In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. What Are You Reading This Month?
In Pieces by Sally Field
Those looking for a sunny memoir from perennial girl next door Sally Field will be disappointed by her dark new autobiography. In Pieces is, instead, a stirring story of a woman who overcame about as hard a childhood as one can imagine, including a sexually abusive stepfather. She became the breadwinner for her whole family at too young an age by playing the cheerful titular TV surf teen in Gidget, eventually studying at the Strasberg Institute and later becoming an Academy Award-winning actress. Audiences were startled when the actor who was once the Flying Nun won an Emmy for playing a woman with alleged dissociative identity disorder in the breakthrough 1976 TV movie Sybil. Those fans will find that transition less surprising after learning about Field’s own experiences with stress and depression. If you think you know the actor from her TV and movie roles, you’re wrong. Even with Field’s decades-long career, she’s only more impressive after bravely and vulnerably documenting her various struggles in this remarkable book. [Gwen Ihnat]
Silver Lake Drive by Alex Prager
Alex Prager began her photography career idolizing Weegee and William Eggleston, and the Los Angeles native’s work does celebrate stolen moments and vivid colors, albeit with the cinematic sensibility of Cindy Sherman. Prager, who started out with a secondhand camera and darkroom equipment purchased on eBay, mounted her first exhibition in 2005, but Chronicle’s new monograph Silver Lake Drive picks up with her 2007 collection Polyester, a series of photographs of women with perfect blond coifs and flicked black eyeliner clad in the titular fabric. Her subsequent shows, The Big Valley and Week-end & The Long Weekend, retain that same sense of tongue-in-cheek Technicolor vulgarity, featuring women in meticulously composed tableaux designed to mimic film stills à la Sherman’s celebrated Untitled Film Stills series. Compulsion, from 2012, similarly evokes a famous work of pop art—namely, Andy Warhol’s Death And Disasters series—by juxtaposing images of women in hyper-stylized peril with close-ups of heavily made-up eyes. Prager’s most fascinating series is A Face In The Crowd, an ambitious collection of large-format photographs that painstakingly pose large groups of people in vintage costumes from the ’50s through the ’80s. What makes the images so special is not only their rich color palettes and endlessly absorbing detail, but also Prager’s inclusion of a single person either looking directly into the camera or staring wistfully off into the distance, out of step with the people around her. Fans of Anna Biller and David Lynch will eat up the “impossible worlds” of Prager’s work and Silver Lake Drive like a Jell-O parfait: They’re wholly artificial, but delicious nonetheless. [Katie Rife]
Good Night, Little Monsters by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Brian Won
As a new parent, I’ve been doing a deep dive into picture books. Reading to my infant twins at night, I’ve been revisiting old classics like Where The Wild Things Are, but I’ve also been checking out stuff at our local library, seeing what’s new in the world of children’s literature. One of my current favorites is a recent release from Scholastic called Good Night, Little Monsters. It’s pretty basic, with each page featuring a classic monster telling their little baby werewolf, mummy, or demon that it’s time to turn out the lights, but both the prose and the drawings are funny and delightful. The vampire girl, for instance, is hanging upside down from the shower rod as her mom extols her to take one last drink before she calls it a night, and deep-cut ghoulies—like the Loch Ness Monster—make an appearance, too. It’s just as fun for me to read as a parent as it is for my kids to look at, and I’ve found myself coming back to it time and time again, just because there’s always something new to find. Consider this my ringing—and chilling—endorsement. [Marah Eakin]