Kaufman was 90 years old when his first book, Bowl of Cherries, appeared in 2007. The Baltimore native, who also created Mr. Magoo and got an Oscar nomination for his Bad Day at Black Rock screenplay, passed away last year, and this hardboiled follow-up was published posthumously. In it, Jack Hopkins—yes, Kaufman was a JHU grad—sells real estate, beds femme fatales, and navigates a sea of dead bodies that would make Hammett and Chandler lose their liquid lunches. The writing is crisp and the pace is brisk, but Misadventure isn’t essential noir, though it could make for an interesting film. Too bad Kaufman isn’t around to write the screenplay.
Paul Chan (editor)
Waiting for Godot in New Orleans: A Field Guide (Creative Time)
Three years ago, I read a piece in The New York Times about a production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot staged in New Orleans’ devastated Ninth Ward—which, post-Katrina, seemed like an appropriate setting. Curious, I searched YouTube but found nothing about the production, which was spearheaded by artist Paul Chan and starred The Wire’s Wendell Pierce. This book remedies the dearth of documentation. Put together by Chan, it tells how the unlikely production came to be, and provides an extraordinary account of the grassroots work that framed it. To their credit, Chan and his cohorts didn’t just drop in, mount the play, and split. Instead, they attended community meetings, organized potluck dinners, taught classes, and raised money for relief efforts. In fact, they staged Godot only after they were certain of making a positive impact in the area. This thoroughly illuminating book shows how they did it, and, as its subtitle implies, provides useful information (and inspiration) for anyone interested in creating meaningful community art.
Dr. Clara Small & Rev. David Briddell
“Men of Color, To Arms!” (Arcadia)
In this meticulously researched volume, Small and Briddell document the Civil War service of African Americans living on the Eastern Shore. Focusing on Worcester and Somerset counties, they list the names of more than 1,200 black soldiers who fought for the Union and provide historical context that richly underscores the significance of their war service. Because this book is more of a starting point than a definitive document, I hope others will use it as a catalyst for further research on this important aspect of local history.