Tag Archive | art

Book review: Olympos by Dan Simmons

Olympos (Ilium, #2)Olympos by Dan Simmons

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MARS: Paris is dead. Hockenberry and Helen are lovers. Achilles and Hector have joined forces against the gods while the gods fight amongst themselves. Mahnmut and Orphu discover the quantum energy they’ve been tracking emanates from Earth rather than Mars, and it’s about to destroy both worlds.

EARTH: Meanwhile, Odysseus travels with Harman and Ada, seeking an end to Setebos. Daeman travels alone, seeking the same end. And the voynix drop their pretense of servitude; humanity’s continued existence is precarious.

Dan Simmons juggles many plates in the concluding volume of this epic duology. I admit to being a little lost at times, and occasionally needing to trudge my way through chapter 2017SFFReadingChallengeafter chapter in dogged determination. Yeah, the story bogs down now and then. So many moving parts! But stick with it, and you’ll be rewarded in the end.

View all my reviews

Read as part of the 2017 Award-Winning SF/Fantasy Challenge. Click that badge over there to see more reviews. And once there, consider joining us!

Book review: Ilium by Dan Simmons

Ilium (Ilium, #1)Ilium by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Allosaurs, Greek gods, and space-going Shakespeare enthusiasts? Dan Simmons must have read my Christmas wish list.

Troy is at war. The Greeks, led by Agamemnon and Achilles, and the Trojans, led by Priam and Paris, wage pitched and pitiless battles, aided by the gods and observed by humans. These humans — the scholics — were once experts on Greek poetry and ancient history. They were reconstructed by the gods from their DNA, and then brought back to make sure the path of the war follows the path of the Iliad as laid out by Homer. Thomas Hockenberry is one such scholic, tramping around the battlefield in the guise of various soldiers, making notes and reporting back to the Muse. One day, after nine years of such a life, he is summoned by Aphrodite and told he is to alter the course of things. He is to kill Pallas Athena.

On Earth, humans live in an idyllic setting, pursuing a sybaritic lifestyle. The world is a constant round of dinner parties, picnics, long walks through the woods, and casual sex. No work, no worries, no schooling, no commitments, their every need is seen to by the voynix, mechanical servants who cook, clean, and care for them in their Eden. Daeman, who, like most others of society, is spectacularly incurious about the whys and wherefores of his world, and who collects butterflies and bed partners with equal vigor, arrives at the estate of his cousin, Ada, for a birthday party. He is shocked to discover that the party is not in celebration of someone’s 20th — after which they will be whisked away to the Rings and then returned after rejuvenation — but of Harman’s 99th. In essence, it’s Harman’s going-away party, for he has only one more year of life. But a chance encounter with an allosaurus changes everything.

On Europa, the Five Moon Consortium, a conclave of biomechanical beings, gathers to discuss the 600-year lack of contact from the post-humans and the more recent (in the last 200 years) apparent terraforming of Mars. The consortium is especially concerned with unusually massive amounts of quantum-shift activity centered on Mons Olympus, and decides to send an expedition to investigate. Mahnmut, a Europan moravec, is excited to be included in this expedition with his friend Orphu, an Ionian moravec, and looks forward to continuing their discussions of Shakespeare and Proust and literature in general.  The expedition sets off well enough but soon suffers a severe setback, leaving Mahnmut and Orphu to make the best of what may be a fatal error.

Simmons adopted three different voices to tell these stories. The Trojan saga echoes Homeric prose, to the point of opening the novel with a paraphrase of the opening lines of the Iliad itself; and it is in this opening paragraph that we first begin to understand the sorrow and tragedy of the scholic Hockenberry and the rest of the cast of characters Simmons introduces. The story of Daeman, Ada, and Harman is told in simple descriptive language akin to the childlike outlook of the humans themselves; while the conversations of Mahnmut, Orphu, and the rest of the moravecs are full of technobabble and high literary analysis. This narrative trick is effective, if occasionally jarring when 2017SFFReadingChallengemoving from artless human idyll to high Homeric tragedy.

Three settings. Three stories. Three disparate and wandering paths that lead to the same destination? We’ll find out when I read the sequel.

View all my reviews

Read as part of the 2017 Award-Winning SF/Fantasy Challenge.  Click that badge over there to see more reviews. And once there, consider joining us!

New York, Day 4

We spent our anniversary visiting the Museum of Modern Art.

The subway trip to MOMA was more involved than all the previous subway trips we had undertaken by ourselves. We had to change trains twice, I think, to get to the right stop.  And then we nearly walked right by the museum because the exterior didn’t look anything like what we expected.

Dinos and Degas

Dinos admire a Degas sketch.

First stop was the Degas exhibit, A Strange New Beauty.  Be advised that link will probably only be good through the end of the exhibit on July 24, 2016, so I’m going to steal the website copy that describes the exhibit:

Edgar Degas is best known as a painter and chronicler of the ballet, yet his work as a printmaker reveals the true extent of his restless experimentation. In the mid-1870s, Degas was introduced to the monotype process—drawing in ink on a metal plate that was then run through a press, typically resulting in a single print. Captivated by the monotype’s potential, he immersed in the technique with enormous enthusiasm, taking the medium to radical ends. He expanded the possibilities of drawing, created surfaces with a heightened sense of tactility, and invented new means for new subjects, from dancers in motion to the radiance of electric light, from women in intimate settings to meteorological effects in nature. The monotype also sparked a host of experiments for Degas, who often used the medium as a starting point from which an image could be reworked and revised. This process of repetition and transformation, mirroring and reversal, allowed Degas to extend his approach to the study of form. The profound impact of his work with monotype can be seen in his variations in different mediums of key motifs, revealing a new kind of artwork that was less about progress or completion than endless innovation.

The exhibition includes approximately 120 rarely seen monotypes—along with some 60 related paintings, drawings, pastels, sketchbooks, and prints—that show Degas at his most modern, capturing the spirit of urban life; depicting the body in new and daring ways; liberating mark-making from tradition; and boldly engaging the possibilities of abstraction.

I loved this exhibit’s insight into Degas’s process, working out his art in multiple forms and media before committing to paint and canvas.

Dinos View The Starry Night

Dinos admire “The Starry Night” while dino wrangler cries.

We then wandered through most of the permanent collection.  I had my eye out for The Starry Night, and when I finally saw it, hanging on a feature wall all by itself, I squealed:  “There it is, there it is!” and ran, I mean literally ran, to stand in front of it.  And I cried.  Of course, I knew I would because this has been my favorite painting for nearly 40 years; seeing it in person was an intensely emotional experience.

True confession: I got all misty again, just looking at the photo I took. Reproductions don’t do it justice. The actual painting is incredible: vibrant, glowing, pulsing with color. It’s alive. It positively sparkles.

Persistence of MemorySpouse had nearly the same reaction to his favorite painting, The Persistence of Memory.  It’s behind glass: you can just barely see spouse framing the photograph in the reflection, with the rest of the gallery behind him. “Persistence”‘s reputation looms so large, I was surprised at how tiny the actual painting is: barely larger than a standard sheet of typing paper.

MOMA Jaguar 3Spouse also fell in love with the 1961 Jaguar displayed in the sculpture gallery.

Yeah.  That’s an awfully pretty piece of machinery.  And it had its own guard making sure no one stepped over that perimeter line marked on the floor.

MOMA has so many artists whose works I admire but had only ever seen in books: Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso, Mondrian, Monet, Modigliani, Rousseau, so much more…

I could have spent all day here, because there’s so much to see, but spouse can tolerate paintings and sculpture and modern design and multi-media exhibits for only just so long.  After three or four hours, he was done.  So we made our way back to Times Square because we had noticed a couple of other exhibits at the Discovery Museum down there that spouse wanted to see and to which our GoPass granted entry.

Dinos and Tai Chi ManThe first was Body Worlds, a fascinating display of anatomy, functionality, and the sheer beauty of the human form, stripped down, literally, to its barest essence.  I don’t recommend this exhibit if you’re squeamish about body parts or nudity, but if that doesn’t bother you and you’re at all curious in how all our moving parts work together, this is absolutely a must-see.  I’m posting only one photograph in case there are some squeamish readers.  Just scroll past quickly.  Or not.

We Come From the Land of the Ice and SnowThe second exhibit we saw, at the same museum, was Vikings.  Wow. The first thing to greet you when you walk through the door is a replica of a Viking longboat.  It’s spectacular. The rest of the exhibit is equally gorgeous: tools, clothing, jewelry, weapons — most of them the actual items, with just a few replicas because the originals are so precious or rare that they can’t be risked on public display — along with some interactive displays, like handling a replica sword, and lots of dioramas (I believe they were stills from The Vikings TV show on Discovery‘s sister channel, History) and information stations discussing religion, village life, exploration, all manner of cultural and sociological background.  It’s a niche exhibit, just right for a history and archaeology nerd like me.  Highly recommended.

As can be expected, we were exhausted by the end of the day and didn’t manage to go out for our fancy anniversary dinner that evening.  But we and the dinosaurs tried out several eating spots throughout the day.  Just a couple more pictures and we’ll call this one done.

There’s one more full day to tell you about.  Stay tuned.

WIP Wednesday: Paint your palette blue and gray

I love the Impressionists*: Degas, Cezanne, Pissarro, Renoir; and the post-Impressionists: Seurat, Cassatt, Gauguin. Of all the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, though, the paintings that speak to me loudest are Vincent’s. Yes, I call him Vincent. The rest of you call him Van Gogh. And my favorite of his paintings is “The Starry Night.”

The Starry Night

I’ve loved this painting hard for close to 40 years, from when I first heard the Don McLean song, “Vincent.” I loved the song, and my young teenage self had to know who and what it was about. (My parents were readers, yes; but they didn’t expose us to much art.) And when I saw a reproduction of this painting for first time, it stunned me. The swirling winds, the glowing stars, the somewhat menacing cypress in the foreground, the sleepy village, all of it filled my vision and my heart with more wonder and awe than I can understand.

I went to the High Museum a couple of weeks ago to see The Girl with a Pearl Earring. It made me cry. If I ever get to see “The Starry Night” in person, I will probably fall to my knees, sobbing my heart out. And it’s probably no surprise to any of you that one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes is the one where the Doctor and Amy visit Vincent in Provence. Even my mousepad is a reproduction of this painting.

Starry NightAll of that to tell you that when I saw a skein of yarn in the same palette and even named after that painting, I had to buy it.

Of course, after buying it, I had to decide what to do with it. It’s sockweight, but I couldn’t bear the idea of hiding such a vibrant colorway in shoes, which meant it needed to become a scarf or shawl of some sort. As mentioned in Sunday’s post, I decided on the Oaklet Shawl. Here’s what we have so far:

Starry Oakleaf Shawl 1

I am entranced with the way the pooling is working. Good job on the dyeing, Dragonfly Fibers! The work is moving fast in this first part, which is all stockinette except for the yarnover increases. I’ve got about 30 more rows to go before I start the lace edging. So maybe it will be finished by my goal date of next Friday. One can only hope.

ab2a5-tami_wipThis post is part of the WIP Wednesday roundup, hosted by Tami’s Amis. Click the badge to see what other folks have on their needles and hooks on this beautiful October day.

*(I love the Modernists, too, and the Dutch Masters, and — oh, hell, I just love art. But that’s another blog entry for another day.)

Book review: Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream

Three of five stars

Clementine Pritchard, in a fit of determination, has fired her shrink, fired her assistant, and flushed her meds down the toilet. After decades of suffering with bipolar disorder, she’s through. She’s given herself 30 days to wrap up her affairs and then she’s taking her own life. Neatly. Cleanly. No fuss, no muss. And definitely not like her mother, who murdered Clementine’s sister and then herself with a powerful shotgun blast one black day when Clementine was a girl.

Throughout the next 30 days, one chapter per day, we follow Clementine — a denizen and bright light of the L.A. art world and beyond — as she sets things in motion and begins distancing herself from her life: she buys a cemetery plot, makes a suicide plan, writes her notes, makes arrangements for the adoption of her cat. She even manages to finish a new painting or two to leave behind as a legacy. She’s very focused, and so incredibly sad. The sadness seeps through every word, every deed, every action Clementine takes. She’s good at masking it, maybe even from herself at times, but the black permeates her very soul, colors her every thought, informs every piece of art she’s ever made. It sits on her shoulder and whispers in her ear, insidious, lethal, and inescapable.

The more Clementine tries to disentangle herself from the people in her world, though, the more they refuse to be disentangled. We — and Clementine — come right down to the last few days, unsure if everything is completely set…

Ashley Ream has done a splendid job depicting the thought processes of someone with a serious mental illness. Clementine is by turns funny, outrageous, bitchy, sweet, and angry. She drinks too much and has a history of other forms of self medication. She hurts, oh how she hurts, and I hurt with her. She’s beautifully written, beautifully created, and utterly real.

Lovely work, Ms. Ream. I look forward to your next novel.

Many thanks to Goodreads’ First Reads program for the opportunity to read this book.