What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition

What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition
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Updated 27 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition

What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition

Author: C. G. Jung

‘The “Civilization in Transition” features Jung’s writings on contemporary events, especially the relation between the individual and society.

In the earliest essay, “The Role of the Unconscious” (1918), Jung advanced the theory that World War I was a psychological crisis originating in the collective unconscious of individuals. 


What We Are Reading Today: Artemisia Gentileschi and the Business of Art

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Updated 15 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Artemisia Gentileschi and the Business of Art

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Author: Christopher R. Marshall

Art has long been viewed as a calling—a quasi-religious vocation that drives artists to seek answers to humanity’s deepest questions. Yet the art world is a risky, competitive business that requires artists to make strategic decisions, especially if the artist is a woman. In “Artemisia Gentileschi and the Business of Art,” Christopher Marshall presents a new account of the life, work, and legacy of the Italian Baroque painter, revealing how she built a successful four-decade career in a male-dominated field—and how her business acumen has even influenced the resurrection of her reputation today, when she has been transformed from a footnote of art history to a globally famous artist and feminist icon.

Combining the most recent research with detailed analyses of newly attributed paintings, the book highlights the business considerations behind Gentileschi’s development of a trademark style as she marketed herself to the public across a range of Italian artistic centers. The disguised self-portraits in her early Florentine paintings are reevaluated as an effort to make a celebrity brand of her own image. And, challenging the common perception that Gentileschi’s only masterpieces are her early Caravaggesque paintings, the book emphasizes the importance of her neglected late Neapolitan works, which are reinterpreted as innovative responses to the conventional practices of Baroque workshops.

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Healing is the New High’

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Updated 14 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Healing is the New High’

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Author:  Vex King

The self-help book, “Healing is the New High,” attempts to teach people how to embrace recovery from trauma and reclaim power in their lives.

Written by Vex King, a prominent figure in the health and personal growth community, it provides strategies for overcoming life’s problems and nurturing inner peace.

King’s central message is that healing can be a potent avenue for introspection and transformation. The book, published in 2021, is written simply and in a warm tone, as King seeks to relate to the struggles people experience on a daily basis.

Every chapter can be read as a standalone, so readers can start at any point in the book.

King writes candidly about facing emotional pain in his own life and how he overcame it.

There appears to be a fair amount of repetition, but it could be argued that King is attempting to reinforce key concepts.

And while the ideas he is promoting may not be entirely novel to seasoned self-help readers, the way he presents his own personal struggles makes this a special read.

It is a powerful and insightful book that offers a holistic approach to personal growth and transformation.

 


Book Review: ‘Vanderbilt’ by Anderson Cooper

Book Review: ‘Vanderbilt’ by Anderson Cooper
Updated 13 June 2024
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Book Review: ‘Vanderbilt’ by Anderson Cooper

Book Review: ‘Vanderbilt’ by Anderson Cooper

Written during the pandemic in 2021, “Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty” looks at the Vanderbilt family, one of the most famous in US history, written by one of its own.

It was penned by journalist Anderson Cooper, formerly of CNN, and while many of us rifled through old archives while on lockdown in our own homes, Cooper attempted to piece together fragments of his own history — and US history.

The book begins with young Cornelius “the Commodore” Vanderbilt at the beginning of the 19th century. Through grit, and a pathological desire to acquire money at all costs, he was able to build two giant empires, one in shipping and another in railroads, that would make him the richest man in America. His staggering fortune was fought over by his heirs until well after his death in 1877.

His great-great-great-grandson is Cooper and this personal yet exhaustive book covers a vast amount of real estate — both in stories and locations — as historian Katherine Howe, his co-writer, and Cooper explore the story of the legendary family and its influence.

Cooper and Howe breathe life into the former’s ancestors who built the family’s vast empire, basked in the Commodore’s wealth and became synonymous with American capitalism and high society.

Moving from old Manhattan to the lavish Fifth Avenue, from the ornate summer palaces to the courts of Europe and modern-day New York, Cooper and Howe recount the triumphs and tragedies of this American dynasty. 

The vignettes are often fascinating and give context to tales often recounted, like that of Alva Belmont, who was married to a Vanderbilt before pivoting to a world of activism. In her heyday she hosted one of the most lavish gala balls of all time, held in 1883, which inspired many a TV series and fanciful gossip following her rivalry with the infamous Caroline Schermerhorn Astor.

The story looks at the melancholic life of Alva’s daughter, Consuelo, and at her eventual happy ending.

Cooper and Howe delve into corners of stories that are more or less unknown. I was particularly fascinated by the story of his relative who lived in a museum for years, before being eventually kicked out.

The stories link and go back and forth on the timeline, perhaps making it slightly confusing for the lay reader.

It does really require the reader to have some prior knowledge of the Vanderbilt family, with its many scandals and nuances.

The authors also go into detail about the lives, and deaths, of the many Vanderbilt men.

The last part of the book spends time exploring the late Gloria Vanderbilt, Cooper’s mother. These passages are the most emotional in the book.

Cooper, who is now a father, explains how writing the book helped to provide a historical context which his son can read about in later life to understand the story behind the stories, and tall tales, written about their family.


What We Are Reading Today: Dedicated to the Soul

What We Are Reading Today: Dedicated to the Soul
Updated 13 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Dedicated to the Soul

What We Are Reading Today: Dedicated to the Soul

Authors: Ann Conrad Lammers, Thomas Fischer, & Medea Hoch 

“Dedicated to the Soul” brings together previously unpublished materials from Jung’s private archive, introducing her voice into the literature of the early psychoanalytical movement and revealing a vibrant inner life and a glowing presence that until now was known only to her family and a handful of patients, students, and friends.


Book Review: ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison

Book Review: ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison
Updated 12 June 2024
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Book Review: ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison

Book Review: ‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison

“The Bluest Eye,” published in 1970, is the debut novel by acclaimed American author Toni Morrison. 

It tells the story of a young African-American girl called Pecola Breedlove who grows up during the Great Depression and longs to have blue eyes, which she sees as a symbol of beauty and worth.

The novel’s exploration of racism and internalized oppression is one of its most compelling aspects. 

Morrison illustrates how racist beauty standards become internalized, especially by young black girls such as Pecola. She portrays how the dominant white culture’s idealization of white, blue-eyed beauty creates a deep sense of shame and unworthiness in Pecola, who believes her blackness and brown eyes make her inherently ugly.

In the novel, Pecola’s mother Pauline has also adopted these white beauty standards, and in turn projects her own feelings of inadequacy on to her daughter, demonstrating how damaging ideals rooted in racism become embedded within a community over time.

Another aspect of the novel is the nuanced exploration of how economic and social marginalization exacerbates this racism.

Pecola’s family lives in poverty, which further contributes to their sense of debilitation and lack of agency.

“The Bluest Eye” serves as a searing indictment of racism’s corrosive effects, while also acknowledging the complex psychological and social factors at play. 

It received critical acclaim and is considered an important work of 20th-century American literature. Morrison’s vivid and poetic writing style is a hallmark of the novel.