Friday, August 28, 2009

Kidder's Newest will Move and Inspire

Tracy Kidder has written several books, including Soul of a New Machine, about the efforts of a team of researchers at Data General to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer -- a book that won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for general nonfiction in 1982. But the book of his that consistently sells in our store, month after month after month, is his book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, published in 2003. The book tells the story of Paul Farmer who, after a somewhat unconventional upbringing, went to medical school and found his calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and bring the tools of modern medicine to those who need it most. Toward that end, he co-founded Partners in Health, a small public charity that partners with poor communities to combat disease and poverty. The organziation seeks to prove that alledgedly "untreatable" health problems can be addressed effectively, even in poor settings, including Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia. Farmer is dedicated to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity."

Kidder's newest book has just been published, and I think this one will challenge Mountains Beyond Mountains for popularity in independent bookstores. Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness tells the story of a young man from from the central African nation of Burundi, Deo, who arrives at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts -- after surviving civil war, ethnic violence, and genocide.

Deo ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. Although Deo is now an American citizen, he has chosen to return to Burundi repeatedly. With the help of family and American friends, he has built a clinic and public health system amid the postwar wreckage of a rural village and founded the nonprofit organization Village Health Works. Kidder describes the book as an adventure story, a survival story, an immigrant’s story, a story of despair and determination, of evil and kindness.

As in Mountain Beyond Mountains, Kidder shows us what it means to be fully human by telling a story about the heroism inherent in ordinary people, a story about a life based on hope and forgiveness. Cheryl Strayed recently wrote a very poignant review of Kidder's new book in The Oregonian. You can read it here. Like she says, this is a book that will stick with you long after you turn the last page. And I predict that it will strike a chord with all those people who have loved Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Notable Nonfiction

Sometimes it feels like all of the nonfiction books that are being published these days are about three topics: food (growing, cooking, and eating -- how to, what to, where to, when to), finances (crises and criminals), and politics of one form or another. Sigh. There must be more to read about.

A quick perusal of our shelves is reassuring, however, as I find MANY great new books to read that AREN'T about these three topics. Here are a few that might grab your interest:

Young Woman & the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, by Glenn Stout. In 1926, an American teenager named Trudy Ederle captured the imagination of the world when she became the first woman to swim the English Channel, beating the existing record (held by a man) by nearly two hours. Set against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties, Young Woman and the Sea tells the story of Ederle's pursuit of a goal no one believed possible, and the price she paid for going after it, shattering centuries of stereotypes and opening doors of generations of women to come. A couple of good friends have recently read this book and give it high marks -- not only for telling Ederle's story but for providing the historical context in which it unfolded.

I'm Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears, and Other Intriguing Idioms from Around the World, Jag Bhalla. I heard about this book on NPR and just had to get it. The author provides a light-hearted tour of the world's idioms, which in turn provide a wonderful window on how different cultures see the world. For example, to express a feeling of ecstasy, the Spanish say they are "as happy as castanets," while for Germans to be ecstatic is to "hang heaven full of violins." And the French idiom for "to die laughing" is "to bang your butt on the ground." Hmmm. Expressive. The Italians describe the attempt to revive a lapsed love affair as "reheated cabbage." Russians describe something gnawing at one's heart as "cat scratches on the soul." Clearly, this book is both educational and entertaining -- and think of how much fun you'll be at cocktail parties (not that you're not already). And by the way, "I'm not hanging noodles on your ears" is a Russian idiom for "I'm not pulling your leg."

A Splintered History of Wood: Belt-Sander Races, Blind Woodworkers & Baseball Bats, by Spike Carlsen. This book was selected as an NPR Best Book of the Year when it came out in hardcover, and it has just been published in paperback. Just think where we'd be without wood: what would be do for fire, heat, and shelter? What would we use to make violins, or chopsticks? Frankly, without wood, even books wouldn't exist. Carlsen mixes well-researched history, trivia, and humorous anecdotes to tell the story of something most of us take for granted. But you won't after reading this book!

The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, by Douglas Brinkley. Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, has produced a doorstopper of a book, clocking in at a mere 800+ pages, plus notes. By setting aside more than 230 million acres of wild America for posterity between 1901 and 1909, Theodore Roosevelt made conservation a universal endeavor. Roosevelt's most important legacies led to the creation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and passage of the Antiquities Act in 1906. His executive orders saved such treasures as Devils Tower, the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest.Tracing the role that nature played in Roosevelt's storied career, Brinkley brilliantly analyzes the influence of the works of John James Audubon and Charles Darwin. With descriptive flair, the author illuminates Roosevelt's bird watching in the Adirondacks, wildlife obsession in Yellowstone, hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, ranching in the Dakota Territory, hunting in the Big Horn Mountains, and outdoor romps through Idaho and Wyoming. He also profiles Roosevelt's incredible circle of naturalist friends, including the Catskills poet John Burroughs, forestry zealot Gifford Pinchot, Sierra Club founder John Muir, Oregon Audubon Society founder William L. Finley, and pelican protector Paul Kroegel, among many others. This book is no walk in the park -- pun intended -- but it is a groundbreaking epic biography.

One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing, by Katherine Dunn. Dunn, Portland resident and author of the bestselling novel Geek Love, has been described as "hands-down the best boxing journalist working today." This collection of essays and articles on boxing by Dunn is a rare treat for aficionados of the "sweet science," highlighting her novelist's ear for the vernacular and eye for the telling detail. Did you see Jeff Baker's wonderful article on Dunn in The Oregonian recently? It was terrific.

The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum, by Rebecca Loncraine. L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1899, and it was first published in 1900. A runaway hit, it was soon recognized as America's first modern fairy tale. Baum's life, too, is uniquely American, rooted in the transforming historical changes of his times. Baum's restless and creative spirit led him from the Finger Lakes region of New York (where he was born in 1856) to the rugged Dakota territory to the excitement of Chicago and the World's Fair to Hollywood, the true land of Oz. After his first book, he went on to write thirteen Oz sequels. Unfortunately he wasn't around to see the ginormous success of the Technicolor MGM movie production of his book; he died in bed in 1919 just weeks after completing his final Oz book.

And I think I wrote about this book before, but my partner just finished reading it and said it was terrific so I have to include it in this round-up: Halfway to Heaven: My White-Knuckled -- and Knuckleheaded -- Quest for the Rocky Mountain High, by Mark Obmascik. Some of you might remember Obmascik as the author of The Big Year, about the competition among obsessed bird watchers to spot the most number of species during a year. This new book tells of his attempt -- at age 44, no less -- to scale all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, known as "the Fourteeners," in less than one year. Think Bill Bryson and A Walk in the Woods, but with less oxygen.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Check in with The Family

Separation of church and state...a grand idea to be sure, but just how separate are they in these our United States? Jeff Sharlet explores this theme in his book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, which was featured on Fresh Air last month. Sharlet uncovers the scary details of this secretive, incredibly powerful group (what the author refers to as a "select corps for Christ"), who, right under our noses have "shaped America's projection of power onto the rest of the world."

This is the story of a group of believers from the upper echelons of society and politics who see it as their mission in life to spread capitalistic idealism backed by the teachings of Christ. Theirs is a spiritual war in which they are the righteous inheritors of a long and dense tradition. Yikes!

From the back of the book: "They insist they are just a group of friends, yet they funnel millions of dollars through tax-free corporations. They claim to disdain politics, but congressmen of both parties describe them as the most influential religious organization in Washington. They say they are not Christians, but simply believers...".

Can we afford not to read this book?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Some Good Reading for Kids 8 - 12

The newest book -- Book Five -- in The 39 Clues series by Scholastic was just released last week. You've read about this series here before. Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series -- crafted the story arc and wrote the first book, The Maze of Bones. The other nine books in the ten-book series are being written by well-known children's book authors. Book Five: The Black Circle, is by Patrick Carman, who has written several successful books and series for young readers AND has the good sense to live in Walla Walla (and he grew up in Oregon)!

The series features fourteen-year-old Amy Cahill and her younger brother, Dan, as they travel the world in search of clues -- while evading some rather sinister distant family members who are doing the same, all in a race for the big prize. Book Two: One False Note, was written by Gordon Korman; Book Three: The Sword Thief, by Peter Lerangis; and Book Four: Beyond the Grave, by Jude Watson. Book Six, also by Jude Watson, will be published on November 3rd. The final book, written by Margaret Peterson Haddix, will hit the streets on September 1, 2010. The series also involves game cards and an online component, as well as the opportunity to win prizes. But in my opinion the books totally stand on their own just fine.

As long as we're talking about hot series for readers in the 8-10 age group, here's a little more news for you. The newest book in the wildly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Dog Days, will be published October 12th. This is the fourth book in the series by Jeff Kinney, plus there is a do-it-yourself journal with wimpy kid cartoons.

And in the local-writer-does-good department, the second book in Dale Basye's Heck series, Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck, has just been published in hardcover. The first book, Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go, is now available in paperback. And yes, they are as funny as the titles imply.

Business Book of the Year Award

This week the long list was announced for the Financial Times & Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. Not surprisingly, lots of financial crisis and bad behavior, a little Internet and peak oil, a smattering of globalization, and some plain old running a business well. The list will be whittled down to six finalists on September 17th, and the final winner will be announced on October 29th. Here are the fifteen contenders for the award:

  • This Time Is Different, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff

  • The Match King, Frank Partnoy

  • Lords of Finance, Liaquat Ahamed

  • The Myth of the Rational, Justin Fox

  • House of Cards, William Cohan

  • In Fed We Trust, David Wessel

  • Animal Spirits, George Akerlof and Robert Schiller

  • Free, Chris Anderson

  • Waste, Tristram Stuart

  • Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin

  • SuperCorp, Rosabeth Moss Kanter

  • How the Mighty Have Fallen, Jim Collins

  • Clever, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones

  • Imagining India, Nandan Nilekani

  • Good Value, Stephen Green

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Cost and Value of Shopping Locally

Last month, the website of Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on Martha's Vineyard posted an important essay by Katherine, a thoughtful employee of that store and an eloquent spokesperson for the cause of independent bookstores everywhere. Even though she's talking about her specific store, we think her piece stands as a cogent argument for the survival of every locally owned independent business. So click here to read what she had to say.

Four Northwest Poets Reading Tonight

Please join us tonight to hear northwest poets Barbara LaMorticella, Amy MacLennan, Jane Knechtel, and Kirsten Rian read from their selections published in the recent anthology Not a Muse, published by Haven Press. This world poetry anthology is a bold, richly panoramic collection that addresses the inner lives of women in a post-feminist era. All four of these women are accomplished poets whose poems have been published in other anthologies and literary journals. The reading starts at 7 pm.

Oregon Author a Finalist for Thurber Prize

Three essay collections and a novel have been selected as finalists for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, named for author-humorist James Thurber. The finalists are
  • Don Lee, for his novel Wrack and Ruin
  • Ian Frazier, for his book Lamentations of the Father
  • Sloan Crosley, for her book I Was Told There Would Be Cake (the opening riff on her collection of plastic horses is a hoot)
  • Laurie Notaro, for her book The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death.
Notaro, who was born in New York and spent most of her life in Arizona, moved to Eugene a few years ago, so I'm thrilled to report that an Oregonian has made the list! After majoring in journalism at ASU, Notaro and three friends started an alternative magazine, Planet Magazine. When the magazine folded, she became a columnist for a daily Phoenix newspaper. Meanwhile she was working on her own book. After about seventy rejections from publishers, she self-published her book. Shortly thereafter she was contacted by an agent who sold that book and a second one to a major publisher, and she's been writing ever since.

Notaro has written one novel (There's a Slight Chance I Might be Going to Hell) and six nonfiction humor collections: The Idiot Girls' Action Adventure Club, Autobiography of a Fat Bride, I Love Everybody (And Other Atrocious Lies), We Thought You Would Be Prettier, An Idiot Girl's Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List, and her most recent, the nominated title. Currently she's at work on a second novel, Spooky Little Girl. My sister turned me on to this writer several years ago, while Notaro was still living in Arizona, and she is a hoot (both Notaro AND my sister, actually).

The winner of the Thurber Prize, who will collect $5000 in prize money, will be announced in October. The first Thurber Prize was awarded in 1997, to Ian Frazier for Coyote vs. Acme. Other winners have included David Sedaris, Jon Stewart, and the staff of The Onion. Congratulations to all of the nominees, but especially to Oregon's own nominee, Laurie Notaro.

Where Have You Been???

Did you miss us? Sorry I've been gone for so long. After our last post ("An Embarrassment of Riches") you might have guessed that I've had my nose buried in all the great new books that have just been published, and that would be a pretty darned good guess. But, unfortunately, incorrect. The ugly truth is that Saturday was my birthday, and I took a few days to celebrate with friends and family. And a good time was had by all. Not to go into the gory details, but let's just say it included air hockey, putt-putt golf, and photo booths. And a modicum of alcohol. AWI to my friends.

But the upshot is I'm now back in action, and what do I find but even MORE great books making their way to the store, including the first new novel in years from Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides, The Water is Wide, etc.): South of Broad. Not only do we have his new book, but we also have autographed copies! (And they're actually signed by Pat Conroy, not by me or Roberta.) Plus we have that wonderful new book by Seattle-based writer and naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt (author of Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds), Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, that was just reviewed in The Oregonian. And we got in paperback copies of Toni Morrison's latest and much-lauded novel (A Mercy), one of my favorite short-story collections of the past year (The Boat, by Nam Le), and the second novel from Seattle author Stephanie Kallos (Broken for You), Sing Them Home. Last but not least, we have finally been able to get back in stock the book everyone's talking about, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, by Jeff Sharlet. And yes, it's in paperback, and yes, it will scare the pants off of you!

So, NOW I have my nose buried in a bunch of new books, and I'm happy to be back in the blogosphere.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Am Embarrassment of Book Riches

Wow! It's another one of those amazing weeks in the bookstore world in which A TON of great new books come in. Admittedly, when you're a book fiend like I am, EVERY week in a bookstore is a delight: new books and old make me breathless and giddy (and perpetually broke). But some weeks are particularly notable.

This week in the fiction jackpot we got in the latest novels in hardcover from Richard Russo (That Old Cape Magic) and Thomas Pynchon (Inherent Vice); The Hour I First Believed (Wally Lamb) and The Gargoyle (Andrew Davidson) in paperback; the eagerly awaited paperback edition of Eclipse, the third book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series; To Heaven by Water, a novel (paperback) by Justin Cartwright, the author of a novel I loved, The Promise of Happiness; and a novel I've been waiting for in paperback about Hurricane Katrina, City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza.

On the nonfiction side we got The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election, by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson; Imperial, the latest tome from William Vollman, taking us deep into the heart of the Imperial Valley in California (and clocking in at a mere 1200 or so pages); and Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food, a thoughtful collection of essays on mindful eating drawn from more than thirty years of work by Wendell Berry, with an introduction by Michael Pollan ("Americans today are having a national conversation about food and agriculture....But to read these to realize just how little of what we are saying and hearing today Wendell Berry hasn't already said, bracingly, before.")

Wow. What a week! And I've probably missed a few. I better get off the computer and get busy reading! I think next week will be another bookapallooza as well, so stay tuned....

Newest Novel from Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon, known for his dense, complex doorstopper novels, has now given us Inherent Vice -- a "hippie whodunit" set at the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in LA and featuring dopers, surfers, bikers, predators, and parasites, drugs and counterfeit money, setups and switchbacks, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang. Doc Sportello, stoned and skeptical and the proprietor and sole employee of LSD Investigations (Location, Surveillance, Detection), gets caught up in a bizarre and tangled kidnapping plot.

Check out the recent reviews of Inherent Vice by Vernon Peterson in The Oregonian and by Micheal Dirda in The Washington Post.

Pynchon's previous books are V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity's Rainbow (1973) - for which he received the National Book Award for Fiction, Slow Learner (1984) - a collection of early stories, Vineland (1990), Mason & Dixon (1997), and Against the Day (2006).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize Winner

The Sherwood Anderson Foundation has announced that its Fiction Competition Award winner for 2009 is Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Bledsoe, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, read at Broadway Books when her last novel, Biting the Apple, was published. She writes both fiction and narrative nonfiction. The competition judges found her two entries "Girl with Boat" and "Enough" to be outstanding literary stories precisely because neither is "literary" or mannered but instead the author speaks with an honest human voice.

"Girl with Boat," winner of the 2009 Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction (to be published in that journal in Fall 2009), shows the conflict between loyal family love and the father's desperate, singular need to take them all to live in trackless Alaska. This is the story of the daughter's return, thirty years later, and of what she finds at the old homestead.

Bledsoe's second entry, "Enough," winner of the 2009 International Arts Movement First Prize for fiction, is set in Antarctica, "on the Ice," and depicts with unusual perception the conflicts, self-delusion, but nonetheless warm hopes humans take with them wherever they live.

Besides writing, the author goes sea kayaking in Alaska, backpacking in the Rockies, and skiing in the Sierra. She has been to Antarctica three times as a recipient of the National Science Foundation's Artists & Writers Fellowship, living and working at all three American stations--McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. She also lived at field camps in the Transantarctic Mountains. Bledsoe's work with geologists, biologists, and astrophysicists concerned studying penguins, seals, climate change, and the Big Bang.

Publishers Weekly gave Bledsoe's novel, Biting the Apple, a starred review. Cited as one of Bookmark's 10 Best Books of the Year, Biting the Apple is "an intelligent, introspective, and smartly sarcastic story about the shackles of the past, the pressures of a present built on falsehoods, and the promise of reinvention and renewal. . . ."

Her newest novel, The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica, will be out in spring 2010. The premise is that a galley worker, a geologist, and a composer have run away to jobs in Antarctica, each trying to escape a life that has become unbearable. Kim Stanley Robinson writes: "Lucy Bledsoe has written a beautiful novel about living in that extreme space; vivid and suspenseful, it really captures the feel of the Ice and the intensity of living and learning there."

Congratulations, Lucy, on the Sherwood Anderson Award honors! We look forward to having you read again at Broadway Books when your next novel comes out.

The Photographer: A Moving Documentary

In 1986, French photographer Didier Lefèvre left Paris for Afghanistan for his first major assignment as a photojournalist, accompanying a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) expedition to establish one field hospital and staff another. At that time in Afghanistan, war was raging betweem the Soviet Union and the Afghan Mujahideen. The photographs taken by Lefèvre on that three-month trip form the heart of a new book, The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders, a book that is part photojournalism and part graphic memoir. It is published by First Second Books.

A decade after his first trip, Lefèvre sat down with his friend and acclaimed French graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert to tell his story. Guibert based his writing and drawing of the book on their hours of interviews. Frederic Lemercier, a graphic designer, created the design for the book, and Alexis Siegel provided the translation and wrote the introduction. Together, the work of these four people tells the moving story of an arduous and dangerous journey undertaken by men and women intent on mending what others destroy.

Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, called this graphic documentary "a work of stunning originality and power....a truly inspiring piece of work." The book was first published in three volumes in France between 2003 and 2006 and was an immediate hit. It has since been published in eleven languages. The First Second Books American version came out last May. Before he died in 2007 (he was born in 1957), Lefevre traveled back to Afghanistan seven more times in an attempt to tell the stories of the people he could not forget -- despite having nearly died on his first trip there.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do You Tattoo?

I hope you have tomorrow night circled on your calendar! Jeff Johnson will be at Broadway Books at 7 pm to read from his memoir, Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink, recently published by Spiegel & Grau. Jeff has been tattooing professionally for eighteen years and is the co-owner of the Sea Tramp Tattoo Company, the oldest tattoo shop in Portland.

I must confess that my tattoo preferences tend to run more to the kind that you apply with a wet wash cloth and that last a few days, depending on how vigorously you scrub in the shower. It's probably a mixture of a commitment thing -- a tattoo I'm gaga over this week might become something that annoys the crap out of me in a year or two -- and needle-whimp-fear-of-pain thing, which I guess would make me either a bunny or a chudder (a customer on pain pills or a customer who barfs, respectively) -- most likely a chudder bunny.

I'm seeing more and more truly good looking tattoos these days. And it's not just bikers and gang members with tattoos. You see people of all ages and from all walks of life with tattoos -- even sweet little old ladies with tattoos. Maybe I could get some kind of bookish tattoo. Any suggestions? Maybe Roberta and I could each get the BB logo needled somewhere discreet. Not that we're old. Or sweet. But, my point is that tattooing seems to be going mainstream. Heck, even the Portland Art Museum is currently running an exhibition on the art of the tattoo.

Jeff's book has gotten tons of reviews -- local and national. You can read what Jeff Baker of The Oregonian wrote about Jeff Johnson and his tattoo world, or read the interview with Jeff Johnson in Time magazine. Katherine Dunn, author of the novel Geek Love and the recently published anthology One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing -- who clearly knows a thing or two about both writing and tattoos -- had this to say about Jeff's book: "Meticulously observed, savagely funny, and deeply compassionate....Jeff Johnson is a sharp-eyed master tattoo artist and an extraordinary writer....[his] own remarkable story weaves through this engaging and gritty examination of the world of tattoos. With lyrical punch and plenty of scabrous behind-the-scenes shenanigans, Tattoo Machine is an informative, intelligent delight." You've gotta love a book with scrabrous shenanigans, no? Hope we see you tomorrow night at the reading! (Tattoos optional.)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jeff Johnson's Tattoo Machine

Portland tattoo artist and memoirist Jeff Johnson will be here on Tuesday, Aug. 4th at 7 pm to read from and discuss his recently published book, Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink, published by Spiegel and Grau in July. A professional tattooist for eighteen years, Johnson is the co-owner and operator of Portland’s legendary Sea Tramp Tattoo Company. Discussing everything from his days as an apprentice to some of the greatest inkers in the trade to the incredibly vivid nightly spectacle over which he presides, Jeff Johnson has written a sometimes riotous, sometimes harrowing, and always riveting memoir about what it means to be on the front lines of a global art revolution.