L. A. Review of Books Art

Your guide to L.A.R.B. COVER ART

Batting a Thousand


Oboyoboyoboy! For the next three days, we get to enjoy panels by painter and illustrator Mark Ulriksen, whose blissful and wry work you’ve certainly seen a plethora of times in other prestigious places such as the cover of The New Yorker. Ulriksen, a San Francisco Giants fan and friend of Harry Lime has loaned us his Bill Goldberg, Al Davis and Sandy Koufax from the book he recently illustrated:  Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame. Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy are the author/editors and LARB Contributor David Davis’s review goes up today.

What Jewish Jocks does best is identify and celebrate those on the periphery of the arena: gay matador (and Hemingway pal) Sidney Franklin; transsexual tennis player Renée Richards (née Richard Raskind); gambler-fixers Arnold Rothstein (the model for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby) and Jack Molinas; irrepressible table-tennis whiz Marty Reisman; Hollywood producer Joel Silver, who in a younger incarnation helped invent the sport of Ultimate Frisbee.”

Chrismukkahwanza 2012, at least a couple of people on my list are getting this book. Others are getting merch from the Mark Ulriksen store . I’m so very fond of his dog characterizations.

Thanks for the marvelous illustrations, Mark.

Posted by Lisa Jane Persky

Be Inspired: Howard Zinn


Today’s LARB triptych will lead you to Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Kammen on the legacy of American social activist, historian, author, and playwright, Howard Zinn. There’s also a panel that takes you to a page where you can help non-profit, L A Review of Books keep doing what we do.

Who could be more appropriate to illustrate the piece on Zinn than artist Patrick Fiore? Fiore was inspired by Zinn’s book  A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present (1980), to create a series of portraits entitled Significant Souls. A gallery exhibition of S.S. opens January 12, 2013 at Artrage in Syracuse, NY.

Howard Zinn on art, artists and Patrick’s work from his introduction to Significant Souls:

“…What attracts me to his work is his profound understanding of the connection between art and social struggle.  To join my work in history with his paintings is a striking expression of that connection.

 I have always cherished the work of artists, aside from the intrinsic pleasure they bring to the world,   because art brings a special intensity and passion to any idea which inspires it. It intrudes in the great imbalance of power in society – the concentration of wealth and force in the hands of a few (what C. Wright Mills called “the power elite”) by adding the special power of art to that of individuals and communities struggling against great odds.

The artist – the poet, the novelist, the musician, the painter - does something beyond what those of us who work with prose can do.  The artist takes the viewer, the listener, outside the realm of the real, the immediate, the possible, and evokes new possibilities.  I think of the slogan of the French student rebels in 1968: “Soyez realiste, demandez l’impossible” (Be realistic, demand the impossible).

 The artist takes us beyond the here and now, beyond the madness of the world, beyond war, violence, poverty, injustice, and puts those horrors in perspective, makes us understand that they are temporary manifestations, that they are not inherent in human nature, not permanent and immovable.

 The artist may not lend his or her work consciously to the struggle for a different world, and yet, by transcending the immediate, leads us to think that way.  When the artist consciously joins that struggle, as Patrick Fiore does in his paintings, he or she is defying the warnings of those who say: stick to your art, don’t meddle in the affairs of the world.  The artist is declaring: “I am not just an artist, I am a citizen, I am a human being, and in fact my work as an artist is secondary to my existence as thinking, feeling member of the human race.”…”

Posted by Lisa Jane Persky

LARB E-Publications


Now there are nine!  I love working with artists and photographers but we can’t expect every one of them to donate their work. I’ve requested a budget for art and would be tickled silly to receive a donation specifically earmarked for this but in the meantime, I’m tremendously grateful to all the artists who have so generously donated their work to me to include in my art efforts-at-LARB. One of the main reasons for this tumblr is to thank and link to the artists and show off our work. Today, I’m thanking our E-Pub cover artists, Harry Briggs, Colin Smith and photographer Mark Hanauer who made my job more fun, more beautiful and much easier by allowing me to include their amazing work on covers 8, 3 and 2 respectively. Thanks also to AIA architect, Lisa Wightman who contributed the blueprint which forms the base of our upcoming Art and Architecture Issue (see tease pic above). The rest I’ve had the pleasure of creating myself. Here’s the lot of them to date (available on Amazon and in our store):


Click here for a video of  L.A.Review of Books web covers from this, our 2nd year.

Posted by Lisa Jane Persky

The Long Exposure


The triptych today links to an array of pieces (see my excerpts below the art) about the work and life of David Foster Wallace. That’s a tough assignment. I was reminded of two things while setting about finding an image (with permission or a cc license) that might fit such a bill: A quote from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman and the photographs of (endangered) fireflies by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu. You must have seen these pictures. If so, be amazed again by all that a long exposure and the layering of a multiplicity of them, reveals and obscures. And think of that in the context of DFW. The light of the firefly illuminates just enough to see what darkness looks like. Who hasn’t wanted to put a firefly in a jar, to hang on to that magic light forever?

The Gaiman quote:

“I like the stars. It’s the illusion of permanence, I think. I mean, they’re always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I can pretend…I can pretend that things last. I can pretend that lives last longer than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don’t last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend…”

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 7: Brief Lives

The photograph:


Tsuneaki Hiramatsu

From:  Choosing Not to Be: On David Foster Wallace by Laurie Winer

“Except in rare cases, we feel ambivalence toward suicides because they have betrayed the pact of the living. They have said that when you see life without any of our illusions, or diversions, it is unacceptable.

That means that the most beautiful experiences of existence — falling in love, taking care of someone, achieving something you strove for, pleasures aesthetic or physical, loving of any kind — are not worth what we think they are. The suicide places the ultimate bet that they won’t happen again tomorrow. And that is declaration of war, a war against meaning, against life.”


From: What Would DFW Do: Maria Bustillos, Eric Been, and Mike Goeztman on “Both Flesh and Not” and All Things Foster Wallace by Eric Been, Maria Bustillos and Michael Goetzman

Michael Goetzman: “So, as Kraus points out, he over-corrects: suddenly, he’s purposefully obstructionist, introducing the arcane allusions and words that send potential readers fleeing to Franzen. But I’d argue that this rub between Wallace’s needy, writerly ego and his loathing of that side of himself is in part what’s so gripping about his work.”

From The Thrills of Miscellany: David Foster Wallace, Nicholson Baker, and Supplemental Work: “Sometimes I want a sketch, not a symphony; and at those times I feel that the sketch, for all its rushed errors or lazy grafting, holds within it the artist’s essence.

And no almanac of artistic castaways is more minor, more superfluous, and therefore more pleasurable to me than the writer’s collection of “selected essays”: those tossed-off, remaindered books full of moments when the novelist or poet, released from the formal concerns of her primary M.O., is free to explore less pressurized chambers, like the book review or celebrity profile.”

Posted by Lisa Jane Persky

Ouethre! Ouethre!


Flannery O’Connor also produced artful linoleum cut cartoons. Dig this one from our triptych:


Caption: “Do you have any books the faculty doesn’t particularly recommend?”

It’s there (and here) to represent contributor Glen David Gold’s review of Escape Velocity by Charles Portis and The Cartoons (of O’Connor.) Gold blows me away everytime. Check him out.

"For our purposes here, I need a word for the output created by an artist in a medium other than the one in which he or she is definitely gifted. For much of the time, this can just be a "hobby" — I think of Harry Dean Stanton playing guitar, for instance — but now and again, either through critical attention or bullhorn announcement courtesy of the artist himself, the secondary work ends up being considered important.

Oeuthre is a lovely word, which came courtesy of my friend Paul Armfield. It combines a feeling for the totality of the work, and otherness, along with a phonetic hint that seems, depending on the lighting, either shoddy or exotic. In July, at the San Diego Comicon, I stumbled over a book I did not know existed, collecting an oeuthre that sounded surreal — the cartoons of Flannery O’Connor. This handsome hardcover meticulously presents the linoleum prints she carved and sometimes captioned before the Iowa Writers’ Workshop gave her a new direction to follow.”

The panel is also part collage and the entire triptych blends two iguanas made one: Staring out at us while accompanying O’Connor’s library patron is the head of one of biologist-illustrator Ernst Haeckel’s brilliant studies and the body (which links to Lisa Locascio’s review of Diana Wagman’s latest novel, The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets) is from a copper plate engraving by J. Pass (1793-1828.) Published in 1812, the iguana is from a print identifying multiple lizards, one that lives among lounge lacerta and other pictures at the Mid-Manhattan Library Picture Collection.


This fab, intricately composed picture from Wikimedia Commons is of Haeckel and Anthropologist Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay(did they take it of themselves?) How cool and contemporary do these two look? Of course they’re pulling it off, they’re originals. Eat your heart out, John Varvatos.

The meticulous works of J. Pass are also highly collectible, available through Antiquarian booksellers. Pass also has a page on the National Portrait Gallery website.

The tail of our Iguana turns on the third panel of the triptych in Honduras where James McGirk writes about Privatizing Paradise in the Murder Capital of the World.

Posted by Lisa Jane Persky

"…Optimism as Strength…"


For the Panorama City of Antoine Wilson’s new book of that name I decided to go with a collage that includes detail from Picasso’s famous sketch of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (1955). Inspired by what Wilson says below, I took Picasso’s Panza and set him out on his own, against the sun from that same sketch — but x two for California dreaming — across the Panorama City map and signage.

AW: “Early on, when I was working out what Panorama City was going to be about, I came across the notion that Don Quixote was a creation of Sancho Panza’s,  that Sancho had dreamed him up. I thought it would be fun to write a sort of Sancho-centered book, something from the point-of-view of a sidekick. This was how Paul Renfro came to be. The earliest drafts had a lot more Renfro. But Oppen turned out to be more interesting in his own right.”

The colors were also suggested by the text of the interview.


To see and read more about Picasso’s sketch:  http://bit.ly/TGGt0D

The rest of Doug Browne’s interview with Antoine Wilson is here and I think it will make you want to read the book.

 “…Wilson is a California writer who has written a California book, but one that eschews all we have come to expect of Southern California literature: corruption, brutality, anxiety, racism, Hollywood, disaster, pornography. Instead, Wilson tells a quieter tale that takes us from a small town in the Central Valley to a small city in the San Fernando Valley, one you probably haven’t given much thought to, even as you may have passed it countless times in your car.” Doug Browne


Posted by Lisa Jane Persky

Loss and Longing


Today’s triptych begins with Nathan Deuel’s review of Kevin Powers’ debut novel, The Yellow Birds. Take It From a Soldier: On Kevin Powers’s “Yellow Birds”

 “(Powers)…spins literature out of atrocity; through his words, we not only see the war in Iraq firsthand, but are forced to consider the range of its consequences. 

Our narrator, like Powers, appreciates poetry; this might be abnormal for an army gunner but it makes for a good story, and, perhaps more importantly, good storytelling. “I remember feeling relief in basic [training] while everyone else was frantic with fear,” the narrator says:

‘It had dawned on me that I’d never have to make a decision again. That seemed freeing, but it gnawed at some part of me even then. Eventually I had to learn that freedom is not the same as absence of accountability.’

At its heart, this is the book’s central concern: Freedom is bullshit and in the end it is also what matters, while what propels us forward or holds us back is accountability.”

The left panel of the triptych shows detail from outsider artist George Mendoza’s  painting, “Canary House.” Mendoza is a blind artist who painted this bold look through canary-filled trees into an explosive sun.


George Mendoza Canary House © All rights reserved

Hockey and Literature?!  Sports, I barely know ye, but David Davis writes a rollicking good piece here, that held my attention. It’s a survey of “hockey lit” and much more.


For The Puck Stops Here: A Hockey Lit Survey, I offer up detail of  this terrific sports photo of one of the all-time great heroes of Canadian hockey, Maurice Richard of the Montreal Canadiens. He joined in 1942 (sticking with the wartime era in this triptych) and stayed until 1960, retiring as all-time scoring leader with 544 goals.  More interesting tales of him along with a few other gasp-worthy pix over here: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/richard.html  I couldn’t source the photo but I am assuming it’s Archives du Globe and Mail. If anyone knows differently, please notify me.

image Joseph Binder

The right panel includes detail from the famously optimistic, wartime New York World’s Fair. The poster uses the Trylon and the Perisphere, symbols of the fair’s theme; ‘Building the World of Tomorrow.” I hope brilliant Austrian designer Joseph Binder, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1934 and created this perfect piece of poster art, won’t mind my giving the Trylon the bright aura of a nuclear blast or if you prefer, the warm glow of nostalgia for this one occasion. I’ve done it to illustrate the following from James Santel’s piece on Michael Chabon; The Golden Age: On Chabon’s “Telegraph Avenue”

"These subjects may sound narrow, but Chabon isn’t a marshal of curios. He deftly uses the particularity of one tribe’s nostalgia—of comic book collectors, of New Yorkers, of Jews—to represent the generality of American longing. And his novels are fair-minded about nostalgia, interrogating the feeling even as they partake of it. A fine passage from Kavalier & Clayexemplifies the elegance with which Chabon achieves this balance:

“One of the sturdiest precepts of the study of human delusion is that every golden age is either past or in the offing. The months preceding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor offer a rare exception to this axiom. During 1941, in the wake of that outburst of gaudy hopefulness, the World’s Fair, a sizable portion of the citizens of New York City had the odd experience of feeling for the time in which they were living, at the very moment they were living in it, that strange blend of optimism and nostalgia which is the usual hallmark of the aetataureate [a Chabon neologism that denotes a golden age] delusion.’”

Posted by Lisa Jane Persky

Man(hood) Problems


From today’s featured essay by Sara Mesle :

"The contemporary uncertainty towards young men snaps into focus when we compare recent texts to their literary ancestors — nineteenth-century novels for young readers. Swiss Family Robinson, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Great Expectations, The Count of Monte Cristo, these novels heralded the end of boyhood as a happy ending: the beginning of a triumphant journey into a powerful manhood. But today’s YA boys approach their manhood with trepidation. And they should. The adult men who populate YA fictional worlds are often careless, corrupt, incompetent — sometimes even cruel — and only rarely kind."

I selected a cover image that crosses young adult film and literature; a frame from Francis Ford Coppola’s underrated masterpiece, the film adaptation of S.E.Hinton’s young adult novel, “Rumble Fish.” The story centers on the relationship between the Motorcycle Boy, a revered former gang leader, now an adult who wishes to live a more peaceful life, and his little brother, Rusty James, a punk hood who aspires to be more like his brother during his gang days. The image is of Matt Dillon (Rusty James) getting a kiss from Sofia Coppola.

And that’s right, another idiosyncratic performance from Dennis Hopper as their drunken father:


Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum is responsible for the unique look of the film.

"The film is notable, for its avant-garde style, shot on stark high-contrast black-and-white film, using the spherical cinematographic process with allusions to French New Wave cinema and German Expressionism." Source: Wikipedia

Burum, who has been shooting films since 1969 is the primary author of the “American Cinematographer Manual” (nicknamed “The Cinematographer’s Bible”, published by the A.S.C. (American Society of Cinematographers)

Read Mesle’s essay. Read S.E. Hinton’s Rumble Fish. See F.F.Coppola’s film. Figure out the differences between the film and the book while listening to the great score by Stewart Copeland. Grow up. Become a Director of Photography!

Posted by Lisa Jane Persky