COLUMNS

  • Books

    A masked ball. From Charles Osborne's Verdi: A Life in the Theatre.

    Charles Osborne’s biography Verdi: A Life in the Theatre, featuring a generous selection of letters from the composer’s voluminous correspondence, will be published in January by Alfred A. Knopf, New York at 384 pages, with 16 pages of photographs. The following prepublication excerpt describes the genesis of Un ballo in maschera (A masked ball).

    VERDI PREPARED TO compose Gustavo III di Svezia, and asked Antonio Somma to turn Scribe’s French libretto into an Italian one. Somma agreed, but added that he would prefer to do it anonymously or pseudonymously, perhaps not wanting to be involved in any

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  • Books

    the Acropolis

    The following are prepublication extracts from three forthcoming books. The first is Le Corbusier’s The Journey to the East, the travel diary that he kept during his first journey through Central and Eastern Europe, at the age of 24. Edited and annotated by Ivan Zaknic, and translated by Zaknic in collaboration with Nicole Pertuiset, it was in May 1987 by the MIT Press, in Cambridge, Mass., and London, England, at 272 pages, with 84 black-and-white illustrations. ($19.95)

    TO SEE THE ACROPOLIS is a dream one treasures without ever expecting to realize it. I don’t really know why this hill harbors

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  • Books

    Hispanic Art and Identity

    Octavio Paz’s essay “Art and Identity: Hispanics in the United States,” translated by Eliot Weinberger, appeared in Hispanic Art in the United States: Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors (which also contained essays by John Beardsley and Jane Livingston). It was published in May 1987 by Abbeville Press, Inc., New York, at 236 pages, with 150 color and 50 black-and-white illustrations. ($45)

    OUR EARLIEST EXPERIENCE, in the darkness of the beginning, is a sensation of a sudden breaking away. Expelled from an all that envelops us, we open our eyes for the first time in strange, indifferent

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  • Books

    Film

    Mary Ann Doane's The Desire to Desire: The Woman's Film of the 1940s was published in June 1987 by Indiana University Press, Bloomington, at 256 pages, with 73 black-and-white illustrations. (cloth $35; paperback $12.50)

    TOWARD THE END of Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), there is a close-up of some duration of Mia Farrow in spectatorial ecstasy, enraptured by the image, her face glowing (both figuratively and literally through its reflection of light from the movie screen). This rapture persists despite the rather tawdry surroundings of a lower-class movie theater. What the shot

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  • Books

    Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.

    Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986, 159 pp.

    WHAT’S STRANGE ISN’T THAT Art Spiegelman’s Maus has received so much critical acclaim since its publication. Rather, it’s that the critics (with a few exceptions) seem so unprepared for the idea that a comic can convey so complex a narrative about a subject whose unaccountability has made it the most difficult ethical problem of the 20th century. Historians, psychoanalysts, artists, writers, filmmakers, and many others have all struggled with it. I am referring to the Holocaust.

    The comic form always involves, to

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  • Books

    An excerpt from G. Craig Houston’s New Translation Of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Rodin And Other Prose Pieces

    The following passages are prepublication extracts from three forthcoming books. The first is a group of essays by Rainer Maria Rilke, including a series of writings on Auguste Rodin, newly translated by G. Craig Houston. It will be published under the title Rodin and Other Prose Pieces by Quartet Books/Salem House Publishers, of Topsfield, Mass., in March. A 167-page paperback, it will contain 16 black-and-white illustrations. (©Ausgewãhlte Werke II, Insel Verlag, 1948).

    RODIN WAS SOLITARY BEFORE he became famous. And Fame, when it came, made him if anything still more solitary. For Fame, after

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  • Books

    An excerpt from Ann Beattie’s Alex Katz by Ann Beattie

    Ann Beattie’s Alex Katz by Ann Beattie will be published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, in March, at 92 pages, with 26 color illustrations.

    It is difficult to look at some of Katz’s paintings and not imagine that there must have been times when his powers of observation pained him. Though we are more likely to think of a painter such as Eric Fischl, who seems to be peeking at his subjects enacting something that is obviously—or potentially—shocking, and who transforms ordinary surroundings into contextual definitions of people as a social interpreter, Katz has—in a naturalistic, yet stylized

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  • Books

    An excerpt from Julian Schnabel’s C.V.J.

    Julian Schnabel’s C.V.J. (the book’s working title) will be published by Random House in the fall of 1987.

    November 1981, Amsterdam.

    I saw a Van Gogh drawing of his girlfriend’s mother standing in a back yard in The Hague. It was made in 1882. It has a grayish-purple wash on it. There’s a peculiar yet familiar light in it. It made me feel like I was standing on Houston Street in late November, the temperature had just changed; I didn’t have a scarf; a friend had canceled a dinner appointment with me. I had nowhere to go. I felt the air go through me. That drawing made me feel like I was already

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  • Books

    David Byrne’s True Stories and Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

    David Byrne, True Stories (New York: Harmondsworth, England; Victoria, Australia; Markham, Canada; and Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books, 1986), 191 pages.

    Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (New York: Aperture distributed by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986), 144 pages.

    A FLAMBOYANT GESTURE OF ART that takes place in time—performance film, video—is its vanishing act, it disappearance once the show’s over. Such work can, of course, be documented, and countless books have postulated theory about it, described its practice, and worked textually and visually as collections of artifacts of

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  • Books

    Umberto Eco

    Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality trans. William Weaver (San Diego, New York, and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), 307 pages.

    CONCERNED WITH REINCARNATIONS, SECOND GUESSES, unreasonable facsimiles, aftereffects, and mimicries, Umberto Eco is appropriately named. This professional distinguisher of signs from their signifieds readily admits that he practices semiotics, but the practice shouldn’t frighten anyone and he would still do it “if it were called something else” In this collection of essays he originally wrote for an Italian newspaper and magazine public, Eco gets involved with

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  • Slant

    Vienna and Her Sisters. A parable, with strings.

    FOR A LONG TIME, I have gone to bed late, and, not sleeping the sleep of reason, have produced no monsters. Where I awake each day, though, is another matter. I awake in a place that supposedly no longer exists. Robert Musil, in The Man Without Qualities (1930), calls this place Kakania, and it is a place where

    the Superman was adored, and the Subman was adored; health and the sun were worshipped, and the delicacy of consumptive girls was worshipped; people were enthusiastic hero-worshippers and enthusiastic adherents of the social creed of the Man in the Street; one had faith and one was skeptical,

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  • Books

    Inside the White Cube.

    WRITING ABOUT YOUR PAST IS the closest you get to coming back from the dead. You assume a false superiority over your previous self, who did all the work. So looking back at these articles, now revived between their own pasteboard, what do I have to add? A great deal.

    In the past ten years so much has been buried as if it never happened. Art does not progress by having a good memory. And New York is the locus of some radical forgetting. You can reinvent the past, suitably disguised, if no one remembers it. Thus is originality, that patented fetish of the self, defined. What has been buried? One

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