Perhaps no twentieth century writer was so observant and elegant a chronicler of his times as Truman Capote. Whether he was profiling the rich and famous or creating indelible word-pictures of events and places near and far, Capote’s eye for detail and dazzling style made his reportage and commentary undeniable triumphs of the form. Portraits and Observations is the first volume devoted solely to all the essays ever published by this most beloved of writers. From his travel sketches of Brooklyn, New Orleans, and Hollywood, written when he was twenty-two, to meditations about fame, fortune, and the writer’s art at the peak of his career, to the brief works penned during the isolated denouement of his life, these essays provide an essential window into mid-twentieth-century America as offered by one of its canniest observers. Included are such celebrated masterpieces of narrative nonfiction as “The Muses Are Heard” and the short nonfiction novel “Handcarved Coffins,” as well as many long-out-of-print essays, including portraits of Isak Dinesen, Mae West, Marcel Duchamp, Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe. Among the highlights are “Ghosts in Sunlight: The Filming of In Cold Blood, “Preface to Music for Chameleons, in which Capote candidly recounts the highs and lows of his long career, and a playful self-portrait in the form of an imaginary self-interview. The book concludes with the author’s last written words, composed the day before his death in 1984, the recently discovered “Remembering Willa Cather,” Capote’s touching recollection of his encounter with the author when he was a young man at the dawn of his career. Portraits and Observations puts on display the full spectrum of Truman Capote’s brilliance. Certainly, Capote was, as Somerset Maugham famously called him, “a stylist of the first quality.” But as the pieces gathered here remind us, he was also an artist of remarkable substance.
Geoffrey Hill's Speech! Speech! (2000) encapsulates two thousand years' worth of utterances in a symbolic act of remembrance and expression of despair for the current age, in which we find "our minds and ears fouled by degraded public speech-by media hype, insipid sermons, hollow political rhetoric, and the ritual misuse of words." Through 120 densely allusive stanzas-"As many as the days that were - of SODOM"-the poem wrestles this condition from within, fighting fire with fire in an alchemical symbolic labour that transmutes the dross of corrupt and clichéd idiom into a dynamic logopoeia that proves true Hill's persistent claim: "genuinely difficult art is truly democratic." Such is the weird, ambivalently hostile position of poetry in the present world and thus the space of our real connection to it: "Whatever strange relationship we have with the poem, it is not one of enjoyment. It is more like being brushed past, or aside, by an alien being" (Hill).Befriending this estrangement, embracing it as a more amicable brushing-up-against, Hassan's Annotations provide a thorough and patient explication of Speech! Speech! that both clarifies and deepens the poem's difficulties, illuminating its polyphonic language and careening discursive movement. The author's method is at once commentarial, descriptive, and narratorial, staying faithfully with the poem and following its complex verbal and logical turns. The book generously provides, rather than direct interpretative incursion, a more durable and productive document of "the true nature / of this achievement" (stanza 92), a capacious, open understanding of the text that will prove invaluable to its present and future readers.punctumbooks.com
The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano
Author: Dana Thomas
Category: Biography & Autobiography
More than two decades ago, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen arrived on the fashions scene when the business was in an artistic and economic rut. Both wanted to revolutionize fashion in a way no one had in decades. They shook the establishment out of its bourgeois, minimalist stupor with daring, sexy designs. They turned out landmark collections in mesmerizing, theatrical shows that retailers and critics still gush about and designers continue to reference. Their approach to fashion was wildly different—Galliano began as an illustrator, McQueen as a Savile Row tailor. Galliano led the way with his sensual bias-cut gowns and his voluptuous hourglass tailoring, which he presented in romantic storybook-like settings. McQueen, though nearly ten years younger than Galliano, was a brilliant technician and a visionary artist who brought a new reality to fashion, as well as an otherworldly beauty. For his first official collection at the tender age of twenty-three, McQueen did what few in fashion ever achieve: he invented a new silhouette, the Bumster. They had similar backgrounds: sensitive, shy gay men raised in tough London neighborhoods, their love of fashion nurtured by their doting mothers. Both struggled to get their businesses off the ground, despite early critical success. But by 1997, each had landed a job as creative director for couture houses owned by French tycoon Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH. Galliano’s and McQueen’s work for Dior and Givenchy and beyond not only influenced fashion; their distinct styles were also reflected across the media landscape. With their help, luxury fashion evolved from a clutch of small, family-owned businesses into a $280 billion-a-year global corporate industry. Executives pushed the designers to meet increasingly rapid deadlines. For both Galliano and McQueen, the pace was unsustainable. In 2010, McQueen took his own life three weeks before his womens' wear show. The same week that Galliano was fired, Forbes named Arnault the fourth richest man in the world. Two months later, Kate Middleton wore a McQueen wedding gown, instantly making the house the world’s most famous fashion brand, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a wildly successful McQueen retrospective, cosponsored by the corporate owners of the McQueen brand. The corporations had won and the artists had lost. In her groundbreaking work Gods and Kings, acclaimed journalist Dana Thomas tells the true story of McQueen and Galliano. In so doing, she reveals the revolution in high fashion in the last two decades—and the price it demanded of the very ones who saved it.