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Insider’s perspective: Artist Binh Danh

By Harry Ransom Center

The Ransom Center’s photography collection was pleased to acquire several pieces by emerging artist Binh Danh this past year.  Danh has pioneered a fascinating mode of printing directly on plant leaves through the natural process of photosynthesis.  By placing a negative in contact with a living leaf and then exposing it to sunlight for several weeks, the image literally becomes part of the leaf.  Danh then permanently “fixes” the image by casting it in resin.  He calls the finished piece a “cholorophyll print.”  These compelling objects appear very contemporary, but also harken back to the botanical photogenic drawings created by William Henry Fox Talbot at the dawn of photography. Read more

Curator’s Pick: Das Kapital

By Harry Ransom Center

The Ransom Center holds in its collections a first edition of Das Kapital, inscribed by author Karl Marx and published in 1867. The book, purchased by the University in 1969 at an auction, is inscribed to English socialist reformer John Malcolm Ludlow on the title page: “J. M. Ludlow, Esq. / On the part of the author.” In his memoirs, Ludlow later regretted that he hadn’t used the gift as an opportunity to meet the author. Read more

Photos of Norman Mailer from the Flair Symposium

By Harry Ransom Center

Norman Mailer visited the Ransom Center for the 2006 Flair Symposium, The Sense of Our Time: Norman Mailer and America in Conflict, which culminated with a public panel, “A Conversation with Norman Mailer.” The panel, moderated by Steven Isenberg, featured Norman Mailer, Gay Talese, and Lawrence Schiller. Below are some photos from the panel and other events at the Flair Symposium. Read more

Selections from Feliks Topolski: Portraits of Britain’s Twentieth-Century Literary Greats

By Harry Ransom Center

The exhibition Felix Topolski: Portraits of Britain’s Twentieth-Century Literary Greats, runs through December 31, 2006.

The Ransom Center acquired Topolski’s full-length portrait of George Bernard Shaw in 1960 and shortly thereafter commissioned the artist to paint a portrait series of great living British writers and playwrights. The commission of “Twenty Greats” eventually included the portraits of W. H. Auden, John Betjeman, Cyril Connolly, Ivy Compton-Burnett, T. S. Eliot, William Empson, E. M. Forster, Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, C. Day Lewis, Louis MacNiece, John Osborne, J. B. Priestley, Herbert Read, Bertrand Russell, C. P. Snow, Stephen Spender, Edith Sitwell, Evelyn Waugh, Rebecca West, John Whiting, Arnold Wesker, and Shelagh Delaney. This exhibition brings together, for the first time, all 20 stunning and controversial paintings from the original commission. Read more

The Alan Furst papers: Interrogation of a spy novelist

By Harry Ransom Center

One of the more thrilling aspects of being a writer is never knowing who might read your stuff. You can safely bet on your mom, a few colleagues, and the occasional library archivist, but beyond that, it’s a toss-up. Alan Furst hit the jackpot when a copy of his book The Polish Officer found its way onto the nightstand of Thomas Staley, director of the Harry Ransom Center, who discovered in Furst’s prose a singular ability to recreate the tense and shadowy atmosphere that gripped pre-World War II Europe. Furst reminded Staley of Graham Greene, whose papers the Ransom Center already housed, and Staley thought Furst’s meticulous research files and neatly typewritten manuscripts would fit nicely next to Greene’s on the shelves of the Ransom Center’s Reading Room. He approached Furst and, after a few years of negotiating, purchased Furst’s collection for an undisclosed amount.

Furst visited Austin in October to kick off the Texas Book Festival with a reading from his latest novel, the New York Times bestseller The Foreign Correspondent. With his collection now open to the public, we crept into the Ransom Center’s Reading Room to sift through a few boxes of his papers, curious to see how one goes about writing spy novels. At the tops of the following pages, you’ll find scans of some of the materials in Furst’s first novel, Night Soldiers, that represent the various stages in the writing process. We then sat down with Furst and asked him how he does it…

By: Tim Taliaferro. This article originally appeared in March/April 2007 issue of The Alcalde.

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