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- September 16, 1991
- Vol. 36
- No. 10
Picks and Pans: Pages
New for Children
Great photographers know what their subjects are...what moves them deeply," writes Fulton, a curator at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., in this study of Mark's work.
In her 25-year career, Mark has shown a rare empathy for her subjects—mostly nonfamous people, often anonymous people, frequently people on an edge. Never a journalistic fly on the wall, she lives the lives of her subjects. "The longer I stay, the closer I can get," she has said.
In 1976 she spent 36 days in a women's maximum security unit of an Oregon mental hospital. Her pictures of these inmates appear in a section called "Confinement." (The mentally ill, she notes, "tell us about inhibitions and all those things that we hide so much....the emotions are pure.")
Many of Mark's subjects are confined, if not by walls in institutions, then by lives with few choices.
In 1983 Mark was assigned by LIFE to photograph runaway kids on the Seattle streets—an assignment that yielded her best-known essay. That article also led to her book Streetwise and an acclaimed documentary film.
The collective impact of the black-and-white photographs in this retrospective is hardly cheering: A rural Texas boy lies in a sheetless bed next to a dirty refrigerator filled with junk—sneakers, hangers—but no food. Junkies shoot up in London. Residents of Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying sadly await the end.
There are few bright moments. Even Edgar Bergen, carefully packing his sidekick Charlie McCarthy into a suitcase, provides an eerie portrait.
The final section of the book, "Indian Circus," derived from two recent trips Mark made to India to shoot circuses, provides less depressing shots. Mark has already been compared to Margaret Bourke-White, W. Eugene Smith and Diane Arbus. But this book is a fitting testimonial to her own unique talents—to be revealing but not intrusive, provocative but not exploitive. "I like feeling that I'm able to be a voice for those people who aren't famous," Mark says, "the people that don't have the great opportunities." (Bulfinch, $60)
by Hume Cronyn
Memory can be a judicious editor, omitting trial and tribulation. It can also be a terrible liar." So Cronyn, one of his generation's most esteemed actors, explains his title, and this engaging memoir is short on tribulation. Born 80 years ago to an aristocratic Canadian family, Cronyn got his big break at 24, has been in demand since, and for 50 years has been married, by all accounts happily, to Jessica Tandy. His honors include a National Medal of Arts, Tony and Emmy awards, an Oscar nomination (for The Seventh Cross) and election to the Theater Hall of Fame.
Cronyn recounts a leisurely youth, but the pace quickens with his arrival, at 21, in New York City to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Then in 1935 he ended up as the lead in a road company of George Abbott's Broadway success Three Men on a Horse. In 1940, after a brief marriage to a fellow acting student, Cronyn met Tandy, then unhappily married to British actor Jack Hawkins.
"The odds," he says, "were impossible....Why then did I fall in love? Because that condition has damn-all to do with rational thinking."
Cronyn and Tandy married in 1942, had two children and have triumphed apart and together.
A Terrible Liar has its slow stretches, in particular those recording the building of a home on a remote Bahamian island and a 1965 African safari.
But Cronyn is an excellent raconteur; there are fine sketches of Alfred Hitchcock and James Dean and of John Gielgud directing the Richard Burton Hamlet. An account of the filming, in Rome, of the Burton-Taylor Cleopatra is terrific stuff.
The book tracks Cronyn's life only to 1966. He does assess himself at 50: "In the theater I was established, but not a star.... In films I was just another useful character actor." Elsewhere, he cites a law of physics. Kirchhoff's Law of Radiation: "The best absorbers are the best emitters." Actors, he observes, "are in the business of emitting—of giving out—and you can't give out what you haven't taken in."
Kirchhoff holds true for writers also, and Cronyn, having absorbed for a long time, emits wonderfully well. (Morrow, $23)
by Anne Tyler
It's a big event in a Tyler novel when someone goes out to buy cat food. Sex and violence are all but nonexistent. Even the common domestic crises that frequently strike her characters are detailed in a matter-of-fact manner.
Yet she is such a student of the art of living with uncertainty, such a connoisseur of the nuances of surprise, that her books are full of energy, like calm rivers with powerful currents.
The protagonist of her 12th novel is Ian Bedloe, a 17-year-old Baltimore boy who comes to feel responsible for the death of his elder brother—and ultimately to take responsibility for raising the brother's baby daughter and two young stepchildren.
Despite his devotion to his own sense of guilt, to the storefront church where he seeks? refuge and to the children, Ian grows into a reticent man—thus the nickname of the title. As years pass, Tyler explores the relationships among the children and between them and Ian; she also maintains a touching subplot revolving around Ian's exhausted, aging parents.
This is in fact a most eloquent consideration of the costs of love.
Ian eventually goes to work for a master carpenter whose deafness protects him from the world and who is here being berated by his son: "The cabinetmaker went on about his business, measuring the counter's length now and the height of the empty space above it. Surely he must have known the son was speaking to him, but he seemed totally absorbed in what he was doing. Once again, Ian envied the man his insular, impervious life."
The book spans 24 years in little more than 300 pages, at times compressing the characters uncomfortably. Yet that fast-forwarding enhances Tyler's ability to ponder how people confront the consequences of their actions—how tempting it is to indulge in emotional hit-and-run, how grueling it can be to stay and face the music and how, once in a while, the music gives you something to dance about. (Knopf, $22)
by Marian Thurm
If this fifth book by the author of Walking Distance is an accurate depiction of our circumstances, there can be no further doubt about the state of Western civilization: confused.
A happily remarried man, Spike Goldman is distressed to find that Leora, his beloved second wife (and mother of his newborn son) has struck up a friendship with his ex-wife, Suzanne. Leora, for her part, resents Spike's closeness with his longtime shrink and sees her friendship with Suzanne as Spike's just deserts. Meanwhile, Leora's widowed father, Alexander, has taken up with his house-keener, a woman so warmhearted and commonsensical that even Alexander's shocked family and friends eventually come to accept her.
Clearly, Thurm is attempting to use these self-consciously wacky characters and situations to expose some Truths about Modem Relationships; what she has produced is a fairly obvious novel that resorts to just about every modern urban cliché. (Bantam, $19.50)
by Sidney Sheldon
Peter Benchley rewrites Jaws with an ecological theme. Naked Gun 2½ takes on an energy-wasting cartel. Now, Sheldon chimes in with a save-the-planet plot.
Of course, for Sidney, that means having the glamorous heroine—Jaclyn Smith, here's your Burning Bed—arrive on a UFO.
As the novel opens, Comdr. Robert Bellamy has sacrificed his marriage and any semblance of a life to his Naval Intelligence job. But it's when he gets a wake-up call from the National Security Agency that his troubles really begin.
Bellamy is told to track down a busload of tourists who witnessed the crash of a NATO weather balloon. His instructions are to find the witnesses—who, the agency says, may have glimpsed some top-secret military equipment—and turn over their names to NSA. "Others," he is told, "will talk to them about the necessity of silence."
Sound fishy? Not to Robert, who, while he can speak six languages and survive death by burning aircraft, can't spot a spy twist without a gun pointed at his head.
Oh, well. Eventually—some 200 pages after the reader—Robert catches on to the real menace, and the obvious conspiracy does little to impair Sheldon's rip-roaring chase. Nor does his sentimental environmental message fail to impress.
Contemporary and compelling, this novel unfolds at the speed of an escaping saucer (and yes, Sheldon hints, he believes!). It is also a reminder that—TV movies be damned—the oft-ridiculed author remains the master of the best-selling game. (Morrow, $22)
>AT THE ZOO
YEP, Paul Simon is RECYCLING HIS OLD SONG. QUESTION is, How will the "hamsters turn on frequently" line be handled in a kids' book? It appears the hamsters just turn on their headlamps to warm up a polar bear. Right. Otherwise the tune's lyrics make for a lively book. The whimsically anthropomorphizing drawings by Valéie Michaut have a life of their own. (Two reactionary zebras, in police uniforms, have name tags: STARSKY and HUTCH.) This could provide Simon with a new subindustry; imagine, say, "The Boxer," complete with a horse on Seventh Avenue. (Double-day, $15)
- Maddy Miller,
- Jeff Brown,
- Ralph Novak,
- Sara Nelson,
- Susan Toepfer.
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