Monthly Archives: June 2014

Summer Reading Remix


In anticipation of abundant outdoor leisure time, we tend to be overly ambitious in our summer reading goals. Realistically, most of us will be lucky to finish one book, let alone two or three. How do you go about choosing the perfect beach companion? To help, I’ve made the ultimate summer reading list, culled from magazines and websites.

Personally, I hope to finish “Can’t and Won’t,” the latest short story collection by Lydia Davis, before Independence Day. Davis manages to be profound and succinct; some of her short stories are just a few sentences. You can devour them between sips of iced green tea. What I’ll pick up next is anyone’s guess, but I’m taking inspiration from these awesome lists. Here’s to a summer of blissful reading!

The L.A. Times’ summer books preview is descriptive and comprehensive, I may just pick up the new Ja Rule autobiography.

Books to Read Before They’re Movies, because the book is usually better.

For the young or young at heart: NPR’s A Diverse #SummerReading List For Kids.

If all you really want is for your book to match your summer uniform, these iconic covers make the perfect accessory. Or, reference Vogue’s list of the trendiest soon-to-be bestsellers.

The Best New Books For Your Career. These career-oriented books are the perfect way to plan your next big move while relaxing on the beach.

You can get cracking on what might be the best books of the year, following The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2014.

Finally, summer reading for the cool girls. Hint: Includes the new 33 1/3rd, Liz Phair edition.

Artwork by Natalie. Thanks Jessamy and Linda for your additions.

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May Wrap Up

Bookstore A-Z
I can’t believe June is half over, where did the time go? Even so, here’s a short list of articles that caught my attention in May.

Riding the subway I always stop and marvel at tile mosaics along my journey. A guy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn brilliantly decided to archive them.

A Yeast Archive for endangered beer gives brewers an opportunity to recreate their favorite pour.

The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center memorialized Maya Angelou with a small exhibit of some of her archives.

Add The Metropolitan Museum of Art to the list of major institutions putting vast amounts of images online!

How a physicist resurrected the earliest recordings.” A New Yorker piece about the technology used to digitize brittle recordings.

By blaming smart phones, are we overlooking the real reasons that keep kids from reading?

Artifacts With a Life All Their Own. A loving look at museum artifacts and the unlikely objects that lived history.

Photo taken inside Westsider Books on 80th and Broadway from my Instagram.

John Cage’s life in the woods

Display Case Cage

Bulbous and ridged, minuscule or robust, mushrooms come in different shapes and sizes. Some have medicinal value or are enjoyed in risotto and on pizza, or taken as hallucinogens. They have a certain mystery and peculiarity that has enchanted artists and scientists alike. John Cage, a seminal experimental composer and artist, was one of them.

Cage’s fascination with mushrooms began in Stony Point, New York, where he lived in small quarters as part of a cooperative. For privacy, Cage took long walks in the woods and found a lot of different types of mushrooms. Cage referred to himself as an amateur mushroom hunter. Nevertheless, Cage co-founded the New York Mycological Society. With co-founder and friend Lois Long he published “The Mushroom Book” in 1972. Lois Long provided lovely illustrations with classification from mycologist Alexander H. Smith. “The Mushroom Book” was on display recently at The Horticultural Society of New York in an exhibit titled “By leaves or play of sunlight.”


Installation view of display case with Mushroom Book (1972) by John Cage with Lois Long and Alexander H. Smith, © John Cage Trust at Bard College. Photo: The Horticultural Society of New York.

Display Case Cage

Chris Murtha, the director of membership and programs at The Horticultural Society of New York, curated the show. When Murtha went to the exhibition “Dancing Around the Bride” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he was struck by Cage’s edible drawings. The edible drawings are compositions made of organic ingredients that could be found at a health food store. When Murtha saw these sheets of pepper, beans, and bitter melon, he made a note to do something at the society relating to Cage’s use of organic matter.

A little over a year later two edible drawings are on display at the society alongside “The Mushroom Book.” More a portfolio than a book, “The Mushroom Book” consists of images of mushrooms and text inspired by nature on large unbound lithographs. “The set that is on view in our show was framed for a performance and one-day exhibition organized by the New York Mycological Society at Cooper Union,” said Murtha. “When I heard that it was only on view for one day, I figured we should display it for a longer period, so more people could see it.” The John Cage Trust, which preserves and archives Cage’s legacy, lent The Horticultural Society framed work from “The Mushroom Book.”

John Cage, Edible Drawing #4, 1990, Bitter melon, pepper, and greens dried into a sheet, Edition of 6, 9 x 11 ½ inches. Courtesy Margarete Roeder Gallery; © John Cage Trust at Bard College.

Mushroom Detail

Cage’s intention with the written pages was to have viewers hunt for the text, in the way you would hunt mushrooms in nature. Cage used ancient Chinese techniques for composing his handwritten prints. His pages included stories about mushrooms, quotes from Henry David Thoreau, Buckminster Fuller, and incorporate mesostic poems, which are built around a “spine” word or phrase. The text brought to mind field notes, overlapping  and randomly composed on the page. Without realizing, I walked a full circle around a display table reading one print.

Is there a relationship between Cage’s interest in chance and his attraction to the random ways that fungi appear in nature? Murtha suggested that’s not likely. “Because Cage applied chance operations to many of his projects we tend to associate that with chaos and messiness,” said Murtha. “As much as he liked the idea of chaos, I can’t help but feel that he also liked to create a structure in which he could experiment.” Even so, I think the exhibition is an example of how archives can still surprise people who think they’ve seen all sides of a well known figure.

Detail of Mushroom Book


There’s a pleasure in eating don’t you agree?
But you couldn’t live on mushrooms?
No, they’re not nourishing.
Do you have favorites?
I like the ones I have. If you like the ones you don’t have, then you’re not happy.

- Lisa Low (1985)

Excerpt from “Conversing with Cage” by Richard Kostelanetz.

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