Summer List

Maurice Prendergast, On the Beach, c. 1907-1909. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 14 1/2 x 21 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1926.

Last week’s glorious weather inspired me to put together a shortlist of things to read, hear, or see this summer:

To the End of the Land, David Grossman’s haunting novel of love and magical thinking that centers on the emotional struggle of an Israeli mother hiking through the mountainous terrain of Galilee with her son’s estranged father in an ingenuous attempt to keep their son alive while he is on a military offensive in Lebanon by telling his father stories about him.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. A brilliant first novel of old-world beauty and magic by a surprisingly mature 25-year old, it consists of a series of interwoven stories that take place in a fictional Balkan country and feature, among many other remarkable and wondrous characters, a mute woman who befriends a tiger that has escaped from the zoo and a deathless man who has been condemned to live forever.

Don’t kill the birthday girl! by Washington-based poet and longtime friend of The Phillips Collection, Sandra Beasley. A touching and enlightening memoir of an “Allergy Girl” about learning to live with severe food allergies.

STRATA, the stirring recording of the “Symphony No. 6” by the Estonian contemporary composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, whose music was performed last February as part of the Phillips’s Leading European Composers series (ECM; Nordic Symphonic Orchestra; Anu Tali, conductor).

Rooms with a View at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (on view through July 4), one of the most beautiful exhibitions I have seen in a very long time, exquisitely curated by Sabine Rewald, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Curator in the Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art at the Met.

Game of Thrones, a new HBO series based on the epic fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin, about the violent struggle for control over the Seven Kingdoms of the northern realm under the background of the arrival of a long winter, which in this world can last several lifetimes and may bring with it unimaginable horrors. In short, the perfect entertainment while we endure the effects of global warming this summer.

The Object of Some Affection

An Object to Beauty by Steve Martin

Much noise has been made surrounding Steve Martin’s latest book. Supposedly written as a reflection on the art world (Martin is known in some circles for his impressive personal collection) it has instead become a sticking point between him and his readers who expect. . . well, less. They seem to want less of Martin as an art elitist and more of his “wild and crazy” comedic persona.

Whatever cinematic images his name conjures, Martin is an author. In this novel he weaves the real with the surreal, dropping the names of well known artists and conjuring the spirits of others under fictional aliases. The book spans the career of Lacey Yeager, who enters as an inexperienced auction house intern and quickly proves herself a skilled social climber. Wildly opportunistic, self-centered, and a self-described “petty person”, Lacey is as unlikeable a protagonist as one may be able to tolerate. But there is enough wit and art world wisdom in this book to make for a satisfying read. Continue reading “The Object of Some Affection” »