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Category: Literature

literature

How to Become a Word: A Review of Shelley Jackson’s Novel SKIN

Since I am not a word, but am curious about the experience of being a word, I asked author Shelley Jackson if I could photograph some of her words from the novel SKIN. She agreed and gave me the email addresses for the following words:

the internal food table,
lungs lineaments law,
across mouthpiece.
Remember?

The novel SKIN exists in tattoos. In order to read the novel, one has to participate in the text by applying to become a word, and if you get chosen, the word must be inked on your skin in book font. Once the author receives a photograph proving the word is tattooed on your skin along with the signed disclaimer stating that you will never share the story with anyone else who is not a word, only then can you read the coveted story.

Kate Hagerman

About Kate Hagerman

Kate Hagerman is a photographer, writer, and yoga instructor. She lives in New York City.

Derek Katz, Janáček: Beyond the Borders

Whether you first became aware of the composer Leoš Janáček while seeing or hearing one of his unusual operas, operas with animal characters, moon people, or 400-year-old women, or, like me, you encountered his well-known Sinfonietta in a traditional orchestra concert, you probably instantly realized that this is a composer with his own distinctive sound and musical sensibility, neither Germanic, like Richard Strauss, Finnish, like Sibelius, or Russian, like Scriabin, to compare him with three of his immediate contemporaries. Though there are occasional echoes of Smetana and Dvořák, the nineteenth century’s two great Czech nationalists, Janáček’s music most often sounds sharply different from theirs nor does he remotely resemble his contemporaries in nearby lands. This relatively short book — about 136 page of easily readable prose — is an exploration of that sound.

Michael V. Pisani

About Michael V. Pisani

Michael Pisani began teaching at Vassar in 1997, after completing a Ph.D. in musicology at the Eastman School of Music (University of Rochester, New York). Although he teaches music of all periods and styles, he is a scholar in music of the 19th and 20th centurtes, especially dramatic musical forms such as program music, opera, musical theatre, and film music. He also lectures and writes about music’s unique role in the creation of national (and exotic) identities. He recently published a book that examines musical representations of Native America from Columbus’s time to the present. Imagining Native America in Music (Yale University Press, 2005) received an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 2006.

Professor Pisani is also an accomplished pianist and conductor. From 1980 to 1986 he conducted and prepared the vocal soloists and chorus for several major opera companies, among them, the Houston Grand Opera, the Seattle Opera, and the Opera Company of Boston. In this capacity, he worked with singers Mirella Freni, Frederika von Stade, Aprile Milo, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Jon Vickers, and Thomas Stewart, and with directors Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Colin Graham, Stephen Wadsworth, David Pountney, and others. He conducted performances of Monteverdi’s Orfeo and Handel’s Xerxes at the Skylight Opera in Milwaukee in which he also accompanied the recitatives from the harpsichord.

In 1985 and 1986, he was invited by Leonard Bernstein to prepare the European productions of his opera A Quiet Place at La Scala, Milan and for the Vienna State Opera. In 1989 he went to Russia with Sarah Caldwell to arrange for performances of Bernstein’s opera in St. Petersburg and Moscow where he also worked with Karin Khatchaturian, then secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers, to assist in the organization of Miss Caldwell’s donation of American musical scores to the Union’s library. This was three months before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

As a music historian, he has published several articles on opera, among them, “A Kapustnik in the American Opera House: Modernism and Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges in Musical Quarterly. This article was awarded the Kurt Weill Prize for distinguished scholarship in music theater in December 1999. His essay on 19th-century theatrical music was published in the Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre (2003). He also has written two essays on teaching film music. One of these appeared in Teaching Music History, ed. Mary Natvig (Ashgate, 2002) and the other in Film Music II, published by the Film Music Society of Los Angeles (2004).

Michael Pisani was born in Northwest Indiana (near Chicago) and spent his years learning the accordion (classical as well as popular and ethnic music). He attended a Catholic High School with an excellent drama and music program (Andrean High School) and played the piano for many music theater productions. He began his degree at Oberlin as a composer, but after deciding he didn’t want to inflict his own music on others he switched to conducting. He led his own orchestra in Valdosta, Georgia before being invited by a fellow Oberlinite to be his conducting assistant for the Texas Opera Theatre. These were exciting years on the road and with the glorious Houston Grand Opera, but he is very happy to be teaching now, something he loves to do even more. Prof. Pisani has broad interests in music, ranging from music of the ancient world to “the music of the future.”

An Opera House, Judged: Ken Woolley’s Reviewing the Performance

“What’s that thing?” -A boy points out the Sydney Opera House to his grandmother, overheard on a train crossing the Harbour Bridge, 21 July 2010. During a recent screening of Rear Window at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, I became preoccupied by the audience’s reaction. For me, Rear Window was a “gateway” film, an open door into the beautifully fraudulent world of cinema. I had not seen it for a long time, and watching a good 35mm print with an intelligent audience was a good chance to assess its true impact. In the cinematic canon, if such a thing exists, Rear Window seems to have come to rest partway along the spectrum between familiar, comforting films, say, It’s a Wonderful Life or Gone With the Wind, and perpetually unnerving experiences like, to name two of the blackest noirs I’ve ever seen, Scarlet Street or Detour. Films in the former category tend to generate formulaic responses which paper over any disturbing themes, and allow the work to be arranged as part of the cultural furniture. Films from the bad part of town, by contrast, refuse enclosure in a tidy package. Beyond whatever unsavory aspects of human nature they might reveal, these disturbing films demand to be viewed at 1:1 scale, as though for the first time, every time (this is not a simple distinction between blanc et noir, when Swing Time screened at the Gallery the week after Rear Window, any stirrings of featherbed nostalgia among the audience were quickly overcome in the presence of 103 minutes of sublime cinematic bliss). Rear Window retains characteristics of each extreme. Jimmy Stewart’s voyeurism now seems relatively innocent, at least compared to what people are into these days. The audience reacted to his obsessive nosiness with the same sighing, nostalgic little titters emitted by a gaggle of thirty five year olds watching The Breakfast Club. At the same time, certain moments of Rear Window remained shocking, particularly Stewart’s almost brutal coldness to Grace Kelly. Perhaps every classic film might be found somewhere along this imaginary line between Scarlett’s Tara and Ann Savage’s consumptive cough in Detour.

Alan Miller

About Alan Miller

Alan Miller is a graduate of the Sydney University Faculty of Architecture and holds a BFA in film from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. A fanatical cyclist, he is a former Sydney Singlespeed Champion. Alan Miller reports on cycling, film, architecture, politics, and other sports in his letters from Sydney. He won the 2011 Architects’ Journal Writing Prize.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Grab a beer and a bowl of pretzels when you sit down with The Big Short by Michael Lewis. You’re not just reading a book, you’re going to a game – a big, ugly, but oh-so exciting game. Lewis reports the causes of the current financial disaster with all the passion, pacing and testosterone of John Madden calling NFL plays – not surprising from the author of The Blind Side and Moneyball. He makes a complicated story easy to understand (most of the time) and takes us inside the heads, souls and maneuverings of several fascinating players.

Nancy Salz

About Nancy Salz

Nancy Salz is a freelance writer living in Stockbridge, MA. She writes primarily on the arts for the Berkshire Review, the Advocate Weekly and other publications.

Paul Griffiths’ latest novel, let me tell you. Reality Street Editions, Hastings, 2008

Paul Griffiths’ most recent novel, let me tell you, is a spare work of engulfing mystery and power, although its technique is highly conceptual: he has set himself the task of telling Ophelia’s story from her own point of view, using no more than the 483-word vocabulary Shakespeare allotted her in Hamlet. This is hardly the first time a modern writer has attempted to scatter new seeds in this corner of Shakespeare’s garden, but few have approached it with Griffith’s fluid imagination and verbal sophistication, a talent he has developed as much from his career as a music critic and historian as in the role of a literary man. Even a naive reader will be captivated by Griffiths’ touching portrait of Ophelia, as she grows up in an ensnaring web spun by the habits, desires, and social obligations of her father, her brother, the queen, the old and new kings, and, of course, the Prince. But in this case, she is no victim. With her own native ingenuity and a healthy desire to survive, she finds a way out.

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

Thinking Mann

I learned how to make movies from Anthony Mann: why the shots, how the shots, traveling shots, location shots, strategies and techniques in editing — he was my sense of movement. -Wim Wenders Mystery is at the heart of all that is appealing about movies; and Anthony Mann, born Anton or Emil Bundsmann in 1906 or 1907, is one of cinema’s mystery men, as well as one of its few thinking men. He remains unfairly neglected, in part because he came to prominence sometime after the shiniest years of the golden age.

Alan Miller

About Alan Miller

Alan Miller is a graduate of the Sydney University Faculty of Architecture and holds a BFA in film from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. A fanatical cyclist, he is a former Sydney Singlespeed Champion. Alan Miller reports on cycling, film, architecture, politics, and other sports in his letters from Sydney. He won the 2011 Architects’ Journal Writing Prize.

The Collector of Worlds: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis Burton by Iliya Troyanov

The fabulously romantic life of Burton has been told in many a novel and many a film—from all of which Iliya Troyanov’s intelligent, vastly entertaining novel differs in crucial respects. Readers may recall the viscerally exciting biographical film Mountains of the Moon (1990) that followed the dangerous voyage in search of the Nile’s source and the bitter quarrels over priority in discovering that source at the Geographical Society of London. What viewers of that movie will not recall are any significantly developed characters from the indigenous peoples (what the Victorians called the natives) among whom the explorers traveled. There were a few servants whose dedication issued in sacrifice; and a few bloodthirsty attackers who executed the servants and wounded the whites—but none of these received serious treatment. Troyanov retells the story from the alternating vantage points of the white principals, above all Burton himself, and the non-English-speaking peoples through whose territories Burton voyages, whose languages he learns with incredible facility. As he seeks to understand them, they quizzically seek to fathom his motives and beliefs. The drama arises not so much from scenery and danger as from the exciting, often droll volleying of blindness and insight between the Englishman and the Asians and Africans whom he at once fascinates and bewilders.

Eugene HIll

About Eugene HIll

Eugene D. Hill, a member of the English Department at Mount Holyoke
since 1978, has published widely on the literature of the English
Renaissance. For us he will be writing a series of occasional pieces
introducing literary fiction by contemporary authors (mainly in
translation) who merit greater prominence than they have yet received in
this country.

It’s All in the Presentation: A New Look at Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer’s saying that “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will” has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others. —Albert Einstein, The World as I See It (1940)

Seth Lachterman

About Seth Lachterman

Seth Lachterman lives in Hillsdale, New York, which abuts the Berkshires in Massachusetts. While dividing his past academic career between music (composition and musicology) and mathematics, he has, over past three decades written original and critical works on the Arts. His essays have appeared in The Thomas Hardy Association Journal, English Literature in Transition, and poetry in The Raritan Quarterly. As a charter member and past president of the Berkshire Bach Society, he provided scholarly program notes for the Society’s concerts for over two decades. His Bach essays and reviews have been referenced in Wikipedia and have appeared in concerts at Ozawa Hall and the College of St. George, Windsor Castle.  Simultaneously, he has been a principal at Encore Systems, LLC, a software and technology consulting company. A president emeritus of Walking The Dog Theatre of Hudson, New York, he has invented a new technology for insuring privacy in text messaging and for social networking. In 2012, he founded UThisMe, LLC. to launch this new technology. Seth writes regularly for Berkshire Review of The Arts. When not listening to music, Seth Lachterman reads philosophy with a current interest in Heidegger.

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