My Year in Reading 2022
I’m still working on expanding my reviewing, and was fortunate to land a new gig, so I’m looking forward to more in the coming year. I reviewed three books this year. They are therefore disqualified (and indicated in italics) from my top ten. I’ve also ordered several books written by friends but they may still be in the TBR pile, or not yet finished.
So, with the downtime I had at my disposal, excluding periodicals, and listening to podcasts excluded, here are the books:
Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical – Anthony Bourdain
Terrible Typhoid Mary – Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Deadly – Julie Chibbaro
The Lonely City – Olivia Laing
Open City – Teju Cole
Feral City – Jeremiah Moss
New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History – Erin Meister
The Power Broker – Robert Caro
John Winthrop – Francis J. Bremer
Eye of the Sixties: Richard Bellamy of the Transformation of Modern Art – Judith E. Stein
The Architecture of Happiness – Alain de Botton
Mark di Suvero (edited by David R. Colleens, Nora R. Lawrence, Theresa Choi)
Work on the work-in-progress progresses, so I have started on readalikes. I’ve realized that there really is no way to tie in Typhoid Mary to the conceit of my book, but I have now read enough on her to consider myself an amateur expert. Halfway through the year I shifted my focus to Mark di Suvero, subscribed to Art in America, downloaded every article I could find at NYPL, and solicited a box of di Suvero family papers from the Smithsonian. And still I know so little that eking out 500 words took all I had.
All that said, The Power Broker occupied weeks and weeks of reading, even with using the audiobook. That book is long. I also saw the David Hare play, Straight Line Crazy, so I’m just about as up on Robert Moses as I am on Mary Mallon.
Reading resolution for this category: Continue with Mark di Suvero. Read other living Queens authors extensively for a workshop I hope to hold, with grants I hope to be granted.
Five Tuesdays in Winter – Lily King
The Last True Poets of the Sea – Julia Drake
The Latecomer – Jean Hanff Korelitz
An Honest Living – Dwyer Murphy
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carre
Mercury Pictures Presents – Anthony Marra
Fellowship Point – Alice Elliott Dark
Natural History – Andrea Barrett
Shrines of Gaiety – Kate Atkinson
About Face – William Giraldi
Trust – Hernan Diaz
Trust Exercise – Susan Choi
I was surprised to see so few novels on my list, again, The Power Broker took up a lot of my summer. I was sad to leave the Lily King and the Kate Atkinson off my top ten list, but the memoirs below just nudged them out. The Marriage Portrait is in the queue.
Reading resolution for this category: See Queens authors, above. Otherwise, I will probably graze indiscriminately.
Bluets – Maggie Nelson
H is for Hawk – Helen MacDonald
The Outrun – Amy Liptrot
Also a Poet – Ada Calhoun
The Lost Children of Mill Creek – Vivian Gibson
Easy Beauty – Chloe Cooper Jones
The Odd Woman and the City – Vivian Gornick
Reading resolution for this category: Don’t really have one? Crying in H Mart is waiting for me at the Astoria Library.
Animal Bodies – Suzanne Roberts
Orwell’s Roses – Rebecca Solnit
Like Love – Michele Morano
Hysterical – Elissa Bassist
Festival Days – Jo Ann Beard
All the Leavings – Laurie Easter
Bright Unbearable Reality – Anna Badkhen
Reading resolution for this category: I hope to review more in this category. I focus on collections published by indie and university presses.
Craft in the Real World – Matthew Salessas
A Swim in the Pond in the Rain – George Saunders
How to Write One Song – Jeff Tweedy
Reading resolution for this category: I am starting 2023 with a poetry workshop which has two rather daunting required texts, so, dare I say, I am good here?
Islands of Abandonment – Cal Flyn
The Strange Case of Dr. Couney – Dawn Raffel
Reading resolution for this category: I realize that this category is composed of writers with whom I took workshops in 2022, both of whom were super-kind and thoughtful.
The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter – Gillian Cummings
Long Rules – Nathaniel Perry
Reading resolution for this category: More, more, more.
Cozy old things and mysteries
Cheerfulness Sets In – Angela Thirlkill
The It Girl – Ruth Ware
The Madness of Crowds – Louise Penny
Dying to Tell – Robert Goddard
Reading resolution for this category: this is the “something fun to read” category. It defies resolve.
Happy reading in 2023 to all!
Mark di Suvero meets the Golden Gate Bridge
I haven’t been posting as often as I would like because I’ve been buried in research for my book about the history of the section of Astoria you can see from Chateau le Woof. The project was previously known as “Summer of the Dog Cafe” but it seems to have morphed into a book and it involves Hallett’s Cove, the former Sohmer piano factory where the dog cafe occupies part of the ground floor, and Socrates Sculpture Park, founded by Mark di Suvero, and Spacetime, the red warehouse which di Suvero uses as workspace. Teaching myself about the Puritans, the history of pianos in New York City, and the rise of public art and then trying to turn it into prose has been a slow process! It took me forever, it seems, for example, to come up with the opening paragraphs of the chapter on Mark di Suvero, but here they are for your appraisal.
In 1941, a family left China to sail across the Pacific, fleeing a war that would not be fled. Although they had been living in China for years, the family was Italian. The father, a naval attaché, was Venetian, as was the mother, a former Countess. With them were their four children, each of whom faced radiant destinies: an activist lawyer who would establish a law school, an art historian, a poet and a world-renowned artist.
Let’s envision the future artist, nine years old, on the deck on the S.S. President Cleveland. His hands, wet with ocean mist, grip the railings as the Cleveland navigates from the great Pacific into San Francisco Bay. Here it is at last: America. America, named for an Italian explorer, just as he was, Marco Polo di Suvero. Perhaps he claps with excitement. We focus on his hands because his early public work will be of hands, clutching, opening, pointing.
Days of gazing at the endless blue of ocean and sky are suddenly broken by the terrible bright splendor of this span of steel, stretching across the bay for a mile, so long that the bridge never stops being painted. The last brush stroke on the south end in San Francisco serves as a signal to commence the next coat on the north end in Marin County. The color of the paint is International Orange. It flares into the eyes of the blue-blinded boy, himself an international fruit, an Italian raised in China entering America under a suspension bridge with towers so tall that they routinely disappear into clouds as though seeking the release of heaven. The bridge was begun the same year he was born, but it is only four years old, like a younger brother.
International Orange is a reddish orange firmly associated with the Golden Gate Bridge. But it is abundant on earth. We find it in the clay soil of Georgia, in the heart of a peach, in marigolds and goldfish, butterflies and autumn leaves, Irish setters and redheads. We find it in flames. But the color really belongs to the sky, in the grace of the sun rising and setting.
But who could imagine dousing a monument of steel with such a fierce, celestial color. The future sculptor Mark di Suvero, first encountering America, was too young to formulate such questions. He was just a boy, and what he most likely thought was “Golly, look at that!” or, more likely, “Che meraviglia!” But that encounter, and that thought, would direct the rest of his life, shape the course of the lives of dozens if not hundreds of other artists, and heavily influence the landscape of a certain stretch of Vernon Boulevard in Astoria, New York.