Chill out and absorb the percussion.
On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Boston, my family and I visited the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway to experience the monumental work of art As If It Were Already Here by Janet Echelman. At first it felt underwhelming, pretty, but smaller than expected. But as I walked under and around the sculpture I couldn’t help but notice how it interacts with sun and sky, buildings and trees, always changing even with a small change of perspective. So I took a ton of pictures. You can see them below, but definitely check it out in person.
I made another first time in a long time visit to a Boston institution with a day out at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unlike the Museum of Fine Arts, there is only one work of art at the Gardner Museum, a collaboration of Mrs. Gardner and thousands of painters, sculptors, designers, architects, and gardeners. This was my first visit since the opening of the new Renzo Piano wing, which is impressive, but seems mostly a utilitarian annex to the historic museum. It was also the first time I’ve been to the museum since photography is allowed, although only of the courtyard on the main level. Plenty of scofflaws took photos from the upper levels too, but were only stopped by the guards when using flash. I followed Mrs. Gardner’s preference of immersing myself in the art and beauty.
This novel set in the World War II-era depicts the oppression of Lithuanian partisans through the eyes of 15-year-old Lina. A promising young artists, Lina and her mother and brother are rounded up by the NKVD with other women, children, the elderly, and disabled and transported to a labor camp in Siberia. The narrative depicts the hardscrabble life as Lina and her community in the labor camp as they struggle to survive. But there are also moments of joy and unexpected solace. It’s a decent novel and an introduction to the Stalinist persecution of Lithuania.
Books I’ve Previously Read by the Same Author:
- Artemis Fowl
- The Arctic Incident
- The Eternity Code
- The Opal Deception
- The Lost Colony
I gave up on reading the Artemis Fowl series a while back because I felt it was becoming formulaic with diminishing returns. But I had a change of heart, and after a decade decided to pick up where I left off. It felt good to be reacquainted with the characters like old friends. And this book strikes me as more mature than the earlier novels. In order to save his mother, a teenage Artemis has to go back in time with Holly to face his most devious opponent yet: his 10-year-old self. The novel oozes with philosophical ideas and pondering of mortality. The book also features a group of people whose goal is to cause extinction of animals, which is particularly grim. Sure, the formula is still there (Mulch Diggums shows up for some fart jokes and the ultimate villain is the same old character) but it feels refreshed and new. I’ll have to continue reading the newer installments of this series.
- Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
- Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
- A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World
- Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia
Tony Horwitz, one of my favorite authors, presents a compelling history of John Brown and his followers and the keystone event of their raid on Harpers Ferry. Brown’s life and family are discussed from childhood, to his involvement in Utopian abolition movements, and their targeted assassinations of pro-slavery advocates in “Bleeding Kansas.” It’s eerie that the rhetoric and tactics of Brown and his followers while targeting the noble cause of abolition still resemble those of today’s Tea Party/2nd Amendment activists.The raid on Harpers Ferry took considerable planning and secrecy, although curiously it is uncertain what result Brown expected. Did he really expect it to spark a nation-wide uprising, or did he intend a blood sacrifice? Similarly, his changes in tactics during the raid itself contradict the planning. What’s interesting is that while the raid was widely condemned, even by ardent abolitionists, Brown’s real influence came in his words and letters while in jail and on trial. Even people who despised Brown and all he stood for came to admire his bravery and determination. Horwitz’s book is an interesting account on this key event in American history and the ripples it would have throughout the country.
Recommended books: Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks