Thomas H. Garver and Jonathan Weinberg
George Tooker (1920-) has worked more than 60 years in egg tempera, a demanding medium perfected and used by many Renaissance painters for its luminous quality. His paintings combine a high realism and an unsettling ir-realism, if you will, because he does not lay claim to surrealism, and disliked the sobriquet “Magic Realism” with which art impresario Lincoln Kirsten tagged his work. Tooker and his life partner, the late William Christopher, were passionately interested in illustrating the need for harmony and integration—of the races, sexes, and humanity. Thus, Tooker’s paintings hauntingly illustrate the disconnect and anomie forced on all people in our time (i.e. Subway, seen on the dust jacket). His modern themes often echo earlier techniques and styles, Bosch in Children and Spastics, slipping seamlessly from the stark and Kafkaesque Government Bureau to the lush and erotic Guitar. Tooker once remarked, “Paul [Cadmus] and I differ in that my work is only implicitly homosexual, not outwardly so.”
Hounded to Death
Rita Mae Brown
Author of the beloved Mrs. Murphy mystery series (written with her tiger cat, Sneaky Pie), Rita Mae Brown equally dazzles with her Sister Jane foxhunting tales of murder and intrigue. In this, her seventh installment, “Sister” Jane Arnold, master of the Jefferson (Virginia) Hunt Club, along with her entourage of hounds and humans, are in Kentucky for the event of the season, where all hounddom has gathered for the Mid-South Hound Show. Uproar ensues when a detested contestant is found murdered, but emotions run even higher two weeks later, when a good friend and popular vet is found dead, seemingly by her own hand. After a pet food manufacturer vanishes on Sister’s home territory during the Virginia Hound Show, she leaves no stone unturned to track down the miscreant(s). Chock-full of suspense, twists, and humor, plus Brown’s signature glossary of hound terminology and table of characters, Hounded to Death makes a perfect holiday gift: Buy now, and devour it first yourself.
“Eight years ago I took a writing class in an attempt to cope with a terrifying ovarian cancer diagnosis,” local writer Jane Levin tells us at the beginning of this stunning book of poems. Facing that verdict unflinchingly, she tackled all comers: cancer, being Jewish and lesbian, family, fear, isolation, bodily change, and love. The 20 poems are like crystals, grown over time by the slow accretion of experiencing pain and joy—reading them is like entering a secret cavern where stalactites and stalagmites glitter in the probing light. Here’s one poem:
“Odd Girl Out”
Where Larsens marry the Larsons
who sat behind them in homeroom,
their connection more contagion
Unmarried girls leave.
Tomboys who grew up in foxholes
to escape friendly ire don’t tell.
No one asks.
Levin will read October 15 at Quatrefoil Library and October 16 at The Loft. See “Lavender Calendar” this issue.
St. Martin’s Press
Local author Ellen Hart’s latest Jane Lawless mystery is a great read, with tangled plot threads and an outstanding cast of characters. Ray Lawless, Jane’s Dad, is running for Governor, and she’s helping out, when she’s not overseeing one of her restaurants, or working on her relationship with hesitant lover Kenzie. Corey Hodge, when Ray was his defense attorney, was plea-bargained out of prison on a rape charge, but cannot get his life on track, blaming Ray and the rest of the world. Corey volunteers at the campaign headquarters, and approaches a young woman already living in fear of her ex. Headstrong, angry Hodge also shadows his own ex, while Jane’s ex, Julia, surfaces to stalk her, and seduce Kenzie. An absorbing, dark plot, you decide, as, with dawning unease, you realize how many of the threads hit close to home. What is love? How can it be expressed? When does it turn to something else, like hate, obsession—or murder?