Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Family of Man

Review by David Karp

        I believe that the title says it all about what this amazing collection of photographs is about. The Family of Man. One must ask, what does that mean? Well, once you go through the book, you find out. The family of man is the family of the world.
            The book, originally an exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC put together by Edward Steichen,  explores people that we see every day in America throughout time and then, we also travel the world to various different countries to see the everyday men and women of that particular country. We see how people live and express their emotions to one another.
            This collection’s aim, I believe, is to knock down borders and show that we, as in everyone in the world, are all a family. We are all citizens of the earth, and we are all human, so why are we blowing each other up and acting like someone different is an enemy? I’ve seen this all too often in my life, and it doesn’t make much sense to me.
            I’ll start here: The picture that struck me the most was on page 70 of the man who is on the steel part being hoisted up in the sky, probably trying to get that onto a larger structure that was soon to be a building. The reason why I liked this picture so much? It reminded me of home.
            I grew up in New Jersey. I know, a lot of people believe that New Jersey is basically what you see on Jersey Shore or The Real Housewives of New Jersey or other stupid reality shows like that. Believe me, we are not all like that! In fact, though I am from suburban North Jersey, I grew up around a lot of working class people! There were a lot of blue-collar workers around my home that I got to know, and they all seemed to have some sort of brotherly/sisterly bond to each other that I really admired. They seemed the most realistic, yet the most loving. I remember when I was younger and I would always be fascinated with the people who were high up building buildings or fixing stuff, whether it was somewhere in Jersey or just across the river in New York City. But I was always fascinated by them. Hell, I still am! I believe that’s what the picture I mentioned reminds me so much of home…because of the people around me that considered each other family.
            Not only does the collection showcase the various kinds of people in the world, but it also showcases the different types of human emotion, which is why I believe these photos were picked to be in the book: the emotion is at the rawest form and brings the “reader” to the emotion itself. It lets us know how human we are and lets us connect with the different people in the book, and we ask the question: How different are we really if I feel what she/he is feeling in this picture. We feel love, fear, anger, hope, uncertainty, and more and we relate to the people in the photos even if we don’t know them! It doesn’t get much more human than that! It just proves that we all have the ability to help and relate to each other, so why is the state of the world the way it is today? That’s a question that I don’t believe anyone can fully answer. It’s just the absurdity of life.
            So, all and all, I really enjoyed taking a look at this collection and the having the questions it brought to me posed. It really does make you think about life and love and why we can’t just all realize how silly it is to be so angry with each other.
Still, with all the questions it poses, in the long run, The Family Of Man really made me feel at home, and this past weekend, I realized how happy I am to have any type of family and that sometimes, we have to make our own family and learn to know how lucky we are to just have hope. And yes, I believe there is some hope left in this world. I may be pessimistic at times, but deep down, I still have some hope. The Family of Man is another example. It’s a family album, just of the bigger family you may have not realized we had. We are all in this together, and we are just another photo in the family of man.
This may not be a “book” book, as there are not that many words to read, but the pictures are its own kind of story and the quotes in the book speak as loudly as a million words. I truly believe that this collection is worth a look for those who love history, culture, literature, and photography!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review of: Impulse

Perfection, is ugly. It is unobtainable, for everything changes so even the idea or notion of perfect will change. But there will always be those striving for it.
After reading the book Impulse by Ellen Hopkins I couldn’t help but think this. The book, with vivid characters written in verse novel, (written in poetry form rather than prose) delves into the lives of maturing teenagers in a mental ward sounding like a nice thirst-quenching retirement home: Aspen Springs. The book holds the reader’s attention by switching-but staying in first person-to the thoughts of one of the three main characters: Tony, Conner, and Vanessa, all   had attempted suicide. The “cure” for each involves drugs, group therapy, and individual therapy by trying to coup with the problems hidden in their past.
Ellen Hopkins has written poetry and several nonfiction novels. She explores everything from belief and belief in love to nature and nurture. The reader witnesses pain and the reason the characters may strive for it, just to feel. There is beautiful imagery and wonderful rhymes spaced throughout the book. The book Impulse has more than 600 pages! But when written with five or less stanzas a page it would take a fast reader a day and a half ride on a quiet el train to finish. Hopkins is great with not only descriptive imagery, but conversations and flashbacks to painful memories in the characters past as they try to change themselves in the present. Try.
And why I began with thinking perfection is ugly, is because of the strive in some of the character’s lives to be perfect and perfect in the way others want them to be. Some strive for perfection without wondering what that would entail and what cost that may come by. If one strives to do what they love and achieve what they want, then maybe that is perfect, perfectly understanding one self and their place in this world.
Ellen Hopkins has written other verse novels and New York Times Bestsellers like: Crank, Glass, and Identical; and also Burned and Tricks. She has a way with words and the form on the page like that only seen in writers when they try a new style, but this she is mastering and exploring as she goes.
Impulse is a brutally graphic and beautifully constructed long short story that discomforts the reader when in the mental ward, and yet that sickening prison becomes a home where all are accepted for being fucked up and not just pretending they aren’t messed up. Again, it is a quick and beautiful read, I highly recommend it! In two weeks check for my review of Aristotle’s Politics.
Justin Vaisnor

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: A Moveable Feast

Review By David Marcus Karp

I finally finished A Moveable Feast today, and I’m ready to move to Paris once I’m out of college.
            Whether that’s a feasible and wise decision on my part is questionable, but I will say that Ernest Hemingway’s memoir does nothing more than makes you fall in love with Paris. With the walks along the River Seine, the many cafes, the bookstores, the food, the society (though some things may have changed since the 1920’s, of course), the European mindset, and whatnot, how could you NOT want to go to Paris?
            But the memoir tells about 1920’s Paris so vividly and perfectly, it’s almost surreal. The book really reads like a novel, with its flowing narration, its simplicity prose, it’s moving but clear imagery, and it’s “character” development. The way that each chapter tells a different story/experience in Paris yet they all connect to the theme of a writer in 1920’s Paris is a really cleaver way to write a memoir. I felt like I was looking through a photo album of his time there, each part having something unique but just as interesting a story to tell!
            The book does a great, great job with description of the scene Hemingway came to love. The balance of action and description is built like a Hemingway novel, which I believe is why it’s so readable. The linear structure is that of a short story collection of expanded but beautifully told instances but keeps the reader engaged in the tales of Paris’s literary writing scene, Paris’s “golden age” and some of the most interesting interactions between Hemingway and the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, Ezra Pound, and, of course, the great Gertrude Stein (which Hemingway had some of the best conversations with, in my opinion)!
            The memoir didn’t take me too long to read, partially because I could not put it down and partially because it’s not the longest book in the world (coming from a pretty slow reader), but it’s just the right length (unless you get the restored 2009 edition, which has a few new edits, additions, and other new stuff, along with a forward by Hemingway’s second son himself, Patrick Hemingway. I happened to read the original version).
            When you read the book, it feels like you are walking side by side with Hemingway on his adventures through Paris. The narrative brings the classic feel of Hemingway to a real life account, which is also entertaining and thought provoking. Of course, Hemingway was a café guy in his free time, which I can very much relate too, so this is one for café lovers, as well as book lovers and Hemingway fans. In fact, this was the first thing I ever read from him, and I’m glad it was, since these were taken from journals written before even finished and published his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. I got to see what Hemingway was like off of the page just as his writing career is starting, which brings a lot to context, and brings for a great introduction to his writing style and his personality both on and off the page.
            So all and all, this memoir is a must for anyone who reads. It has now made me fall in love with Hemingway and is ranked as one of top favorites. The book will make you want to go to Paris and hope the same thing happens to you that did to Owen Wilson in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris.
            Look out for Justin’s next review on Ellen Hopkins’s Impulse!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review of: Fahrenheit 451

You are reading-that’s a good start-but you are reading a review on the book Fahrenheit 451 which features a world eerily similar to our own with one major difference-books are banned. Nearly all reading is banned and books are good for one thing only, burning-burning with the houses they were hidden in.
            Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451, written more than 50 years ago, is still relevant and defiant against censorship even today. The book follows a fireman whose job is to burn rather than put fires out. With striking similarities to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where books have a profound position in the societies of each: Orwell-individual thought and books are banned, Huxley-there is seemingly no need for reading with so much pleasure and perfection, and in Bradbury’s-books are not needed as they cause thoughts and open a person to the actual real world around them; a world suffering and moving through motions without love and freedom and individualistic expression-which can be said about all three. It is perhaps a world we all fear.
            Ray Bradbury has a heart for freedom of written word, for fantastical and beautifully constructed images that must not-for they cannot-be changed; otherwise one is delving into the mind of the author and changing the very thought they had formed, a thought that is and was undeniably there. A book can be edited, something Ray is wholeheartedly against (and I wholeheartedly agree with him), but it would then lose it’s essence, it’s reason for being a book. Books are stories, thoughts, voices speaking through history and time to the audience here and not yet to come. They reach through to touch hearts and minds to bend and reshape so as we can shape our own. Changing one word the author wrote and was therefore printed, is changing our very existence. Which is exactly what the firemen were meant to do, to edit inside this fearfully split and isolated world.
            The fireman the reader follows in this fascinating novel is Guy Montag. Fireman of ten years, Guy never questioned his life or his reason for burning these books on midnight runs until he meets a young thoughtful girl, enchantingly free and loving-by far not carefree but possesses a great amount of pensiveness-because of her Guy finally felt accepted by someone in a society that follows motions-without logical emotional reasoning-but with logical apathy in order to silence dissent and disagreement. Guy later runs into an old university professor who helps him dream and take action toward a future where people can think for themselves and feel an ounce of worth once again. But Guy has a terrible secret, that if found out, would ruin his plans and his world.
            This book, honestly, is a good read. One that I look back and wished I read early in my life but at least I’ve had the privilege to read it at all without a word changed or cut out. It is short and took me only three or so days to read. I highly recommend it to those that have also taken a liking to the other books previously mentioned in this review (1984 and Brave New World). And if you have read this book but not any of the other two, then I highly recommend those! Thanks for reading! My next review will be in two weeks and over Ellen Hopkins New York Times bestseller: Impulse. Look for Dave's review next Monday on A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway!