When in doubt, a book is the perfect gift—especially if it’s by a local author.
Right Here, Right Now: The Buffalo Anthology
We’ve seen our fair share of anthologies of local writing talents over the years, but perhaps none as far-reaching or eclectic as Right Here, Right Now: The Buffalo Anthology, and newly produced compilation of stories, essays, photography, and creative work aimed at illustrating what it is to be a Western New Yorker in 2016. Edited by UP professor Jody K. Biehl, it includes cover art by Julian Montague of the infamous November 2014 snowstorm, the original version of which first appeared in the centerfold of this paper, and written pieces by everyone from Marv Levy to Robby Takac and Wolf Blitzer, to a lot people you no doubt know personally.
In 2009, Bruce Jackson unwittingly began a project, the seeds of which had been sowed three years earlier. That year, 2006, Jackson—a SUNY Distinguished Professor with a long history of local activism—wrote about and photographed the demolition of the H-O Oats grain elevator to make way for the Seneca Buffalo Creek casino. In the end, he was drawn back to them and spent six years photographing them. The result is Jackson’s new book, American Chartres: Buffalo’s Waterfront Grain Elevators—the name taken from an exclamation by the poet Dominique Fourcade, upon his tour of Buffalo’s waterfronts, and reiterated in a show of Jackson’s photos at the UB Anderson Gallery three years ago. It is an astonishingly beautiful document of form: Jackson, an accomplished social historian, comes to the structures with an eye for their geometry, their scale, their imposition on the waterfront and landscape over which they tower.
Girls in the Moon
A poignant coming-of-age story in the guise of a young adult novel, Girls in the Moon by Buffalo’s own Janet McNally is a story of a 17-year-old Phoebe Ferris finding her way through her family’s many stories to possibly write her own. The book is co-narrated by her mother, Meg, a recovering rock star with a past she isn’t able to be forthcoming about. The book revolves around these half-truths teetering on the verge of full blown revelation, and includes the universal themes of motherhood, becoming an adult, and what fame does to a person. McNally borrowed heavily from her own experience in Buffalo’s indie rock scene of the 1990s in writing the book, and there’s no doubt some venues and characters will ring familiar.
Allentown: A Photographic Journey
William Faught has come up with a compelling list of shots in Allentown as the basis of this book titled after the historic neighborhood, Allentown: A Photographic Journey. With its stunning examples of Victorian architecture perched on one of Buffalo’s only high grounds just outside the rim of downtown, Faught’s many black-and-white images create a timeless illusion that speak even through the high-resolution prints from a high-end camera. As the book yields at many turns from the manmade to man itself, the times come alive. We see the way the Allentown Art Festival changes the streetscape, the way the Pride Parade enlivens it. Altogether a fun coffee table book for anyone who feels close to the neighborhood and historical Buffalo.
People I Don’t Know
Another book of photographs from the realm of the understated and probably under-appreciated is Donald Blank’s truly special book People I Don’t Know. The book is an accidental cross-section: Black-and-white photos from the 1960s slowly give way to color shots from recent years. In both markedly different social and technological eras, Blank’s subjects are reliably so vivid you can almost smell them coming off the page, accidentally or perhaps purposefully carrying forth Milton Rogovin’s legacy of documenting the rise and collapse of our city, the people along for the ride, and those left behind.
All the Ways We Kill and Die
Adding to his already notable contribution to war literature, specifically war nonfiction, Brian Castner’s All the Ways We Kill and Die takes the reader on a chase to understand who was behind the death of Matt Schwarz, a friend of Castner who was an explosive ordnance disposal technician in Afghanistan. Building off his previous book, The Long Walk, which documents Castner’s struggle to re-adapt to American society after serving in the same position as Schwarz in Iraq, All the Ways explores the string of variables held together by someone’s death: the friends, the loved ones, the military support staff in charge of tracking the bomb that killed Schwarz, and the jihadists who built it.
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