Pilgrimage – Annie Leibovitz

The first time I saw an exhibit of Annie Leibovitz’s photography in Washington, D.C., I felt I knew her subjects intimately.  Leibovitz’s art captures her famous targets as posed but vulnerable.  When I found her book with Susan Sontag – Women – the images amazed me for their familiarity and honesty.

Her new book – Pilgrimage – reviewed by Dominique Browning for the New York Times in her article A Pilgrim’s Progress, comes out today – with no people in it.   The book opens with shots of Emily Dickinson’s house “that Ms. Leibovitz took, casually…on a family visit.”  Even on her off days, Leibovitz takes amazing pictures.

“She took her camera to Virginia Woolf’s house, photographing the surface of her writing table, and into the garden, capturing the wide, rolling water of the River Ouse, in which Woolf drowned herself.  She photographed Dr. Freud’s sumptuously carpeted patient’s couch in London, and Darwin’s odd specimen collection.  Eleanor Roosevelt’s bedroom with its simple white coverlets, in her cozy cottage, Val-Kill, stands in contrast to a silver serving dish, its rich patina rippling with light.  Abraham Lincoln’s elegant top hat and white kid gloves…Louisa May Alcott’s house…the view from Emerson’s bedroom window…”

More than another coffee table book, Leibovitz offers…”something about integrity, staying true to a vision…”

Her ad for Sears with the Kardashian sisters – not so much…but photographers have to pay their bills too.

The Steal – Wanting What Others Have

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… Charles Caleb Colton

But how do you distinguish between covetness and flattery?  When does someone wanting to be like you turn the corner into obsession?  David Coleman in his review of Rachel Shteir’s new book, The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, offers some insight not only into why others try to get what you have, but why they want it at all.

Although shoplifting is the theme of the book, Coleman’s interview with the author offers some perspective on her underlying motivation to write about “…{having} been wronged or deprived in life…”

“…I always covet everything…I want to be reimagined, reborn, re-something…”

Are you the one who covets?  Or are you the one who is being annoyingly flattered?  Might be worth reading the book.

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Launch Date

At 4 a.m. Eastern time in the United States, a wedding is scheduled to be launched in London.

At 4 p.m. Eastern time in the United States, a spaceship is scheduled to be launched in Florida.

The wedding schedule was perfect; the spaceship is delayed.

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The Books We Never Can Read

We read at the whim of the writers who imagine a story and then live through it – mentally in most cases – to tell the tale.  Whether fiction, memoir, or factual, the story lives in the mind of the author until it is finished.  But, when “The Hand of Dread,” as noted in the Dan Kois New York Times essay Burn Before Reading, grabs the author, the book may be dead – midsentence – never to be seen (unless an enterprising geek finds and posts it on the internet – as was the case with Stephanie Meyer’s 12 chapters of “Midnight Sun”).

Kois lists books that were abandoned by famous authors: Truman Capote, Jennifer Egan, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, John Updike, Evelyn Waugh.

Why would a novel be ‘”wrecked”? Authors, always sensitive creatures, might abandon a book in a fit of despair.

Others stop writing, just because ” the novel isn’t working.”  Whatever the reasons, all the authors went on to produce published work:  Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, The Adventures of Augie March…

But we will never read Michael Chabon’s Fountain City.

Read the Article:  Burn Before Reading

Sometimes It Helps To Be Rejected by Oprah

Remember the author who turned down Oprah for pick of the week?  According to Lev Grossman’s article in the August 23rd edition of Time magazine  – Jonathan Franzen, the Wide Shot – this may not be the real story.  But no one really cares if Oprah felt disrespected or if Franzen seemed above the masses.  Franzen’s Pulitzer finalist – Corrections – survived the public relations faux pas – no matter how depressing the story was.

Grossman humanizes Franzen as a bird watcher and focused writer with another great novel coming this month – Freedom… this one just as hard to take and again revolving around a family’s emotions.  According to Grossman,  its theme may be more important today than ever…

There is something beyond freedom that people need: work, love, belief in something, commitment to something.  Freedom is not enough.  It’s necessary but not sufficient.  It’s what you do with freedom – what you give it up for – that matters.


But Franzen’s 2005 remarks at Swarthmore  on receiving an honorary degree provide better insight into what drives this intense author…


“…you may be wrong about …almost everything…but you might as well get used to the kind of person you are…, because that person isn’t going anywhere.”

As a bonus, the Time article offers 5 books Franzen says have influenced him – impressive picks.  More fuel for my library reservations – have you read these yet?

  • The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
  • Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton