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Graywolf Press poets Claudia Rankine (above, photo by John Lucas) and Fanny Howe, below, photo by Lynn Christoffers) were named two of five finalists for the National Book Award on Wednesday.
Two poetry collections published by Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press have been named 2014 National Book Award finalists."Second Childhood" by Fanny Howe and "Citizen: An American Lyric" by Claudia Rankine are two of the five short-listed titles announced Wednesday, with the winner to be announced in November.
Executive editor Jeff Shotts of Graywolf, who edited both collections, said the book by Howe, who spends every summer at an Irish monastery, "comes out of a strong sense of Catholic faith, its role in the faimly and what it means to be a part of that community."
The themes of Rankine's collection, a multi-genre mix of poetry, essays and visual artwork, is particularly timely, Shotts said: "It's about race in this country, the sort of racially motivated micro-aggression that can become macro, like what happened in Ferguson," he said referring to the prolonged unrest in the St. Louis suburb following the shooitng of an unarmed black youth by a white police officer.
Authors published by Graywolf have been tallying up an impressive list of awards over the past few years. Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011, and Pultizer prizes for poetry were issued to Tracy K. Smith in 2012 and Vijay Seshadri in 2014. Last year's National Book Award winner for poetry was Mary Szybist's "Incarnadine," also a Graywolf title.
Joan Rothfuss, author of "Topless Cellist: the Improbable Life of Chralotte Moorman."
Forget Pablo Casals and Yo-Yo Ma. Sure they were, and are, brilliant cellists, but those guys kept their clothes on. For sheer spectacle, madcap antics,exhibitionism and a generous dollop of cello skills, you want Julliard-trained Charlotte Moorman, a gal from Little Rock, AK who grabbed the avant garde by the scruff of its self-absorbed neck and -- in the 1960s and '70 -- dragged it onto the public glare of television variety and talk shows (Mike Douglas, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin), shopping malls and prisons, and to New York City's Central Park, Shea Stadium and Grand Central Terminal.
In former Walker Art Center curator Joan Rothfuss, Moorman has found her perfect biographer. Rothfuss's "Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman," (MIT Press, $34.95) is fast paced, thoroughly researched, amusing, witty, compassionate, deeply informed and filled with jaw-dropping stories. Rothfuss will talk about Moorman and sign copies of the book at 2 p.m. October 5 in the Walker Cinema, 1750 Hennepin Av., Minneapolis. Free. 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org
Moorman played the cello while suspended from balloons floating over Australia's Sydney Opera House, performed on a cello made of ice, and often did her shows topless, in the buff, wrapped in cellophane, or wearing the "TV Bra," a contraption that sported two mini-televisions, one for each breast, in plexiglass boxes attached to transparent straps.
In February 1967 she was arrested (during a topless performance), tried and, in a sensationalized trial that generated huge publicity, convicted for violating "community standards of decency." Though humiliated by the incident, she embraced the "Topless Cellist" nickname that it spawned.
"TV Bra," was designed and built by Moorman's longtime companion and fellow avant-gardist Nam June Paik and is sometimes blamed for the breast cancer from which she died in 1991, age 57. To test that assumption, Rothfuss had the bra checked by a physicist who measured the radiation it emitted and concluded that it was highly unlikely that Moorman would have gotten cancer as a result of her performances while wearing it. "TV Bra" is now in the collection of Walker Art Center along with Paik's "TV Cello" and other Moorman/Paik memorabilia.
As a friend, colleague, pal and sometimes irritant to many contemporary artists, Moorman is remembered in Rothfuss' book by Yoko Ono, Jasper Johns, Allan Kaprow, and others too numerous to mention.
"Topless Cellist" is a brilliant portrait of a true original and the chaotic, confrontational, destructive, absurd era in which she lived. It's also a must read for anyone who was flirting with Artland back then, or wishes they'd been on the scene. A portrait of the times as much as the woman, "Topless Cellist," gives a full measure of a life lived with "extreme passion, extreme sex, extreme beauty."
RIP Charlotte Moorman, 1933-1991
"Reds, Virginia, Minnesota, 1985" by James Crnkovich
Former Minnesota photographer James Crnkovich returns to his home state for a five-day tour to launch a sweet book of his photos. Starting with a signing at the Saint Paul Saints game on July 1, the tour will include additional stops in St. Paul, Aurora, Gilbert, Virginia and Mountain Iron.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Crnkovich has been featured on CBS's Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, has his work in the collection of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and has exhibited around the world. Locally he's best known for his 1980s photos of the Iron Range which were included in the exhibition "At a Close Range," which traveled to colleges, universities and historical societies throughout the Midwest.
His new paperback, "Authentic Americana: The Art of Social Documentary," reprints about 50 of his color and black-and-white images dating from 1980 to the present. Taken in Minnesota, New York, Boston, Phoenix, Chicago and elsewhere, they capture the American scene in all its gaudy vulgarity, latent violence, decay, cornball nonsense, and good humor. His commentary about the images is as insightful as the pictures themselves. There's a certain tenderness and big hearted acceptance of human frailty and loneliness that makes his photos very special.
Now a resident of Mesa, Arizona, Crnkovich will be back home in Minnesota to promote the book at the following events. The book also is available through: Naciketas Press, 715 E. McPherson, Kirksville, MO 63501.
July 1: 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Saint Paul Saints "Christmas in July" game, Midway Stadium, 1771 Energy Park Dr., St. Paul.
July 2: 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Common Good Books, Snelling at Grand, St. Paul.
July 3: 6 p.m., Aurora; 7 p.m., Gilbert. Patriotic Parades.
July 4: 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Aurora Public Library. 6 p.m. Virginia 4th of July parade.
July 5: 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Mac's Bar, 8881 Main St., Mountain Iron.
Lou Reed/Associated Press
Rolling Stone writer Will Hermes, a former music critic at City Pages in the 1990s, has signed to write a biography of Lou Reed for Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the New York Times reports.
The working title is “Lou: A New York Life.” Reed, the Rock Hall of Famer considered the godfather of indie rock, died in October at age 71.
Hermes, a native New Yorker, has also written for Spin, Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice and the New York Times, among other places. He is the author of the 2011 book, “Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever,” which looked at the music of Talking Heads, the Ramones and others in the 1970s.
Watch Reed doing "Sweet Jane" on David Letterman in 1994:
At the final Talking Volumes event of the 2013 season, crime novelist (and jazz lover) Michael Connelly said he was co-producing a documentary about Minneapolis-born jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan, who died in 2007. Connelly said he often listens to jazz when he writes, especially when he's writing about his popular detective hero Harry ("Hieronymous") Bosch.
Connelly said that Morgan's family members, some of whom were in the audience at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on Tuesday, had been very helpful in making the documentary, "Sound of Redemption," which Connelly said is likely to be released in spring 2014.
Morgan was born in Minneapolis in 1933, raised mostly in Milwaukee and then moved to Los Angeles, where drugs soon led him to an adult life spent in and out of prison. His late-in-life comeback began in the mid-1980s, and included gigs at the Dakota in Minneapolis, after he moved back to Minneapolis in 2005. The Morgan documentary is being directed by N.C. Heikin, and includes interviews as well as archival footage. James Egan is another producer.
Connelly has written about his love of Morgan's music, and how he came to the idea that detective Bosch would love it, too.
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