By: Anna Deavere Smith; Kevin L. Fuller; Andrea Armstrong
Date: August 27, 1993
Source: Fuller, Kevin L., and Andrea Armstrong. "Media Killers: An Interview with Anna Deavere Smith." Appendx. Issue 2. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.appendx.org (accessed July 6, 2003).
About the Artist: Anna Deavere Smith (1950–), professor, actor, and author, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. With financial support from the Ford Foundation, she founded the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard University. Smith has taught at Stanford and Yale, and in 2003 at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and Law School. In 1996, Smith received a MacArthur "genius" Grant.
Blending theater, journalism, and social commentary, Anna Deavere Smith is credited for having invented a new theatrical genre consisting of verbatim reiterations of tape-recorded interviews with people from the street, gang members, crack addicts, shop owners, and housewives. Leaving intact all the tics, stutters, and colloquialisms, Smith re-created characters, not only caricatures, and managed to reveal the substance of the individual interviewed. In listening to those she...
(The entire section is 2414 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
The Shipping News
By: E. Annie Proulx
Source: Proulx, E. Annie. The Shipping News. New York: Scribner Classics, 1993, 1–3.
About the Author: Edna Annie Proulx (1935–) was born in Norwich, Connecticut. She writes both fiction and non-fiction. Proulx attended Colby College in Maine and the University of Vermont, earning a B.A. in 1969. She also received an M.A. from Sir George Williams University in Montreal. Proulx began her career as a journalist and writing "how-to" books. Her first novel, Postcards, won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1993. She also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1994 for The Shipping News.
Through the development of quirky and eccentric characters, The Shipping News explores the challenge of recovery from haunting pasts. The novel's main character is a middle-aged man, Quoyle (pronounced "coil"). Quoyle, lacking self-assurance because of an abusive father, wastes his life in passivity. After his attractive, but unfaithful, wife is killed in an accident, Quoyle and his two daughters move to his old family home in Newfoundland, Canada. Quoyle's estranged aunt, who also recently lost her partner, joins them in the Newfoundland home. There both grieving spouses must deal with the...
(The entire section is 1414 words.)
"An Interview with Philip Glass"
By: Philip Glass and Alex Christaki
Date: July 2, 1994
Source: Glass, Philip, and Alex Christaki. "An Interview with Philip Glass." Available online at http://www.glasspages.org/interview.html; website home page: http://www.glasspages.org (accessed July 6, 2003).
About the Artist: Philip Glass (1937–) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was introduced to classical music by listening to the "offbeat" music of records that sold poorly in his father's radio repair and record shop. He began studying violin at age six and the flute at eight. After graduating from the University of Chicago at nineteen with an A.B. degree in 1956, he studied composition at the Juilliard School in New York City and received an M.S. in 1964. He also studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, France, in 1964–66.
One of the most famous American composers of the late twentieth century, Philip Glass describes himself as a "theatre composer who is tonal in orientation." By "theatre composer," Glass clarifies that the source of inspiration for his work is largely non-musical—"the image, movement, story." Although Glass's principal body of...
(The entire section is 2107 words.)
Movie still; Poster
By: Quentin Tarantino
Source: Pulp Fiction. Original release, 1994. Miramax Films. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Collector's edition DVD/VHS, 2002. Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
About the Artist: Quentin Jerome Tarantino (1963–) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in California. The self-taught writer and director dropped out of high school to pursue an acting career. His first feature, Reservoir Dogs, premiered at the Sundance Festival in 1992, and it was featured at the Cannes, Toronto, and Montreal film festivals.
Pulp Fiction intertwines three stories and uses a unique mixture of humor and violence. One story follows two hit men, portrayed by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, as they go about their work of killing for hire. Another story is based on a boxer, played by Bruce Willis, paid to throw a fight. In the last story, the hit man played by John Travolta is ordered by his frightening boss to entertain the boss's attractive wife without touching her. The familiar plot of each of the stories is subverted and finally brought together.
Although Pulp Fiction has been described as "film noir" because of its dark and violent...
(The entire section is 940 words.)
By: Cindy Sherman
Source: Sherman, Cindy. "Untitled #303." Reproduced in Cindy Sherman: A Retrospective. Edited by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1997.
About the Artist: Cindy Sherman (1954–) was born in Glenn Ridge, New Jersey. She began her artistic career as a painter, but switched to photography during college. Sherman attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she earned a B.A. in 1976. At twenty-nine, Sherman was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. In 1995, she was awarded a MacArthur "genius" Grant.
"Untitled #303" is one of Cindy Sherman's later works that portrays women with surreal, sometimes nightmarish, fairy-tale qualities. It is typical of her entire body of work—dating back to the "Untitled Film Stills" from the mid-1970s that brought her wide recognition. The "Untitled Film Stills" provided portraits of females with costumes, makeup, and poses reflective of particular historical styles and genres. However, "Untitled #303" also reflects a marked development from Sherman's well-known earlier photographs of black and white images, imitating the "various female character types from old B movies and film noir" in...
(The entire section is 816 words.)
Angels in America
By: Tony Kushner
Source: Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995.
About the Author: Tony Kushner (1956–) was born in New York City and grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Kushner's parents were classical musicians, and his mother was an actress. He earned a B.A. from Columbia University in 1978, and an M.F.A. in directing from New York University in 1984. Until he was able to support himself in theater, he worked as a switchboard operator at the United Nations.
Angels in America was published in two parts, each comprising a full-length play. Part one, Millennium Approaches, was first performed in 1991, followed by Perestroika, in 1992. The plays, set in New York City from 1985 to 1990, last seven hours combined. They address AIDS and homosexuality in the context of the increasingly-conservative culture and politics of the Ronald Reagan (served 1981–1989) administration.
Angels in America presents more than the contemporary themes of sexuality and AIDS in 1990s America. Walter Benjamin, a philosopher, described the angel in a painting by Paul Klee, Angelus Novus,...
(The entire section is 2123 words.)
By: Richard Ford
Source: Ford, Richard. Independence Day. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1995.
About the Author: Richard Ford (1944–), novelist, essayist, and short story writer, was born and raised in Mississippi. He received a B.A. from Michigan State University in 1966 and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine, in 1970. At Irvine, he studied with E. L. Doctorow and Oakley Hill.
Independence Day challenged what Ralph Waldo Emerson termed "the infinite remoteness that separates people." The novel follows Fred Bascombe, a character who debuted in an earlier Ford novel, The Sportswriter. It details Bascombe's life during his "Existence Period," a period of refuge from searing pain and regret following a series of dramatic crises, including divorce and the death of his son. To maintain a distance from others and his own past, Bascombe changed his career from sportswriter to real estate agent in a New Jersey suburb. Real estate affords him a superficial sense of permanency and attachment.
Bascombe's equilibrium was shaken, however, on a Fourth of July weekend trip he took with his disturbed teenage son. They visit as many sports halls of fame as...
(The entire section is 2397 words.)
Work of art
By: Matthew Barney
About the Artist: Matthew Barney (1967–) was born in San Francisco, California. He spent his youth in Idaho and New York City, where his mother introduced him to art. He began studying medicine at Yale, but eventually concentrated in visual arts.
Matthew Barney's Cremaster I is the first video in a five-part series, The Cremaster Cycle, produced and released from 1994 to 2002. The Cremaster Cycle presented highly nontraditional video, mixing various artistic media to portray a parallel mythological world. This world consisted of symbolic images concerning sexuality.
Cremaster I presented a musical set in an athletic stadium in Barney's hometown, Boise, Idaho. Hovering above the blue-surfaced stadium were two blimps, each attended by four women wearing 1930s uniforms. The women surrounded two tables, each covered by a white tablecloth, on which there...
(The entire section is 736 words.)
By: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Source: Fargo. Directed by Joel Coen. Gramercy Pictures, 1996.
About the Artists: Joel Coen (1955–) and Ethan Coen (1958–) were born and raised in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Joel attended Simon's Rock College in Massachusetts and the New York University, and Ethan attended Princeton. The brothers' collaboration dates to their very first film, Blood Simple, released in 1984.
Fargo is the sixth film by the writing team of brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. It opens with a winter landscape scene from the American Midwest—where the white plains of the sky and snow blend into one another. Snow as a white-washed covering of darker undersides served as a metaphor throughout the film.
Allegedly based on actual events, Fargo tells the story of Jerry Lundegaard (played by William H. Macy), a small-town car salesman. Ridden with debt, Lundegaard hired two psychologically unstable men in Fargo, North Dakota, to kidnap his wife to extract a ransom from Lundegaard's wealthy, obtrusive father-in-law. As the two men clumsily carry out the kidnapping, they embark on an escalating spree of cold-blooded violence. Marge Gunderson...
(The entire section is 777 words.)
By: Jamaica Kincaid
Source: Kincaid, Jamaica. My Brother. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997, 3–7.
About the Author: Jamaica Kincaid (1949–) was born in St. John's, Antigua, in the West Indies. She immigrated to the United States in 1966, and attended a community college in New York City and Franconia College in New Hampshire. She has written for The New Yorker and published several fiction and non-fiction books. In 2003 she was the gardening editor for Architectural Digest.
After twenty years in the United States, Jamaica Kincaid returned to Antigua in the mid-1990s to care for her youngest brother, who was dying from AIDS. Kincaid hardly knew her brothers, whom she regards as her "mother's children." In reencountering them, Kincaid challenged her ideas of kinship and love. "I felt myself being swallowed up in a large vapor of sadness.… I be came afraid that he would die before I saw him again. It surprised me that I loved him; I could see that was what I was feeling, love for him, and it surprised me because I did not know him at all."
Along with unexpected love, Kincaid faced her disgust for her brother's apathy and carelessness toward life. Such...
(The entire section is 1854 words.)
Work of art
By: Kara Walker
Source: Walker Kara. Slavery! Slavery! 1997. Available online at http://www.brentsikkema.com/images/artists/karawalker/KW-Sl... ; website home page: http://www.brentsikkema.com (accessed July 6, 2003).
"Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Kara Walker"
By: Kara Walker
Source: Walker, Kara. "Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Kara Walker." Museum of Modern Art. Available online at http://www.moma.org/onlineprojects/conversations/kw_f.html; website home page: http://www.moma.org (accessed July 6, 2003).
About the Author: Kara Walker (1969–) was born in Stockton, California. She grew up mostly in Atlanta, Georgia, where her father was an art professor. She received a B.F.A. from the Atlanta College of Art and an M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design. She was...
(The entire section is 2230 words.)
By: Billy Collins
Source: Collins, Billy. "Journal." Picnic, Lightning. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998, 20–21.
About the Author: Billy Collins (1941–) was born in New York, N.Y. He received a B.S. degree in English in 1963 from Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. degree in 1971 from the University of California in Riverside. Collins was named poet laureate of the United States on June 21, 2001. Collins's poetry has been collected in books and has appeared in anthologies and many periodicals, including Poetry and The New Yorker. He taught at Lehman College, City University of New York, was a writer in residence at Sarah Lawrence College, and conducted workshops in Ireland during the summer. He was awarded the New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow, 1986; National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellow, 1988; and the Literary Lion Award from the New York Public Library, 1993.
About the Author: Billy Collins (1941–) was born in New York, N.Y. He received a B.S. degree in English in 1963 from Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. degree in 1971 from the University of California in Riverside. Collins was named poet laureate of the United States on...
(The entire section is 1130 words.)
"A Temporary Matter"
By: Jhumpa Lahiri
Source: Lahiri, Jhumpa. "A Temporary Matter." In Interpreter of Maladies. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
About the Author: Jhumpa Lahiri (1967–), the daughter of Bengali parents, was born in London, England, and grew up in Rhode Island. She earned a B.A. in English from Barnard College, three Master of Arts degrees (English, Creative Writing, and Comparative Literature) and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies from Boston University. Lahiri was awarded the O. Henry Award in 1999 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Interpreter of Maladies
"A Temporary Matter," the first story in Lahiri's debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, opened with a notice from the power company informing a young Indian couple in America that the electricity would be shut off for one hour each evening for the next five days. During the first evening, a young professional, and her husband, a Ph.D. candidate, have dinner by candlelight, their first dinner together in months. The wife suggests that they play a game her family played in India during power outages, where each would reveal a secret. Over the ensuing evenings more secrets are revealed, and the couple quietly...
(The entire section is 2210 words.)