Tag Archive | "books"

Female Friendship, Literature and Obsession in “Shirley”

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By Tessa Raebeck

Author Susan Scarf Merrell will read from "Shirley" June 21 at BookHampton in Southampton.

Author Susan Scarf Merrell will read from “Shirley” June 21 at BookHampton in Southampton.

While writing “Shirley,” Susan Scarf Merrell worried for her protagonist, Rose. Rose is caught between the world in her own head and the real one outside of it in the novel, which examines themes of obsession, creativity and womanhood in the 1960s.

Shirley,” which Ms. Merrell will read from at BookHampton in Southampton Saturday, centers on the relationships that evolve when pregnant Rose and her husband Fred move in with celebrated writer Shirley Jackson and her husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. With dark twists and multilayered characters, the historical fiction novel celebrates literature while delving into its underbelly.

“Reading both Shirley and Stanley’s letters, journal entries, essays and books, I began to hear the voice of Rose developing in my mind,” Ms. Scarf Merrell said in a press release. “The shift from researching a non-fiction work to beginning a novel was quite abrupt.”

“One sudden moment of realization (I was out in the woods walking my dog, and started taking notes using the voice recorder on my cell phone), and the project took on an entirely different form. But I think one of Shirley Jackson’s many gifts was an ability to massage real life events into fiction; in some ways, this was an inevitable turn of events for me,” she added.

“Jackson has always been one of the more intriguing and misunderstood writers of her generation, a woman writer at the cusp of feminism’s second wave who nevertheless was erroneously dismissed for writing mere ‘domestic fiction,’” Booklist said in a review of “Shirley.” “Merrell brings this complicated and compelling woman to life through the kind of taut and intimate thriller Jackson herself would have been proud to call her own.”

Susan Scarf Merrell will read from “Shirley” Saturday, June 21, at 5 p.m. at BookHampton, located at 16 Hampton Road in Southampton. For more information, call (631) 283-0270.

Sag Harbor Novelist Robert Boris Riskin Reading of “Deadly Secrets” at Canio’s Books

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Author Robert Boris Riskin.

Sag Harbor author Robert Boris Riskin.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sharing the latest adventures of crime solver Jake Wanderman, Sag Harbor resident and novelist Robert Boris Riskin will read from his new thriller, “Deadly Secrets,” on Saturday, June 7, at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.

A detective with a knack for solving crimes and quoting Shakespeare, Jake travels to London and Paris to track down a “Hamptons murderer.”

Mr. Riskin first introduced Jake in his previous novel, “Deadly Bones,” a humorous but thrilling mystery novel. He also wrote “Scrambled Eggs,” a satirical look at the art world set on the East End.

Mr. Riskin’s reading on Saturday will begin at 5 p.m. Canio’s Books is located at 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call (631) 725-4926 or visit caniosbooks.com.

Sag Harbor’s April Gornik Will Sign Latest Book in New York City

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"Radiant Light," 2013, 78” x 90”, oil on linen by April Gornik. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Radiant Light,” 2013, 78” x 90”, oil on linen by April Gornik. Photo courtesy of the artist.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor’s artist-in-residence April Gornik travels to New York City Thursday, May 29, for a reading and book signing of her latest book, “April Gornik: Drawings.”

Published by FigureGround Press and distributed by ARTBOOK D.A.P. the book celebrates Ms. Gornik’s charcoal drawings done since 1984.

“Lush and wide-ranging in scope and subject, these landscapes call out the wild and the cultivated, from the desert to the forest to the sea, and show both the progress and consistency in her evocative approach to drawing,” according to synopsis of the book.

“April Gornik: Drawings” includes essays by Steve Martin and Archie Rand, as well as an interview with Lawrence Weschler and a downloadable composition for piano and cello by Bruce Wolosoff.

Ms. Gornik’s book signing is Thursday, May 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Danese/Corey Gallery, 511 West 22nd Street in New York City. A solo show by the artist is running at the gallery until Saturday, May 31.

Books: Adjusting to a Changing Readership

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Books Pic adjusted

By Claire Walla

The closing of the Borders chain of bookstores two weeks ago served as another reminder to those in the book biz of how fragile the industry has become in the last few years. And it’s caused some to wonder: what’s the future of the book?

In a serendipitous course of events, last week our local independent chain Book Hampton in Sag Harbor hosted a talk with Harper Collins publisher Jonathan Burnham, called “On The Edge: The Future of Publishing.” In a conversation with BookHampton owner Charlene Spektor, Burnham discussed the elements now plaguing the industry, and what booksellers can expect to see in the future. (The forecast is rather uncertain.)

“What’s happening at the moment is that there is a migration of readers from books [or, what the publishing industry now refers to as p-books] to e-books,” Burnham explained. He said digital sales at Harper Collins started as a nascent trend about a year ago. But, while e-book sales were about five percent of Harper Collins’ overall business last year, that total has now hit around 40 percent.

“What’s interesting to us is how fast that’s happened,” Burnham continued. “There has been a huge change [in consumer spending habits] and we the publishers are finding it hard to keep up.”

While many have blamed Borders’ downfall on the company’s failure to latch on to e-book publishing as early as its competitor, Barnes & Noble, which actually manufactured its own e-reader, the Nook, the boom of the digital market has made waves locally, as well.

Burnham called this “the year of difficult questions,” an assertion with which independent book sellers here in Sag Harbor would agree.

Both Spektor, owner of BookHampton, and Maryanne Calendrille, owner of Canio’s Books just up the way, expressed uncertainty when it came to the future of their business. Though both shops are finding creative ways to increase local interest and up revenue (including upping their online presence and expanding the scope of business to include public speakers), neither can tell what the future will hold.

For Spektor, changing times has meant shifting gears. While she said BookHampton rests on a tradition of personal service, that concept has broadened in the wake of the digital revolution.

In the past year, BookHampton has begun selling e-books to customers, largely in response to the fact that people began walking in the store, taking stock of interesting titles and then purchasing those books online at a later date. The chain has also put effort into boosting its online presence, creating a website that, Spektor said, bears the intimate feel of the store itself. In fact, employees refer to the site as “the fourth store.” (BookHampton has physical locations in Sag Harbor, Southampton and East Hampton.)

What it really boils down to, she said, is that “independent bookstores reflect the community that they’re in. “What we have is a tradition of personal service: making recommendations and listening [to people’s questions],” she explained. “All of those things you don’t really get when you go online. Online, it’s just an algorithm.”

On a warm Tuesday afternoon, Maryanne Calendrille answered a customer’s questions and made literary recommendations at Canio’s Books on Main Street, just up the road from BookHampton.
After noticing a worn collection of Harvard classics lined-up atop one of the store’s many shelves, the customer wondered aloud, “Is anyone interested in this anymore?” As it turned out, Calendrille knew of a local author, Chris Beha, who happened to write a book about his experience reading the entirety of the Harvard classics in a single year, called The Whole Five Feet.

The woman’s husband, Harold Rubin, spoke of his fondness for the store as his wife purchased the book. “Coming here, you can talk to people who are knowledgeable and can give you the feel for a book,” he said. “Online, you get the technical. Here, you get the emotional.”

It’s a notion Burnham referenced last week. He said there are certain genres, like romantic fiction, erotica and—surprise, surprise—vampire books that sell very well in electronic form.

“The Internet is a world of geeks and cults,” he explained. Whereas non-fiction tomes and even business-related texts tend to sell better in paper. For many book buyers, he added, sales are contingent on that idea of the bookstore as a community.

Like BookHampton, Calendrille said the purpose of her local shop is not only to provide a place where people can browse for books. It is a gathering space for those in the community. And it’s a reflection of the creative interests and outgrowth of the neighborhood. Local artwork hangs on the walls, writers speak in the shop on the weekends and Calendrille herself teaches writing workshops in the back.

“You can’t deny the business is changing,” she said. “But, what we have here are the kinds of books that curious readers are interested in. It’s a collaboration of our interests and our customers’ interests,” she continued. “And to me, that’s the beauty of the place.”

As Spektor put it, the survival of independent bookshops is contingent on the communities in which they exist. “In the long run,” she said, “it depends on whether or not you want to see these Main Streets thrive, or whether you want to see Main Street as a concept dry-up.”

Hot Books for Cold Weekends

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web OOTC

By Helen A. Harrison

On a cold winter weekend, what could be better than a hot book? The two I have in mind aren’t hot in the best-seller sense, since they’ve been around for a while. You’ll have to call the John Jermain Library and order them through inter-library loan, or you can find them for sale on the Internet, in either the original hardcover editions or paperback reissues. These books are hot in the other metaphorical sense, dealing as they do with the sex lives of two of the art world’s most colorful female characters. No bodices are ripped—these gals willingly shed their garments.

The gals in question are the celebrated art collector Peggy Guggenheim, whose memoir, Out of This Century, with a jacket design by Jackson Pollock, was published by Dial Press in 1946, and Ruth Kligman, mistress to the stars and author of Love Affair: A Memoir of Jackson Pollock, published in 1974 by William Morrow. Kligman added a preface in 1999, when her book was republished in paperback by Cooper Square Press. Guggenheim updated hers in 1960 and again in 1979, when Macmillan brought it out as Confessions of an Art Addict.

Guggenheim has been the subject of three biographies, but no one tells her story with the verve and candor that she brings to the saga of her scandalous escapades as an expatriate heiress in interwar Europe, where her modest fortune went much further than in her native New York City. It financed a bibulous social life, complete with a cast of world-class eccentrics, adulterous liaisons, verbal (and sometimes physical) conflict, and whirlwind travels punctuated by the acquisition of a fabulous collection of modern art. Peggy chronicles it all breathlessly, often at her own expense. When the book was first published, her horrified family reportedly said it should have been titled Out of Her Mind, and tried to buy up all the copies.

She came into her inheritance at the age of 21, just as World War I ended, and within a year was in Paris, where she lost her virginity to Laurence Vail, a neurotic, alcoholic would-be writer and artist whom she called the King of Bohemia. In the original 1946 edition, she identifies him by the pseudonym “Florenz,” an odd conceit considering that he was well known as her first husband and the father of her two children. Some of her other lovers who were then living are discreetly disguised—Samuel Beckett as “Oblomov,” Douglas Garman as “Sherman” and Marcel Duchamp as “Luigi,” for example—while others, even those inconveniently married to other women, are allowed to sail under their own colors.

During World War II, people named Guggenheim were not welcome in Hitler’s domain, so Peggy returned to New York with her art collection and a retinue that included her current lover (soon to be husband number two), the Surrealist painter Max Ernst. In New York she opened a gallery, Art of This Century, which showcased her treasure trove of abstract and Surrealist art, as well as local talent of the vanguard persuasion. Among her discoveries was the then-unknown Jackson Pollock, who became her protégé. The Pollock biopic, starring Ed Harris as the artist and his off-screen wife, Amy Madigan, as Peggy, gives them an abortive love scene, but if such an encounter did occur the memoir is uncharacteristically silent on the matter. Indeed, in the expanded version, written after Pollock’s death, Peggy describes their relationship as “purely that of artist and patron.”

Whether that implies any extracurricular duties on his part is left to the reader’s imagination—just about the only thing in this tell-all that is.
Kligman’s book, on the other hand, leaves no doubt that her knowledge of Pollock was carnal; the title alone makes that clear. By turns gushingly romantic, deeply delusional and painfully conflicted, it describes her brief, turbulent involvement with the artist at the end of his career—in fact, at the end of his life. They met in the spring of 1956 at the Cedar Bar, the artists’ hangout in Greenwich Village, where a drunken Pollock would bait his colleagues and make passes at their dates. Even though, mired in alcoholism, he was no longer painting, he was still top dog among the abstract expressionists.

An aspiring artist herself, Ruth (18 years his junior) was star-struck. She threw herself at him, and to no one’s surprise—except maybe Pollock’s—he caught her. After a steamy encounter in her apartment, they declared their mutual love, and the affair was off and running.

That summer Ruth wangled a job at the Abraham Rattner School of Art in Sag Harbor (the former Baptist church that now hosts Larry Rivers’ legs sculpture), handily close to Pollock’s home in Springs. No longer would their trysting require a Long Island Rail Road commute. Inevitably Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, noticed that something was up, especially when she caught the errant couple sneaking out of his studio the morning after. This led to the predictable ultimatum. To her credit, Ruth is frank about her doubts that the relationship had a future, although she had a habit of jumping back into the deep end in spite of her misgivings. When Lee took off for Europe, she moved into the Springs house, where she fantasized about reviving Pollock’s creativity and despaired over his black moods and violent temper.

It all builds to a climax on an August night, when a drunken driver, a misjudged curve and an overturned convertible spelled serious injury for Ruth and death for Pollock and another passenger. This section of the memoir is both cinematically vivid and melodramatic to the point of bathos, including a flashback to her rejection by a judgmental father. And by the time the book appeared in 1974, her pledge of enduring devotion:

“That great romantic love. It can never come again,” was sounding a little hollow. Pollock’s body was barely cold when she took up with his great rival, Willem de Kooning, followed by a veritable Who’s Who of male art-world luminaries. Nevertheless, for the rest of her life—she died last March at the age of 80—Ruth dined out on Pollock, and I don’t mean the fish.