Cover art on display
Have you been yet to the the Katherine Small Gallery in Somerville? It’s a gallery, sure: there’s art on the walls, and in display cases, and in drawers that feel satisfying to open. It’s also a bookstore, carefully curated. The focus is design and typography, but you don’t have to have interest in either, per se, to feel delight, to feel a palpable sense of intelligence, curiosity, and humor that fills the small space. And now’s a good time to go as they’ve got two literary exhibits afoot. One focuses on the book covers of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Leonard Baskin’s 1955 woodcut for “Shaw on Music” is a standout for the figure’s moody poise. And Seymour Chwast includes eight beguiling comedic masks for the 1964 edition of “Eight Great Comedies.” Bold colors, grizzled visages, and cool fonts feature across the board. The other exhibit features collage work by John Gall, whose job it is to oversee the design of hundreds of book covers as creative director for Alfred A. Knopf, including those of Atwood, Murakami, DeLillo, and Nabokov. As gallery proprietor Michael Russem notes, Gall took up collage work in 2008, “in an effort to forget what he knows about design.” The results are evocative, with elegant, unexpected use of color, organic shapes, bodily suggestion, and a bit of mystery; the spaces let the mind fill in the blanks. Both exhibits will be on view through January 14. For more information visit ksmallgallery.com.
Eliot by the sea
“The salt is on the briar rose, / The fog is in the fir trees” wrote T. S. Eliot in “The Dry Salvages,” the third of his “Four Quartets,” named after “a small group of rocks” off the shore of Gloucester, where Eliot started spending summers with his family as a five-year-old. “The sea has many / voices, / Many gods and many voices.” The Cape Ann Museum is hosting an exhibit that explores Eliot’s connection with Gloucester, featuring photographs and letters on loan from Harvard’s Houghton Library, the Boston Athenæum, and the Sawyer Free Library in Gloucester. The materials, intimate and illuminating, reveal Eliot’s relationship with Cape Ann, how it moved him and helped shape his work. “Eliot’s Gloucester” is on view through October 9 at the Cape Anne Museum Library & Archives. And “The Dry Salvages Festival” which began yesterday, September 24, continues today with a guided boat tour, visits to the Cape Ann Museum exhibits, and tours of Eliot’s house, known as “The Downs,” on Edgemoor Road. For more information on the exhibit, visit capeannmuseum.org. For more information on the festival, visit tseliot.com/the-dry-salvages-festival.
Browsing through history
Archives exist as a beautiful combination of the library and the museum, a unique realm where one is offered intimate access to rich and varied material — letters, diaries, drawings, paintings, rare books, ancient books, sheets of music, maps, all kinds of art. Last week, the Boston Public Library re-opened its newly renovated, 31,000 square-foot Special Collections Department after a 5-year and $15.7 million renovation, welcoming the public back into this singular collection. The renovation included a new reading room and lobby, a conservation lab, and upgraded rare book and manuscript storage for almost seven miles of shelving. The twofold aim involved improving the preservation of the materials for the long term and to better welcome people to engage with the breadth and depth of the collection. Archivists are keepers of the mysteries, spreaders of knowledge, and curiosity merchants; treasure hunting through materials is to come across post-it notes of a poet to Shakespeare’s First Folio to an original printing of the Declaration of Independence. For more information, visit bpl.org/special-collections.
“Kick the Latch” by Kathryn Scanlan (New Directions)
“Fen, Bog and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis” by Annie Proulx (Scribner)
“Stay True” by Hua Hsu (Doubleday)
Pick of the week
Sarah Shahzad at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, recommends “Acts of Desperation” by Megan Nolan (Little, Brown): “Consider this: someone asks if you want to taste something disgusting. Do you recoil? Or are you overcome by curiosity, a morbid fascination with this repulsive thing? If you’ll accept such an offer, you’ll appreciate what Nolan does here. She’s built a character from all the pathologies of heterosexual horror, and in the creation has performed a sort of exorcism. Nolan’s unwillingness to spare her protagonist or the reader is a gamble that pays off. It’s a rigorous study of a gross but key piece of the human condition, nestled in the set dressing of precise, excellent prose.”