While I'm often dismayed, annoyed, bored and puzzled by The Sunday New York Times Book Review, I thought the post-Thanksving issue was a strong one.
The cover review of Alice Munro's "Too Much Happiness" seemed an obvious choice, and Leah Hager Cohen's piece was one of those paint-by-the-numbers, plug-in-the ready made phrase productions, but I enjoyed the solid, conventional reviews by Nicholson Baker on Ken Auletta's "Googled," Jay Winik on Gordon S. Wood's "Empire of Liberty" and Stacy Schiff on Thomas Mallon's "People and Their Letters."
For once, the back cover essay was actually interesting. Suzy Hansen's "Mr. Pamuk's Neighborhood" told me something I didn't know before, unveiling Instanbul's upper-class Nisantasi neighorhood. The piece made me want to take another try at reading Orhan Pamuk, one of those authors whose work suffers in translation, at least for me.
Elsewhere in the Times, the Arts & Leisure section had strong pieces on Ella Fitzgerald and James Spader, and I loved the inside look back on horror-film master James Whale, especially the black and white still from Whale's "Frankenstein" showing the monster and the little girl he would soon murder, by not comprehending his own strength, if I remember corectly.
The photo shows Boris Karloff's hulking creature and the golden-tressed, doll-clutching child sitting happily on the bank of a beautiful lake in a touching portrait of two sides of innocence in the moment before tragedy. I clipped the photo to add to my file of interesting images and writings. One of these days, I plan to paste them in a "Commonplace Book."
Another great photo that I clipped was the reproduction of Herman Leornard's shot of Ella Fitzgerald performing at New York City's Downbeat club in 1949, before the adoring eyes of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman and a room full of others. A portrait of the photo hangs in our house. The photo accompanied an article about a new CD of Ella performing at a small club in Los Angeles in the early 1960s.
After plowing through the Sunday Times' news stories about horrors, breakdowns, venality, savagery and mayhem across the globe, it's uplifting to read the Arts and Leisure section'a articles about the strength of human creativity.