2022 ROUND-UP OF BOOKS reviewed by Robert Tanitch

2022 ROUND-UP OF BOOKS reviewed by Robert Tanitch

WHO SHOT VAN GOGH by Alan Turnbull (Thames & Hudson). Here are facts and counter facts about the world’s most famous artist, who never had a one-man show in his lifetime. It’s an enjoyable and easy to dip into collage of incongruities and ambiguities and changing perceptions of Vincent’s life and work. It is Sunflowers, which so uniquely defines the artist. You will be surprised to learn he thought The Night Café one of the ugliest paintings he had produced. You will want to know why he cut off his ear.

THE COMPLETE TUTANKHAMUN by Nicholas Reeves (Thames & Hudson). This landmark comprehensive archaeological report is beautifully illustrated in full colour throughout. From 1922 onwards, thanks to Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, the tomb’s amazing treasures have continued to capture the imagination of the entire world and astonish everybody. 100 years on the access to Egypt’s past is greater than ever.

AERIAL ATLAS OF ANCIENT BRITAIN by David R Abram (Thames & Hudson). Spectacular, beautiful and awesome images, familiar and lesser known, are captured from the air and given a new and magnificent perspective (viz; the Uffington White Horse to mention just one). The breath-taking photographs and the illuminating commentary instantly whet the appetite to travel to so many of these Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age sites

FILM NOIR PORTRAITS by Tony Normand and Paul Duncan (RAP Reel Art Press). The heyday for hard-boiled, star-studded murder melodramas. with all their brooding menace, passion and pessimism, was the 1940’s and 1950’s. The contrast between shadow and light is as sharp and as stark as the gangsters and molls the actors are playing. All the usual suspects are here: Bogart, Bacall, Mitchum, Ford, Ryan, Stanwyck, Rita Hayworth, Orson Wells, Gloria Swanson. The familiar faces don’t need dialogue. The faces say it all and there are lots of striking portraits. Film Noir fans will be delighted. The book is a killer, a big, big killer.

ASTONISH ME! by Dominic Dromgoole (Profile). First Nights that Changed the World. This first-rate, varied and very enjoyable collection includes the premieres of Chekhov’s The Seagull, Michelangelo’s David, Handel’s Messiah, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Manet’s Dejeuner sur L’herbe. How I wish I had been in Paris on 29 May 1913 at the first night of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Many of these premieres could make an excellent basis for a television series.

MARTIN SCORCESE A Retrospective by Tom Shone (Thames & Hudson) “My whole life has been movies and religion,” says Scorsese. “Films fulfil a spiritual need.” It’s not all violent gangster stuff; though it may seem so at times. Fans of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Color of Money, Goodfellas, The Departed, The Irishman, to name but a few, will love this splendid retrospective. There are over 250 photos.

TREASURES OF UKRAINE (Thames & Hudson) A Nation’s Cultural Heritage. It’s a particularly salutary and deeply poignant moment to be looking though this book, which chronicles the arts and the buildings, castles, cathedrals and churches of a country, which is tragically facing destruction and devastation.

MENU DESIGN IN EUROPE (Taschen). This album is a Visual and Culinary History of Graphic Styles and Design 1800-1900. It’s an amazing, fantastic collection. Menus elevated dining to an art. The menu became an integral and celebrated companion to the meal as an experience. Menus are memories and souvenirs of key events. Menus are works of art. But, soon printed menus will be a thing of the past. This colourful book will show us what we are missing. Bon Appetit, mes amis.

HOUSE ARREST by Alan Bennett (Faber and Profile). Pandemic Diaries is a slim volume. Alan Bennett is 88-years old and his fans will recognise his voice and know what to expect. Which of his works do you think are most likely to last? My guess is his play, The History Boys, the brilliant TV monologues, Talking Heads, and his very readable diaries.

AN A–Z of JANE AUSTEN by Michael Greaney (Bloomsbury). Janites, let me be clear, this collection of essays is strictly for students who are studying or have studied Jane Austen’s novels in depth at university level.