The Milk Bowl of Feathers is “Essential Surrealist Writings”, all the more so for being made of so many underrecognized creators and works. It’s poetry; it’s stories and their excerpts; it’s manifestos and niggling obsessions. It’s an excellent primer: short and diverse, with every piece adding something that could only be added by that piece in particular. It’s a great reminder that the most radical writers and thinkers were responsible for the most beautiful love notes (see: Breton’s “Dear Hazel of Squirrelnut, see: Robert Desnos’s “I Have Dreamed of You So Much”, see: everything by Paul Eluard). And it’s a refreshing and perfectly unconventional gift book.
Even for anyone who’s read Luiselli’s work in the past, this new novel will be a revelation. A wife, a husband, a son, and a daughter go on a road trip from New York City to the Southwest desert to find and document existences stolen from the surrounding landscape, Apaches and child migrants alike. (It shares some similarities to her This Is How It Ends, which chronicled her time as a translator for Central American refugees.) What makes this the heartbreaking yet consoling story it is, amidst its understandable unease and anger, is the family portrait providing the book’s bones: a family that might never be whole in spite of all the experiences and in-joke legends that should bind them together. Describing this book simply is as impossible as describing what our loved ones mean to us.
The Ninth Street Show is the exhibition that truly brought abstract expressionism to prominence, and men dominated the attention and the future earnings. But also featured were many women, five of whom—Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler—are the subject of Ninth Street Women (Little, Brown, $35). If it were simply a corrective to the prevailing male-focused canon, this book would be worth a look, but with biographer Mary Gabriel, you get much more. Through research pulled from diaries, letters, memoirs, and more, she brings you so close to her subjects and their coterie, every triumph feels as hard-won and bittersweet, every loss as devastating, as it must have been for them in the moment. The book is incomparable at capturing what it can mean to shoot for something that separates you from the straight and narrow, with all the joyous and upsetting complexities that brings.