Fact to Fancy
After writing serious nonfiction books, Julie Salamon, J75, a distinguished journalist, teamed with the illustrator Jill Weber on Cat in the City (Penguin), a glossy, full-color chapter book about a streetwise feline who becomes an integral part of his Manhattan neighborhood. She told us what it was like moving from research-intensive writing to the world of whimsy:
“Jill Weber sent me a clip from the New York Times about a giant white cat named Pretty Boy who had lived in the East Village for years. The whole street kind of adopted him, and when he died, they went into mourning. The biography I was working on was such a heavy-duty research project that I wasn’t ready for anything else, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that cat.
The hardest part of writing the book was cutting myself loose from reality, but when I did, I really started to have fun with it. I moved the story from the East Village to Washington Square Park, which is my neighborhood. When my kids were little, our family used to spend so much time there running around in the fountain, going to outdoor concerts, watching the guys play chess, people from different backgrounds coming together. The book became a way for me to celebrate the serendipity of friendship and the haphazard way communities form in cities like New York.
My editor kept reminding me, ‘You have to stay in the point of view of the animal or the kid.’ This was the exact opposite of the problem I had as a nonfiction writer for adults, where you have to be the authorial voice and come in from above and explain everything. In a kids’ book, you need to be in the action and let it unfold.”
Plucked from Obscurity
Bradley Colten, A95, just released the premiere recording of guitar works by the American composer Ernst Bacon (1898–1990). Colten discovered Bacon’s previously unknown guitar repertoire in the Library of Congress and in the Bacon family’s private collection. Here’s how he turned the rough manuscripts into a vibrant new musical oeuvre, even before he recorded a note:
“Realizing this repertoire was a daunting task. As Bacon aged, he fell into blindness and his handwriting deteriorated. As many of the guitar works are from his later years, they tend to be difficult documents. Many of the guitar works were left unpolished in regard to editing and notation: there are whited-out measures, missing details, and many notes and chords that are hard to decipher. Another issue is that Bacon was not a guitarist and didn’t have a complete understanding of the instrument. Several works contain passages that, as written, simply didn’t work on the guitar.
In many ways, my task has been to come to understand Bacon’s style, inclinations, and voice as a composer and use that understanding to decode, reconstruct, and adjust his manuscripts wherever they are ambiguous or lacking in detail.
I took this responsibility very seriously. Throughout the process, my self-imposed directive was always to leave as small a footprint as possible, so that the resulting, fully realized scores were completely Bacon’s.”
A Danger to Himself and Others (Verbitrage)
This first novel in the Bomb Squad NYC series, by J.E. (Joel) Fishman, A84, follows detective Manny Diaz as he investigates why veterans are blowing themselves up in front of armed-forces recruiting offices.
The Golden Hour (Putnam)
As director of a new State Department Crisis Reaction unit, Judd Ryker is thrust into a coup in Mali and forced to test his theory of “the golden hour”—the narrow window of time in which diplomacy, backchannel negotiations, or military action may reverse the course of events. In his politically intriguing debut thriller, Todd Moss, A92, draws on firsthand experience as the top U.S. diplomat for West Africa, where in 2008 he negotiated a coup when General Aziz overthrew President Abdullahi of Mauritania. Moss is currently the COO and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.
This Day in June (Magination Press)
This colorfully illustrated celebration of an LGBT pride parade, by Gayle E. Pitman, J94, is designed to help young children understand and respect the LGBT community. It includes a reading guide with advice on how to talk to children about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Small Plates (William Morrow)
Katherine Hall Page, G74, serves up a new helping of her caterer-sleuth Faith Fairchild in a highly enjoyable short story collection featuring such toothsome characters as a man who dreams of attracting female attention by becoming a widower and a woman who finds a baby named Christopher in her barn on Christmas Eve.
A Wedding in Provence (Random House)
It’s the latest sensuous escape by Ellen Sussman, J76. As Olivia plans her second wedding amid the beaches and vineyards of southern France, a colorful assortment of guests converges to complicate matters.
Gag (Roundfire Books)
One day, repulsed by the runny goo of a poached egg, Peter Howland stops eating. For the next fifteen years he subsists on drinks and cigarettes with no ill effects except for the toll that hiding his oddity takes on his fleeting relationships. He hops on a plane to Paris, the belly of the gastronomic beast, in the hope of trying food again and leading a normal life. There he meets the enigmatic Dallas Foster, who ignites his long dormant curiosity. Melissa Unger, J89, dedicates her first novel to those “who have a way of seeing and being in the world that no one else understands.” The story’s fabulist style and dark but hopeful tone will appeal to the alienated, the confused, and all who long to connect.
The Aesthetic of Johann Sebastian Bach (Rowman & Littlefield)
Joe Armstrong, G75, is the first to translate this seminal 1907 work by the organist André Pirro, L’Esthétique de Jean-Sébastien Bach, into English. Exploring the close relationship between language and music in Bach’s works, the treatise helps illuminate the master’s compositional method.
The Death of Punishment (Palgrave Macmillan)
One of the nation’s leading proponents of capital punishment, criminal law professor Robert Blecker, A69, is driven by a simple mantra: the past counts. The most vicious murderers shouldn’t lose their lives to protect future lives (the chief rationale in Texas’ frequent use of the death penalty) but to serve justice. In equal parts intellectual memoir, philosophical primer, and hard-hitting journalistic piece—the product of two decades interviewing convicted killers, prison guards, and death-row inmates—this provocative book challenges readers with important questions: What is the difference between revenge and retribution? How do we make the punishment fit the crime? And why do we often let those imprisoned for the worst crimes lead the best lives?
The Kyoto School: An Introduction (SUNY Press)
The Kyoto School was a Japanese movement that integrated ideas from Western philosophy and religion into East Asian moral and intellectual frameworks. Here, Robert E. Carter, A59, highlights the work of four Japanese philosophers who enriched the dialogue between East and West.
Love Made Visible (Interlink)
Jean Gibran, J54, was used to explaining that her husband was not the famous Lebanese poet and author of The Prophet but his cousin the sculptor. More difficult was smashing the rigid social conventions of 1950s Boston. Her moving memoir recounts her fifty-year marriage to a driven artist and life as part of the Boston Expressionist art scene.
My Two Italies (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Joseph Luzzi, A89, a professor of Italian literature at Bard College, grew up watching his parents butcher goats, make wine, and speak Calabrian—the regional dialect of the Italian boot’s “toe”—all of which left him longing for the peanut-butter-and-white-bread normalcy of his peers in suburban Rhode Island. This thoughtful memoir traces his evolving Italian identity, first as the child of immigrants from Italy’s impoverished south, then as a scholar enthralled by the artistic legacy of the Florentine north. Along the way, he delves into Italian politics, the Slow Food movement, and Italian-Americans’ “cultural schizophrenia”—a consequence of souls “nourished by centuries of European arts and letters” yet “contaminated” by The Sopranos and Jersey Shore.
The National Geographic London Book of Lists
If you’re curious about where to eat traditional meat pie, mash, and eels; Sotheby’s record auction sale (£49,506,650 in 2002 for Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents); or the most unusual insurance policies at Lloyd’s of London (one 1914 homeowner was covered for damage by rampaging suffragists), this book by Larry Porges, A83, is for you. Use it as an off-the-beaten-path travel guide or a fun trivia read.
The Curve Ahead (Palgrave Macmillan)
Too many fast-growing businesses fall behind before reaching their full potential. Dave Power, E75, G75, offers sound strategies for sustaining long-term growth. He reveals how companies like Amazon and Jawbone have stayed ahead of the curve by building innovation into their business operations.
Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality (University of Kansas)
As the world observes the centennial of the beginning of World War I, Jeffrey T. Sammons, A74, and John H. Morrow Jr. have made sure one aspect of that conflict’s history is not forgotten. The 369th regiment, known as the “Harlem Rattlers,” was the first unit of African-Americans to fight in Europe during the war. Assigned to a beleaguered French army who welcomed them with open arms, 171 members of the regiment were eventually awarded the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honor. Unlike many who believe that African-Americans entered the war with a blind disregard for the injustices they faced at home, Sammons argues that their military valor paved the way for an insistence on full equality.
The Caiad (High Tide Books)
Carroll J. Savage, F57, tells the story of a decade-long around-the-world voyage taken by a novice sailor and his family. They endure storms at sea, a broken rudder cable fifteen hundred miles from land, and a brush with pirates. This expansive book is both an adventure tale and a guide for those who dream of their own epic voyage.
Beneath the College Jersey: The Athlete’s Guide to Healthier Nutrition, Habits, and Recovery Methods
Beer, pizza, and late nights can keep college athletes from achieving their full potential. Marten Vandervelde, A08, manager of the personalized performance program at the Tisch Sports and Fitness Center and a conditioning coach for Tufts Athletics, shows young athletes how to stay in top form.
The Lowbrow Reader
Jay Ruttenberg, A97, edited the latest number of the funny and erudite comedy ’zine. This volume features contributions by Gilbert Gottfried and Paul Hirsch, A97.
Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda
Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, the Neubauer Executive Director of Tufts Hillel, mixes his three passions—coffee, music, and social justice—into a potent brew in a new CD for Smithsonian Folkways. Summit, who is also an ethnomusicologist and research professor of music and Judaic studies, worked with Peace Kawomera, an interfaith fair-trade coffee co-op in eastern Uganda, to produce the album. The co-op was founded by J.J. Keki, a friend of Summit’s and a Ugandan Jewish musician who witnessed the attacks of September 11, 2001. He was inspired to start a venture that would model peaceful collaboration between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. As the farmers in the co-op worked, they composed songs, which Summit traveled to Uganda to record. He also produced and annotated the CD, which has been nominated for an Independent Music Award. Buy the CD at bit.ly/delicious_cd. Buy Delicious Peace coffee at thanksgivingcoffee.com.
Marian McPartland Homage
In August, Roberta Piket, J88, paid tribute to the late great jazz pianist and composer at the Wall Street Jazz Festival in Kingston, New York. McPartland was a friend and supporter of female jazz musicians, including Piket, who arranged several of her mentor’s compositions for sextet. Fittingly, the festival showcased several promising female bandleaders.
Love Thy Nature
Sheila Laffey, J71, produced and directed this upcoming documentary. Narrated by Liam Neeson as “Sapiens,” the voice of humankind threatened by environmental collapse, the film combines awe-inspiring imagery and expert insights in an impassioned plea to rekindle our emotional connection to the natural world. Laffey has worked on a number of award-winning environmentally themed films, including The Last Stand, a series on California’s Ballona Wetlands narrated by Ed Asner, and Geothermal: A Risky Business in Hawaii’s Wao Kele O Puna Rainforest, which helped save America’s last lowland tropical rainforest. Laffey teaches at Santa Monica College, where one of her courses is Green Screen: Films on the Environment and Transformation. See lovethynature.com/screenings for the film’s itinerary.
Danforth Art, in Framingham, Massachusetts, is presenting this exhibition of photographs by Sarah Pollman, BFA07, MFA14. Although the photographs are drawn from two different series, images like her spectral nightscapes and gravestone shots are consistent in their evocation of past and present, ephemeral and permanent. Pollman was selected for the 2013 Art Writing Workshop by the AICA-USA and Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program. The show runs through November 9.