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A Shimmering Lady Finds her Way

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 1:26pm

The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-BauerWhen Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish salon hostess, sat for her portrait in 1907 by Austria’s most famous painter, Gustav Klimt, it is doubtful that either imagined the painting’s disturbing journey to come.  Washington Post journalist Anne-Marie O’Connor explores these realities in her well-researched book, The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

 

This story unfolds in turn of the century Vienna, where affluent Jewish families are lured by the city's sophisticated culture. Artists, led by Klimt, seek more freedom to express their "art of the soul."  They find support for their Secessionist movement from forward thinking patrons, like Adele and her industrialist husband, Ferdinand. When Ferdinand commissions Klimt to paint his wife, the result is a shimmering, gold mosaic of the dazzling, dark haired beauty. 

 

O'Connor frames the story in three sections, spanning more than one hundred years. While it can be challenging to keep track of all the Bloch-Bauer connections, the short chapters keep the narrative moving with poignant vignettes.  Much time is spent on the pillaging of the Viennese Jewish population by Nazi soldiers and theft of their art treasures. Even in post-Nazi Austria, stolen works with questionable provenance remained in Austrian museums. Adele's portrait was renamed The Lady in Gold, losing its Jewish identity. 

 

The author draws upon extensive interviews and correspondence with Adele's niece, Maria Altmann, whose successful legal fight returned the Klimt paintings to private hands, including Klimt's Adele.  While the painting today is at the Neue Galerie in New York, it may be impossible to gaze upon Gustav Klimt's muse without considering the human cost of war, the complexities of art restitution, and each stolen painting's story yet to tell.


 
 

Level Up!

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 9:31am

The Nerdist WayComedian Chris Hardwick, former host of MTV’s Singled Out and recent contributor to Attack of the Show, Chelsea Lately, and Web Soup, has a message for all geeks, gamers, dorks, and dweebs. You can actually use your nerdy traits to improve your life and find personal fulfillment!

 

Nerdists (a clever pairing of the words “nerd” and “artist”) skillfully combine creativity, focus, and a sense of fun in order to achieve his or her full potential. In this self-help/humor/philosophy title, Hardwick recommends treating your life like a role-playing game (RPG). This means using personal data to quantify, measure, and graph your success as you reach your goals. Gain experience points (XP) by completing tasks like working out three times a week, paying your bills on time, and meeting deadlines.  Watch your character and yourself quickly get to the next level.

 

With chapters on anxiety, time management, fitness, and maintaining your finances, this book is perfect for the self-improving nerd. Hardwick gives plenty of helpful tips, such as ignoring your brain (don’t believe everything you think) and becoming a “Charlie Rose of your own mind” (ask yourself a lot of questions). He recommends taking hints from evil geniuses: have a goal, stay focused, and never back down.

 

Filled with strikingly honest personal examples, hilarious anecdotes, and genuinely positive affirmations, The Nerdist Way is recommended for anyone who has ever let their overly stimulated brain get in the way of living the life they want.

 

 

 


 
 

Strangers in a Strange Land

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 9:13am

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of ForgetfulnessWhen A Crocodile Eats the SunWhite Woman on the Green Bicycle

The sun eventually did set on the British empire.  The process of its descent makes for some interesting reading in both novels and non-fiction books as authors explore the impact of the withdrawal of British rule on non-native families living abroad.

 

Author Alexandra Fuller’s latest book Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an account of her parents’ migration from the British Isles to east Africa and is the story of immigrants adapting to and adopting a new country and adjusting once again as British colonialism yields to self-rule.  Fuller’s mother, especially, has a voice in this book as the family moves throughout east Africa’s farming communities.

 

The same themes of family history intertwined with recent African history are carried out in When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin.  Godwin, a journalist now living in the United States, was raised in Rhodesia; he and his sister left the country but his parents remained even as Robert Mugabe rose to power and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe.   Godwin’s description of his aged parents’ life under Mugabe’s rule is harrowing but he, as does Fuller, conveys the attachment of his parents to a country  which has become inhospitable and often dangerously hostile to them.

 

Monique Roffey’s novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle examines the marriage of a white couple, George and Sabine Harwood, living in Trinidad.  The newlywed Harwoods arrive on the island in 1956 as George has been offered a three year employment contract.  Sabine, wilting under the heat and culture shock, can’t wait to return to England but George thrives as an Englishman living in a British colony and refuses to leave.  Broken promises figure in both the Harwood marriage and Trinidad’s move to independence and this Orange prize short-lister blend of fiction and fact is an interesting window into a lesser-known former British colony.


 
 

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