Monday, October 31, 2022

The Mountains Wait by Theodor Broch

Life under the Nazis in a northern Norwegian town
This book came to my attention because it features pictures by Rockwell Kent, one of America’s great book illustrators. Finding the subject matter interesting, I decided to read it, and I’m glad I did. The Mountains Wait was written by Theodor Broch, a Norwegian lawyer and politician. In this memoir, published in 1942, Broch recounts Norway’s involuntary entry into World War II when the Nordic nation was invaded by the Nazis.

The book opens with Broch fleeing through the mountains trying to escape into neutral Sweden. He then flashes back ten years to when he first moved to the small, far northern city of Narvik a decade earlier. Narvik is a seaport town from which the iron ore of Swedish mines is shipped out to the world. Broch, raised and educated in Oslo, moved to Narvik following graduation from law school because his father, a military man, was stationed there. In the first few chapters of the book, Broch relates how he began practicing law, became a city councilman, and was then elected mayor of Narvik. As he gets to know the inhabitants of the remote community, the reader gets a glimpse into the peaceful and picturesque life of this small Norwegian town.

That all changes on April 9, 1940, when the Nazis invade Norway. Narvik is taken and occupied for its crucial seaport. The British launch a savage naval battle in the adjacent fjord, but it fails to win the town’s freedom. Soldiers from Norway, Britain, Poland, and even the French Foreign Legion are all engaged in combat in and around Narvik. As mayor of the town, Broch is required to meet with the Nazi commanding officers and cater to their demands. He provides a realistic glimpse at life under Nazi occupation. At times relations are reluctantly cordial between the Norwegians and their captors, but the residents of Narvik still covertly resist the Nazis at the risk of punishment by death. Because the Nazis claim the Nordics as their racial brethren, the overt atrocities of ethnic cleansing are not an issue, but the Nazis certainly do not behave themselves as gentleman combatants when they engage in all kinds of dirty tricks from donning Norwegian uniforms, hiding behind the red cross symbol, or using civilians as human shields. As time goes on and their hold on the town becomes less secure, the Nazis become more violent and abusive towards the Norwegians. Many citizens of Narvik are killed by bombing raids, and some by friendly fire, as their town is destroyed around them.

The title of the book refers to the fact that while Broch and many of his countrymen have fled to live in exile, he hopes that one day the Nazis will be driven from Norway, and his native land will once again welcome its children back to its beautiful snow-covered landscapes. A word that is used often in the text is “quisling,” denoting a traitor who collaborates with the enemy. This common noun was derived from the proper name of Vidkun Quisling, head of the Norwegian government under Nazi occupation, who briefly makes an appearance early in the book.

Kent’s illustrations for the book are excellent. He provides headpieces and tailpieces for each chapter. These are mostly lovely scenic views of the Narvik region. Only a few of the illustrations specifically depict views of war. Regardless of the art, however, readers with any connection to Norway or an interest in the second world war in Europe will find Broch’s historical memoir a compelling read.
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Illustrations by Rockwell Kent, from the book

Friday, October 28, 2022

Bobby Womack: My Story 1944–2014 by Bobby Womack and Robert Ashton

Maybe the best rock autobiography I’ve ever read
Soul and rock singer Bobby Womack first published his autobiography in 2006 under the title of Midnight Mover (named after one of his hit songs). Following his death, it was rereleased in 2014 as Bobby Womack: My Story 1944-2014. Womack may not be as famous as fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, or Pete Townshend, but his autobiography is better than theirs. In fact, this may be the best rock and roll autobiography I’ve ever read.

Womack was born in Cleveland. At the urging of his religious father, Bobby and his brothers grew up singing gospel. They achieved success first as the Womack Brothers and then as the Valentinos. As a teenager, Bobby came under the wing of soul singer Sam Cooke, who mentored his career as he branched out from gospel into the soul and rock genres. After Cooke was killed under questionable circumstances, Womack married Cooke’s widow Barbara, ten years his senior, when he was only 21. A few years later, Womack had an affair with his 17-year-old stepdaughter. When Barbara found out, it resulted in a violent and harrowing scene that serves as the book’s opening chapter. From page one, Womack’s narrative grabs the reader’s attention and never lets go.

Womack lived a hard life, enduring much tragedy and hardship, and as a result the book is not always a pleasant read. He tells his story with an unflinching honesty that is admirable and captivating. Womack owns up to his mistakes, even the dumb ones, without asking for sympathy, hiding behind excuses, or making himself out to be a better person than he is, unlike many other rock star autobiographers (Clapton and Townshend come to mind). Womack’s music career was up and down, interspersed with lean years, and he had his bouts with heavy drug use. He is brutally frank about sexual matters, without bragging. In fact, most of the stories in that category are humorous but not for the prudish. Womack displays an almost childlike attitude towards love, and at times comes across a little creepy with his stalkerish methods of pursuing the women he’s attracted to, but it was the 1970s after all. In the end he comes across as a likable guy and a battle-scarred survivor. Womack’s life story will make you laugh, might make you cry, and every once in a while may even give you the heebie jeebies. Regardless of what fame and fortune he achieved, you wouldn’t want to trade your life for his.

I’m a fan of Womack’s recordings, but I was unaware of the extent to which he wrote songs for others and worked as a hired-gun session man. He played guitar on Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” the Boxtops’ “The Letter,” and Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman.” The roster of legends with whom Womack worked also includes Jimi Hendrix, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Sly Stone, Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones. Womack doesn’t just drop their names to make himself sound more important, nor does he simply dish out gossip and dirt. Rather, he has a way of telling stories about these famous acquaintances that really reveals their personalities and enlarges your understanding of each individual.

My Story is written in very conversational prose that allows you to imagine Womack relating these anecdotes to you personally. (He did have help from a ghost writer, Robert Ashton). Even if you’re not a big fan of Womack’s music, if you’re interested in ‘60s and ‘70s rock, including the stars mentioned above, this autobiography makes for a riveting read.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin

Anarchist-Communism as the cure for society’s ills
The Conquest of Bread
by Russian author Peter Kropotkin was first published in 1892 as a series of essays in the French journal Revolté (Kropotkin wrote the text in French). The book is a political treatise that proposes Anarchist-Communism as the world government of the future. Just as Karl Marx is the patriarch of Communism and his book Das Kapital could be considered the “bible” of that movement, Kropotkin is the godfather of Anarchist-Communism and The Conquest of Bread its sacred text. Unlike the works of Marx, Kropotkin seems to have written The Conquest of Bread for the common man, and one doesn’t need a PhD to understand it.

Kropotkin asserts that Capitalism is a form of economic feudalism not much different from medieval feudalism, under which the majority of the world’s population exists as wage slaves to a wealthy aristocracy, just as peasants, slaves, and serfs have served their masters for centuries. The solution to this problem of inequality and exploitation is a Communist economic system that values labor over private property and distributes the wealth of society accordingly to satisfy the needs of all. Kropotkin’s particular take on Communism is Anarchist-Communism (or Anarcho-Communism). Kropotkin felt that a revolution was inevitable and imminent, and Anarchist-Communism would be the result. The bulk of the book consists of Kropotkin outlining how that future society would function to create a classless utopia.

What exactly is Anarchist-Communism? Kropotkin states that “Anarchy leads to Communism, and Communism to Anarchy,” because both are driven by the pursuit for equality. The difference is that Kropotkin would have never condoned the authoritarian bureaucracy of the Soviets. Rather, he advocates abolishing centralized government in favor of a government by free agreement. He cites as an example how multiple companies established a continent-wide network of railways without any overarching governing body such as a ministry of railroads. Kropotkin’s anarchy seems like a wise solution for many industrial and agricultural problems, but it’s hard to comprehend how it might work for every function of government. Like many utopian socialists, Kropotkin downplays the need for such institutions as law enforcement and the military by refusing to account for the lazy, the stupid, the selfish, and the evil in humanity.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of sense in much of what Kropotkin has to say. Most governments have become more socialistic and labor-friendly since the late nineteenth century (e.g. the eight-hour work day, no more child labor, public education, social security), which would please Kropotkin, but his Communist utopia still hasn’t materialized, and income equality and poverty still run rampant even in “first-world” nations. Kropotkin has some insightful things to say about the industrial revolution, decentralization of industry, and the beginnings of globalism. As a historical document, the book provides insight into radical movements of the past. For what did Sacco and Vanzetti die? For what was Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated? Reading The Conquest of Bread sheds light on these historical events and the history of labor in general.

One problem with Communism is that no one can seem to agree how it should be implemented, and that’s evident here as Kropotkin picks apart the dogma of other Communist and Socialist sects. (The Capitalists don’t seem to have the same troublesome disagreements over free-market enterprise.) The Conquest of Bread will leave left-leaning readers with a melancholy for what might have been in a perfect world, but there’s still a lot to learn here. Kropotkin’s great Anarchist-Communist revolution is unlikely to happen soon, if ever, but there may still be some seeds of reform here that have yet to sprout.
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Monday, October 24, 2022

Essential Daredevil Volume 2 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

Gene the Dean gives great art, but Stan the Man’s writing is poor
Marvel’s paperback Essential series features reprints of their classic comics in black and white on newsprint paper. The lack of color is made up for by the fact that you get at least two dozen issues of continuity in one volume. Essential Daredevil Volume 2 reprints Daredevil issues 26 to 48, plus Daredevil Special #1, a “giant-sized” issue. These comics were originally published from March 1967 to January 1969. All these issues were written by Stan Lee and drawn by Gene Colan. The volume also includes one crossover issue of the Fantastic Four written by Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby.

While Kirby was Marvel’s heavy lifter throughout their Silver Age, Colan carved out a name for himself as the artist of the Daredevil title for most of its run up until Frank Miller took over in 1979 with issue #158. Colan was a consummate anatomist along the lines of Neal Adams. In his hands, every Daredevil fight scene looks like a well-choreographed ballet, if shot by a director of film noir. Colan’s art is exceptional throughout this volume and greatly exceeds the quality of Lee’s writing, which really isn’t very good here. Through these 24 issues, one can see Colan’s personal style develop to become more innovative and expressive over time. His art would continue to evolve further as the Daredevil title progressed, making him one of the most impressive and expressive Marvel artists of the ‘70s.

Unfortunately, Lee’s writing is not up to the same level. With the exception of perhaps the last few issues in this volume, Lee just doesn’t seem to know what to do with Daredevil. What was great about Marvel’s Silver Age is that every comic had its own unique atmospheric niche. Fantastic Four was the amazing sci-fi comic, Dr. Strange was the mystical fantasy comic, X-Men was the mod teenage comic, etc. Daredevil, on the other hand, seemed to have trouble finding a personality. Ostensibly he’s an urban vigilante, like Batman, but there’s no sense of darkness to these early issues. Lee just gives DD the same wise-cracking personality as Spider-Man. Because of Matt Murdock’s love affairs, there was also often a soap opera element to the Daredevil title that called to mind the romance comic genre. For the most part, however, the stories are just fights, which thankfully look beautiful under Colan’s pencil. Daredevil wins by kicks and punches, and rarely uses his wits. Lee also gives DD the most absurd secret identity since Clark Kent when blind lawyer Matt Murdock pretends to be his own identical twin, non-blind blowhard Mike Murdock.

The Daredevil of these issues is a second-tier hero badly in need of a decent villain. At this time, Bullseye and the Hand hadn’t been invented yet, and the Kingpin was still a Spider-Man villain. What the reader gets instead is a slew of unpowered bad guys dressed in silly super suits: Stilt Man, Leap Frog, Gladiator, Cobra, Matador, the Masked Marauder. Appearances by Dr. Doom are refreshing but incongruent. Other than that, the only really interesting baddies are the Ani-Men and the Jester.

Judging from this volume, the early run of the Daredevil title was not one of Marvel’s better offerings of the 1960s. Fans of Colan’s art, however, will enjoy this volume. As is often the case with these Essential volumes, however, the reproduction quality of the art is not always great.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom

Herbert’s best world-building since Dune
The Jesus Incident
, published in 1979, is the sequel to Frank Herbert’s novel Destination: Void. In that earlier novel, a spaceship from Earth departs the solar system to colonize another star system. In The Jesus Incident, that ship has arrived at the planet of Pandora, making this novel the first in a Pandora trilogy, followed by The Lazarus Effect and The Ascension Factor. The three Pandora novels are a collaboration between Herbert and poet Bill Ransom.

In Destination: Void, the space travelers were tasked with creating not just an artificial intelligence but an artificial consciousness. In doing so, they inadvertently created a being with godlike powers. Unknown centuries have passed since the end of that last book. Their creation, Ship, seems to be omniscient. Unlike the Christian God, Ship isn’t shy about speaking directly to his subjects—straight into their minds, in fact. Ship’s powers also seem to inexplicably border on omnipotence. He captures humans from different worlds and brings them to Pandora, where he watches them act out experiments in civilization. He demands that his humans figure out how to “worShip” him, but so far no one has successfully solved that riddle. While many humans live in orbit within Ship, many others work to establish a colony on the surface of Pandora. The planet presents a harsh environment populated by savage and terrifying creatures. One species, however, the electrokelp of the planet’s oceans, shows promising signs of intelligence and may hold the key to worShip.

Though probably coincidental, there are some uncanny similarities between The Jesus Incident and the movie Avatar, which also takes place on a planet called Pandora. In Avatar, the two leads have sex by communing with the neural network of an intelligent tree. The electrokelp of Herbert’s Pandora serves the same purpose. Similarly, in both Pandoras all species in nature, from the beautiful to the savage, are connected by a universal mind that allows the apex species (tree or kelp) to influence the actions of all flora and fauna. This sort of Taoist or pantheistic conception of nature imparts an ecological message to both sci-fi narratives. Also, in both cases the hero demonstrates the unusual ability to ride a native creature by establishing a psychological rapport with it, which also calls to mind Paul Atreides riding the sandworms of Herbert’s Dune.

The Jesus Incident suffers from a pacing problem. The book is 69 chapters long, and for many of those chapters, not a whole lot happens. In chapter 69, however, everything happens, and it all happens so fast it’s difficult to figure out what exactly happened. The connection to Jesus in The Jesus Incident feels tenuous and forced. It almost seems as if Herbert came up with the title of the book first, and then had to find some way of incorporating Christ into the story. Of course, we know from Dune that Herbert is fascinated with messiahs and saviors, and he continues investigating such phenomena here. Omniscience is another favorite theme of Herbert’s, but for an ability that should be unique and amazing he sure does bestow it upon a lot of characters.

Despite all the religious subject matter, The Jesus Incident isn’t so much about Ship as it is about the humans battling each other for dominance over Pandora. In that sense, it is a lot like Dune in that it presents a psychological chess match between multiple parties with diverse self-interests. As a fictional universe, Pandora is not up to the complexity and ingenuity of Dune, but the multi-volume arc allows Herbert to delve into world-building to an extent unparalleled in his stand-alone novels. Dune fans will find much to enjoy in The Jesus Incident, but those unfamiliar with Herbert may be put off by the weird spiritual mysticism of Ship and Pandora.
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Monday, October 17, 2022

The Fixed Period by Anthony Trollope

Lackluster dystopian tale of mandatory euthanasia
Anthony Trollope
British author Anthony Trollope is usually known for writing English social dramas along the lines of Charles Dickens. His 1882 novel The Fixed Period, however, is an anomaly amongst Trollope’s prolific output. In this book, Trollope depicts a dystopian future in a fictional land. While its sheer oddity is intriguing, the result, unfortunately, is far from his best work. The Fixed Period is not dark enough to make for good science fiction, not relevant enough to succeed as social criticism, and not funny enough to qualify as satire.

The story takes place in the year 1980. Britannula, a former British colony, is an independent republic in the South Pacific populated by settlers from New Zealand. The narrator, John Neverbend, is the nation’s first president. Entrenched within the Constitution of this burgeoning nation is a law known as the “Fixed Period,” which mandates the euthanization of the elderly, under the reasoning that the prolongation of their lives constitutes a wasteful financial burden upon the state. Upon attaining the age of 67.5 years, each citizen of Britannula will be “deposited” with honors into a “college” (i.e. confined to a sort of country club) where they will live out the final year of their lives, after which they will be gently exsanguinated and their remains cremated. President Neverbend is an unwavering proponent of the Fixed Period. He finds difficulty in implementing the policy, however, when the first honoree shows a reluctance to be executed. This proposed first victim happens to be Neverbend’s best friend and a former legislator who helped him draft the Fixed Period law in the first place, only to have a change of heart later in life. As President Neverbend staunchly insists that the law be carried out, he meets with adamant resistance even within his own family.

In an attempt to liven things up, Trollope works a big cricket match into the plot. I am unfamiliar with the rules of the game, but this seems to be a futuristic version of cricket in which the players employ steam-powered machinery. Other than the occasional steam engine, Trollope isn’t much of a futurist; horses and ships are still the primary means of transportation in 1980.

Even in fictional Britannula, the narrator seems to be the only person in favor of the Fixed Period, so how did it ever become law in the first place? Neverbend’s solitary and unilateral advocacy for this death sentence makes him appear tyrannical, which undermines the sympathy the reader is obviously supposed to feel for him. Dystopian novels like Brave New World, 1984, or Fahrenheit 451 succeed because they examine multiple issues and aspects of society. Trollope’s Fixed Period, on the other hand, is strictly a one-issue dystopia, and is there really any need to discuss this particular issue? The narrative has a few mildly humorous moments, but if this is satire, what exactly would it be satirizing? It’s not like there’s a nation out there that’s actually arguing for this policy. There is some stuff in the plot about Britain messing in the affairs of its former colonies, but in this case the affair in question is so ridiculous it could hardly be applicable to Australia, New Zealand, or Canada.

A novel on voluntary euthanasia, rather than mandatory euthanasia, might actually have served a purpose, but this book just seems useless, and even worse, it’s boring. The narrator reveals his fate early on, so the ending is a foregone conclusion. The tone of the novel is lighthearted enough to make it pretty obvious that no one is going to die. The final few chapters are terribly protracted and repetitive as Trollope relentlessly restates the same points, beating the same dead horse. Readers would be better off avoiding this novelty and enjoying the books for which Trollope was famous, like the Chronicles of Barsetshire series.
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Friday, October 14, 2022

Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, Volume 2 by Alexander von Humboldt

More on Mexican history and geography, region by region
After conducting a year’s worth of travel and research in Mexico from 1803 to 1804, Prussian explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt published his Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain in 1811. That same year, the English edition, translated by John Black, was published in four volumes. Though entitled a “Political Essay,” Humboldt’s study of New Spain (the Spanish colonial name for Mexico) covers way more than just politics, and Volume 2 is even less political than Volume 1. In this second volume, Humboldt gives a geographic overview of each of the 15 intendencies of Mexico. These were the former regional divisions of Mexico, fewer in number and larger in size than the 32 Mexican states of today. For each of these districts, Humboldt discusses its topography, demography, flora and fauna, mineralogy, history, and much more.

Not surprisingly, the intendency of Mexico (which included Mexico City) gets the most coverage. After about a hundred interesting pages on the capital city and its environs, Humboldt tests the reader’s patience with a 75-page history of flood control efforts in the Valley of Mexico—the one portion of the book that really drags. Otherwise, for the most part, Humboldt’s extended digressions pay off with interest. After discussing all the intendencies of New Spain, for example, Humboldt recounts the history of Spanish exploration of the Pacific Coast of North America from San Francisco up to the Bering Strait. This leads to a discussion of Russian settlements in Alaska and Canada, which really doesn’t belong in this book at all, but it is quite interesting.

In Volume 1 of the Political Essay on New Spain, Humboldt is very critical of the Spanish conquistadores, colonialism, and slavery. Volume 2, however, doesn’t delve much into political subject matter, so colonialism and slavery aren’t really discussed in-depth. In his historical recaps, Humboldt surprisingly refers to the “great Cortez” and “great Columbus” on a few occasions, which is very uncharacteristic of him. On the other hand, Humboldt still speaks out for Indigenous rights. He points out, for example, that the Spanish, English, French, and Russians are all fighting over the Northwest coast of Canada, but he reminds his readers that the land really belongs to its Native inhabitants.

The final third of the volume is devoted to a discussion of the agricultural products of Mexico. Humboldt explores the natural history of bananas, manioc, maize, potatoes, maguey or agave (from which tequila is derived), and other agricultural staples of the New World, while also examining how well wheat and various Old World fruits grow in the Mexican climate. When Humboldt delves into the history of these plants, discussing where they originated and when they were first transported to other continents, he makes botanical science read like an intriguing unsolved mystery.

Those interested in historical studies of the Americas, such as Charles Mann’s books 1491 and 1493, will find a similar fascination with Humboldt’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. The difference of course is that Humboldt’s book was written over two hundred years ago, so he did not have the benefit of so much archaeological and scientific research conducted since then. However, Humboldt’s study really encapsulates the natural and social environment of Mexico in the early 19th century, while also providing important historical lessons on pre-Columbian civilizations, the Spanish conquest, and colonial times. 21st century readers with an avid interest in Mexico and its history will be enthralled by the impressive erudition and encyclopedic scope of Humboldt’s knowledge.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Frances H. Gearhart: Color Block Prints in Wichita, 1922-1937 by Roger Genser

Master printmaker of the California landscape
Though not generally renowned as one of America’s art centers, Wichita, Kansas, played an important role in furthering the art of American printmaking in the early 20th century. Several skilled practitioners of the graphic arts resided in the area, and the Wichita Art Museum became a leader in staging print exhibitions, in particular color block prints. The Wichita Art Museum continues to put on excellent print shows to this day, including their exhibition of the work of Frances H. Gearhart in 2020. Gearhart (1869-1958) was not a Kansan but a Californian. She was, however, a member of the Prairie Print Makers and exhibited her prints often in Wichita’s annual color block print shows. The catalog to the Wichita Art Museum’s 2020 show, Frances H. Gearhart: Color Block Prints in Wichita, 1922-1937 was edited by curator Barbara Thompson, an art historian who specializes in Kansas’s printmaking scene. The text of the book was written by Roger Genser, a noted authority on Gearhart and her work.

Frances Gearhart was born in Illinois but raised in Pasadena, California, where she lived for the remainder of her life. She worked as a high school English teacher before devoting herself full-time to art. She and her two sisters, May and Edna, also artists, opened a gallery in Pasadena where they held print exhibitions. Like many great but lesser-known regional artists, there just isn’t a whole lot of extant information on Gearhart. The text of this book is not so much a biography as it is an expanded curriculum vitae compiled from mentions of Gearhart in exhibition catalogues, newspaper articles, and letters, to which Genser adds his informed analysis of Gearhart’s imagery and techniques. The record of her life is a little patchy, but for what little information there is on her it is nice to have it all in one attractive package.

Like just about everyone who has created color woodcuts in the last couple centuries, Gearhart was influenced by Japanese artists and employed their materials and methods. She developed a personal style, however, that was distinctly American and evocative of the work of the California Impressionist school of painters in Southern California that included William Wendt and Edgar Payne. Gearhart’s work also has an element of art nouveau in the sinuous lines she uses to express the natural beauty of the California landscape and color patterns reminiscent of Tiffany glass.

This book is loaded with beautiful color images of Gearhart’s prints, as well as a few of her watercolor paintings. As a designer of landscape images and a carver of wood and linoleum blocks, Gearhart was a master. It is evident from the images included, however, and somewhat surprising, that Gearhart was not a particularly fastidious printer. Like an impressionist, she doesn’t appear to be overly concerned with coloring in between the lines. Her registration is not precise, and her ink coverage was often spotty, resulting in prints that looked dashed off. Far from being a detriment, however, Gearhart’s prints are a reminder that the imperfections of the hand-crafted print contribute to the beauty and immediacy of the art form. Gearhart also freely experimented with color, resulting in variations that make each individual print a unique visual expression.

This book on Frances H. Gearhart is a slim volume of only about a hundred pages, but almost every page is graced with a beautiful color reproduction of her work. Books on Gearhart, unfortunately, are few and hard to find. This may not be the coffee-table retrospective she deserves, but kudos to the Wichita Art Museum for bringing this important artist’s work to our attention once again.

Prints by Frances H. Gearhart

October Splendor, c. 1930

Untroubled Waters, 1931

In Winter Regalia, c. 1934

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Old Books by (Mostly) Dead Nobel Laureates 2022

Congratulations to Annie Ernaux!

On Monday it was announced that French author Annie Ernaux has won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature. As with many of the recent Nobel laureates, I have never read her work, but nevertheless this occasion once again gives Old Books by Dead Guys the opportunity to celebrate Nobel winners of the past.

Every year at this time Old Books by Dead Guys presents the ever-growing cumulative list of works by Nobel laureates that have been reviewed at this blog. Since last year, Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa and Guatemala’s Miguel Ángel Asturias have been added to the list. Several Nobel laureates have also made repeat appearances at Old Books by Dead Guys, including Americans Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck and Frenchmen Romain Rolland and Anatole France. Check out the authors below and click on the titles to read the complete reviews.

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1903 Nobel) Norway 🇳🇴

Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905 Nobel) Poland 🇵🇱

Rudyard Kipling (1907 Nobel) United Kingdom (born in India) 🇬🇧

Selma Lagerlöf (1909 Nobel) Sweden 🇸🇪

Paul von Heyse (1910 Nobel) Germany 🇩🇪

Maurice Maeterlinck (1911 Nobel) Belgium 🇧🇪

Gerhart Hauptmann (1912 Nobel) Germany 🇩🇪

Rabindranath Tagore (1913 Nobel) India 🇮🇳

Romain Rolland (1915 Nobel) France 🇫🇷

Verner von Heidenstam (1916 Nobel) Sweden 🇸🇪

Henrik Pontoppidan (1917 Nobel) Denmark 🇩🇰

Carl Spitteler (1919 Nobel) Switzerland 🇨🇭

Knut Hamsun (1920 Nobel) Norway 🇳🇴

Anatole France (1921 Nobel) France 🇫🇷

Wladyslaw Reymont (1924 Nobel) Poland 🇵🇱

George Benard Shaw (1925 Nobel) Ireland 🇮🇪

Henri Bergson (1927 Nobel) France 🇫🇷

Sigrid Undset (1928 Nobel) Norway 🇳🇴
  • Jenny (1911) - 2.5 stars

Sinclair Lewis (1930 Nobel) United States of America 🇺🇸

John Galsworthy (1932 Nobel) United Kingdom 🇬🇧

Ivan Bunin (1933 Nobel) France (born in Russia) 🇫🇷 🇷🇺

Eugene O’Neill (1936 Nobel) United States of America 🇺🇸

Pearl S. Buck (1938 Nobel) United States of America (raised in China) 🇺🇸

Frans Eemil Sillanpää (1939 Nobel) Finland 🇫🇮

Johannes Vilhelm Jensen (1944 Nobel) Denmark 🇩🇰

Hermann Hesse (1946 Nobel) Switzerland (born in Germany) 🇨🇭 🇩🇪

Bertrand Russell (1950 Nobel) United Kingdom 🇬🇧

Pär Lagerkvist (1951 Nobel) Sweden 🇸🇪

François Mauriac (1952 Nobel) 
France 🇫🇷

Ernest Hemingway (1954 Nobel) United States of America 🇺🇸

Halldór Laxness (1955 Nobel) Iceland 🇮🇸

Albert Camus (1957 Nobel) France (born in Algeria) 🇫🇷

Borris Pasternak
 (1958 Nobel) Russia (Soviet Union) 🇷🇺

John Steinbeck (1962 Nobel) United States of America 🇺🇸

Mikhail Sholokhov (1965 Nobel) Soviet Union 🇷🇺

Miguel Ángel Asturias (1974 Nobel) Guatemala 🇬🇹

Gabriel García Marquez (1982 Nobel) Colombia 🇨🇴

Wole Soyinka (1986 Nobel) Nigeria 🇳🇬

Camilo José Cela (1989 Nobel) Spain 🇪🇸

José Saramago (1998 Nobel) 
Portugal 🇵🇹

Günter Grass (1999 Nobel) Germany 🇩🇪

Orhan Pamuk (2006 Nobel) 
Turkey 🇹🇷
  • Snow (2002) - 3.5 stars

Mario Vargas Llosa (2010 Nobel) Peru

Mo Yan 
(2012 Nobel) China 🇨🇳

Bob Dylan (2016 Nobel) United States of America 🇺🇸

Olga Tokarczuk (2018 Nobel) Poland 🇵🇱