Bowl of Cherries (McSweeney's)
This debut novel takes place partly in Greenspring Valley and was penned by a 90-year-old author—who wrote the Bad Day At Black Rock screenplay, was nominated for two Oscars, taught at Hopkins and the Sundance Institute, and co-created Mr. Magoo. I don't know about you, but I'd read any book by a writer with that résumé. Happily, Kaufman doesn't disappoint, and his narrative is infused with the wisdom and whimsy such a resume implies. A bevy of eccentrics populate the book—which is set in Brooklyn, Colorado, Iraq, and Baltimore County—with an Egyptologist working out of his ramshackle house in the Valley chief among them. They give the book its madcap charm, as the story shifts from love story to coming-of-age tale to comic novel and back again. Its teenage protagonist occasionally lapses into Eisenhower-era speech that no self-respecting contemporary teen would use, but such lapses are forgivable. Kaufman exudes a vitality that novelists half his age would envy.
Dorothy Kosinski/Jay McKean Fisher/Steven Nash
Matisse: Painter as Sculptor (Yale)
This gorgeous coffee table book accompanies the BMA's Matisse sculpture exhibition (See It, page 59), which opens October 28. Matisse's formidable skills as a sculptor tend to get overlooked; in fact, it's been more than four decades since the last major show of such work. We know him mostly as a dazzling painter whose work infuses the Cone Collection with real star power, but "the other Matisse" is also worth attention. The artist, himself, downplayed his sculptures, assessing them largely within the context of the paintings, and critics followed suit. That may have been shortsighted. In his essay "Drawing Is Sculpture Is Drawing," BMA Curator Jay Fisher sorts through such issues with clear eyes and an open mind. Fisher evaluates Matisse's artistic choices, re-contextualizing them when appropriate, and the book benefits from such balanced insight.