Jason Landry, owner of Panopticon Gallery in Boston, is an irreverent and irrepressible presence in his new book, “Instant Connections: Essays and Interviews on Photography” (Doolittle). It’s not presented as a handbook for developing a career in photography, but Landry drops plenty of hints along the way. The Back Bay resident writes about his mentors, the art of networking, and the photographers he admires. The “Connections” part of the title is no accident. Landry loves talking with photographers, and it shows in his interviews with William Wegman, Leonard Nimoy, Harold Feinstein, and others.
Landry’s own story can be pieced together from essays scattered throughout the book. He pegs the start of his career to taking his first photography class in 1990 at his high school in Portsmouth, N.H. He attended the Art Institute of Boston for a year but, he writes, “I quickly realized that I was no longer one of the top photographers in the class.” Doubting his abilities and whether he could make a living as a fine-art photographer, he dropped out. He spent 10 years working at New England Telephone and learning about the business world. He eventually earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in fine arts and bought Panopticon Gallery.
Landry will be in conversation with one of his mentors, Jim Fitts, former executive director of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 at Trident Booksellers.
Small press club
Interested in reading beyond the best-seller list? You’ll find like-minded company at Brookline Booksmith’s Small Press Book Club. The Booksmith’s Natasha Gilmore started the club last September. She presents a mix of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry as possibilities, and the reading selections are made by a group vote.
“We have a core of about six regular members and a few more come and go,” Gilmore wrote in an e-mail. “They’re all different sorts of people. Some older, some younger though mostly late 20s-mid 30s. We have some scientists who want to read more, and some literary types who just want to read beyond the big publishers.”
In Gilmore’s world, “small press” isn’t equated with “obscure.” Recently the club read Renata Adler’s prize-winning 1976 novel “Speedboat,” originally published by Random House and brought back into print by New York Review Books. Members also read “The Virgins” (Tin House) by Pamela Erens, a boarding school novel reviewed favorably in The New York Times by John Irving.
On tap for the club’s meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the store are “The Self Unstable,” Elisa Gabbert’s collection of aphoristic essays published by Boston-based Black Ocean, and “The Fata Morgana Books” (Two Lines) by Jonathan Littell. “The Kindly Ones,” his fictional memoir by a former Nazi officer, won the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award. The club’s February meeting will be on the 20th.
■ “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War”by Robert M. Gates (Knopf)
■ “Shovel Ready” by Adam Sternbergh (Crown)
■ “The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons” by David Menasche (Simon & Schuster)
Pick of the Week
Emily Crowe of Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley recommends “The Kept” by James Scott (Harper): “In this extraordinary debut novel, Elspeth and Caleb’s troubled odyssey through rural upstate New York at the turn of the 20th century is both vivid and compelling. The starkness of the setting is matched by the ruthlessness of the characters, all stunningly balanced with beautiful prose. Scott joins the pantheon of great American writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor in his understanding of the dichotomy of violence and beauty.”