"I am always at a loss how much to
believe my own stories."
-Washington Irving, Tales of a Traveler, 1824


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Welcome to PenHead.org, an oasis of uninformed analysis in a desert of educated guesswork. What is a Penhead? Do you fancy yourself a writer? Enjoy a good read? Then you may already be a Penhead yourself!

We are your source for original stories, the occasional interview with our favorite authors, book and play reviews, recommendations (of current and forgotten finds), and more. Our Goal: World domination through the written word via the vast network of the internet. Until then, we'll be found risking what's left of our reputations here, at PenHead.org.

Keep in mind the internet's similar to the Jersey Turnpike - it's all about hits and traffic - so visit often, share us repeatedly and we'll do our best to keep things interesting. Who knows... you might even be entertained.


RECENTLY REVIEWED . . .

Travel, out of necessity or for pleasure, is a human activity as old as the ancients. Whether done out of a backpack, or with all the amenities of first-class lodgings, somehow, somewhere inside of us, a need is met that's as basic to the human condition as oxygen: the need to roam.

A Field Companion For Wandering: A Book For Being Lost on Real and Imagined Borders is a unique creation by Conner Bouchard-Roberts. It offers thoughts on travel from multiple perspectives by the same man. The result is an ethereal journey on the subject with ample food for thought.

This, the third iteration of Wandering, gives the sense the author's finally gotten it right. It's filled with essays and musings that read like poetry masquerading as prose; prose disguised as poems. In its previous lives, Wandering was shorter, less fleshed out, and - more to the point - an indictment of the travel industry. The original . . . more >

Yellow highlighter and dog-eared pages are the hallmarks (after-the-fact) of a good travel guide. My copy of Lonely Planet's Thailand's Islands & Beaches is no exception. Between its covers there's hardly a page that doesn't contain some highlighting. Whether it be instructions on how to avoid getting ripped off when catching a cab from the airport (the authors advise not to jump in the car of the first driver that approaches you; you're being approached for a reason) or how to respectfully haggle the price of a room, I've highlighted the entries. (However, once off the plane after a long, sleepless international flight, I proceeded to ignore Lonely Planet's advice and overpaid for both the cab and the room. Welcome to Bangkok.)

Talking the Talk
Joe Cummings and Nicko Goncharoff, like all the authors of Lonely Planet publications, talk the talk and walk the walk. They've done the footwork, so all we have to do is pick up the guidebook and set off with the confidence of knowing the authors have already made our mistakes for us so we won't have to. Thus is the beauty . . . more >

With art, as with literature, first impressions can be deceptive. Who hasn't chosen a book for its cover, and then been disappointed by its contents? Or, attending an art show, been struck by an artist's style and falsely assumed it representative of all his output? Labels are easy. That's why we use them. But, just as you can't judge a book by its cover, neither can you judge a piece of art (or its artist) on first impressions alone.

I first met Jacques Drapeau in 2019. He was wearing a hat and shoes he painted himself. I pegged him for an old hippy folk artist. Over the next couple of years, navigating COVID shutdowns, protocols and social distancing, I had the good fortune of running into him at various local shows and events in the Stilly and Skagit Valleys of western Washington. Gradually, I began to realize Drapeau was more than a folk artist. He creates, always with an eye out for whimsy. Whether he's . . . more >

Abbeville Press' Chefs-d'Ceuvre L'impressionnisme is a collection of the world's renowned Impressionists. Over its 268 pages it catalogs the works of familiar names such as van Gogh, Monet and Renoir, among others. More than 220 full-color reproductions in all.

As not all painters are on equal footing, L'impressionnisme devotes entire sections to those that moved Impressionism forward in some distinct way (Edouard Manet; Claude Monet; Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec), while ignoring those deemed less influential. Although, it does contain a history on Impressionism along with reproductions which include many lesser known artists from the movement's halcyon days of the . . . more >

The start of the twentienth century was one of social upheaval in Europe. An open-mindedness prevailed in politics, societal norms, and in particular, art. Artists flocked to Paris where they could freely explore the various philosophies in art of the day, with the promise of support. Private collecting was at an apex, and many Parisians, Gertrude Stein among them, became eagerly welcomed patrons. It was a period of fierce, if not unfriendly, debate on the direction of art. Futurists rubbed elbows with classicists; cubists with Fauvists; Realists with Impressionists, in a contest to leave the bigger mark on the new century.

Chagall traces the life and professional milestones of Russia-born painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985). Written by his personal friend, Jean Cassou, formerly Chief Curator of the Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris, it is a psychoanalytical biography of the artist and his works. It opens with an engrossing description of the world Chagall was born into - the world still of his soul - and its affect on . . . more >

The name Pablo Picasso is synonymous with twentieth century art. Perhaps no other artist of the last century has garnered as much attention as he. That he achieved that level of fame and notoriety while still alive to bask in it, is not only rare for an artist, but practically unheard of.

Etch n' Sketch
Upon his death in 1973, Picasso's sketchbooks were discovered among his personal belongings, paintings, sculptures and the like which he had roomfuls of. The sketchbooks numbered 175 in total, and offer a map of his creative life. An artist's diary, if you will. Filled with sketches that were never seen to fruition as completed paintings; sketches that were done of paintings afer the fact; studies for some of his most celebrated pieces; notes for working out particular problems he was having with composition; some doubling as appointment books; with ideas upon ideas, they offer a rare glimpse into the working genius of the man who has been called the . . . more >

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) took pride in being a weird cat. He was the most renowned - maybe even the finest - Surrealist painter of the last century. His embrace of Surrealism went way beyond his artwork. Surrealism was the guard rail that kept the artist on track; a way of life, from the moment he roused in the morning, 'til his head hit the pillow at night. Even his dreams - the details and interpretation - were skewed to the language of Surrealism. Surrealism, for Dali, was a holistic philosophy that encompassed every aspect of life. If that sounds constraining, think again. Dali's life - his approach to creating, eating, loving, seeing - was anything but constrained. He was a wild man in a world where contradiction ruled the day. A prisoner of the tower in an asylum where the inmate doubled as gatekeeper. Dali was the Cheshire Cat personified, grinning down a rabbit hole of his own making.

Eye Candy
The cover of Dali looks like a candy box, and for good reason. According to its editor, while visiting the . . . more >

ArtNetwork began publishing their annual Encyclopedia of Living Artists in 1986. A tool for matching talented artists with industry professionals, during its lifetime it served its purpose well, filling a host of publishing, museum, and exhibition offerings with new talent.

Encyclopedia of Living Artists, Ninth Edition, features sixty-six artists across 95 pages. Sixteen pages in the back of the book are dedicated to biographies of each artist, hailing from all corners of the globe and working in a wide range of mediums.

Distinctly missing from Living Artists is any explanation as to what the selection process entailed. An unnecessary detail, perhaps, but if an artist wanted inclusion in the book, you'd think that's something they'd want to know.

Today, ArtNetwork's encyclopedia is a thing of the past. Though no longer serving its original function, it remains an important historical record of sorts of the world's up-and-coming artists of the late twentieth century . . . more >

There is, in effect, a genocide taking place in America today. Its victims don't come from any particular ethnicity or religion, but from across a wide spectrum of species. Mostly though, they're cats and dogs. The shelter system in the United States has become a monster, both in size and practice. Too frequently animals saddled with behavioral challenges are euthanized out of convenience, over necessity. Often, our shelter dogs and cats only just need to break through their emotional barriers to be set on a path to finding forever homes. Fortunately, there is a growing movement among animal advocates looking to help them do just that.

Joan Ranquet is on a mission. Her goal: To give voice to the voiceless in order to create harmony on this planet so the Earth can begin to heal itself. In 2022 she set the lofty goal of helping 22 million animals by year's end. For 2023, she's upped it to 23 million. By building an army of animal communicators and healers through her school, Communication With All Life University, she's confident . . . more >

The purpose of Elizabeth Elias Kaufman's Big & Little Animals is clear (as stated on the back cover):

    [To] enable your child to understand and relate to the animal world. The curiosity of a young child will easily be satisfied through full-color pictures and easy-to-read type.
Attempting to strike a balance between photos and text, Big & Little Animals serves as a basic introduction to the wild kingdom. Expect nothing more and you'll not be disappointed. Cat and horse lovers, on the other hand, might be. Though the cover sports an image of a kitten and horse going nose-to-nose, there's nary a housecat, horse, or pony to be found within . . . more >

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