Arts & Culture


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Venus Betrayed: The Private World of Edouard Vuillard
Julia Frey ’77PhD
Reaktion Books, $55

“One of the best-selling portrait painters of his time,” art historian Frey writes, the French artist Vuillard (1868–1940) was “a secretive man, careful to safeguard his privacy.” But his art is “primarily autobiographical,” and Frey has used it, along with Vuillard’s journal, photographs, letters, and notes from contemporaries, to explore his life. Vuillard’s creativity constantly “pulled him in opposing directions,” she writes, but it resulted in “a sort of magic common to all brilliant creators.”

The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World

Janice Kaplan ’76
Dutton, $27

“Genius requires some combination of innate intelligence, passion, and a dedication to hard work,” writes Kaplan. But to actually be recognized as one of the “innovators and visionaries who shake the world” too often requires something else: a Y chromosome. Kaplan helps to correct the record. She introduces her readers to brilliant, game-changing women—from all-but-unknown Rembrandt contemporary Clara Peeters to Nobel-deserving physicist Lise Meitner—and describes how and why they’ve been kept in the shadows.

Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love,
Liberty, and Law

Jeffrey Rosen ’91JD
Henry Holt, $28

“One of the luckiest relationships of my life began with a chance encounter in an elevator,” writes law journalist Rosen. In 1991, on his way from one floor to another, he met then–federal appeals court judge Ruth Ginsburg, and he asked her about opera. The icebreaker opened a conversation that is still continuing. This insightful book is drawn from interviews in which Rosen asked the pioneering gender-equality lawyer and longtime Supreme Court justice about a wide range of topics, including Roe v. Wade, her friendship with late colleague Antonin Scalia, the future of the Court, and her metamorphosis from “flaming feminist” to “Notorious RBG.”

Designing Babies: How Technology Is Changing the Ways We
Create Children

Robert L. Klitzman ’85MD
Oxford University Press, $29.95

Several years ago, Klitzman, a bioethicist and professor of psychiatry, was asked by a friend looking for a sperm donor: “Do you want to be the father of my child?” In this book, he examines “a new world of mechanical reproduc-tion,” with its remarkable technologies that “offer both boons and potential perils.” With sex no longer required for continuing humanity, he writes, “we stand now at a great crossroads, able as never before to mold our descendants’ and species’ genetic future. We must prepare.”

The Bower
Connie Voisine ’86
University of Chicago Press, $18

There’s a classic ballad “about a lover who builds a bower of wild mountain thyme,” writes poet Voisine. After her young daughter sings it to her, Voisine uses the song as a springboard for a book- length poem about a year in Belfast with her daughter (called “D” in the book). The poem melds intimate aspects of that city with Irish folktales and the impacts of “The Troubles,” the brutal sectarian violence that rocked Northern Ireland for decades. “As she races to the other curb, D stomps a murky puddle as hard as she is able,” writes the poet, in a meditation about healing. “Starting over might be this, a dear foot, a soaked shoe, skipping through.”

In That Time: Michael O’Donnell and the Tragic Era of Vietnam
Daniel H. Weiss ’85MPPM
PublicAffairs Books, $26

“If you are able / save for them a place inside of you,” wrote poet and helicopter pilot Michael O’Donnell on New Year’s Day in 1970, from his base in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam. Three months later, the writer, musician, and extraordinarily brave leader was killed trying to rescue his comrades. When Weiss read O’Donnell’s plea for remembrance, it stayed with him. The academic and administrator, now head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, answered the call with this book about a forgotten hero in a futile war—“to understand the magnitude of his loss, and ours.”

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