MixedThe Arts FuseReading Colbert’s book makes one want to return to Hansberry’s unique voice, to read her works more carefully. A failing of Radical Vision is that it does not reprint, at length, more examples of Hansberry’s prose (early in her career she used pseudonyms and these pieces are difficult to find). Colbert quotes from some of these pieces, using them to analyze pivotal points in Hansberry’s life. Having them reprinted in an appendix would have provided valuable context. Another glaring omission: no mention of a key influence in Hansberry’s work, that of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey ... The work of Baldwin is enjoying a well-deserved revival today. Colbert’s illuminating study suggests that a Hansberry revival would be just as welcome.
John Woodrow Cox
RaveArts FuseChildren Under Fire examines gun violence in America, focusing on how it is threatening our nation’s children ...Statistics can be mind-boggling; thankfully, Cox doesn’t overload his book with factoids. Yet he includes two stats: during every hour of the day a child is shot; during this past decade, over 30,000 youngsters and teens have been killed by guns ... This narrative strategy brings us close to these children, and to their quests to live normal lives. We learn about the powerful psychological aftershocks of gun violence and about how each child — and their families and communities — struggle to cope with the senseless deaths. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes legions of villagers to heal that child’s traumas. I encourage readers to read Cox’s book, but it troubles me that he piles on detailed evidence without providing sufficiently strong connecting narrative threads. A non-fiction writer should discover through-lines, craft his material as Joan Didion instructs through a comparison to sculpture ... By shaping his documentation and analysis, an author helps readers navigate the book’s themes as they interweave and tighten into an inevitable conclusion. Cox thinks reporting the flow of events – between children and their families, communities, and in the political arena –is enough and that readers will follow along in the same way they take in a newspaper story. But a book calls for a more complicated architecture, a more nuanced dramatic construction ... Children Under Fire has the potential to sway lawmakers to take action on the gun ownership issue and to also implement safeguards that would help stem gun violence.
PositiveThe Arts FuseTo his credit, Kawaguchi is a canny enough craftsman to give the cliché a healthy spin ... he pulls it off by cleverly weaving fantastic strands into what turns out to be an entertaining tale ... Being a clever dramatist, Kawaguchi builds suspense from scene to scene, carefully selecting his narrative clues ... draws on a a rich Japanese theater tradition by including supernatural spirits, ghoulish ghosts who are trapped between the physical and spirit worlds ... Once you grant Kawaguchi the necessary suspension of disbelief, the story moves along fairly well. Though there are occasional potholes because of Geoffrey Trousselo’s awkward translation ... provides scant political pizazz. Rather, the book is a deep dive into melodrama, revolving around characters who long to reconnect to others for a second chance, to make amends, to rekindle passion.
RaveThe ArtsFuseSchjeldahl is an anomaly among contemporary art critics in that he lacks an academic pedigree. His formal education ended with his high school diploma. Readers who approach art criticism expecting acknowledgement of contemporary theory will be disappointed; Schjeldahl cites art scholars, but his preference is to tell the reader, via Midwestern plain speech, what he sees and what he thinks we should find in art ... Schjeldahl, in the thirty-year span this book covers, demonstrates that he has evolved into a passionate craftsman and illuminating critic ... to this critic’s credit, he is difficult to pin down. Along with this elusiveness, Schjeldahl expresses his delight in the art he sees before him with an adroit wit. And he conveys a convincing warmth for the artists under review. But his empathy does not obstruct the resoluteness of his verdicts, which are articulated with honestly, precision, and audacity.