By Bill Marx
In the age of COVID-19, Arts Fuse critics have come up with a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, and music — mostly available by streaming — for the coming weeks. More offerings will be added as they come in.
Attractions in Film — July 26
VIRTUAL WOODS HOLE FILM FESTIVAL
Through August 1
If you purchase a pass, you will be able to log into the streaming platform and watch a film at your leisure at any time. You can then access live events at their scheduled times. Links to the live talks will be provided to you prior to their scheduled times. The festival will post a suggested “watch” time — one that coordinates with the live Q&As. Other live events, such as workshops, panel discussions, conversations with filmmakers, and concerts will also take place at scheduled times. During the week prior to the festival, it will host a number of “Meet the Filmmaker” opportunities which will be free and open to festival ticket and pass holders.
A few feature films of interest to New Englanders:
Born into the Gig: Belmont, MA, native Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s (Oscar nominees in 2017) US premiere of their music-driven documentary that follows five singer-songwriters hoping to carve out their own musical identity in the shadow of their parents’ iconic greatness.
Give or Take, Paul Riccio’s feature debut about a disillusioned New Yorker who goes home to Cape Cod after his father dies to prepare the house for sale, while sharing it with his father’s temperamental live-in boyfriend (Bloodline’s Norbert Leo Butz).
Somewhere with No Bridges, Greater Boston native Charles Frank’s feature directing debut looks at the life of a New England fishing community through the lens of a beloved 44-year-old fisherman who went missing off the shores of Martha’s Vineyard 20 years ago.
Island Queen, Massachusetts-shot short comedy stars former SNL cast member and Lexington native Rachel Dratch and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in a story about a teenage hockey player from an unnamed island who is secretly trying out for the figure skating team.
Entangled, Boston Globe reporter David Abel will present the world premiere of his latest documentary
Virtual Boston French Film Festival
though July 31
The MFA’s French Film Festival is back offering nine recent films and a revival of Claude Sautet’s Cesar and Rosalie from 1972. The cost is low and, although you are not leaving the confines of your home, you are given the opportunity to experience more films than ever this year. Recent offerings include: Bruno DuMont’s Joan of Arc, Albert Serrs’s Liberté, and Lucie Borleteau’s adaptation of the French disturbing best seller The Perfect Nanny. Schedule
Joan of Arc: Bruno DuMont’s Joan of Arc continues the story he began in 2015 with his film, Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. In Dumont’s minimalist universe, there are no battle scenes and no martyrdom by immolation. Instead we get passionate discussions of faith mouthed by a motley assortment of clergy played by mostly nonprofessional actors. Once more as Joan, now 10 years old, is Lise Leplat Prudhomme. She’s not so much acting as saying her lines with all the passion of a child who has to imagine she has led troops into battle and is now standing trial for her life against a rabid clergy that looks like they stepped out of a nuthouse. Her piercing brown eyes draw the camera. The rest of the cast looks to be straight out of a Bruegel painting. The oddball costumes and eccentric mannerisms of these players are a comical contrast to the austere authority asserted by the Amiens Cathedral, the largest church in France. Occasionally, the cast breaks into song. As with the films of Harmony Korine, I find myself transfixed by DuMont’s audacity – a seriocomic exploration of human faith and frailty. This is not a film for every taste, but there is nothing like it.
The Perfect Nanny: In France, Leïla Slimani’s 2016 novel and the film it is based on are titled the same, Chanson Douce, meaning soft song or lullaby. The narrative is based on the real life murder of two siblings in New York in 2012. The current title may lead American audiences to dismissively assume that the focus is a demented caregiver. Because the outcome is known, the film, like the book, takes its time to play with themes of race, class privilege, working motherhood, parental guilt, and family responsibility. The script weaves these ideas together as it builds to a shattering (but not graphic) climax. The nanny (played by Karin Viard) moves from charming to dour a little too quickly. She is overly responsible, shows up for work too early, and slowly loses all sense of propriety. There are no chases or sudden shocks. Knowing where the plot is headed amplifies the small cues and bits of behavior into a psychological thriller of nightmarish proportions.
Virtual Salem Film Festival
through July 30
The Salem Festival was postponed back in March: it is is now online. The all-documentary roundup includes a Retrospective: Black in America series and weekly blocks of four films available online. Schedule of films
See Arts Fuse feature.
Streaming on August 14
Until I saw the film Boys State, I had never heard of this educational program in which students participate in the operation of local, county, and state government through legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, campaigns, and much more. The program provides an education regarding the structure and function of government. Founded in 1935 to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps, the program now exists in nearly every state (excepting Hawaii). Alumni are as diverse as Mike Dukakis, Roger Ebert, James Gandolfini, Dick Cheney, and Tom Cotton (there is also a separate Girls State program).
Directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine covered the Texas program, utilizing seven camera crews with only a week to shoot. The average age of participants is around 17 years. The boys divide into two parties, elect officers, create platforms, campaigns, and deliver speeches before the final vote for a “governor” is cast. The process is not without idealism, but also compromise, and back stabbing. During a talkback following the AFI Online Festival screening, the filmmakers said that what we see is a small part of the rambunctious interplay of 1,100 attendees. They center on four boys from the top of their respective classes who subsequently became leaders in the election of a “governor.” The resulting story speaks to both the dynamics of real world politics and the passion of youth. For better or for worse, the story is a fascinating reflection of our larger political process.
On Demand July 31st
We know the ACLU has been battling for free speech and our constitutional rights for decades, but rarely are we privileged to an inside look at the legal process and the lawyers who fight the good fights. The filmmakers, who brought the outrageous story of Anthony Weiner to the screen, weave together the stories of four ACLU lawyers, each confronting important legal cases: abortion, immigration, LGBTQ, and voting rights. The four cases connect to the larger struggle to defend human rights under the Trump administration. The legal complexities give way to a study in dedication and humanity. These are four charismatic individuals. Watching their process and struggles is essential viewing at a time when many of our basic rights are under continued attack.
Streaming on July 31
In 2018, 18,000 structures were wiped out when the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history consumed the foothill town of Paradise, CA. Donald Trump appears briefly, gets the name of the town wrong, and offers one comment: “This is unacceptable.” That offers little solace to the 85 people who perished, the 50,000 who were displaced, and the 1000 kids without a school. In a Zoom talk-back, director/producer Ron Howard, who created this stirring document, said: “When people rally and there is leadership, things can happen.” This film offers evidence: it emphasizes how tradition and family, not government, was the “essential fabric” that enabled those who chose to stay, to rebuild. There are horrific images of the fire and hair-raising stories of narrow escapes. But the human story is what makes the film remarkable. Town meetings about the culpability of the electric company whose faulty wires ignited the dry brush (likely the result of global warming) offer considerable insight. Crews in hazmat suits clear debris and trailer camps need to be constructed. Still, citizens manage to celebrate the annual Miss Gold Nugget pageant and the high school graduation is held. This is an inspiring documentary for our challenging times.
— Tim Jackson
To honor nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, Kino Lorber is offering a free streaming rerelease of the acclaimed documentary The American Nurse , directed by Carolyn Jones.
This excellent 2014 documentary “explores some of the biggest issues facing America — aging, war, poverty, prisons — through the work and lives of five nurses. It is an examination of real people that will change how we think about nurses and how we wrestle with the challenges of healing America.”
— Bill Marx
Lest We Forget: Kofi Burbridge, streaming at LestWeForgetMusicians.com.
A new 30-minute documentary on keyboard and flute player Kofi Burbridge, a brilliant genre-busting musician who died in 2019 at age 57. The documentary features interviews with Burbridge’s bandmates in the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which he helped found with guitarists Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi and performed with until the time of his death from complications from heart surgery. A variety of players that Burbridge collaborated with during his extensive career, including his brother, Oteil, also weigh in. A portion of the $1.98 streaming fee is being donated to the Music Matters program supported by Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.
— Scott McLennan
Streaming Live at the Village Vanguard continues with the Fred Hersch Trio featuring Drew Gress on bass and Jochen Rueckert on drums. On Friday, July 31 and Saturday, August 1 at 9 p.m. EDT, Tickets are $10.
The pianist is one of the Art Fuse‘s most lauded contemporary artists. I like this passage, where Michael Ullman talks about Hersch and Thelonious Monk: “One of the miraculous accomplishments of Hersch’s playing is his way with Monk. It’s easy when performing Monk to fall into exploiting the older pianist’s eccentricities, hammering a minor second or slamming the piano keys in the musician’s distinctive percussive manner. In contrast, Hersch insinuates himself into Monk compositions stressing the playful rhythmic life of the pieces. And the pianist has a keen eye for Monk’s humor. The results are both respectful and liberating.”
— Bill Marx
Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m. EST
The Boston-based pianist, whose Keep Talkin’ trio disc was one of my favorites of 2019, has been performing free live solo shows from her Cambridge home via Facebook every Friday and Saturday at 9. Miwa’s blog is also a good source of links for live jazz performances, from Jazz at Lincoln Center to Ron Carter’s home and beyond.
— Jon Garelick
I first heard—and met—the engaging and exceedingly talented Mozambican guitarist/singer/composer Albino Mbie at an outdoor Regattabar summer concert in 2013, right after he graduated from Berklee College of Music, and just before the release of his superb first album, Mozambican Dance. Since then, he has made his home in the Boston area and recorded a second album, 2019’s Mafu. His music gathers together African traditions and jazz in a way that recalls his mentors, the Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona and Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke. For this livestream from Cambridge’s Club Passim, Mbie will perform solo versions of tunes from the albums. As he wrote in an email, he will explore “interactive voice looping, rhythms, and acoustic steel and nylon string guitars, 12 string guitar, semihollow body, and an electric guitar, to attempt to capture the sound of my childhood, Mozambique traditional instruments, and my life journey until today.”
Not jazz, but …
Live with Carnegie Hall
Since the world has been in artistic lockdown, the venerable New York concert hall has been presenting a series of free livestreamed themed concerts and programs by performers from many musical realms (except, it seems, jazz—they need to get on that!). On Thursday, July 30, at 2 p.m. they will be featuring one of the doyennes of the folk scene, Judy Collins, who will discuss the singer-songwriter community with three of its most brilliant practitioners, Shawn Colvin, Steve Earle, and Jimmy Webb. Also, Collins and the always entertaining Tony-winner Alan Cumming will delve into the music of Broadway great Stephen Sondheim, whose “Send in the Clowns” (from his A Little Night Music) was one of her biggest hits. And you can catch up on past programs, too, featuring the likes of Audra McDonald, Michael Feinstein, Rosanne Cash, Emmanuel Ax, Renée Fleming, Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, and many other musical luminaries.
— Evelyn Rosenthal
6 Feet Apart, All Together, overall direction, scenario, and overall farm design by Stacy Klein. Music direction and adaptation by John Peitso. Original writing and text adaptation by Matthew Glassman. Additional adaptation by Jennifer Johnson. Through August 9 (July: Weds-Sun at 8 p.m. August: Weds-Sun at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinees at 1 p.m.)
At the Double Edge Theatre, Ashfield, MA
The show is SOLD OUT — it is good (I have seen it), but let’s face it, it is the only theatrical game in town. There is a waiting list: it is worth staking your claim. Double Edge Theatre “presents a “Summer Spectacle for the time of COVID-19. The spectacle is inspired by and draws from the rich history and favorite moments of past performances, as well as looking toward a future including an ode to nature and our living culture. The entire main site of DE’s Farm will allow for limited audiences to spread out on a reflective and invigorating walk through scenes in the air, in the labyrinth, by the stream, in the arbor, and in the garden. Visitors will interact with the land, visual installation, and scenes from the past, as well as a look towards what we want to create together for the future. The show will be performed in rounds to allow for small groups of people.”
Apollinaire at Home, a free online play & film script reading gathering (by video meeting), for the coming weeks.
Your chance to become part of the show — from the safety of your couch! An enterprising idea that revolves around an inclusive staged reading: viewers are invited to read the script, choose their favorite parts and, if their names are drawn, to become part of the production. You can just sit watch if you wish. Note from the company: “No worries if you are not among the technologically gifted. We’re as new to this as you are, and there’s sure to be some glitchiness at first, but with a bit of humor and perseverance we’ll make this work!” Check the website for this week’s readings.
Dream Plays, a new series of short audio plays produced by the Huntington Theatre Company: By the Rude Bridge by Melinda Lopez; Overture by Kate Snodgrass; McKim by Brenda Withers: and The 54th in ’22 by Kirsten Greenidge.
“Conceived and commissioned by the Huntington artistic department, the company asked Huntington Playwriting Fellow alumni Kirsten Greenidge, Kate Snodgrass, and Brenda Withers, and Huntington Artist-in-Residence Melinda Lopez, to imagine their favorite locations, landmarks, and friends in a future Boston, when people can once again meet and thrive in the city – a vision of a future Boston that is somewhere between dream and reality.”
Stories from the Stage: Growing Up Black (Virtual)
July 28 at 7:30 p.m.
What does it mean to grow up Black in America? In part, it means strangers looking at you with suspicion; being pulled over by the police for no reason; being afraid to walk outside because of who you are. Tonight, storytellers share stories of living while Black in a country too often divided by race. An interview and Q&A will follow each story in this WGBH presentation.
The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in the World! by Shaun Prendergast. Directed by Jonathan Fielding. An Amphibian Stage production. (If you use the Promo Code: JULIAHARBOR (all caps) when purchasing a ticket to hear Julia Pastrana, $5 of your purchase will be donated to the Harbor Stage.). $13 for a 48 hour window to listen. Through July 30.
This audio drama, an adaptation of an acclaimed 2003 production, features strong language and adult themes. The script chronicles the true life story of a 19th-century woman who toured the US and Europe as the “Ugliest Woman in the World.”
A Kids Play about Racism, a theatrical adaptation by Khalia Davis of Jelani Memory’s A Kids Book About Racism. Davis also directs. Lyrics by Davied Morales. Music by Justin Ellington. Streaming on Broadway on Demand, August 1 and 2.
Wheelock Family Theatre and The Gottabees join a groundbreaking collaboration among 37 Theatres for Young Audiences across the United States, led by the lead producing team of Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. This virtual premiere “will utilize theatre to offer young children and families a way to engage in meaningful conversation about race. As part of the production, educational materials developed by Seattle Children’s Theatre in collaboration with the Northwest African American Museum will extend the experience and enhance age-appropriate engagement. All 37 partnering theatres are members of Theatre for Young Audiences USA (TYA/USA), the national organization representing the field of theatre for children and family audiences.”
— Bill Marx
August 1 at 11:30 a.m. EST
Looking for a way to engage the entire family? This unique event, hosted by Jacob’s Pillow online, encourages movers and their canine companions to experience dance in an all-inclusive manner. This popular event is led by Elizabeth Johnson Levine, Associate Artistic Director of Dance Exchange, and DZ Maciel, who invite you to join them online with your “dance-loving pup and be guided through a series of simple and fun movements that highlight the beauty of our pets and the unique relationship we share with our dogs.” NOTE: Registration required.
Luminarium’s TEN4TEN Show #8: “Live Dance | Live Music”
Viewable now through August 8th
This week’s TEN4TEN performance features an exciting collection of Luminarium commissions and collaborations involving live music and sound. Enjoy commissioned works accompanied by orchestral groups Boston New Music Initiative (2017) and Verdant Vibes (2019); live music serenading Luminarium’s Fort Point Theatre Channel commission (2019); and an empowering new work created in collaboration with Rutgers University, coLAB Arts, and intellectually/developmentally disabled (I/DD) self-advocates across New Jersey, whose talented performers also provide an entirely live vocalized score (2020)!
Alvin Ailey Performs “Chroma”
Enjoy this online screening of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performing Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, restaged by Antoine Vereecken. Brimming with colorful vibrance, Chroma keeps viewers riveted as its performers manifest the melodies of Jody Talbot and orchestrated versions of popular tunes by The White Stripes.
Stories from Home: Covid-19 Addendum
Embodying oral traditions of Latinx communities in the American Southwest, choreographer Yvonne Montoya and her Latinx cast of dancers draw upon personal histories as well as ancestral knowledge, to create Stories from Home a series of performative works combining theatre, dance, and the spoken word. In this special Covid-19 edition, Montoya welcomes embodied testimonials of “family, love, loneliness, uncertainty, and change” experienced at home during this time of social distancing and quarantine.
Apt to Alphabetize
Kelley Donovan & Dancers is presenting a short, but sweet, work that was presented as part of the Dance Podcast Festival in 2009. Featuring dancers Nancy Andrews, Anna Rondon, Kyoko Aoyama, Kelley Donovan, Adam Sonnenberg, and Lucia Travaglino, the piece was filmed in September of 2008 by Pascal Roekert of Flexcurve Dance, NYC.
More Black Voices
Acknowledging the “new urgency to affirm that Black Lives Matter,” Jacob’s Pillow is adding to the Pillow’s existing “Black Voices” and “Black History” playlists by way of four fresh videos that celebrate black artists in dance. Viewers are additionally encouraged to read John Perpener’s essays on Dance of the African Diaspora, recently acclaimed in the New York Times.
Resource for Live-Streamed Classes
Looking for Live Dance Classes? Studio 550 has created a new platform (Artist2Artist) to keep dancers active, engaged, and informed. Visit the link above to learn more and search for live-streamed classes, while staying connected to the Boston dance community!
— Merli V. Guerra
Rock and Roots
Jerry Garcia’s birthday is Aug. 1 and the anniversary of his death falls on on August 9; Grateful Dead fans have marked the span as the “Days Between,” the title of Garcia’s last great ballad. The 25th Days Between is a big splash, with the charitable Rex Foundation and the Jerry Garcia Family presenting The Daze Between, a nine-day online event of performances, stories and films celebrating Garcia’s music. Check out the site for the jam-packed schedule of music by Garcia’s peers and collaborators as well as younger musicians influenced by his enduring work.
For some local flavor during the Days Between, check out Bearly Dead’s free livestream from Arlington’s Regent Theater at 8 p.m. on Aug 5th. You can watch online here.
And the Jerry tributes around here don’t end on Aug. 9. Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers has staged some incredible tributes to Garcia at Passim in Cambridge. Alas, with touring out of the question, Rodgers and friends won’t be at Passim this year, but the club will stream Dead to the Core, Rodgers’ all-star cast of acoustic musicians performing the Grateful Dead’s classic albums Workingman’s Dead on Aug. 12 and American Beauty on Aug. 13. Check ’em out at facebook.com/clubpassim/live/ or youtube.com/clubpassim. The streams begin at 7 p.m.
— Scott McLennan
Museums Re-emerge this Summer
Today (July 15) The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that it is reopening, after months of COVID-19 lockdown, on August 29. Throughout the Northeast, the only region in the United States where the pandemic is in serious decline, art museums are slowly waking up, like Sleeping Beauty, after a long period of being sealed within a thicket of national turmoil. Most institutions will require advance reservations, and hours and visit times may be limited, so be sure to check the website of the museum of your choice before arriving. Many special exhibitions, installed or announced weeks ago, will pick up with extended runs.
The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, and the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, ME, are already open. The Clark invites visitors to its extensive grounds and outdoor installations and to the exhibition Lines from Life: French Drawings from the Diamond Collection. Portland has extended its appropriately themed exhibition Tabernacles for Trying Times through August 16.
Connecticut’s New Britain Museum of American Art has unlocked its doors resuming a yearlong series of shows on women artists. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has resumed its featured show Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle. The exhibition of the work of the 20th-century African-American painter, who painted in a cubist style influence both by French art and Harlem jazz, was originally organized for this year’s Black History Month. It will reopen with even greater relevance in this new period of Black Lives Matter.
Further afield, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester will reopen August 20 with two all-new exhibitions of contemporary art: Open World: Video Games and Richard Haynes: Whispering Quilts. Members previews will be held August 13-16.
Let’s hope the current health restrictions will keep disease at bay and the rest of the summer will consist of more good news.
— Peter Walsh
While the coronavirus pandemic has caused, essentially, the early wrap-up of classical music’s 2019-20 concert season, numerous ensembles are either live-streaming live, no-audience performances, or opening their performance archives to the public. Below are links to some of them (local and international).
BSO at Home (new music released daily at 10 a.m. starting March 23)
Pianist Igor Levit presents daily (or nearly so) Hauskonzerte via Twitter
London Symphony Orchestra performance archive (new concerts streamed every Sunday and Thursday)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Digital Concert Hall, free access if you register before March 31 (voucher code: BERLINPHIL
A number of new broadcast series and streamed performances have emerged over the past few days and weeks. Below are some of the highlights.
Boston Baroque Radio: a collection of recorded performances from the ensemble’s extensive discography
BMOP Radio: showcases the exceptional and wide-ranging discography of Boston’s flagship new-music orchestra
Terezin Music Foundation: the TMF releases Yom HaShoah Concert & Memorial Film, featuring performances from Yo-Yo Ma, Andris Nelsons, Simone Dinnerstein and others. Available free on YouTube from April 19 at 12 p.m.
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: presents an archive of past performances as well as a livestream series
Lake George Music Festival Quarantine Concerts: live concerts on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, 7 p.m.
André Previn conducts Haydn and Ravel
Presented by Tanglewood Music Festival
Previn’s 2007 appearance with the BSO includes Daniel Müller-Schott playing Haydn’s C-major Cello Concerto and Michelle DeYoung singing Ravel’s Shéhérazade.
John Williams’s Highwood’s Ghost
Presented by Tanglewood Music Festival
July 27, 8 p.m.
A rebroadcast of the premiere performance of Williams’s 2018 Leonard Bernstein centennial commission (for harp, cello, and orchestra) is framed with music by Bernstein (the Three Meditations from “Mass”) and Copland (Symphony no. 3).
Dances and Delights
Presented by Boston Landmarks Orchestra
July 29 at 7 p.m.
BLO is joined by Castle of Our Skins and violinist Gabriela Diaz when they play pieces by Aldemaro Romero, David Baker, Florence Price, Michael Abels, and Astor Piazzolla for the second installment of their summer season.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Three British musicians have posted daily Tweets that invariably make my day cheerier.
Two friends, the fabulous cellist @StevenIsserlis and opera singer Matthew Rose (@roseandfriends), began a daily tweet exchange, talking (briefly) about the pieces they had chosen for us to enjoy, and then supplying us with YouTube info. This has been a delight every morning.
Jamie W. Hall, a British baritone, #JWHallBaritone, has endeared himself to me and many others with his daily #bathroberecitals, in which he accompanies himself (beautifully) on the piano. Yes, in his bathrobe. Lots of charm here and great, unexpectedly lovely songs.
The Metropolitan Opera has been presenting daily operas, a huge joy. Who knows how long this will continue, but the first three weeks have been a huge pleasure. You can log on in the early evening, before the 7:30 starting time, and finish listening to the opera the next day.
— Susan Miron
Roots and World Music
A few local reggae bands have managed to secure outdoor gigs. Jah Spirit has several New Hampshire dates. The trio version of the Naya Rockers have been in rotation on the patio of the Beehive in the South End. Dis-N-Dat Band, which perfectly melds the roots reggae grooves of Black Uhuru drummer Rangotan and the steel pan poetry of Sista Dee, will be celebrating its new LP Stride with a slew of shows in Danvers, Newburyport and Salisbury as well as gigs across the state line.
The Lowell Folk Festival has promised highlights via its Facebook page July 24-26. And the following weekend will be a pay-per-view fundraiser for the Newport Folk Festival’s Foundation with footage that includes one of Mavis Staples’ 80th birthday concerts.
— Noah Schaffer
Laura van den Berg with Books Are Magic
I Hold A Wolf by the Ears: Stories
July 29 at 7 p.m.
Free with $3 suggested donation
“I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too closely. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of Slumberland, ‘that border between magic and annihilation,’ and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.”
J Courtney Sullivan
Friends and Strangers: A Novel
July 30 at 7 p.m.
“Elisabeth, an accomplished journalist and new mother, is struggling to adjust to life in a small town after nearly twenty years in New York City. Alone in the house with her infant son all day (and awake with him much of the night), she feels uneasy, adrift. She neglects her work, losing untold hours to her Brooklyn moms’ Facebook group, her ‘influencer’ sister’s Instagram feed, and text messages with the best friend she never sees anymore. Enter Sam, a senior at the local women’s college, whom Elisabeth hires to babysit. Sam is struggling to decide between the path she’s always planned on and a romantic entanglement that threatens her ambition. She’s worried about student loan debt and what the future holds. In short order, they grow close. But when Sam finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Elisabeth’s father-in-law, the true differences between the women’s lives become starkly revealed and a betrayal has devastating consequences.”
Luster: A Novel
August 4 at 7 p.m.
Free with $3 suggested donation
“Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Raven Leilani’s Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life—her hunger, her anger—in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.”
August 5 at 7 p.m.
Free with suggested donation
“Lil and Frank married young, bonding over the tragic childhood loss of a parent. Now retired, each of them begins to seek a past they’ve either lost to time or never fully uncovered. Lil, wishing to leave a history for her children, sifts through letters that reveal more than the pleasantries of the past. Frank returns repeatedly to his childhood home, triggering sometimes unwanted memories of his own past, and the childhood of the young mother who now lives there. Hieroglyphics is a mesmerizing novel about the burden of secrets carried across generations.”
Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act
August 5 at 7 p.m.
Free with $3 suggested donation
“Eight years ago, while investigating the possibility that the United States had used biological weapons in the Korean War, Nicholson Baker requested a series of Air Force documents from the early 1950s under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Years went by, and he got no response. Rather than wait forever, Baker set out to keep a personal journal of what it feels like to try to write about major historical events in a world of pervasive redactions, withheld records, and glacially slow governmental responses. The result is one of the most original and daring works of nonfiction in recent memory, a singular and mesmerizing narrative that tunnels into the history of some of the darkest and most shameful plans and projects of the CIA, the Air Force, and the presidencies of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.”
Pilsner: How the Beer of Kings Changed the World
August 10 at 6 p.m.
“Historian and journalist Tom Acitelli discusses his new book, Pilsner: How the Beer of Kings Changed the World, in conversation with beer writer Carla Jean Lauter and John Holl and Andy Crouch, editor and publisher, respectively, of The Beer Edge podcast and newsletter. Acitelli will delve into the long, fascinating, and fraught history of the world’s most popular beer style, and will show in particular how immigration and technology shaped its evolution and the modern beer world of today. He and his guests will also cover whether that world will soon implode or chug merrily on.”
— Matt Hanson