Picasso by Norman Mailer

Yo–el Rey. I, the king. Pablo Ruiz y Picasso wrote that three times on a self portrait painted when he was just 19 and about to leave his native Spain for Paris, where he became even more than a king. The funny thing about a grotesquely outsized ego is that very occasionally it is actually representing an equally legendary and outsized talent, intellect, beauty or charismatic personality; the deep flaws of entitlement, narcissism and infidelity such an ego sanctions can be overlooked, even forgiven. Continue reading “Picasso by Norman Mailer”

Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell

As I wrote in my unfinished report about Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God, I encountered Joseph Campbell (who I refer to as “the other JC”) in around 1987 after his death and after he had done the famous Powers of Myth interviews with Bill Moyers. Nothing makes me feel more like a water buffalo in a herd than trending with the rest of America after a PBS special. Continue reading “Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell”

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin

Steve Martin’s novel, An Object of Beauty, is itself an object of beauty. It’s got a super sexy dust cover, thick and creamy, with slick raised lettering that looks like it was cut out from a modern masterpiece. There are nicely reproduced photos scattered throughout the book of paintings and sculptures that are mentioned in the text, which is so fun for the reader to be able to instantly see the art the characters are referencing. Continue reading “An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin”

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

I got a copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as soon as it hit the bookstore. My favorite bookstore at the time was a satellite of Berkeley’s famous Cody’s, located in the Opera Plaza on the corner of Van Ness and McAllister in San Francisco. It was the same bookstore where if you put a dollar in a glass jar you were allowed to look at Madonna’s Sex book for a minute, and there was a line for that privilege, which seems awfully quaint now, with the internet and everything. It was 1992. Continue reading “The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt”

Art of the San Francisco Bay Area (1945-1980), by Thomas Albright

It happened again: one of my heroes died before I even knew about him. First it was Chris Whitley, a musician and amazing song writer I first became aware of in 1991 when his song “Big Sky Country” was the sexiest, most memorable and poetic thing I’d heard on the radio in years and I bought the album. He was in his 30s then I think, and I thought I had plenty of time to hear him live, even though I never go to live concerts and didn’t even really think about it until I bought two more of his albums, Dirt Floor and Soft Dangerous Shores, the latter released in 2005, the year he died of lung cancer at age 45. By the time I fell in love with Soft Dangerous Shores he was dead.  Continue reading “Art of the San Francisco Bay Area (1945-1980), by Thomas Albright”

The Mythic Image, Joseph Campbell

This is an intimidating tome, but JC’s preface made me feel right at home. You know you’re in good hands when even the preface is a pleasure to read. I love how he puts the Mrs, Miss and Mr titles in front of the names of the people he’s thanking–so old-fashioned, well-mannered, civilized. Joseph Campbell was the definitive gentleman scholar. Continue reading “The Mythic Image, Joseph Campbell”

The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton

From the mat to the world–a break from yoga to plan a trip to NYC and get some de Botton civility.

I was thinking of going into some yoga-spiritual related books after the four yoga books I’ve just finished, such as Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, which was one of the first second-hand books I ever bought when I moved to San Francisco after college. Or Joseph Campbell, or Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume or Even Cowgirls Get the Blues or Still Life with Woodpecker, all of which influenced me so much in the late 1980s. But since I have a travel bug and am planning two or three trips (NYC next month, Jacksonville,  Florida and for Thanksgiving, Kauai with high school girlfriends in February), I thought I’d better reread The Art of Travel. Continue reading “The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton”