As we descend into autumn, I become far less inclined to venture out into the cold streets of Manhattan (I am from Los Angeles, after all). For those of you who, like me, would rather think about fall from the comfort of a climate-controlled apartment rather than experiencing nature outdoors (which, frankly, seems over-hyped to me), you can spend your time working your way through the Current Ground background reading list for Fall 2011, which syncs up with some big events in the upcoming season.
The event: The tenth anniversary of 9/11
The book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, which takes the reader inside the mind of a precocious nine-year-old boy who lost his father on September 11. The book got mixed reviews from critics, many of whom considered it over-sentimental or psychologically unrealistic, but it’s a lovely and unusual story, and reading it is probably much more pleasant than facing the onslaught of media coverage surrounding the anniversary. A movie version of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is forthcoming in 2012.
Additional reading: A recent feature in the New York Times by Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic Michiko Kakutani entitled “Outdone By Reality,” in which the author asks whether or not 9/11 fundamentally changed contemporary art (as did Vietnam) — and whether artists are capable of evoking the emotions surrounding 9/11 better than autobiographies and narratives from survivors. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/
The event: Republicans in the House of Representatives are expected to take on the E.P.A. this fall, claiming environmental regulations cost jobs.
The book: Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman, which calls on the United States to be a proactive leader in the fight against global warming (a stance, he argues, that will not only save our planet but will also revive America’s sense of purpose and identity, which has been floundering since 9/11). This book converted an anti-big government friend of mine into, if not an ardent liberal, certainly pro-governmental control in the environmental arena.
The event: New York Fashion Week 2011, which kicks off with this Thursday’s Fashion’s Night Out
The book: The Sartorialist, a collection of photos by the street fashion photographer and blogger Scott Schuman, whose eye for the beautiful is always dead-on. Sure, this isn’t so much a book to read, per se, but if you haven’t received your invitation to Bryant Park (it’s probably just lost in the mail…), won’t you be in need of some pretty clothes to gawk at?
The event: Paris invades New York this fall, with the first American outpost of the famous macaron shop Ladurée opening on the Upper East Side and the Parisian boutiques Maje and Sandro setting up shop side by side on Bleecker Street.
The book: A Moveable Feast, in which Hemingway remembers his years as an American expat in Paris hanging around with the likes of Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. Grabbing a half-dozen framboise-flavored macarons from Ladurée may not transport you to a fabulous Gertrude-Stein hosted party on the Left Bank, but hey, a girl can dream. While you’re at it, catch a showing of Midnight in Paris, still playing at the Angelika.
The event: The Pacific Standard Time exhibition, opening in October in locations across Los Angeles, which focuses on postwar art produced in Southern California.
The book: City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, in which the cultural geographer Mike Davis tracks the geographic, economic and cultural history of Los Angeles, from its original settlers through the 1980s. A little nod to our readers in California (hi Mom and Dad!).