The Persistence of Memory: A Biography of Dali

Meredith Etherington-Smith

For those who slogged through any of Dali’s self-penned, self-invented autobiographical smokescreens, this is like a clear vista through winter air in which all of the edges of things are in sharp focus and the colors are crisp. The author is the European editor of Town and Country, and she understands the machinations of the rich and famous and how the art world really operates. Having gained access to numerous previously unavailable archives and unpublished letters, she has pieced together a realistic narrative of the strange and sometimes banal life of one of the world’s greatest self-promoters. We get a picture of Dali’s strained relation with his family that reached the breaking point when wife Gala took control.
Gala’s story is not a pretty one. She is painted here as a conniving, calculating, petty control freak who eventually held Dali a virtual prisoner in his studio, cranking out society portraits to support their increasingly extravagant lifestyle. By the end of his life, Dali had alienated everybody who should have mattered, and the credibility of his art was at serious risk. The author conveys a lurid story with an even hand. She closes with: “Beneath Dali’s posturing public figure is an artist who never ceased to explore his inner and outer worlds and their possibilities; a painter who never ceased in his endeavors to find a way that painting might advance and inspire in a century increasingly dominated by the abstract marvels of scientific discovery.” SA

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 480 pages

Andy Warhol: Films and Paintings—The Factory Years

Peter Gidal

This little volume, which proves that less is more, is a reprint of a book originally published in 1971, before the diaries and tell-all biographies and while Warhol’s mystique was still firmly intact. It predates the time when Warhol got assimilated into straight society and started doing the portraits, endorsements and general wearing out of his welcome as an innovator. Here was a time when the world was so enthralled with Warhol that a passage like “Warhol has begun to move the camera, speech is becoming more regular, what we are accustomed to hearing, though the layers of satiric and politicosexual meaning are strongly in evidence” carried a sense of revelation about the man and his work. When it came out, this book was the last word on Warhol and remained so for years. It probably had as much to do with shaping the public’s perception of Warhol the artist as anything that he did himself. As Andy is quoted as saying to the author: “Oh, I just love your book, it’s so great, Peter. You’ve got to sign my copy, it’s so fabulous! SA

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 159 pages

Broken Covenant: The Secret Life of Father Bruce Ritter

Charles M. Sennott

Father Bruce Ritter founded a shelter for runaways in Manhattan in 1968. By 1989 the shelter had grown into a national entity and Ronald Reagan had declared Father Ritter an unsung Saint in a State of the Union Address. In 1990, Father Ritter resigned his post amid allegations of child molestation and financial misconduct. No legal charges were ever brought, although there was an “in-house” investigation of charges. This “trial by book” is well-written, exhaustively researched and utterly compelling. SA

Publisher: Pinnacle
Paperback: 512 pages

The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon

Daniel Farson

Farson was a close friend and confidant of Francis Bacon for over 40 years. They drank together and traded notes on many a morning after. The author knew his subject’s kinks and quirks, and shares them in a way that one can imagine would have made Mr. Bacon proud. For Francis Bacon was alarmingly frank about his proclivities in life. His style of painting did not allow for mistakes and bore some resemblance to his penchant for gambling. For Bacon, if the paint didn’t cooperate on the huge, unwieldy, unprimed canvases, they had to be destroyed, and many were. This volume took a certain amount of heat for its frankness, but Francis Bacon was never one to hide under a rock unless it was for a quick bit of shagging. This book is heavy on personal mementos and photographs, with few color plates. SA

Publisher: Pantheon
Hardback: 293 pages

Open All Night

Ken Miller and William T. Vollman

“What makes Ken’s work so remarkable is the sense that these squashed lives are not just isolated bugs on the windshield, but parallel worlds of hermetic secrets… they had an identity and a place; that this was their kingdom with its own rules and stories and lice.”—William T. Vollman, from the introduction.
This is a photo book, somewhat in the tradition of Diane Arbus, where the photographer develops a sense of intimacy and trust with a variety of social outcasts and creates intimate portraits of them. The subjects include skinheads, electroshock patients, prostitutes and addicts. There is something decidedly unsavory about getting this close to these subjects, especially the skinheads, whose ugliest aspects seem self-determined. However, their juxtaposition here with everything that they claim to hate makes for an interesting exercise in contextualization. The life here is just plain low and not “deliciously low.” Each photo is accompanied by text from a Vollman work that either provides a narrative or a counterpoint. SA

Publisher: Overlook
Hardback: 118 pages

Scout‘s Honor: Sexual Abuse in America’s Most Trusted Institution

Patrick Boyle

This is a very even-handed study of documented cases of child molestation which have occurred in the context of scouting. The author, while sitting in on a child-molestation trial, was given free access to over 200 files of similar cases which the lawyer of the current case was using. He noticed certain patterns and similarities in the cases. An article grew into a series of articles and finally into this book. It is not a cheap-shot exposé of the Boy Scouts. It is a well-conceived study of circumstances that can lead to molestation and provides a look at scouting practices that create the greatest risk of enabling it to occur. One might consider such information “an ounce of prevention.” Quite aside from the scouting angle, it is one of the best documents available on the subject of how child molesters operate and how their operations might be prevented. SA

Publisher: Prima
Paperback: 397 pages

A Vindication of the Rights of Whores

Edited by Gail Pheterson

The centerpiece of this book is the World Whore Conferences. Although theirs is often called “the world’s oldest profession,” it is not often that these “professionals” are taken this seriously or afforded such an opportunity to articulate their views. The book begins with a history of prostitute rights organizations which overlaps with many feminist issues, then describes the setting and logistics of the conference. The majority of the book is a series of fascinating first-person narratives which touch on everything from health concerns to socially generated stigmas. Ultimately it is the politics surrounding sex that gets diverse and bizarre, as sex itself is pretty universal. This context of the book affords a close examination of those politics and the basic assumptions about them. SA

Publisher: Seal
Paperback: 297 pages

Worms Eat My Garbage

Mary Appelhof

Mary Appelhof is the type of person who gives ecology a good name. She is the owner of Flower Press and Flowerfield Enterprises, and has dedicated most of her adult life to the development of products and techniques related to the conversion of organic materials into fertile soil using earthworms. She is also a skilled photographer and holds master's degrees in education and the biological sciences. This is her first book. It is a common sense guide to composting using worms, which does not assail the reader with bombast.
Among the topics covered are how to build a worm box, where to keep it, what kind of stuff worms can recycle and what other creatures live in worm boxes. There is a useful glossary of terms which is an amazing read in its own right, as well suggested reading. This book makes a potentially dry subject something of real interest. SA

Publisher: Flower
Paperback: 100 pages