What I Actually Saw in New York, part 2; plus bonus quickie reviews

My only other art encounter this week, after this one, was a trip to MoMA with a friend, though we didn’t actually see much. I spent more time in the gift shop, looking at books and at cleverly-designed but completely unnecessary kitchen utensils. We did hang out in Martha Rosler’s garage sale for awhile, perusing used clothes and tchotchkes. The artist was there, sorting items in a partitioned-off “back room,” occasionally coming out to give a price or talk to the MoMA assistants, making sardonic comments (“Are you the artist? “Unfortunately.”) My friend picked up a book designed as a gag-gift for single ladies in the ’70s (“Love is finding a man who doesn’t live with his mother”), and was also eyeing a set of someone’s psychiatry notebooks, already filled in with notes (is that ethical?). Our picture was taken and I’ll keep my eye out for it on the flickr.

In addition to that and our gift shop adventures, we went through a show of avant-garde photography from the collection. Then we were pretty much pooped and went for coffee. I had a bit more time that afternoon and considered going the Met, but I just couldn’t bring myself. I have guilt about not going out to see art as much as possible when I’m in New York, but sometimes I’m just art-ed out. Also, most of the shows I want to see will still be up when I’m home in December (though the holiday crowds may make me regret not taking advantage sooner): in addition to some of the ones listed here, the Picasso Black & White show was highly recommended to me, as were some shows at PS1.

I find in addition to a break from looking at art, I am enjoying a break from looking at screens, and am trying to read as much as possible. I’ve just finished Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan, which was much better than her last novel, Commencement, even though that one was about my alma mater; The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (on audio), which was about as different from Harry Potter as you can get, though it did still grip me; and Food Rules by Michael Pollan, in a new edition illustrated by Maira Kalman who I absolutely adore. I am currently reading Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, which I find compelling, though I’m annoyed that it took literally 100 pages to deliver twins: it was a dramatic birth, but the author kept inserting tangents just to keep his captive audience waiting and on edge–kind of manipulative. In my more academic moments, I’m also reading The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture, by a former professor of mine, Kevin Quashie.

I saw Lincoln, which I highly recommend (great acting, and anyone who’s anyone is in it), and which may inspire me to pick up Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book that it is partially based on; the movie made me realize how fascinating that history is–even the non-cinematized version–and how much of it I don’t know, despite my having some great American history teachers. I’m coming to realize I enjoy non-fiction more than I used to or more than I assumed I did, and so perhaps I should read more of it.

And I saw the play Dead Accounts, starring Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes, a sort-of dark comedy. Butz, a Broadway star, was fantastic as always. Holmes’ acting was stilted: I don’t think she’s great to begin with, and she’s clearly not used to making stage-acting seem natural. The play itself had its moments and its… not moments. It had some great comedic dialogue, but the overall message was heavy-handed and black-and-white and simply untrue, juxtaposing Manhattan’s singular obsession with money with all that is good and pure in Cincinnati, Ohio–’cause nothing bad has ever happened there.

Feel free to leave me your book, or art, or movie, or anything recommendations in the comments section! In the words of Eddie Izzard, “I am not a priest, you may talk to me.”

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