Index of articles by category

Beyond the Book Articles
Music and the Arts

Page 1 of 3

Order books by:
Note: The key icon indicates member-only content.Learn more about membership.
The Bylina (09/22)
The bylina, an Old Russian form of epic poetry or song, is referenced in The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes, in which the author notes its ideological significance.

The word 'bylina' (plural: byliny) has its origins in the Russian 'byl,' translating as 'that which happened.' Byliny began to be printed and popularized in the 17th ...
Haitian Art (09/22)
In the back matter of What Storm, What Thunder, author Myriam J. A. Chancy cites paintings by Trinidadian artist LeRoy Clarke (who passed away in July 2021) as a major inspiration for her novel. Clarke created a cycle of nearly a hundred paintings about Haiti, many of them depicting the 2010 earthquake. Similarly, Chancy was moved to ...
It's Raining Men: René Magritte's Golconda (1953) (07/22)
In Sloane Crosley's novel Cult Classic, protagonist Lola is swept up in an experiment run by a secret society called the Golconda: The society's leader has manufactured a way to induce many of Lola's ex-boyfriends to appear, one at a time, in downtown Manhattan, so that she can confront them and achieve closure. The society is named ...
Misogynistic Themes in Murder Ballads (07/22)
In The Killing Hills, which takes place in Kentucky, misogyny manifests in attitudes toward key female characters, notably the town sheriff. Additionally, the act of femicide is a central theme and a reminder of cultural aspects of female subjugation, including the murder ballad, a song format that is notably popular as a sub-genre of ...
The Nutcracker (06/22)
Megan Abbott's The Turnout, a novel about two twin sisters who are dancers, begins at the start of The Nutcracker season. Apart from being a universally beloved show with deep roots in American ballet, The Nutcracker is also the Durant School of Dance's main moneymaker: 'Every year, their fall enrollment increased twenty percent because ...
"Degenerate Art" in Nazi Germany (05/22)
In David R. Gillham's Shadows of Berlin, the protagonist's mother was a modern artist whose work was banned by the Hitler Regime.

Adolf Hitler didn't originally intend to have a career in politics, planning instead to be a professional artist. In 1907 at the age of 18, he applied to Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts, but was rejected &#...
The Four Treasures of Chinese Calligraphy (05/22)
In Four Treasures of the Sky, heroine Daiyu arrives at Master Wang's calligraphy school as an orphan looking for work. She quickly becomes his best student as she learns about the titular four treasures: brush, ink, paper and ink stone. Since the time of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420–589 CE), these items have been ...
Writing Residencies (04/22)
In Lee Cole's Groundskeeping, the protagonist is offered a fellowship to take up the (fictional) Harry Crews Cottage writing residency in Florida, and his love interest is the writer-in-residence on their shared college campus in Kentucky. Writing residencies vary greatly in terms of what they entail. Some can be like a free working ...
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (04/22)
In Julietta Henderson's The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, the title character is a 12-year-old boy who wants to perform his stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Also known as 'the Edinburgh Fringe' or simply 'the Fringe,' this event started out as an unofficial offshoot of the Edinburgh International Festival in Edinburgh...
The Evolution of the Pipe Organ (04/22)
The protagonist of James Runcie's novel, The Great Passion, is an organist and organ builder. The pipe organ has been referred to as the 'king of musical instruments' due to its size, complexity and power. Though its structure is similar to that of a piano, it has not one keyboard but as many as seven, plus a pedalboard played with the ...
Chinese Handscrolls (04/22)
The family at the center of Peach Blossom Spring carries a handscroll with them as they flee their home in the Hunan Province of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The scroll illustrates a fable, the significance of which grows and changes for main character Renshu over the course of his life. The handscroll has been a form of art...
The Music and Writing of Sasha LaPointe (04/22)
Sasha LaPointe, the author of Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk, is an established musician, poet and writer of nonfiction who holds an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. According to her website, she draws inspiration from her Indigenous background (from the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian tribes...
The Booth Family and Shakespeare in the 19th Century United States (03/22)
Karen Joy Fowler's Booth features several characters who are Shakespearean actors, starting with Junius Brutus Booth, who was born in England in 1796 and emigrated to the United States in 1821. He managed the Adelphi Theatre in Baltimore in the 1830s and also toured internationally, becoming very well-known in the U.S. and abroad. All ...
The Influence of Pygmalion in Art and Entertainment (03/22)
Tracing Jennieke Cohen's My Fine Fellow and its influences through time offers a fascinating thread stretching back all the way to the ancient Greeks.

Cohen's novel is a playful reworking of the musical My Fair Lady, about a snobbish English professor determined to make over a Cockney flower seller. The musical was written by composer ...
The Work of Mark Rothko (03/22)
The story 'Rothko, Rothko' in Gish Jen's collection Thank You, Mr. Nixon features an art forger who is dedicated to mimicking the work of the abstract painter Mark Rothko. Known for his depictions of intensely colored rectangular figures, Rothko is considered one of the most notable artists of the 20th century.

An American of Latvian ...
John Coltrane's Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (01/22)
Sarah Schalansky's book An Inventory of Losses introduces readers to an eclectic group of 12 things that no longer exist, from extinct species to ruined castles. But early on, Schalansky notes that sometimes the opposite happens — something is pulled back into public consciousness after a period of dormancy. One of these things is ...
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) (10/21)
In Susannah Clarke's novel Piranesi, the titular character lives in a fantastical, labyrinthine home filled with endless hallways, rooms, statues and even an ocean. It's a remarkably inventive setting, and, as our savvy First Impressions reader Lorraine D. noticed, the protagonist's name is a reference to a likely source of inspiration ...
The Gardner Museum Heist (10/21)
The Last Mona Lisa is a fictionalized account of the real 1911 theft of the famous da Vinci painting of the title. Despite extensive investigation, it took more than two years for the painting to be recovered and returned to the Louvre. Other art heists don't have such happy outcomes: Sometimes stolen paintings are damaged or destroyed, ...
Dadaism (09/21)
In The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, Charlie English connects the psychological effects of World War I to the evolving art scene in the early decades of the 20th century. The war not only killed upwards of 20 million people, but it also had an enormous impact on European culture in the decades after the guns fell silent in 1918. One of...
Fairuz: The Voice of Lebanon (09/21)
Fairuz is a Lebanese singer and actress, often hailed as the voice of Lebanon and the voice of hope. Having recorded over 1,500 songs and sold over 100 million records, her body of work is vast and globally admired.

Born in the Chouf region in the 1930s with the name Nuhad al-Haddad, her family moved to Beirut when she was young. It ...
Art Restoration and Conservation (08/21)
In Dirk Wittenborn's The Stone Girl, the main character, Evie, is an art restorer who specializes in repairing statues. Art restoration is the professional process of repairing works of art that have been subjected to the effects of damage or age, including paintings, sculptures and architecture. The restoration of art is somewhat ...
Grime Music (07/21)
As Olivette Otele references in her book African Europeans: An Untold History, many Black British artists find music to be an effective and far-reaching medium in which to address and explore their heritage and life experiences as people of color. Grime music has become one of the hottest and most vibrant genres to emerge in the UK in the...
A History of the Vegas Showgirl (06/21)
Dario Diofebi's novel Paradise, Nevada takes a look into the world of the Las Vegas working woman, including the iconic Vegas showgirl. The last traditional showgirl extravaganza, 'Jubilee,' was shut down in 2016 after a 34-year run, pushed out by competition from other entertainments catering to more modern and family-friendly tastes. ...
Top of the Pops (05/21)
David Mitchell's novel Utopia Avenue centers around a fictional British pop band in the turbulent years of 1967 and 1968. Acts popular in both the United States and Britain included the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who, the Supremes, the Byrds, the Kinks, Aretha Franklin… and ...
The Oud (04/21)
In previous 'beyond the book' articles we've looked at different aspects of contemporary Syria - such as its culture and the refugee crisis. Now, we take a look at its music through a close up look at one of the Muslim world's most popular instruments.

Aeham Ahmad, author of The Pianist from Syria, owned a music store with his father ...
Looking Back On Mississippi Burning (1988) (02/21)
In December 1988, the controversial crime-thriller movie Mississippi Burning was released. It follows two FBI agents — played by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe — who investigate the disappearance of three civil rights workers. The agents' efforts to solve the case are hindered by a hostile local police force and the Ku Klux ...
Artistic and Religious Representations of Angels in Pet (01/21)
In Pet, Jam is fascinated by angels. Through her mother, an artist, she is aware that monsters do not necessarily look scary, and angels can be visually mistaken for monsters, especially when they are of the avenging variety. Her friend Ube the librarian helps her find books full of artwork depicting angels. Jam is surprised to see that ...
Children's Art of the Holocaust (10/20)
In Alice Hoffman's novel The World That We Knew, Julien, 14, escapes occupied Paris and finds temporary refuge at a rural chateau-turned-orphanage. He tutors math and participates in art workshops there. The displaced children survive day-to-day, and are encouraged to express themselves with drawing and painting.

An important collection...
The Rise of the Celebrity Chef (08/20)
Jeff Gordinier, the author of Hungry (about his travels with René Redzepi), dates the concept of the modern celebrity chef to 1990, when Marco Pierre White, a London chef with a famously fiery temper, released the cookbook White Heat. A decade later, Anthony Bourdain, who had a similar bad-boy image powered by sex and drug use, ...
Dr. Zhivago, the Movie (08/20)
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott revolves around the publication of Boris Pasternak's 1957 novel Dr. Zhivago, which was banned in the Soviet Union because of the author's perceived anti-socialist ideals. The novel was adapted into a film in 1965 by British director David Lean (famous at the time for Lawrence of Arabia), starring Omar ...
Chopin's Farewell Waltz (08/20)
In Your House Will Pay, one of author Steph Cha's characters is a gregarious, astute journalist called Jules Searcey, who is known for writing about issues related to political and racial dissent. He penned a breakthrough book based on his reporting called Farewell Waltz: The Life and Death of Ava Matthews, which covered the murder of a ...
The Playlist for Eleanor and Park (07/20)
In my review of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park, I suggest that if the novel were a song, it would be a punk rock song. I hold firm to that idea.

A brief (if incomplete) lesson on punk rock music: First, as is true with the birth of most genres of anything (music, art, architecture, etc.), pinpointing the beginning is tough, if not ...
The Life and Art of Pegeen Guggenheim (07/20)
Costalegre's main protagonist Lara Calaway is based on real-life artist Pegeen Vail Guggenheim (1925-1967), daughter of wealthy New York art collector and socialite Peggy Guggenheim (1898–1979). In her afterword, author Courtney Maum leaves a dedication to the not widely known artist: 'Pegeen: Your story wasn't told much. I hope you...
History of the New York City Theatre Scene (04/20)
The New York City borough of Manhattan sometimes seems like it's much older than it actually is, given its massive scale, impressive infrastructure, and cultural impact. However, it was only in the 1850s that work began on Central Park, and Manhattan started to rapidly expand north of 14th Street. Times Square was only so named in 1904, ...
Controversial 20th Century Female Photographers (03/20)
Lillian Preston, the photographer at the heart of Feast Your Eyes, is fictional, but there are a number of controversial 20th century female photographers on whom she could be based, including Diane Arbus (1923-1971), Irina Ionesco (b.1930) and Sally Mann (b.1951).

Born Diane Nemerov, 18-year-old Diane Arbus received her first camera ...
Lee Lozano's Dropout Piece (03/20)
In Fake Like Me, author Barbara Bourland alludes to artist Lee Lozano (1930-1999) and her elusive, controversial final project called Dropout Piece. This piece of performance art was Lozano's act of withdrawing from the art world in order to be an outsider. She slipped into isolation through the end of her life, pushing the boundaries of ...
The Power of Polaroid Photography (02/20)
Once upon a time, long before digital photography became commonplace, the only way to instantly see the results after taking a photo was by using a Polaroid instant camera. In Lost Children Archive, the narrator gives her stepson a Polaroid camera for his tenth birthday. He takes photos during their trip, and a series of Polaroid images ...
Iranian Cuisine (02/20)
In Marjan Kamali's novel The Stationery Shop, Iranian food plays a central role, whether a simple melon smoothie drink, hot tea sweetened with rock sugar candy (nabat), or a more complicated feast for Persian New Year. Traditional cuisine from Iran, also known as Persia, is a mélange of many cultures partly due to a vibrant trading ...
Gaudeamus Igitur (So Let Us Rejoice) (01/20)
The title of the novel Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko comes from a verse in the Latin song popularly known as Gaudeamus Igitur ('So Let Us Rejoice'). The work's lyrics urge their audience to enjoy all the pleasure they can because all will end too soon, and they also praise the student lifestyle. Although most often considered...
The Restoration of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers (01/20)
Finding Dorothy is the fictionalized story of Maud Gage Baum, the wife of L. Frank Baum of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz fame. Through dual narratives, Elizabeth Letts explores the lives of the Baums and the inspirations that led Frank to pen his famous novel, while also featuring Maud's fight to see her husband's work honored as it was ...
String Quartets (08/19)
In the second half of the eighteenth century, chamber music, which was played by ensembles (small groups of musicians and thus suitable for smaller rooms), became very fashionable. The term 'ensemble' comes from the Old French word for 'together' and can refer to a grouping of any size, from a duet up to a full orchestra. The Dublin-based...
Popular Los Angeles-area Bookstores (08/19)
In Glen David Gold's memoir's second section, Gold recalls his experiences working at a branch of Hunter's Books in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles (near UCLA) during a gap year he took in college. Hunter's, as Gold notes, was 'part of a local handful of stores that wouldn't survive the new realities of commerce.' Indeed, ...
The Art of Capoeira (07/19)
In 'Everything the Mouth Eats,' one of the stories in A Lucky Man, the martial art/dance form of capoeira takes center stage.

Capoeira originated in Brazil possibly among enslaved Africans who were brought to work the land for the Portuguese overlords. The South American country was ruled by the Portuguese from 1500 to 1815 and during...
Political Puppetry (07/19)
While staying at an island resort, the protagonist of the title story of Deborah Eisenberg's Your Duck is My Duck meets another artist, a puppeteer who is crafting a performance about their benefactors' mistreatment of the island's farmers. Eisenberg is drawing from a long history of puppetry as a political tool wielded by artists ...
The Chanson Musical Tradition (07/19)

Alfred Busi, the protagonist of The Melody, is described by author Jim Crace as being a singer in the European chanson tradition. This lyrically-drive musical form originated in medieval France as the chanson de geste ('song of heroic deeds'), epic poems recounting the glorious tales of famous heroes set to music. The songs employed basic...
The History of Tiffany's (07/19)
Much of the action in M. J. Rose's novel Tiffany Blues takes place at Louis Comfort Tiffany's fabulous estate near Oyster Bay, New York. It's an 84-room mansion, standing on over 60 acres of lush landscaping, all conceived and designed by Louis himself. Since the late 1800s he had been the chief creative force behind the ...
Drive-In Theaters (05/19)
Realizing her dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress are dwindling, Tammy Treeborne - a central protagonist in Treeborne - decides to indulge her passion for the movies in another way, by opening her very own drive-in theater in Elberta, Alabama.

The drive-in theater is an American icon, itself immortalized in countless classic ...
The National Film Board of Canada (04/19)
The title of Heather Smith's novel, The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, is inspired by a 27-minute documentary called The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan [see full film below], which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1978. The film chronicles the effort of Quinlan, one of 5,000 people living on the streets in Montreal, to get ...
Great Topiary Gardens (04/19)
Mike Muñoz might be a magician with a mower and a wizard with a weed whacker, but his real talent is topiary. If, like Mike, you thrill to see people, animals and mythical creatures carved from living trees and shrubs, here are a few great public topiary gardens to add to your itinerary.


Levens Hall, Cumbria, England
Regarded as ...
Ancient Cartography (04/19)
Mapmaking has been a vital part of human curiosity for millennia. The oldest known world map is the Babylonian Map of the World, also known as the Imago Mundi, which dates back to the 5th century BCE. This early map is not alone. Archaeologists have found many map-like representations in caves, some of which even show images of star ...
Order books by:

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...
  • Book Jacket: Moth
    Moth
    by Melody Razak
    On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the United Kingdom, and on that same day the ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.