Salon recommends

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Salon Staff
July 21, 2000 12:03PM (UTC)

Wainewright the Poisoner by Andrew Motion
How do you write a biography of a historical figure so notorious, so reviled, so blown up into a boogeyman of his age that most accounts of his life and doings can't be trusted? Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, a Regency-era painter, dandy, forger and murderer, was a bit like the Charles Manson of his time in that he befriended many notables (including the poets William Blake, Lord Byron and John Keats). Once it was revealed that he'd probably poisoned three relatives in order to inherit the family estate that obsessed him, his old chums renounced him and got rid of his letters and drawings. Andrew Motion (poet laureate of England) takes the scanty and contradictory historical evidence of Wainewright's peculiar life and uses it as the base for a stylish first-person "confession," a riff that displays all of Wainewright's dangerous charm.
--Laura Miller

The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design by Galen Cranz
You might laugh at the idea of an entire book about an everyday object we take entirely for granted, but that's exactly the point of this cool and unusual book, which recently came out in paperback. Kranz is on a mission to convince us to think twice about sitting in chairs: There's no perfectly comfortable chair, she says, because chairs themselves are the problem. What's more, the only reason we sit on them (rather than squatting on the floor) is that centuries ago Westerners needed a way to express social hierarchies. Eastern and African cultures squatted more and to this day suffer fewer back problems as a result. In this century, chairs have also become a showcase for architects and sculptors, and if you want to brush up on your Eames and Le Corbusier, the book is also a groovy guide to chair design.
--Maria Russo

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