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Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Winter Reading List

An image from Ed Piskor's Hip-Hop Family Tree

You probably already have a lot to read this holiday season: at least three day’s worth of critic’s top 10 lists, weird holiday kale recipes, instructions for assembling your nephew’s new toy (which, let's be honest, isn't half as cool as Legos). But for those cherished moments of idle time, during which your thoughts, we hope, will drift towards BAM, you’ll need something more substantial on hand. Enjoy this list of books, each related in some way to one of our upcoming Winter/Spring productions.

A Lover's Discourse: Fragments | By Roland Barthes
Recommended for: Jeffrey Eugenides / Eat, Drink & Be Literary
A major inspiration for novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, who comes to BAM in February as part of Eat, Drink & Be Literary, Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse is the most seductive and hilarious entry point imaginable into the often impenetrable world of French theory. Arranged as a chain of fragmentary musings on the most ridiculous totems, symbols, and gestures of unrequited love, this slim volume breaks down the melodrama of amour fou so methodically, you hardly know whether to laugh or cry. In prose that somehow manages to attack its subject with surgical precision while also mimicking the intoxicated illogic of infatuation, Barthes accomplishes a feat unprecedented in semiotic theory before or since: allowing the reader to stand both inside and outside a complex web of human emotion. —Andrew Chan

Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Danil Kharms
Translated by Matvei Yankelevich | Recommended for: The Old Woman
On February 2, 1942, in the psych ward of a Soviet hospital, Russian writer Daniil Kharms died of hunger. Had he concealed his belief (and others like it) that one could hide one’s thoughts simply by wearing a hat, he might have never been confined there. But such was the eccentric mind of this recently rediscovered master of the absurd. Kharm’s writings are dark, quizzical, and often hysterical, typically lasting no longer than a page. Pushkin trips over Gogol, men forget whether or not seven or eight comes first, and old women die inconveniently while losing their dentures. Experience the latter as interpreted for the stage by Robert Wilson, Willem Dafoe, and Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Old Woman, at BAM this June.  —Robert Wood

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey 
By Jill Bolte Taylor | Recommended for: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Taylor, a brain researcher at Harvard, used her own recovery from a massive stroke as fodder for her research, and offers up her findings in this popular memoir (and equally popular TEDtalk ). Filled with lines like“My spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria” (which choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, inspired by Taylor’s text,  actually has his dancers speak in the work Orbo Novo), the book can verge on Dr. Feelgood. But all in all it’s a fascinating firsthand look at the two ways your one brain processes information: linear judgements and future worries on the left, here-and-now revelations and instinctive responses on the right.  —Jessica Goldschmidt

Hip Hop Family Tree | Ed Piskor
Recommended for: Poetry 2014: Birth of a Hip-Hop Nation
Ed Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family Tree, crammed with vignettes featuring the founders and luminaries from the world of rap, is a detailed comic-book history of one of the most popular genres in the world. Piskor’s graphic style is classic—the layout and coloring are like old-school newsprint—and his clarity and detail make the book rich and readable when it could be overwhelming. He puts his story in a precise socio-political context while offering funny anecdotes about how rappers and DJs teamed up, as well as hilarious caricatures of icons like Russell Simmons, diligently spelling out the latter’s lisp in cartoon bubbles as he records “the firtht gold rekkid in hip hop hithtory” with Kurtis Blow. —Nate Gelgud

"Christian Rizzo In Conversation with John Jasperse"
Recommended for: Lyon Opera Ballet
Two choreographers walk into a bar and...actually, they sit down and talk. Christian Rizzo, who choreographed the work ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang, to be performed by Lyon Opera Ballet at BAM in May, chats with fellow choreographer John Jasperse (Canyon, BAM 2011) in this interview for the website Movement Research. Rizzo is a French native known for working in visual art and fashion as well as dance, and here we learn about his views on art history (it goes much further back than Cunningham and Rauschenberg), about how there might be more talking about dance than actually doing it, and more. —Susan Yung

My Autobiography | By Charlie Chaplin
Recommended for: Charlie's Kid
Charlie Chaplin’s 1954 autobiography, recently reissued as a handsome paperback by Neversink, makes an excellent companion piece to the BAMkids production Charlie’s Kid, coming up in May. The book is a thick account of the screen icon’s life, but it moves quickly, powered forward by Chaplin’s crisp, humorous, self-aware way with words. In Bosley Crowther’s New York Times review of the book upon its original publication, the critic maintained that Chaplin wasn’t entirely truthful, so who knows if the funny and surprising anecdotes that pack the book actually happened. The important thing is that Chaplin tells his stories well, and readers get to spend enjoyable time with Chaplin the artist, not just the on-screen Tramp. —Nate Gelgud

The Interestings | By Meg Wolitzer
Recommended for: Meg Wolitzer / Eat, Drink & Be Literary
The title of this bestselling novel refers to sibling friends of protagonist Jules, among a group of lifelong pals who meet at an idyllic summer camp, which later morphs into a darker iteration of the rural. Jules struggles to define her modest, undistinguished life as successful and fulfilling by societal norms, despite being the emotional anchor of her clique. Wolitzer explores the lasting bonds, and occasional devil's bargain, of close relationships, as well as infatuation, fate, and the seduction of wealth. She comes to BAM in May as part of the Eat, Drink & Be Literary series. —Susan Yung

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Film
By Raoul Walsh | Recommended for: BAMcinématek's Walsh/Scorsese series
This March, BAMcinématek presents a week-long series charting the influence of still-underappreciated classic Hollywood auteur Raoul Walsh on Martin Scorsese. One of the most ardently cinephilic of American directors, Scorsese has spent the last few decades as a leader in championing and preserving film culture. Walsh’s lavishly illustrated, lovingly annotated 1997 book A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies—a companion to his sprawling TV documentary of the same name—is a testament to his encyclopedic knowledge of the art form, filled with passionate and sometimes idiosyncratic readings of everyone from Kubrick and Fuller to lesser-known directors Ida Lupino and Edger G. Ulmer. —Andrew Chan

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