Arts & Culture

Output: March/April 2023

To have your book, CD, app, or other work considered for Output, please send a copy to Arts Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven CT 06509; or e-mail a copy or link to

How Light Makes Life: The Hidden Wonders and World-Saving Powers of Photosynthesis
Raffael Jovine ’86.
(The Experiment, $14.95)
“Photosynthesis is the conversion of sunlight into chemical energy,” writes scientist Jovine, in a compelling tour of the process that turns “light into life.” But Jovine is also an entrepreneur, whose company grows greenhouse-gas-devouring algae on a vast scale in the desert. Photosynthesis, Jovine explains, “remains a dominant force large enough, fast enough, and powerful enough to rebalance our complicated world, even after hundreds of years of human mismanagement.”

The Intimate City: Walking New York
Michael Kimmelman ’80.
(Penguin Press, $30)
As life ground to a halt during the pandemic, Kimmelman, the architecture critic of the New York Times, reached out to architects, historians, urbanists, ecologists, and more. “Feel like taking a walk?” he emailed. The result is conversations between Kimmelman and his hiking buddies as they trekked various sections of the city: from a geological tour of Yankee Stadium with wildlife conservationist Eric Sanderson to a stroll with School of Architecture dean Deborah Berke along the East River walkway. There, she said, she often found the most precious of urban commodities: “Peace.”  

Unanticipated: A Life in Art
Janet Alling ’64MFA.
(G Editions, $50)
In spring of 1967, a flower child in New York City’s Central Park handed painter Janet Alling a daffodil in bloom. As Alling studied the “form, structure, and color” of the gift in her railroad-flat apartment, she had a revelation: “flowers would provide multitudes of inspiration and ideas to last a lifetime.” Now in her 80s and still at work, she continues to use blossoms and leaves as her muses. The book, sumptuously illustrated, tells how she developed her abstract-expressionist approach to depicting flora, and why dismissing floral art as merely decorative would be a mistake.

Accidental Conflict: America, China, and the Clash of False Narratives
Stephen Roach, Senior Fellow, Yale Law School.
(Yale University Press, $32.50)
In the increasingly decaying relationship between China and the US, it’s hard to remember that the two superpowers once enjoyed what economist Roach termed a “marriage of convenience,” characterized by cheaper products here and rapid growth opportunities there. But as the relationship morphed into an “unhealthy codependency” fueled by “dueling false narratives,” the two countries are clearly in need of marriage counseling. Roach offers strategies, new treaties to renewed engagement talks, that could bring the nations back to a “robust interdependency.”

Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative
Peter Brooks, Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature Emeritus.
(New York Review Books, $17.95) 
“Our daily lives, our daydreams, our sense of self are all constructed as stories,” writes Brooks, a literary critic. He analyzes the “narrative takeover of reality” in books of fiction, as well as books about history, medicine, the law, and more. And there are other forms, such as logical argument and lyrics—even Chiquita Banana commercials—that can be used to “understand the world and construct its meaning.” Our species, Brooks explains, has evolved into Homo narrans.

Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta 
James Hannaham ’90.
(Little, Brown, $28)
“In 1993, Carlotta’s cousin Kafele had shot some old lady who sold little bottles of Thunderbird to the skels of Bed-Stuy and put her to sleep for a month. Carlotta was in attendance, showing off her talent for bad timing.” That talent got the heroine more than two decades in prison—and a change: she entered jail as a man, and emerged as a trans woman. Unexpectedly paroled a bit early, she goes home to a transformed neighborhood, to try for reconciliation and a new life. Her story is told in a pitch-perfect stream of consciousness. Do you care what happens to Carlotta? You can’t stand not to.

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