Some of you, who have been here from the start (hello, and thank you) might remember us trying to build a book club last year and ultimately, failing. Maybe because the timing was a little off, or maybe because I had too much on my plate at the moment to rightfully dedicate to it as it deserved, but the good news is this site is one that embraces failed attempts and second chances and by now I think it’s safe to assume that one here has come to lean much on a tight-laced schedule of uniformed postings or strict featured series and time frames. For me, as the moderator it has come to feel like an easy, comfortable space to inhabit. Like a coffee shop on the outskirts of town that you know to be the best kept secret on the block, which serves quality brew AND welcomes you into a mix of warm, friendly, cool women that are manning the joint. Genuinely happy when you walk in the door. Eager to share a new book or recipe recommendation, bitch about their kids, or help convince you that your week’s bound to get better. A place you feel instantly a part of, without ever knowing who you might meet or run into when dropping by. An endearing online environment each of you contributors have helped carve our and support, color and create, forging these kind of sentiments I hope you as the reader might share.
As far as the book club revival goes, I was thinking it might be nice to start with a list of autobiographies. Maybe build a list we are all excited about seeing that we all have different taste in fiction but undoubtably share a love of real life stories, and strong willed women, right? Tales of ladies we love and admire seems to be a sensible place to start. I know I’ve had so many on my list that I’ve been meaning to read for ages now (Diane Keaton, Angelica Houston, Kim Gordon, etc) and can’t think of a better way to begin, than here. With you guys by my side.
So, I’m asking for some thoughts, some suggestions and maybe a little help in getting it going. I’ve heard all kinds of incredible things about Sally Mann’s new book “Hold Still” so I think it makes for a perfect first selection. I’ll be ordering mine sometime this week and if you guys are up for it, we can set up some time frames to sit down here and talk about it here when it’s convenient for the group.
I’d love to hear some thoughts.
About the book / via The Daily Beast
“Hold Still is a beautiful book, often profound and frequently poetic, but it’s real beauty is found in the ease with which Mann moves from the poetic to the comic, often in the same sentence, and the way profundity gives way to doubt or the frank admission of shortcoming. Put another way, reading this book is like watching a superior, quicksilver mind at work, or sitting on a porch at dusk, listening to a particularly beguiling voice.
That voice on the page never seems contrived or labored over. It’s utterly relaxed and easygoing, almost as if the book wrote itself. But as anyone who has ever labored over a book about their past or their families will tell you, there’s nothing easygoing about any of that. Mann just hides the sweat better than most.
She also writes about what it means to be a woman and an artist and how those two things inform one another. And, as you might expect, she writes frankly and at some length—and with a completely justifiable weariness and irritation—about the controversy that erupted in 1992 after she published Immediate Family, a book of photographs chronicling and examining the lives of her three children. Because she dared to make images that called into question almost all our easy assumptions about the innocence of childhood—and more specifically because she had the further temerity to sometimes photograph her children naked as they played and swam on the family farm—she was pilloried by conservatives who called her out as a bad mother and even a child pornographer.
“Everyone is clamoring for the answer to that question—how did those art-abused children turn out?”
She insists, as she has always insisted, that her kids were her collaborators, and the proof is in the photographs: she includes all the false starts that led up to a final successful shot of her son, Emmitt, wading in the river, and it’s clear that the picture would not exist were not both son and mother equally committed and intent upon getting that one right image.
“Children cannot be forced to make pictures like these: mine gave them to me,” she writes. “Every picture represent a gesture of such generosity and faith that I, in turn, felt obliged to repay them by making the best, most enduring images I could.”