Greg Bottoms

  • Painting a Hidden Life: The Art of Bill Traylor

    Bill Traylor—born into slavery in Benton, Alabama, in 1853; poor and illiterate; the murderer of his first wife’s lover in the early 1900s; the father of a son who was killed by two Klan-member policemen in 1929; and a victim of Jim Crow’s systematic dehumanization—used art, as Mechal Sobel argues in her convincing study Painting a Hidden Life, as a way to order his inner turmoil and offer coded pictorial resistance to racist oppression. He was “the man with a fire in his belly that he painted a number of times.”

    An emeritus history professor at the University of Haifa in Israel, Sobel brings

  • Uneasy does it

    It's now downright obligatory for a critic reviewing a memoir to begin by offering a brief assessment of the genre, always including a disquisition on recent fiascos, the faddishness of the publishing industry, and the unearned capital inherent in words like true, tragic, and redemptive when modifying story. This requisite genre-bashing persists even though some of our finest novelists—Hilary Mantel, Orhan Pamuk, Amos Oz, Edmund White, John McGahern, and Donald Antrim—have lately produced among their most artful works in the form.

    We can now add Jonathan Franzen to their ranks. His new book,