An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter is the story of a moment in the life of the German artist Johan Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858). Greatly admired as a master landscape painter, he was advised by Alexander von Humboldt to travel West from Europe to record the spectacular landscapes of Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Rugendas did in fact become one of the best of the nineteenth-century European painters to venture into Latin America. However this is not a biography of Rugendas. This work of fiction weaves an almost surreal history around the secret objective behind Rugendas’ trips to America: to visit Argentina in order to achieve in art the “physiognomic totality” of von Humboldt’s scientific vision of the whole. Rugendas is convinced that only in the mysterious vastness of the immense plains will he find true inspiration. A brief and dramatic visit to Mendosa gives him the chance to fulfill his dream. From there he travels straight out onto the pampas, praying for that impossible moment, which would come only at an immense pricean almost monstrously exorbitant price that would ultimately challenge his drawing and force him to create a new way of making art. A strange episode that he could not avoid absorbing savagely into his own body interrupts the trip and irreversibly and explosively marks him for life.

Representing the Race

Representing the Race tells the story of African American lawyers who, during the era of segregation, confronted a tension between their racial and professional identities. Their untold stories pose the unsettling question: What, ultimately, does it mean to “represent” a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics?

 

The Lost Art of Reading

The following is taken from the book’s author, David L. Umin’s article in the Los Angeles Times.

By David L. UlinAugust 9, 2009

Sometime late last year — I don’t remember when, exactly — I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read. That’s a problem if you do what I do, but it’s an even bigger problem if you’re the kind of person I am. Since I discovered reading, I’ve always been surrounded by stacks of books. I read my way through camp, school, nights, weekends; when my girlfriend and I backpacked through Europe after college graduation, I had to buy a suitcase to accommodate the books I picked up along the way. For her, the highlight of the trip was the man in Florence who offered a tour of the Uffizi. For me, it was the serendipity of stumbling across a London bookstall that had once been owned by the Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi, whose work, then as now, I adored. After we got married four years later, we spent part of our honeymoon in Dollarton, outside Vancouver, British Columbia, visiting the beach where “Under the Volcano” author Malcolm Lowry had lived for more than a decade with his wife Marjorie in a squatter’s shack.

In his 1967 memoir, “Stop-Time,” Frank Conroy describes his initiation into literature as an adolescent on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “I’d lie in bed . . . ,” he writes, “and read one paperback after another until two or three in the morning. . . . The real world dissolved and I was free to drift in fantasy, living a thousand lives, each one more powerful, more accessible, and more real than my own.” I know that boy: Growing up in the same neighborhood, I was that boy. And I have always read like that, although these days, I find myself driven by the idea that in their intimacy, the one-to-one attention they require, books are not tools to retreat from but rather to understand and interact with the world.

So what happened? It isn’t a failure of desire so much as one of will. Or not will, exactly, but focus: the ability to still my mind long enough to inhabit someone else’s world, and to let that someone else inhabit mine. Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves. This is what Conroy was hinting at in his account of adolescence, the way books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise…

Page One

The news media is in the middle of a revolution. Old certainties have been shoved aside by new entities such as WikiLeaks and Gawker, Politico and the Huffington Post. But where, in all this digital innovation, is the future of great journalism? Is there a difference between an opinion column and a blog, a reporter and a social networker? Who curates the news, or should it be streamed unimpeded by editorial influence?

Expanding on Andrew Rossi’s “riveting” film (Slate), David Folkenflik has convened some of the smartest media savants to talk about the present and the future of news. Behind all the debate is the presence of the New York Times, and the inside story of its attempt to navigate the new world, embracing the immediacy of the web without straying from a commitment to accurate reporting and analysis that provides the paper with its own definition of what it is there to showcase: all the news that’s fit to print.

Fire in the Ashes

In this powerful and culminating work about a group of inner-city children he has known for many years, Jonathan Kozol returns to the scene of his prize-winning books Rachel and Her Children and Amazing Grace, and to the children he has vividly portrayed, to share with us their fascinating journeys and unexpected victories as they grow into adulthood.

For nearly fifty years Jonathan has pricked the conscience of his readers by laying bare the savage inequalities inflicted upon children for no reason but the accident of being born to poverty within a wealthy nation. A winner of the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and countless other honors, he has persistently crossed the lines of class and race, first as a teacher, then as the author of tender and heart-breaking books about the children he has called “the outcasts of our nation’s ingenuity.” But Jonathan is not a distant and detached reporter. His own life has been radically transformed by the children who have trusted and befriended him.

Never has this intimate acquaintance with his subjects been more apparent, or more stirring, than in Fire in the Ashes, as Jonathan tells the stories of young men and women who have come of age in one of the most destitute communities of the United States. Some of them never do recover from the battering they undergo in their early years, but many more battle back with fierce and, often, jubilant determination to overcome the formidable obstacles they face. As we watch these glorious children grow into the fullness of a healthy and contributive maturity, they ignite a flame of hope, not only for themselves, but for our society.

The urgent issues that confront our urban schools – a devastating race-gap, a pathological regime of obsessive testing and drilling students for exams instead of giving them the rich curriculum that excites a love of learning – are interwoven through these stories. Why certain children rise above it all, graduate from high school and do well in college, while others are defeated by the time they enter adolescence, lies at the essence of this work.

Jonathan Kozol is the author of Death at an Early Age, Savage Inequalities, and other books on children and their education. He has been called “today’s most eloquent spokesman for America’s disenfranchised.” But he believes young people speak most eloquently for themselves; and in this book, so full of the vitality and spontaneity of youth, we hear their testimony.

Psalms of the Heart

This book grew out of the overwhelming response requesting a companion volume to Father Brown’s book, Psalms and Consolations: A Jesuit’s Journey Through Grief. In this volume about the reflection on healing – the opening up of all the blocked spiritual arteries of the past years. The Psalms have always been a spiritual way for me to allow the Lord to unblock that which impedes the flow of Christ’s grace within me. Included are prayers, homilies and reflections meant to help all who are finding their spiritual way.

Onward

In 2008, Howard Schultz, the president and chairman of Starbucks, made the unprecedented decision to return as the CEO eight years after he stepped down from daily oversight of the company and became chairman. Concerned that Starbucks had lost its way, Schultz was determined to help it return to its core values and restore not only its financial health, but also its soul. In Onward, he shares the remarkable story of his return and the company’s ongoing transformation under his leadership, revealing how, during one of the most tumultuous economic times in history, Starbucks again achieved profitability and sustainability without sacrificing humanity.
Offering readers a snapshot of a moment in history that left no company unscathed, the book zooms in to show, in riveting detail, how one company struggled and recreated itself in the midst of it all. The fastpaced narrative is driven by day-to-day tension as conflicts arise and lets readers into Schultz’s psyche as he comes to terms with his limitations and evolving leadership style. Onward is a compelling, candid narrative documenting the maturing of a brand as well as a businessman.
Onward represents Schultz’s central leadership philosophy: It’s not just about winning, but the right way to win. Ultimately, he gives readers what he strives to deliver every day—a sense of hope that, no matter how tough times get, the future can be just as or more successful than the past, whatever one defines success to be.