In Other Literary News…

In this posting, I’ll do my best to refrain from mentioning too often the happy news that after ten years of work, my biography of Sol LeWitt will come out this spring, published by Wesleyan University Press. I’ll instead offer some thoughts on some recent books that have illuminated the world in a way that almost draws me away from the White House circus. For example, there is Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, a book so rich in history, wisdom and good writing that it’s hard to imagine how the author had time over the last decade to eat a bagel. (Did I mention that my book, the title of which, by the way, is Sol Lewitt: A Life of Ideas, took ten years to complete?)

Other good reads this year, at the top of the list, include Tara Westover’s stunning memoir, Educated, in which she recounts a childhood off the grid, in which schooling was considered a sin, and western medicine a poison, not to mention the damage caused to humankind by things such as art, history, music, and philosophy. How, then, did Westover overcome this as she danced all the way to Cambridge? A tale beautifully told that lingers in its details even months after a reading. (Just as I hope the Sol Lewitt book will be which, by the way, you can pre-order on a variety of bookstore websites.)

I listened to an audio recording of My Brilliant Friend, as I didn’t read Elena Ferrante (or someone writing as Elena Ferrante) when it first came out, though my wife Suzanne considered it and its sequels to be the essence of intimacy and literary genius. It is those things, certainly, and the new HBO series translates that intimacy and genius to celluloid, particularly in the portrayal of two extremely bright girls growing up in the 1950s amid the grimness of crime-ridden Napoli. (By the way, Sol Lewitt has a lot of work on display in Naples.)

I’m reading Jill Lepore’s “These Truths” now. I wish history had been taught this way when we were young. But then I went to a college sometimes referred to as “Harvard on the Hocking (River),” not Harvard on the Charles (River). (By the way, did I mention that there are large installations of LeWitt’s work at the Yale Art Gallery?)

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