Monthly Archives: April 2015

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Out of Sight’: Comprehensive, Readable History of Los Angeles Art Scene in the 1960s

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Out of Sight': Comprehensive, Readable History of Los Angeles Art Scene in the 1960s
Los Angeles typically doesn’t get any respect, and the situation was even worse in the 1950s and 1960s when it came to the fine arts, writes William Hackman in “Out of Sight: The Los Angeles Art Scene in the Sixties’ (Other Press, 256 pages, in-text photos, color insert, $27.95).
Histories of modern are typically — and rightly — centered in Paris and New York, where museums, collectors and dealers were well established to serve artists. Until 1965, there was no art museum, few collectors of note and even fewer galleries in Los Angeles, Hackman writes.

All this changed in the 1950s and 1960s, when Los Angeles experienced a burst of artistic energy and invention rivaling New York’s burgeoning art scene a half-century earlier. As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has noted, it was “a euphoric moment,” at a “time when East and West coasts seemed evenly matched.”

“Out of Sight” tells of the quick  rise, fall, and rebirth of the L.A. art scene—from the emergence of a small bohemian community in the 1950s to the founding of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1980— and explains how artists such as Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, and Ken Price reshaped contemporary art. Hackman also explores the ways in which the L.A. art scene reflected the hopes and fears of postwar America—both the self-confidence of an increasingly affluent middle class, and the anxiety produced by violent upheavals at home and abroad. Perhaps most of all, he pays tribute to the city that gave birth to a fascinating and until now overlooked moment in modern art.

Having lived in Los Angeles in the 1970s through 1992, I saw much of this expansion of the Big Orange into a major art center. Hackman quickly filled in the gaps in my knowledge of the art scene. It’s a wonderfully readable account, accessible to the general reader as well as the art specialist.

About the Author
William Hackman, longtime arts journalist and former managing editor for public affairs at the J. Paul Getty Trust, has written extensively about the visual and performing arts. His essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in major American newspapers and magazines, including the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times. His books include Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for the Art Spaces series (Scala, 2008), and Inside the Getty (J. Paul Getty Trust, 2008). He lives in Los Angeles.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Losing Faith’: Complications Abound in Legal Thriller

Legal thrillers/mysteries are one of my guilty pleasures and — judging from the best-seller lists — are favorites of many readers.
We can’t get enough of John Grisham, Scott Turow, Andy Siegel and Lis Wiehl. (If that last name doesn’t ring a bell, check out my June 18, 2012 review of her excellent thriller set in Portland, OR,  “Eyes of Justice” (http://www.huntingtonnews.net/35936). Wiehl is one of the many legal commentators on cable news programs.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Losing Faith': Complications Abound in Legal Thriller

I hadn’t heard of Adam Mitzner until I read his latest legal novel, “Losing Faith” (Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 368 pages, $26.00).

One feature that seems to be present in legal thrillers is the older lawyer in a firm — or elsewhere — counseling a younger man. In “Losing Faith” the older mentor of Aaron Littman, the chief litigator of Cromwell Altman, is Sam Rosenthal.

He’s the lawyer who recruited the young law school graduate to the most powerful law firm in New York City. Flash to the present: Aaron, 51, is the premier lawyer of his generation and the chairman of Cromwell Altman. And his old friend and mentor Sam Rosenthal is telling him he’s wrong to represent Nicolai Garkov, accused of laundering money for the  Russian Mafia and financing a terrorist bombing in Red Square that killed twenty-six people, including three American students.

Garkov wants the best representation, so he sends his current lawyer to Aaron to tell him he wants Aaron as his  counsel. Garkov freely admits his guilt to Aaron, at the same tim presenting Aaron with a plan for exoneration that includes blackmailing the presiding judge, the Honorable Faith Nichols.

If the judge won’t do his bidding, Garkov promises to go public with  evidence of an affair between Aaron and Faith— which would not only destroy their reputations but quite possibly end their careers. It would certainly destroy Aaron’s happy marriage to Cynthia, a physician.

The novel is replete with details of the office politics of the big law firms — not to mention many plot  twists and turns. In addition to being a legal thriller, “Losing Faith” deals with  psychological game of power, ethics, lies, and justice. Did I like it? Yes!

Adam Mitzner

Adam Mitzner

About the Author

In addition to being the author of three legal thrillers, Adam Mitzner is currently also the head of the litigation department of Pavia & Harcourt LL in midtown Manhattan. He lives in New York City with his wife and children. Adam graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. and M.A. in politics, and from the University of Virginia School of Law. He’s the author of “A Case of Redemption” and “A Conflict of Interest.” .

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System’: Marketing Guru with Economics Education Offers Fixes

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

Capitalism is clearly troubled, as Philip Kotler writes so eloquently in “Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System” (AMACOM, the American Management Association, notes, index,  256 pages, $26.00, available from Amazon.com and other online sellers).

BOOK REVIEW: 'Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System': Marketing Guru with Economics Education Offers Fixes

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Communism — even Communist China is essentially a Capitalistic country — Capitalism is the only game in town, so to speak. Kotler says Capitalism has developed flaws that prevent it from doing its job. He identifies 14  major problems undermining capitalism, including persistent poverty, job creation in the face of automation, high debt burdens, the disproportionate influence of the wealthy on public policy, steep environmental costs, boom-bust economic cycles, etc.,  and devotes a chapter to each of the 14 flaws.
Kotler is a marketing guru, so where does he get off writing about Capitalism? For one thing, marketing may be one of the purest forms of Capitalism — in my opinion — and for another Kotler is a classically trained economist  — earning his master’s degree in economics (1953)  from the University of Chicago, under Milton Friedman;  and his Ph.D. degree in economics (1956) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) studying under Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow. Chances are, if you took economics in college, as I did, you used a textbook written by Samuelson.

In other words, he studied under three of the most diametrically opposed practitioners of the Dismal Science! And all three are Nobel laureates! Friedman, the icon of the Chicago School of Economics, represents free market economics; Samuelson and Solow are Keynesians.

While reading Kotler’s very accessible book — translation, no complicated math — I came across essays by two diverse critics of Capitalism: Noam Chomsky and Robert Reich.

Chomsky deals with the corporatization of higher education: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/29348-the-death-of-americ…. Noting the beyond all reason increase in the cost of college, Chomsky writes that it’s free in most developed countries, including Finland, Germany and Mexico.

Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary — now teaching at UC-Berkeley — writes eloquently on the working poor and non-working rich: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/29395-the-rise-of-the-wor….

Kotler tries his best to take the “Dismal” out of economics, showing how there are movements toward shared prosperity and a higher purpose than materialistic  “getting and spending.”.

That phrase comes from a sonnet — quoted on page 217– by the great English poet William Wordsworth: “The world is too much with us; late and soon; /  Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; / Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

As an English major, I was impressed with Kotler’s choice of poems; It shows that he’s much more than an economics trained marketing expert:  He grasps the contradictions of Capitalism that need to be addressed.

If you want to understand what’s really wrong with  our present system of Capitalism running amok, you’ll have to read Kotler’s book. If you don’t read anything else about the subject this year, grab hold of this book and be prepared for surprises. Kotler combines economic history, expert insight, business lessons, and recent data in a groundbreaking book that shows we can have a   healthier, more sustainable Capitalism—a system that works for all.

Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler

About the author

Philip Kotler is the S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has been honored as one of the world’s leading marketing thinkers. He received his M.A. degree in economics (1953) from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. degree in economics (1956) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and has received honorary degrees from twenty-one foreign universities. He is the author of over 57 books and over one hundred and fifty articles. He has been a consultant to IBM, General Electric, Sony, AT&T, Bank of America, Merck, Motorola, Ford, and others. The Financial Times included him in its list of the top 10 business thinkers. They cited his Marketing Management book as one of the 50 best business books of all times. More is available on www.pkotler.org.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Don’t Forget Me, Bro’: You Not Only CAN Go Home Again, You Must

Regular readers of my book reviews — and I hope you all are regular –know that I’m a big fan of the writing of John Michael Cummings, a native West Virginian.

Here is a link to my previous reviews of fiction by Cummings: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/15900

BOOK REVIEW: 'Don't Forget Me, Bro': You Not Only CAN Go Home Again, You Must

His latest novel, “Don’t Forget Me, Bro” (Stephen F. Austin University Press, Nacogdoches, TX, 230 pages, quality paperback, $18.00, available at Amazon.com and other online vendors) is the first-person account of 42-year old Mark Barr, who has traveled to West Virginia from his home in Brooklyn, NY to honor the wishes of his older brother, Steve.

Mark Barr is the only member of his family to leave the Mountain State; he’s lived in DC,  Minnesota, Rhode Island and now shares an apartment in Brooklyn with his girlfriend, Lisa, a lawyer. The relationship is rocky, pretty much the norm for Mark. He was briefly married, but the marriage institution turned out to be not for him. He’s reluctant to visit West Virginia, knowing that the memories of his life there will be anything but enjoyable.

His trip to West Virginia in a purple Mercury Grand Marquis, the only rental car available in South Park Slope that day in 2007,  becomes a journey of self-discovery. Mark discovers that his parents, separated and living apart but still married (they’re Catholics) have radically differing views of mentally ill Steve Barr. His father, whom Mark considers to be an abusive man, remembers Steve as a broken, hopeless schizophrenic.

Other people Mark encounters, including photographer Whitey Upton, who’s taken hundreds of photographs of Steve, believe that Steve lived a far more complicated life in his government subsidized apartment behind the Alma, WV Wal-Mart.

The burial plans for Steve are complicated when Mark and his brother Jeff discover that their father decides on cremation over burial in the local Catholic cemetery. It’s a shock to everyone — No Barr has ever been cremated. It’s not what Irish Catholics do.

First and foremost, Cummings is a wonderful story teller. His people have an air of authenticity about them. They’re people we’ve encountered on this strange journal through life. We’re all strangers in a strange land, but from my 16 years of living in West Virginia (1992-2008) I’ve learned that strangeness often becomes what passes for normal in the state.

“Don’t Forget Me, Bro” is a beautifully written novel. Some people might find the portrait of Alma WV and other parts of the state to be negative, but reality is what the author deals with — and has dealt with in his previous short stories and his novel. An important point: Cummings mixes real and fictional places in West Virginia, so don’t go looking for Alma on a map.

John Michael Cummings

John Michael Cummings

About the Author
John Michael Cummings is a fifth-generation native of historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, site of abolitionist John Brown’s raid in 1859, when the town was still part of Virginia. Cummings is the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel “The Night I Freed John Brown” (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2008), winner of The Paterson Prize and recommended by USA TODAY for Black History Month.

His 2011 short story collection, “Ugly To Start With” (West Virginia University Press), was an IndieFab Award Finalist hailed by The Philadelphia Inquirer for its “sharp observation and surpassing grace.”

His latest novel, “Don’t Forget Me, Bro” (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2015) has been excerpted in The Chicago Tribune.

Over the last twenty years, Cummings’ short stories and essays have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including The Iowa Review, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Kenyon Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story “The Scratchboard Project” received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

Cummings holds a B.A. in studio art from George Mason University and an MFA in creative writing from University of Central Florida.