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Weekly Alibi Speed Reader

By Aaron Emmel, Julie Birnbaum, Brendan Doherty, Blake de Pastino

JUNE 8, 1998: 

The Art of Exile
by Friends of Tibetan Women's Association (Museum of NM Press, paper, $29.95)

This book is gorgeous. Period. It's the result of a painting club established in 1995 by the Friends of Tibetan Women's Association, providing Tibetan refugee children in India with a way to express the experience of exile. Proceeds support the Tibetan Homes Foundation, which was established in 1962 under the direction of the Dalai Lama to receive the waves of refugee children escaping persecution in Tibet, often through life-threatening journeys after the loss of their families. But the first pages of The Art of Exile will mesmerize you long before you remember how critical these causes are. Interspersed with the children's lush paintings are stunning photographs of life in Tibet and the young artists at work on their images: unflinching, romantic but not sentimental, entrancing. In between these are commentaries on the pictures and interviews with the artists. The Art of Exile is not just a book to look at; it's a book to explore. (AE)

Chicano Art
by Alicia Gaspar de Alba (University of Texas Press, paper, $19.95)

Politically charged, spiritually informed, colorful and passionate--possibly the most powerful part of this book is the 21 color photographs of artwork from Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985 (CARA), a traveling art exhibition in the early 1990s. Gaspar de Alba's scholarly work focuses on the CARA show, the first exhibit organized by and for Chicanos/as in collaboration with mainstream art institutions. Her study includes a theoretical discussion of the place of Chicano/a culture in the United States, moves through an "open house" of the exhibit's 10 rooms and chronicles the politics of its selection process and public reception. De Alba's perspective as a feminist Chicana scholar gives her work a distinctive, edgy voice, and her critique of American ideas of multiculturalism is unique and intelligent. This book is heavy with academic theory and buzzwords, more appropriate for a college course than a summer reading list, but interesting to anyone with a serious interest in Chicano/a culture and art. (JB)

Flow Chart
by John Ashbery (Noonday, paper, $15)

Throughout Ashbery's writing life, longer and longer series of epic poems poured from his pen. From The Skaters in 1966 to 1984's Flow Chart, his remarkable series draws a crooked line through the best of the lyrical word-based poems. In Flow Chart, Ashbery has laid down guidelines and made his mark on the language. It is the magnum opus of an artist at his top form. He is completely obsessed, as most poets are wont to be, with the sound of words. Reading and rereading the poem's passages out loud reveal their strength and their strange beauty and purity. Here the story is not so important as the telling, the exposition and the language choice from word to word in its pure lingual form. Generally recognized as his best long work, this is a beautiful re-release for the Pulitzer Prize, National Book and National Book Critics Circle Award winner. Consider this book among the 50 most important books of poetry of this era. (BD)

The Falling Boy
by David Long (Plume, paper, $12.95)

Finally, someone other than John Updike is writing novels about men cheating on their wives. Old John has practically built his career on the notion of infidelity, slathering it with his giddy sort of masculinity. But David Long has come along to put his own spin on this conceit. The Falling Boy is Long's first novel, the story of a Montana carpenter, Mark Singer, whose marriage introduces him to the lush, loving chaos of family life--as well as to his wife's enigmatic sister, Linny. But rather than becoming a midlife-crisis story of sex and redemption, The Falling Boy is actually a painful lesson in self-discovery and dumb luck; in many ways, in fact, the author seems more sensitive to his women characters than to his hapless protagonist, and this puts him about as far away from Updike as a writer can get. David Long belongs to that growing cadre of young, rugged writers that includes Chris Offutt and Kevin Canty, and his prose resonates with the sturdy, no-frills style that many in that pack are known for. You may want to remember his name. (BdeP)

--Aaron Emmel, Julie Birnbaum, Brendan Doherty and Blake de Pastino

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