Arts & Culture

Output: May/June 2024

The Mindful Body: Thinking Our Way to Chronic Health
Ellen J. Langer ’74PhD
(Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House, $28)
Imagine a group of old guys spending a week at a retreat in which everything appeared to be as it had been 20 years earlier. Would this experiment in “counterclockwise living,” conducted by psychologist Langer in 1979, turn back the mental and physiological clock? This exercise in mindfulness, which Langer defines as “the simple process of noticing things . . . we didn’t notice before,” led to improvements in strength and vision in older adults. In this hopeful book, Langer explores how her research and that of others in her field can help everyone achieve a more fulfilling and healthier future. “Better health for all of us,” she declares, “may be just a thought away.”

Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “the Apocalypse”
Emily Raboteau ’98
(Henry Holt, $29.99)
“If I can be called a bird watcher, my spark was a pair of burrowing owls,” says the author. The birds she saw were actually a painting on a Harlem building—an Audubon Mural Project she and her kids had happened to find on a walk. This serendipitous discovery started Raboteau’s journey: to find every mural of an avian species endangered by climate change that the Audubon project will portray in New York City. In this well-crafted book, Raboteau pieces together meditations on Black motherhood, social and environmental justice, dealing with anger, and navigating the “shifting terrain” of climate change in a world that is “changing faster than we can.”

The Body’s Keepers: A Social History of Kidney Failure and Its Treatments
Paul L. Kimmel, ’72
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30)
In medical school, the author was inclined towards a career in psychiatry, “but I was unprepared for the beauty of the kidneys.” Kimmel’s admiration of the twin organs that filter the blood, “retaining important chemicals and proteins and removing the toxins and impurities,” engendered a detour into nephrology. Beginning with a look into his Yale roommate’s unexpected bout with kidney disease, the veteran clinician and researcher offers a comprehensive exploration of how these critical organs perform their magic, how doctors treat the estimated 37 million adults—in this country alone—beset by kidney disease, and how the medical system can overcome inequities in healthcare availability.

New York Pretending to Be Paris: Songs of Remembrance and Desire
Eric Schorr ’82, ’87MBA
(Albany Records, available on major streaming services or on CD for $16.99)
Eric Schorr is a fine lyricist, as shown by his underrated 2015 musical Tokio Confidential, but for this project the composer/pianist takes previously published poems by Morri Creech, Richie Hofmann, Susan Kinsolving, Thomas March, Aaron Smith, and Yale Senior Lecturer in English Cynthia Zarin and sets them to music. The album’s title—New York Pretending to Be Paris—is taken from its closing song, but the concept seems to run through the whole project, finding beauty and grandeur in small moments of modern living. Many are relationship stories, yet there are ways besides romance that Schorr evokes suave urbanity, like flowers in vases and riding the subway. The songs are sung in a robust yet sweet and intimate solo operatic style by tenor Jesse Darden, mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, or baritone Michael Kelly. The vocal style is consistent, but Schorr’s scores can evoke anything from Sondheim to Weill to tangos and jazz. It’s a focused, gorgeous group of art songs that brings classical oomph to
quiet inner emotions.

Discipline: A Novel
Debra Spark ’84
(Four Way Books, $19.95)
“Something had gone wrong.” No one was there to meet art appraiser Gracie Thomas when she stepped off the ferry and onto a lonely Maine island on a bitterly cold late afternoon. The result—close-to-fatal hypothermia—was only the very tip of an iceberg. Gracie had been sent to Maine to evaluate a private art collection, and (spoiler alert) once she recovered, she found that a trio of paintings known as the “Triplets” were missing. She would also discover a disturbing backstory that would interweave family deceit, homelessness, and a torturous backwoods reform school into a richly satisfying story.

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