BY TIFFANY ALEXANDER
Below are five books you are going to love:
1. In the Frame: Women’s Ekphrastic Poetry from Marianne Moore to Susan Wheeler, edited by Jane Hedley, Nick Halpern, and Willard Spiegelman
Ekphrastic poetry is poetry inspired by a piece of visual art. The inspiration could be a painting, sculpture or a simple sketch. I am a new fan of the form but only have three under my belt so far and only one has seen the light of the day! But I digress. This book includes poems as well as essays on the process of writing an Ekphrastic poem by writers such as Rita Dove, Elizabeth Bishop, and Louise Glück.
2. Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s, by Sabine Rewald, Ian Buruma, Matthias Eberle, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)
I have a special place in my heart for the Twenties. Only the sweet stuff, of course, the raisins in the bran if you will. To be more specific, I love the fashion, styles, and creative movements that emerged from the Golden Age. The paintings from the Weimer Republic era are especially stunning, done in a style called Verism, AKA every day of life, rather than the historic or legendary. Christian Schad painted one of my favorites, Agosta, the Pigeon-Chested Man, and Rasha, the Black Dove, which inspired a poem written by Rita Dove. The subjects of the enclosed portraits in Glitter and Doom (How is that for a title?) were actors, poets, prostitutes, doctors, businessmen, etc. and though a lot of the paintings scream glam and glee, you get the feeling there is a thin layer of decay just working beneath the skin.
3. 1929 by Man Ray, edited by Man Ray, Benjamin Péret, and Louis Aragon
This book of “refined smut” made its debut in you guessed it, 1929 and contained four graphic erotic photographs titled, The Four Seasons. Also included were crude poems in the form of nursery rhymes. I’ll admit I’m only interested in this book because the one and only Kiki De Montparnasse is featured in unprecedented close-ups of her and Man Ray making love. 1929 was pretty scandalous and did not even make it pass the French censors. Now, this may not be a book I'd read every morning over a cup of coffee, but I would love to have it in my library!
4. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
I have admired Shirley Jackson since we had to read The Lottery in high school decades ago. And one of my favorite film adaptations of her work is, The Haunting of Hill House. The newest version now playing on Netflix is excellent. Apparently, there about 200 short stories, I have yet to read but Hangsaman was an earlier novel that came out in 1951, eight years before The Lottery. Hangsaman, based on a true unsolved mystery of an 18-year-old girl who disappeared near Bennington in Southern Vermont contains some of Jackson's own experiences.
5. Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill
I am not going to lie. The cover caught my attention first. Judging a book by its cover is not always the best way to shop, but that is how I discovered James Purdy by way of his novel, Eustace Chisholm and the Works, so two out of two is not bad. According to good old Wikipedia, Cloud 9 is a two-act play written that premiered at Dartington College of Arts, Devon, on 14 February 1979.
The two acts of the play form a contrapuntal structure. Act I is set in British colonial Africa in the Victorian era, and Act II is set in a London park in 1979. However, between the acts only twenty-five years pass for the characters. Each actor plays one role in Act I and a different role in Act II - the characters who appear in both acts are played by different actors in the first and second. Act I parodies the conventional comedy genre and satirizes Victorian society and colonialism. Act II shows what could happen when the restrictions of both the comic genre and Victorian ideology are loosened.
I had no idea what contrapuntal structure was until stumbling onto this book but sounds like a winner to me. So treat yourself or someone you love for the holidays are looming!
Tiffany Alexander is a poet who has recently branched out into writing screenplays. Her goal is to put out more stories about mother and daughters of color into the world of Horror. She is currently working on a different spin on the haunted house movie