Books incoming

  • by Roberto Friedman
  • Wednesday January 3, 2018
Share this Post:

We'd never review a book we haven't read. But right now there are several volumes piling up on our desk that are calling our attention away from whatever we're supposed to be reading or writing instead. Here are some books that we're looking forward to reading, assigning to review, or both this coming year.

Right at the very top of the pile is the advance reading copy of the new biography "Agnes Martin: Pioneer, Painter, Icon" by Henry Martin coming from Schaffner Press in March. It's full of new details about the artist's life, her relationships with women, and the impact they had on her work. The final version of the book will include never-before-published photographs. Publication date is March 1, 2018.

Anyone who knows Martin's astonishingly quiet yet vivid work - abstract, in tones of grey, almost Zen koan-like grids and drawings - will be curious about her life. A small gallery of her art is one of the more beautiful installations in the new SFMOMA building, a chapel of sorts in homage to her artistry.

The work doesn't reproduce well, but the words entice. We're most interested in what the publicity materials call "her many relationships with women, and her complicated attitude to those romances," and "her close friendships with other artists in New York from 1957-67, in particular Betty Parsons, Chryssa, Lenore Tawney, Barnett Newman, and Ellsworth Kelly, and the queer and avant-garde Coentis Slip/South Street community she chose, eschewing the culture of the Abstract Expressionists."

"We Were the Lucky Ones," the debut novel by Georgia Hunter (Penguin Books paperback, Jan. 2 pub. date), is based on the author's grandfather's true-life Holocaust survival story. A Jewish family living in Radom, Poland, meets the maelstrom of World War II and the Nazi occupation. Its members are torn apart and scatter to far corners of the world. A map with the publicity materials shows the various journeys that made up the Kurc Family diaspora: through France, North Africa, to New York, Rio de Janeiro, as well as to the Siberian gulag.

Two interesting selections from Duke University Press, always a good source for queer writing and scholarship, are both coming out in March. If the content of "The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976-1988," by Martin Duberman, is as candid as its title, we're very impressed. Duberman is Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus at City University of New York, where he founded and directed the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. The memoir follows the author "through a period of despair, drug use, illness, anonymous sex and unhappy celibacy, and near-suicidal depression."

Then, "Sisters in the Life - A History of Out African American Lesbian Media-Making," Yvonne Welbon & Alexandra Juhasz, editors, includes interviews, essays, and conversations with filmmakers Angela Robinson, Tina Mabry, Dee Rees, and others, and on the making of Cheryl Dunye's "The Watermelon Woman" (1996). In a blurb on the book's cover, "New Queer Cinema" author B. Ruby Rich calls it "a VIP invitation to the coolest party." This counts as our RSVP.

Wilde party

"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," in which movie star Annette Bening portrays movie star Gloria Grahame toward the end of her life, will open next week (find our review next issue). According to IMDB, Grahame's paternal grandfather, the artist Reginald Francis Hallward, gave author Oscar Wilde the idea for his classic novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray." The painter of the portrait in the novella is named Basil Hallward. We'd say that's no coincidence.