"David Hockney: A Rake's Progress" by Christopher Simon Sykes
With his psychedelic scenery and neon-splashed canvases, David Hockney long ago established himself as one of the preeminent pop artists of the 20th century. And like most established artists, Hockney won't let his passions be confined to a particular medium. Whatever the inspiration, Hockney moves from photography, to painting, to printmaking and drafting with ease. His long, colorful life (he was born in 1937) lends itself to a long and colorful biography, something we've been graciously given with the arrival of Christopher Simon Sykes's "David Hockney: A Rake's Progress."
Though short on historical context, Sykes's first volume in a projected two-part biography "offers some fascinating accounts of the evolution of certain well-known Hockney paintings," writes Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times. Calling it a "fluent" biography, Christopher Knight of The Los Angeles Times notes how Sykes captures Hockney's art and life "in striking detail, a talent perhaps enhanced by the author's other profession as a photographer." Finally, Fiona Sturges of The Independent calls Sykes's work an "exhaustive and authoritative telling of the Hockney story, tracing his passage from doodling schoolboy to the glory years of the Sixties and coming to a breathless halt at the premiere of The Rake's Progress at Glyndebourne in the mid-Seventies, where master of ceremonies Peter Langan laid on champagne, lobster and LSD."
"The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House" by Edward Klein
As we've mentioned before, American Presidents are rarely spared a rest from oppositional sparring. When President Bush was in office, legions of unauthorized biographies by disgruntled Democrats were printed, riding on the coattails of Bush's misdeeds and shortcomings. Much the same can be said of President Obama's detractors, many of whom are desperately searching for a chink in the President's policy armor with the blow of a damaging book. Many of these blowhards, however, stray from substantive debate in favor of two well known cash cows: shock and awe. Reviewers of Edward Klein's "The Amateur" fear his book falls into the bovine category.
Batting this book out of the realm of real journalism is reviewer Husna Haq from The Christian Science Monitor, who writes: "Klein’s book appears to suffer from a severe shortage of sourcing, a surprising oversight from a journalist who once edited The New York Times Magazine." Janet Maslin of The New York Times agrees and highlights the irony of the headline: "'The Amateur' by Edward Klein is a book about an inept, arrogant ideologue who maintains an absurdly high opinion of his own talents even as he blatantly fails to achieve his goals. Oh, and President Obama is in this book too." Naturally, the White House won't dignify the book with much of a response, beyond spokesman Eric Schultz's dismissal: "Ed Klein has a proven history of reckless fabrication in order to sell books. Nobody in their right mind would believe the nonsense in this one."