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Thursday, December 27, 2012

BAM Winter Reading List

Martin and Kingsley Amis; photo by Dmitri Kasterine

Lo, the holidays are upon us. And with the holidays comes a little down-time at BAM, that rare period during which there’s nary an innovative Caesar, adventurous Faust, or aspiring Pina protégé anywhere in sight. Hopefully, you’re with some variant of kith and kin or warm-winter napping and missing BAM only a little bit. But in case you find yourself in need of some sort of BAM fix, we've put together a little winter reading list that might do something to ease the pain. Enjoy these readings, each related to an upcoming event in our Winter/Spring season.

Lucky Jim | By Kingsley Amis
Recommended for: Martin Amis at Eat, Drink & Be Literary
Prepare for Martin Amis’ visit to BAM by reaching back a bit and reading his dad Kingsley’s deservedly celebrated 1954 novel Lucky Jim, newly released from one of the best publishers in the game, NYRB Classics. A campus comedy about a reluctant college instructor, his boss, and his ladies, this book is very funny. And not in that occasional chuckle way that people mean when they say a book is funny. Like, Eddie Murphy in his prime funny. —Nate Gelgud

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (from Leaves of Grass) | By Walt Whitman
Recommended for: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Afloat on the East River, Whitman sucks in the sensorium of Brooklyn’s “ample hills” with passionate abandon in this euphoric missive from Leaves of Grass. BAM’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry music festival takes its name from this verse, and perhaps for good reason; the festival’s musicians—mostly indie and new-music artists—brilliantly heed Whitman’s call to be like resonant membranes, vibrating in sympathy with every new sound and sensation. “Myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated, yet part of the scheme.” —Robert Wood

1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare | By James Shapiro
Recommended for:  Julius Caesar
Everyone knows that BAM put on a lot of Shakespeare. What’s easy to forget when kneeling at the alter of all of those thees and thous is that they came from a glove maker’s son who had to pull himself out of bed every morning like the rest of us. Re-humanize the Bard—and get some context for the upcoming Julius Caesar—with Columbia professor James Shapiro’s fantastic book, which takes the politically volatile year of 1599 (the year of Caesar’s inception) as its focal point. —Robert Wood

Blood and Tears: Poems for Matthew Shepard | Edited by Scott Gibson
Recommended for: The Laramie Cycle Project
With contributions from almost every major gay American poet of the late 20th century—including John Ashbery, Eileen Myles, Harold Norse, and Robin Blaser—there is no other anthology like it. Compiled in memory of Matthew Shepard, whose murder is the subject of the upcoming Laramie Project Cycle, it reads as a collective statement of shock. Our favorite contribution is Kevin Killian's "Phantom of the Opera," with its chilling last line (borrowed from Tim Dlugos' poem "Pretty Convincing"): "the corpses change but the party goes on forever." —Joseph Bradshaw

The Suit | By Can Themba
Recommended for: The Suit, dir. Peter Brook
1950s Sophiatown was both a hotbed of creativity for black South Africans and ground zero for Apartheid-era injustice. Beginning in 1955, the non-white population was forcibly removed from the city and Sophiatown, for the time being at least, effectively ceased to exist. South African writer Can Themba’s chilling short story The Suit was born out of that moment, and while its 10 pages concern little more than a man, his wife, and a simple piece of clothing, it manages to capture that tension better than a more literal treatment ever could. The elephant in the room has never been more effectively not addressed.  —Robert Wood

Zone One | By Colson Whitehead
Recommended for: Colson Whitehead at Eat, Drink & Be LiteraryIf you wandered through SoPo (South of Power) in Hurricane Sandy's aftermath, you might have gotten a fleeting sense of Whitehead's Lower Manhattan in his zombie novel, Zone One. Deserted but for some skels and sweepers—demi-conscious, chomping zombies and their antagonists—Canal Street is a fortress against undead monsters rather than a moat of 18-wheelers. The book is part contemporary satire, part war documentary, and no small measure of a gifted writer flexing his cross-genre muscles. Read an excerpt here.  —Susan Yung

So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing | By Philip Bither & Trisha Brown
Recommended for: Trisha Brown Dance Company
So That the Audience…is a  volume published in conjunction with the Walker Art Center's Year of Trisha, a multi-faceted examination of the choreographer's oeuvre. In addition to making dances, Brown has long been a visual artist whose work emphasizes the sweep of the body and making split-second choices that, in her drawings, become permanently recorded. A perfect choice for those wanting to learn more  about a less-known aspect of one of the world's renowned modern choreographers. —Susan Yung

Sweet Soul Music | By Peter Guralnick
Recommended for: Wattstax, screening as part of BAMcinématek's Richard Pryor series
In anticipation of BAMcinématek’s February screening of Wattstax in our upcoming Richard Pryor series, I started reading Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music, one of the definitive chronicles of the genre’s development from the 50s to the 70s. Having read the author’s door-stopper biography of Sam Cooke, I was not expecting this one to be such a brisk read. Guralnick finds a perfect balance of social background, biographical sketch, and music criticism, and along the way reveals a lot about the miscegenetic nature of this great musical genre. —Andrew Chan

And Here’s the Kicker | By Mike Sachs
Recommended for: Get It Out There: Comedy by BAM and IFC
A book of interviews with very funny people, And Here’s the Kicker is a study in how to think about comedy. One of the best things about the book is its feeling of being behind the scenes of your favorite funny stuff, enhanced by the people it features—Stephen Merchant instead of Ricky Gervais, George Meyer instead of Matt Groening. Great for students of comedy, lovers of a good showbiz yarn, or any reader of discriminating taste, this is a one-of-a-kind book that will have you looking for more books like it. —Nate Gelgud

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