When this local arts magazine launched two years ago, I was impressed by the curatorial skill and overall thoughtfulness it exhibited. I didn't want to get too attached though, because this sort of non-commercial publication often has a life span shorter than your average housefly. But Locus not only survives, it thrives, as this issue makes clear. As in previous installments, the photography is particularly strong in #4, which has a "Vernacular" theme. Andrew Laumann, an Essex native, shows compositional flair in his shots, D.B. Stovall channels William Eggleston, and Fred Scharmen finds beauty in urban rubble and decay. Don't be surprised if you find yourself lingering over Seth Adelsberger's sprawling and vibrant "Psychoscapes" paintings and puzzling over the "Monkey Rider" trading card inside the back cover. Mine shows Hothead the monkey riding a dog.
Carole Boston Weatherford/Sean Qualls
Before John Was a Jazz Giant (Henry Holt)
Before having kids, I rarely explored the children's section of a bookstore. I made my way through the stacks, knowing full well that I'd be bypassing the board books, pop-ups, picture books, and even classics by the likes of Roald Dahl, E. B. White, and others. It was my loss, and, over the past 10 years, I've come full circle-I'm the grown-up in the tiny chair at the knee high table at Barnes & Noble, marveling at the variety of kids' literature (especially titles with grown-up art and culture connections). My favorites include Maya Angelou and Jean-Michel Basquiat's Life Doesn't Frighten Me, Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly's Little Lit series, Romare Bearden and Langston Hughes' The Block, and, now, this homage to the young John Coltrane. Weatherford, a Baltimore native and UB grad, nails (in 32 pages no less!) the influences that shaped the jazz legend. From the obvious (playing in the school band and listening to 78's at home) to the mysterious ("steam engines whistling past" and "the sobs of kinfolk"), Weatherford's lean, poetic writing leads the reader towards a richer understanding of a musical genius who "breathed every sound he'd ever known into a bold new song." Sean Qualls fleshes out that portrait with warm, poignant illustrations.
Maps and Legends (McSweeney's)
One never knows where the next Michael Chabon book may wander. Chabon, who grew up in Columbia, seems intent on exploring as many genres, styles, and forms as possible: from short stories (A Model World, Werewolves in Their Youth), serialization (Gentlemen of the Road), and a novella (The Final Solution) to children's lit (Summerland), the mystery (The Yiddish Policemen's Union), and various other fictions (including the Pulitzer winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). This first foray into nonfiction collects Chabon's essays on writing, reading, and storytelling. Like much of his fiction, it's infused with refreshing amounts of wide-eyed wonder tempered by clear-headed insight. What's next? Epic poetry? Opera? The smart money says Chabon could probably pull it off.