A monthly overview of great new books.
by Elissa Schappell March 2007
What is the key to an artist's creative success? Joan Acocella's rich and brilliantly wrought trove of essays, Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints (Pantheon), proves it's "patience, courage, and the ability to survive disappointment."
Hold on to your helmet: In Leni (Knopf), Steven Bach unspools the dark truth about Nazi-friendly filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, proving her to be anything but apolitical. Conservative, patriotic soldier Joshua Key's allegiance to the U.S. government was decimated by the atrocities he witnessed in Iraq, and with the help of Lawrence Hill he tells The Deserter's Tale (Grove). In her harrowing memoir, Infidel (Free Press), Ayaan Hirsi Ali once again tempts the fury of fundamentalists. Senator Chuck Schumer comes out swinging for the middle class in Positively American (Rodale). Bambi vs. Godzilla (Pantheon) sees David Mamet spitting, growling, and batting his eyes at the business of making movies. Kevin Sessums's memoir is a portrait of the writer as a Mississippi Sissy (St. Martin's). Makeup maven Bobbi Brown (now 50 herself) shares midlife sleights of hand to achieve Living Beauty (Springboard).
Filmmaker Fritz Lang and photographer Martin Munkacsi at the copper bar in Lang's Berlin home, circa 1932.
L'amour! L'amour! L'amour! Daniel Jones, editor of the eponymous New York Times column, presents its loveliest and thorniest tales of "desire, deceit, and devotion" in Modern Love (Three Rivers). In Sally Wofford-Girand and Andrea Chapin's anthology, The Honeymoon's Over (Warner), writers such as Jane Smiley and Terry McMillan dish about why they split or stayed. From Dietrich to Streisand to Cher, Bronwyn Cosgrave shows how fashion and Oscar were always Made for Each Other (Bloomsbury). Life online goes off the hook in Walter Kirn's The Unbinding (Anchor). Forty years in the making, Clive James's Cultural Amnesia (Norton) recalls seminal moments in history and the arts. By Alec Wilkinson's account, Poppa Neutrino, a builder and sailor of trash rafts fit for one cross-Atlantic jaunt, is The Happiest Man in the World (Random House).
In short: Sara Davidson's advice for baby-boomers, Leap (Random House); Charlotte Chandler's Bergman bio, Ingrid (Simon & Schuster); Steidl's Martin Munkacsi; Charlie LeDuff's US Guys (Penguin Press); Barbara McQueen's Steve McQueen, The Last Mile (Dalton Watson); photographer Tierney Gearon's meditation on motherhood, Daddy, Where Are You? (Steidl); André Schiffrin's intellectual autobiography, A Political Education (Melville House); Lucinda Franks's memoir, My Father's Secret War (Miramax); Larry Brown's posthumous (sadly) novel, A Miracle of Catfish (Shannon Ravenel); Tara Ison's psycho-comic novel, The List (Scribner).
The insane, compassionate, balls-out genius William T. Vollmann traversed the globe asking Poor People (Ecco) the question, "Why are you poor?" And the answer is …
Elissa Schappell, author of the novel Use Me (Perennial) and editor-at-large of the literary magazine Tin House, has written Vanity Fair's Hot Type column for nearly a decade.