Neo-Impressionist Art, A Love Letter to Gatsby, Coco Chanel Bio, & More | Arts & Humanities Reviews

redstarBlock, Jane & Ellen Wardwell Lee. The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886–1904. Yale Univ. 2014. 237p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300190847. $65. FINE ARTS

neoimpressionist090314Block (Ricker Lib. of Architecture and Art, Univ. of Illinois) and Lee (Indianapolis Museum of Art [IMA]) have written a beautiful, scholarly, yet accessible book that’s not only a catalog (for exhibitions at IMA and the Brussels Cultural Ctr.) but a pioneering work, the first to examine portraits produced by neo-impressionist artists. Lee begins by discussing Georges Seurat and the origins of the movement; Block then goes on to explain the role of the portrait in a style of painting that is “seemingly antithetical” to the purpose of portraiture. More than the impressionists, neo-impressionist artists such as Edmond Cross, Georges Lemmen, Maximilien Luce, Paul Signac, Henry van de Velde, Vincent van Gogh, and Théo van Rysselberghe favored landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes over portraits. Over 100 color, mostly full-page, illustrations show the ways in which the tiny dots of color favored by Seurat and slightly larger blocks of color can make up a dynamic, lifelike portrait. Brief biographies of the individual artists, along with each painting or drawing’s provenance, exhibition history, and bibliography are included. VERDICT A great treat for art lovers and scholars alike.—Marcia G. Welsh, Dartmouth Coll. Lib., Hanover, NH

redstarCorrigan, Maureen. So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures. Little, Brown. Sept. 2014. 352p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780316230070. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316230087. LIT

sowereadon090314Book critic (NPR’s Fresh Air), professor (literature, Georgetown Univ.), and author (Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading) Corrigan pens a literary love letter with this information-packed, entertaining volume. The object of her affection, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, is examined from many angles—literary, sociological, cultural, personal, and historical. The intrepid Corrigan reads and rereads the novel; offers insights into its tropes and meaning; visits dusty archives, graveyards, and even her Queens, NY, high school alma mater; pores over correspondence; and watches all manner of filmed and staged Gatsbys (including what she calls a “noir version”) in order to get at the novel’s message and its appeal. She traces the book’s arc from creation to near-obscurity to literary prominence. Her tone is lively and bright and her enthusiasm for the novel is infectious. You’ll feel as if you’re attending a lecture by your favorite prof or chatting with a brainy, bookish friend. ­VERDICT Bursting with intellectual energy and fun facts, this paean to the “great American novel” will appeal to fans of ­Corrigan’s book critiques and Jazz Age scholars, and will, one hopes, impel readers to pick up the brief work for the first (or fourth, or 14th) time. [See “Books for the Masses,” Editors’ BEA Picks, LJ 7/14, p. 28.]—Liz French, Library Journal

redstarPoole, W. Scott. Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror. Soft Skull. Sept. 2014. 256p. photos. ISBN 9781593765439. pap. $16.95. TV

vampira090314Pop culture critic Poole (history, Coll. of Charleston; Monsters in America) sure knows a monster when he sees one. He continues his macrocultural exegesis in this microquasibiography and cultural (especially the 1950s) explication of TV’s first and most revelatory horror host. Maila Nurmi, the eponymous Vampira, was a deliciously sexy siren from the graveyard with a deathly wan pallor, 19-inch cinched waist, talons for nails, a busty chest, and an orgasmic scream to die for (really, check it out on YouTube). Her show, Dig Me, Vampira, ran for one season only, 56 episodes (none of which, sadly, exist today), on Los Angeles’s KABC channel 7 in 1954. And yet, as Poole incisively explains and illustrates throughout, Vampira’s social and artistic influence has been pervasive and subversive. She was going to be made a star by Howard Hawks (didn’t happen), bombed around with James Dean and Elvis, toured in the 1950s with Liberace, and was in Ed Wood’s 1959 masterpiece, Plan 9 from Outer Space. Why we should care, and care v-e-r-y much, about this seemingly peripheral C-list celebrity is made artfully clear in Poole’s excellent work. VERDICT Before there was Dr. Morgus, Svengoolie, and Elvira, there was the titular Vampira. This stone-cold winner belongs in every American studies collection.—Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX

Design Doyennes

mademoiselle090314redstarGarelick, Rhonda K. Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History. Random. Sept. 2014. 608p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781400069521. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780679604266. DEC ARTS

Biographies of Coco Chanel (1883–1971) abound, reflecting the embellishments and inconsistencies of the designer’s own tales. Beyond those are novels, children’s books, films, and the 1970 musical Coco starring Katharine Hepburn. Recent exhibitions revere Chanel and her creations (the little black dress, Chanel No. 5) as sacred objects. In this monumental biography, Garelick, who writes widely on fashion, gender, and performance, anchors Chanel’s remarkable story within larger cultural, social, and political forces, including gender norms, French nationalism, and the rise of Nazism. She supports and questions existing narratives of the designer as a self-made social climber with new research into primary sources and the historical milieu. The author focuses particularly on the lives of lovers and friends, drawing out connections between the designer’s private life and the aesthetic she created. Above all, Garelick unpacks Chanel’s genius at selling her own transformative myth to women everywhere. VERDICT With more rigor and less hyperbole than its predecessors, this exhaustively researched yet highly readable biography secures a prominent place among countless books on Chanel. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/14.—Lindsay King, Yale Univ. Libs, New Haven, CT

Secrest, Meryle. Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography. Knopf. Oct. 2014. 400p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780307701596. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780385353274. DEC ARTS

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) was the queen of the fashion world in the years between World War I and World War II, at the time eclipsing even Coco ­Chanel. She collaborated with such artists as Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and Jean Cocteau on her designs for jewelry, clothing, and accessories, many of which had surreal influences or presented trompe l’oeil effects. She threw and attended glittering parties and lived in glamorous locales around the world. She had a signature color, the so-called “shocking pink,” and a talent for self-invention and telling outrageous stories about herself. ­Secrest (Modligliani) does a solid job of placing Schiaparelli’s work in historical context and considering others’ opinions of her. Unfortunately, since the designer left few letters and no diaries—her 1954 autobiography, Shocking Life, said less about the woman herself than how she wanted other people to be; her “12 Commandments for Women” include such pronouncements as “A woman who buys an expensive dress and changes it, often with disastrous result, is extravagant and foolish”—there’s little insight into ­Schiaparelli’s interior life. Copious photographs enhance the narrative. VERDICT Recommended for those interested in fashion history. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/14.]—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

For all the latest reviews in this subject area and more, check out our new Book Verdict site! Book Verdict is fully accessible to all users, though certain content and functionality are only available to subscribers.

To log in to your account, click here. To view the new subscription options, Get Started With Book Verdict Pro Today.

Don't know if you have an account with us? It's easy to check and verify your email, or create a new account.
The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Fine Arts

Friedlander, Lee. Family in the Picture, 1958–2013. Yale Univ. 2014. 378p. photos. ISBN 9780300204834. $75. PHOTOG

Klinkowitz, Jerome. Frank Lloyd Wright and His Manner of Thought. Univ. of Wisconsin. Sept. 2014. 208p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780299301446. pap. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780299301439. ARCH

Peach, Gene. Santa Fe. Museum of New Mexico. 2014. 163p. photos. ISBN 9780890135891. $39.95. PHOTOG

redstarPolshek, James Stewart. Build, Memory. Monacelli. 2014. 528p. illus. ISBN 9781580933629. $60. ARCH

redstarSims, Patterson with others. Richard Estes’ Realism. Yale Univ. 2014. 178p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780300205121. pap. $40. FINE ARTS

Literature

redstarEller, Jonathan R. Ray Bradbury Unbound. Univ. of Illinois. Sept. 2014. 336p. photos. notes. ISBN 9780252038693. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9780252096631. LIT

Fahy, Thomas. Understanding Truman Capote. Univ. of South Carolina. (Understanding Contemporary American Literature). 2014. 184p. bibliog. ISBN 9781611173413. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611173420. LIT

Gay, Roxane. Bad Feminist: Essays. Harper Perennial. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780062282712. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062282729. LIT

Martin, Justin. Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians. Da Capo. Sept. 2014. 352p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780306822261. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780306822278. LIT

Mendelsund, Peter. What We See When We Read. Vintage. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780804171632. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780804171649. LIT

The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters. Picador. (True Tales). Sept. 2014. 288p. ed. by Stephanie Wu. ISBN 9781250051455. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781250051462. HUMOR

Performing Arts

Cavett, Dick. Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks. Holt. Nov. 2014. 288p. photos. index. ISBN 9780805099775. $26. TV

Fertig, Mark. Film Noir 101: The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s–1950s. Fantagraphics. Sept. 2014. 120p. illus. ISBN 9781606997598. $35. FILM

Harris, Ellen T. George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends. Norton. Sept. 2014. 496p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393088953. $37.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393245899. MUSIC

Longworth, Karina. Hollywood Frame by Frame: The Unseen Silver Screen in Contact Sheets, 1951–1997. Princeton Architectural. Sept. 2014. 208p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781616892593. $30. FILM

Marcus, Greil. The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs. Yale Univ. Sept. 2014. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300187373. $28. MUSIC

Pilato, Herbie J. Glamour, Gidgets, and the Girl Next Door: Television’s Iconic Women from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Taylor. Sept. 2014. 326p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781589799691. $24.95. TV

Ritchie, Fiona & Doug Orr. Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia. Univ. of North Carolina. Sept. 2014. 368p. illus. discog. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781469618227. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781469618234. MUSIC

Schmidt, Randy L. Judy Garland on Judy Garland: Interviews and Encounters. Chicago Review. Sept. 2014. 480p. index. ISBN 9781613749456. pap. $34.95. MUSIC

Philosophy

Cutrofello, Andrew. All for Nothing: Hamlet’s Negativity. MIT. (Short Circuits). Sept. 2014. 240p. notes. ISBN 9780262526340. pap. $22.95. PHIL

Ritivoi, Andreea Deciu. Intimate Strangers: Arendt, Marcuse, Solzhenitsyn, and Said in American Political Discourse. Columbia Univ. Sept. 2014. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9780231168687. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780231537919. PHIL

Poetry

Lim, Sandra. The Wilderness. Norton. Sept. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9780393349573. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393243499. POETRY

redstarWiman, Christian. Once in the West. Farrar. Sept. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9780374227012. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780374713546. POETRY

Spirituality & Religion

Birkel, Michael. Qur’an in Conversation. Baylor Univ. 2014. 276p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781481300971. $39.95. REL

Espinosa, Gastón. Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action. Harvard Univ. 2014. 505p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780674278875. $35. REL

Lupu, Ira C. & Robert W. Tuttle. Secular Government, Religious People. Eerdmans. (Emory Univ. Studies in Law & Religion). 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780802870797. pap. $25. REL

Wilson, Brian C. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living. Indiana Univ. Oct. 2014. 256p. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780253014474. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780253014559. REL

Sports & Recreation

Dempsey, Luke. Club Soccer 101: The Essential Guide to the Stars, Stats, and Stories of 101 of the Greatest Teams in the World. Norton. Sept. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780393349306. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393349313. SPORTS

Finebaum, Paul. My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football. Harper. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780062297419. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062297433. SPORTS

Michael, Jackson. The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL. Univ. of Nebraska. Sept. 2014. 344p. index. ISBN 9780803255739. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803262980. SPORTS

Romanov, Nicholas with Kurt Brungardt. The Running Revolution: How To Run Faster, Farther, and Injury-Free—For Life. Penguin. Sept. 2014. 240p. index. ISBN 9780143123194. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781101605608. SPORTS

Steen, Rob. Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport. Bloomsbury USA. 2014. 544p. notes. ISBN 9781408152157. $42; ebk. ISBN 9781408181379. SPORTS

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Share