100 Best-ish Nonfiction Titles: Culture
19 October 2011
And it's back to our discussion of Time's Best 100 Nonfiction List; or, to be more accurate, our alternate and much more exciting list of our own 100 Best-ish Nonfiction titles!
My apologies for not posting yesterday; the next category up was "Culture," and I didn't quite know what to do with that category. Just reading that heading bores me, frankly. And their choices didn't exactly set me on fire either:
The American Cinema, by Andrew Sarris
A Child of the Century, by Ben Hecht
Within the Context of No Context, by George W.S. Trow
Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus
The Story of Art, by E.H. Gombrich
I'm completely out of my element here, because not only have I not read any of these books, I've never heard of them. Although I think I've read something by Greil Marcus, and I seem to have okay associations with that name. (Do you remember authors that way too? I couldn't tell you what I've read by Greil Marcus, but I think my overall impression of him was favorable.) So what do we do here?
Well, largely I'm going to wimp out on the list, primarily because I don't understand the heading. Does "Culture" mean "Criticism"? Anything "Vaguely Artsy"? "Liberal Arts Stuff We Don't Know Where Else to Put"? But just because I can't think of many specific titles (I tend to avoid real intellectual criticism, as well as real in-depth works ABOUT art) doesn't mean I can't make some broader suggestions:
FILM: Skip the criticism, for the most part. If you're dying to know about film, just get your hands on an actual (good and readable, I remember it from school) textbook like David Bordwell's classic Film History: An Introduction. But the best thing to do for film is find a good biography of any film person you like: actor, director, etc. I've read a ton of "film biographies" in my time (James Dean, Cary Grant, Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, etc. ad infinitum) and they were always great reads, in terms of life stories and for providing insight about film.
ART: Just grab some big coffee table books of sculptors, photographers, artists, or periods you find interesting. You'll learn a lot more just soaking up the pictures than you would struggling through a book of essays or criticism in which you're just not that interested. If you're up for watching something, Simon Schama's The Power of Art was a lot of fun.
LIT CRIT: I'll admit it; I've got nothing here. Maybe something in this category will occur to me when we consider essays...Does anyone else have any Lit Crit or Culture titles they want to suggest?