A skillfully written, well-researched account of two difficult, mesmerizing characters.

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RIKO

SEDUCTIONS OF AN ARTIST

This biography tells the story of Czech artist Jan Emmerich “Riko” Mikeska and his wife, Greta Schmied.

When Dailey (Listening to Pakistan, 2013) first met Riko, at a friend’s recommendation, the artist was already 80 years old and nearing the end of his life. “The works of Mikeska give you joy,” summarized an art critic writing in 1936, yet today he’s barely known. Fascinated by Riko’s powerful personality and Greta’s need to tell their story, Dailey began recording their chats and, over 20 years, gathering accounts from the couple’s friends. The saga is amplified with photographs, some in color; curious readers can visit an associated website (https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7mkkSL) for more. Born in the industrial town of Vitkovice, Moravia, in 1903, Riko painted and studied in cities like Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, living mainly in Prague. He married Greta, an artist, illustrator, and teacher, in 1929. With Greta later in danger because of her Jewish ancestry, the couple escaped Prague and the Nazis for Britain. After 10 years in that country, Riko and Greta moved to New York City, where they lived until their deaths (in 1983 and 1998, respectively). Despite Riko’s promising early career, his work gained little notice after he emigrated. Dailey draws out the many captivating strands in Riko’s personality: his skill as a teacher, his ability to win friends, his highly developed sense of injustice, his hatred of self-promotion, and his perfectionism. These last two traits could be self-destructive; he’d overwork paintings, sell them for too little, or refuse to offer them at all, though money was always an issue. Dailey describes all this with verve and insight, as when discussing Riko’s palette. "Riko’s love for André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, both leaders of the Fauves movement, was as intense as their colors—pigments unseen (but yearned for) in the chiaroscuro of Riko’s coal-scrimmed youth,” she writes in a nice passage. Greta’s story, too, is well-represented, making this nearly a dual biography: her birth in 1900; her moneyed upbringing, being tutored by the likes of Kafka and Max Brod; her first marriage; and her struggles to earn a living and guard her husband’s legacy.

A skillfully written, well-researched account of two difficult, mesmerizing characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-99-940690-8

Page Count: 313

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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