Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting New Ideas From Old Pictures and an Old Poem

Book reviews give us glimpses of different worlds and possibilities.  Here are a couple from Sunday's LA Times.  Two are about old photos and one about old documents of US history.    Here's a quote that caught my attention. 
"Sandweiss believes Cushman made a deliberate choice not to become a professional photographer:  "He chose to stand back from the world of professional artists, documentarians or writers like his first cousin, John Steinbeck, whose circles he traveled on the edge of*.  That's not what he was about."
This seemed relevant to add to the collection of possible explanations of what I'm doing on this blog. 

It comes from a review of  Eric Sandweiss' book of The Day in Its Color:  Charles Cushman's Photographic Journey Through a Vanishing America.  How many collections of photography in people's closets and garages could be curated into historically and artistically important archives?  A lot, I would guess if they landed in the right hands.  What distinguished this collection, apparently, was the a) it's one of the earliest Kodachrome collection, the photographer kept track of each slide, and he apparently had an eye for a wide variety of things.

Also reviewed is Ransom Riggs Talking Pictures images and Messages Rescued from the Past. This is a collection of old photos found by the author that had something written on them.  A glimpse into the stories of people's lives. 
"All nations are places, . . .but they are also acts of imagination.  Who has a part in a nation's story, like who can become a citizen and who has a right to vote, isn't foreordained, or even stable.  The story's plot, like the nation's borders and the nature of its electorate, is always shifting."
Jill Lepore is a Harvard history professor and her book, The Story of America: Essays on Origins, takes a new look at historical documents and offers new interpretations.  For example, she argues, according to book reviewer Julia M. Klein, that Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride" written in 1860 is about slavery, more than about Paul Revere's ride.
Among Lepore's other subjects are Benjamin Franklin's frequently misunderstood compendium of aphorisms, "The Way to Wealth"; Tom Paine's brilliant "Common Sense" and mostly tragic life; Noah Webster's initially derided dictionary; Edgar Allan Poe's unabashedly popular, self-parodying horror stories; and the art of propagandistic campaign biographies.
Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemmingsc is also covered.  

*. . .whose circle he traveled on the edge of."  I'm not a grammar purists.  I think some dangling participles sound perfectly fine. I try not to leave sentences like this in the blog.  I would have probably rewritten the whole sentence to avoid this awkward way of saying he was on the outer edge of Steinbeck's circle. 

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