All posts tagged: Julia Lichtblau

Place Love

This is a falling-out-of-love story and an old boyfriend story, though I was never in love with him, but that’s another story. I was in love with a place and an idea of where I could live that was incompatible with who I was becoming, though it took a long time for me to accept it.

The place was Maine, and the love wasn’t a mad passion but an achy, nostalgic, security-blanket attachment. I’d spent my early childhood summers on one of Maine’s most remote islands in the Penobscot Bay, and had idyllic memories of kerosene-lit cottages, beach-combing, berry-picking, and unsupervised roaming with other children for hours. The sight of granite cliffs, shingled houses, lobster boats, and pine trees brought forth a powerful rush of dopamine and nostalgia. When my family moved to Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, we put island rocks in our sea freight. I reconnected with Maine after we returned to Washington, D.C. Once I started college, my parents moved overseas, and Maine became a touchstone, a place I returned to as often as possible, an imaginary home.

Place Love
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Review: We Come to Our Senses

 

Book by ODIE LINDSEY
Reviewed by JULIA LICHTBLAU

The fifteen stories in Odie Lindsey’s moving first collection, We Come to Our Senses,are war stories—but they feature little combat and no front-line heroics; nor are they of the war-is-hilarious-except-the-killing genre, such as Catch-22 or Fobbit. They’re stories of the PTSD generation, the all-volunteer, gender-integrated, post-don’t-ask-don’t-tell veterans of endless, metastasizing conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Written in a wry, poetic voice, Lindsey’s stories braid past and present into multiple narrative lines and often surprise us with which comes out on top at the end.

Like Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War classic, The Things They Carried, Lindsey’s book plumbs the psychic impact of war, but he takes his exploration farther from the battlefield. Many of Lindsey’s characters have no direct military experience, but are wounded by war nonetheless, sometimes fatally.

Review: We Come to Our Senses
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The Met Roof Garden: Is PsychoBarn a Transitional Object?

By JULIA LICHTBLAU

Barn

The Metropolitan Museum’s Roof Garden installation is an annual staged clash between the ephemeral and the permanent: a contemporary work that sits from April to November atop the Met’s neoclassical building, a Repository of Civilization, surrounded by the ever-mutating-yet-perennial New York City skyline.

This year’s installation, “Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)” by British artist Cornelia Parker, is a house—weathered, barn-red, clapboard, white trim, Second-Empire style with mansard roof, ironwork, and spindle-trimmed porch. Actually, not quite a house, a façade supported by scaffolding and using water tanks as ballast, though it looks quite real and solid. The red siding, corrugated tin roofing, and white trim were salvaged from a collapsed barn in Scoharie, N.Y. The specs call for the structure to stand up to a 100-mile-an-hour wind. On press preview day last month, it made its debut to blue sky and an acid-green display of new leaves and grass in Central Park.

The Met Roof Garden: Is PsychoBarn a Transitional Object?
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Horizontal Feminists: An Interview with Alexander Chee

By JULIA LICHTBLAU

 Alexander Chee

 

Alexander Chee’s new novel The Queen of the Night, set almost entirely in France under the Second Empire (1866–1872), is the first-person narrative of a silver-voiced American orphan who maneuvers her way to acclaim as an opera singer, via the circus, can-can dancing, prostitution, and service as the Empress’s maid. Three desires drive Lilliet: to free herself from the tenor who literally owns her (having bought her from a whore house), to become a singer, and to reunite with the man she loves. Chee’s novel sumptuously recreates the intertwined worlds of les grandes horizontales or courtesans, the opera, and the court of Emperor Louis-Napoléon and Empress Eugénie with its spies and secret police.

This winter in Manhattan, New York, The Common’s Book Reviews Editor Julia Lichtblau talked at length with Alexander Chee about his forthcoming novel.

Horizontal Feminists: An Interview with Alexander Chee
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Review: The Queen of the Night

Book by ALEXANDER CHEE
Reviewed by JULIA LICHTBLAU

The Queen of the Night

Every so often a contemporary novel makes me want to go back to college—not because I don’t get it, but because the book induces a craving to know everything about its world. Reading The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee’s hefty second novel, ten years in the making, I was ready to fill out the applications for a Master’s in 19th century French history and literature (with a minor in opera).

Set mostly in France under the Second Empire, (1866–1872), it’s the first-person narrative of a silver-voiced American orphan and master of self-reinvention, who becomes a European opera star and brushes the pinnacles of European power before crashing back to earth in the New World. Her rebirth wouldn’t be out of place on reality TV.

Review: The Queen of the Night
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Period Rooms

 By JULIA LICHTBLAU

 

dining room

i12-02097

It was a long, elaborate, symmetrical Adam room, with two bays of windows opening into Green Park. The light, streaming in from the west on the afternoon when I began to paint there, was fresh green from the young trees outside.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

 

The serene, neoclassical “Dining Room from Lansdowne House,” designed by Robert Adam in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art eerily matches Evelyn Waugh’s description down to the green light and the house’s fate: two wings demolished in 1930 to make way for a road, and the rest converted to an eating club in London’s Berkeley Square. In Brideshead Revisited, contractors are about to pull down Marchmain House and replace it with a block of flats. The Landsdowne Dining Room, in its symmetry and restraint, exudes confidence in the rightness and durability of inherited privilege.

Period Rooms
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Friday Reads: October 2015

By KELLY FORDON, JULIA LICHTBLAU, ALEKSANDRA BURSHTEYN, ZEINA HASHEM BECK, OLIVIA WOLFGANG-SMITH

This month our recommenders are turning to new takes on timeless themes—from the catharsis of fairy tales to ancient theater, from religious traditions to the search for home. If you’re beginning to feel like you’ve seen it all, crack open one of these volumes and let these authors show you a new, even shocking path through the familiar.

Recommended:

Einsteins Beach House by Jacob M. Appel, All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen, Antigonick by Anne Carson, Diaspo/Renga by Marilyn Hacker and Deema K. Shehabi

Friday Reads: October 2015
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Moussa v. Meursault: Algerian Grudge Match Over “The Stranger”

By JULIA LICHTBLAU

mersault book

The gruesome Algerian War ended in 1962 with France walking away empty-handed from a territory that it had held for 130 years and considered not just a colony but an integral part of itself. The refusal of the pieds-noirs, the French colonists in Algeria, to concede meaningful rights to Arab citizens had made a peaceful independence impossible. The war, which featured ideological and tactical use of terrorism and torture on both sides, now a hallmark of intractable conflicts between the West and the Islamic world, brought down multiple French governments and the Fourth Republic before Charles de Gaulle accepted the inevitable. It also brought a flood of immigrants, harkis, Algerians who had fought on the French side; and many more who hadn’t, as France entered les trente glorieuses, its 30-year period of post-war prosperity. During this same period, Algeria’s economy, weighed down by state dominance, corruption, and dependence on hydrocarbons, failed to produce opportunity for its youthful, fast-growing population. Some five million people of Algerian descent live in France today, many in the crime-ridden housing projects of French suburbs, where integration is almost impossible.

Moussa v. Meursault: Algerian Grudge Match Over “The Stranger”
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The Boarding School Belt

North of the Bible Belt and east of the Borscht Belt lies the Boarding School Belt. Of the 300 or so boarding schools in the U.S., 120 are in the Northeast, what might be called the Eden of American education. You know, that magical place where Andover and Exeter lead inexorably to Yale and Harvard.

The Boarding School Belt
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Friday Reads: April 2015

By JULIA LICHTBLAU, CYNTHIA HOGUE, KELLY FORDONILAN STAVANS, HELEN HOOPER, OLIVIA WOLFGANG-SMITH

This month’s books are full of surprises, for their characters and their readers. Whether it’s a world of whimsy, fantasy, or magic(al realism), or else a microcosm of grief either private (a family home) or public (a busy airport), we’re along for the ride as imagined worlds both playful and harrowing rise and fall on these pages.

Recommended:

Play for Me by Céline Keating, The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog by Alicia Ostriker, Munich Airport by Greg Baxter, Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

Friday Reads: April 2015
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