicted, felonious employer.
Pei-Shen Qian's “Jackson Pollock,” which sold for $17 million.
Now for a palate cleanser. If the purveyors of the well-received exhibit "The Complete Frida" are to believed, there's a clear up side to all of this fakery. A touring show authorized by the artist's estate, it contains photographs of Kahlo and artifacts from her life as well all 123 of her paintings, reproduced to the highest standards by Chinese artists. Besides providing an overview of her career in one place (with painting that are never seen, such as those owned by Madonna), the show allows art lovers to view the paintings close to their original condition, with their hue and luminance intact. (Photo by Nickolas Muray, © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives)
There's plenty of authenticated artwork (with impeccable provenances), in our many books on Gauguin, as well as other Impressionist and post-Impressionist masters. The same goes for Pollock and de Kooning!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photo book spans Mick Jagger's career; Grace Kelly, Cary Grant et al. cavort on the Riviera

The 71 illustrations, in color and duotone, in Mick Jagger The Photobook span the rock icon's career. (Did you see the recent PBS special of him performing with Muddy Waters in Chicago in the '60s?) The book includes photographs taken by Andy Warhol, Anton Corbijn, Karl Lagerfeld, Bryan Adams, and many others. (Photos above by Ceccetti and .Jean-Marie Perier, respectively. Below, a haunting image by Cecil Beaton from 1967.)
"While we certainly hope that this collection will thrill Mick’s fans, this is primarily intended as a photography book" writes François Hébel in the introduction. "His face tells the story of fifty years of portrait practice, speaking of our relationship with celebrities, of evolving fashions, and of the creation of a rock aesthetic. As we journey through the years, we can almost hear the music."
Also in the celebrity vein is Riviera Cocktail, a celebration of la dolce vita if there ever was one. Splashed across its pages are informal snapshots by Edward Quinn of the rich, famous, and talented disporting themselves in this vacation paradise in the 1950s.
David Niven & Grace Kelly, Gala Evening Bal à l'Opéra, Monte Carlo 1959.
Alfred Hitchcock presents Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, the two stars of his film To Catch A Thief, Cannes 1954.
 Above, Pablo Picasso and Brigitte Bardot.