30 April 2008

The Good German

I loved this book. It's by no means a great work of literature, but it delivers a compelling story, intriguing characters, and ponder-worthy moral questions. Maybe a little too conspicuously moralizing, but after all, the book's setting (Berlin in the aftermath of Germany's loss to the Allies in WWII) presents an array of moral conundrums. Must be hard for a period writer to resist.

Surprisingly, there are also interesting parallels to be drawn between postwar Berlin and postwar Baghdad... I guess the issues associated with occupation are largely universal.

This was a book I never wanted to put down, though I was frequently obliged to. Last night, though, I read the last third straight through.

A great pleasure.

29 April 2008

Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp

We read this children's picture book primarily because its author is Philip Pullman, the creator of the wonderful His Dark Materials trilogy for young adults.

While I can certainly recommend this book for children (it is a great story, and the pictures, by Sophy Williams, are quite beautiful), it is of limited interest to the Philip Pullman junkie. The story is retold well, but you'd never know Pullman wrote it, as opposed to anyone else.

28 April 2008

The Mission Song

John LeCarre can do no wrong, as far as I'm concerned; this novel--about a naive young man, eager to do good for his country (the UK) as well as the African nation he was born in, who gets mixed up in a cynical plot--can do no wrong, either. Things turn out both better and worse than you expect.

Highly recommended.

27 April 2008

Alvin Ailey

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater comes to Chicago once a year, and this year I decided not to miss it, even though Victor was out of town. The program I saw included "Firebird" as well as "Flower" and "Revelations," which has you leaving the theater doing a little dance inside. Just terrific performers, and inspiring choreography. "Flower" was my least favorite, though I could appreciate it. I had seen "Revelations" before--I think it's kind of a signature work. But "Firebird" was new to me, and I thought it was just spectacular.

The Auditorium Theater is a wonderful venue: beautiful space, great acoustics. Every time I return there I'm amazed again.


We finally made it to the Hopper and Homer shows at the Art Institute of Chicago a few weeks ago, after a couple of failed attempts. There are constantly lines out the door to see these exhibits!

And they are totally worth it. Some art can be appreciated pretty well in reproduction and some art is a revelation in person. I would never have thought seeing Hopper's stuff in person would be so amazing, but that's because the reproductions capture his achievement so poorly. In reproduction, I had loved Hopper's work, but for what I felt as loneliness and alienation portrayed there. I never had a clue about what he achieved with light.

In person, the light is almost all you see. The paintings seem to contain their own light, and even the most familiar (like Nighthawks at the Diner) are much brighter than you remember them. This was a phenomenal exhibit, and the Homer exhibit was a beautiful complement to it, for of course Homer, too, is all about light, though his effects show more clearly in reproduction.

Very beautiful work. So happy and proud to have the opportunity to see these exhibits here in Chicago.


We made it to ArtChicago a couple years ago, when it was paired with the Antiques Fair in the Merchandise Mart for the first time. But we missed it last year, which was the introduction of Artropolis--even more art. I think this year was bigger than ever, with five shows in one weekend: ArtChicago, the Antiques Fair, Next, The Artist Project, and the Intuit show.

We spent hours there yesterday. Of course, it was enormous and overwhelming. But wonderful to see so many beautiful things. And since there are such big crowds, you don't feel self-conscious just looking, as you may when gallery hopping. Some of the galleries represented were displaying amazing stuff: Chagalls, Renoirs, and other work by artists perhaps not so famous, but wonderful to see. And unlike at museums, you can get as close as you like (though I imagine touching is still out of the question).

But while the ArtChicago show was impressive, some of the most interesting stuff was in the Intuit Show of Outsider Art.


This Will Smith vehicle is exactly what we expected: fairly predictable romantic comedy with many embarrassing-funny moments.

But perhaps more likable than we would have predicted.

You're an Animal, Viskovitz!

This is one of the most disappointing books I've read in a while. I mean, I love animals, I love mythology, I love parables, but this collection, in which the main character is a different animal in each tale, is essentially one pretty easy joke after another. I was hoping for something like Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics, and got something with much less feeling, and a lot of self-satisfied cleverness.

Ah, well.