Jackson Pollock: An American Saga
Jackson Pollock was more than a great artist, he was a creative force of nature. He changed not only the course of Western art, but our very definition of “art.” He was the quintessential tortured genius, an American Vincent van Gogh, cut from the same unconforming cloth as his contemporaries Ernest Hemingway and James Dean–and tormented by the same demons; a “cowboy artist” who rose from obscurity to take his place among the titans of modern art, and whose paintings now command millions of dollars.
Here, for the first time, is the life behind that extraordinary achievement–the disjointed childhood, the sibling rivalry, the sexual ambiguity, and the artistic frustration out of which both artist and art developed.
Based on more than 2,000 interviews with 850 people, Jackson Pollock is the first book to explore the life of a great artist with the psychological depth that marks the best biographies of literary and political figures. In eight years of research the authors have uncovered previously unknown letters and documents, gained access to medical and psychiatric records, and interviewed scores of the artist’s friends and acquaintances whose stories had never been told. They were also the first biographers in twenty years to benefit from the cooperation of Pollock’s widow, Lee Krasner.
The results of these unprecedented efforts lie before you: a rich, sprawling, landmark biography of one of the most compelling figures in all of American culture; a brilliant, explosive “portrait of the artist,” intimately detailed, abundantly illustrated (with more than 200 photographs from Pollock’s life and work, many of them never before published), and filled with new information and new insights.
In a style as richly textured, engrossing, and poignant as the best of contemporary literature, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith give us the family crucible out of which the artist and his art emerged. Beginning with Jackson’s birth on a sheep ranch in Wyoming, we follow the Pollock family on a relentless trek across the American West, as their dreams of a better life somewhere else are repeatedly frustrated. We see the young Jack Pollock as a struggling art student in New York, escaping into drunken rages or throwing himself into the Hudson River in one of several attempts at suicide.
Later, we see Pollock, by turns, gently affectionate and outrageously cruel, creatively bankrupt and heroically productive. We see him alternately fascinated and intimidated by his contemporaries: Clement Greenberg, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Harold Rosenberg, Clyfford Still, Tennessee Williams. We see him enter into a tumultuous marriage with the painter Lee Krasner, creating a powerful alliance that will lead first to triumph, then to decline, and finally to death when, with his mistress at his side, Pollock smashes his car into a tree.
But Jackson Pollock is more than the epic story of a tormented man and his sublime art, it is also a compulsively readable, sweeping saga of America’s cultural coming of age. From frontier Iowa to the dust bowl of Arizona, from the twilight of the Wild West to the desolation of Depression-era New York, from the excitement and experimentation of the Mexican muralists to the fanfare of the Surrealists’ visit to America, from the arts projects of the WPA to the explosion of interest and money that marked the beginning of the modern art world, Pollock’s story unfolds against the dramatic landscape of American history.
Here then is a definitive record of the journey of an artist, filled with piercing psychological insights, that brings us to a truer understanding of the power and pathos of creative genius.
Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician
Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students and Their High School
Small Victories is Samuel Freedman’s remarkable story of life on the front lines in the sort of high school that seems like a disaster with walls–old, urban, overcrowded, and overwhelmingly minority. Seaward Park High School, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has been ranked among the worst 10 percent of high schools in the state–yet 92 percent of its graduates go on to higher education. The reason is dedicated teachers, one of whom, English instructor Jessica Siegel, is the subject of Freedman’s unforgettably dramatic humanization of the education crisis. Following Siegel through the 1987-88 academic year, Freedman not only saw a master at work but learned from the inside just how a school functions against impossible odds. Small Victories alternates Jessica’s experiences with those of others at Seaward Park, and as we cone to know intimately a number of the astonishing students and staff,Small Victories reveals itself as a book that has the power to change the way we see our world.
The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance
The House of Morgan is the most ambitious history ever written about American finance. It is a rich, panoramic story of four generations of Morgans and the powerful, secretive firms they spawned, ones that would transform the modern financial world. Tracing the trajectory of J. P. Morgan’s empire from its obscure beginnings in Victorian London to the financial crisis of 1987, acclaimed author Ron Chernow paints a fascinating portrait of the family’s private saga and the rarefied world of the American and British elite in which they moved—a world that included Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Nancy Astor, and Winston Churchill. A masterpiece of financial history—it was awarded the 1990 National Book Award for Nonfiction and selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century—The House of Morgan is a compelling account of a remarkable institution and the men who ran it, and an essential book for understanding the money and power behind the major historical events of the last 150 years.
Because It’s Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart
Joyce Carol Oates adds to her extraordinary body of work with this stunning novel of violence and love. At the heart of the story are two people, Iris Courtney, who is white, and handsome Jinx Fairchild, the black basketball player who, in protecting Iris, kills a white man.
Iris is the only witness to the crime.
The two of them are growing up in the early 1950s in a New York industrial town where racial boundaries keep people apart—or bring them together in explosive scenes of fear or desire. The secret link between Iris and Jinx is not only their attraction to each other, but a murder … and a bond of passion and guilt is formed between them. How this one irrevocable, tragic act shapes their lives and alters their destinies becomes Joyce Carol Oates’ finest, emotion-packed novel—a work the critics are calling a masterpiece, the best work of America’s best writer of contemporary realism.
“As sharp and fast as a street boy’s razor” (The New York Times Book Review), Dogeaters is an intense fictional portrayal of Manila in the heyday of Marcos, the Philippines’ late dictator. In the center of this maelstrom is Rio, a feisty schoolgirl who will grow up to live in America and look back with longing on the land of her youth.