Christmas Crackers for Cats: Festive Feline Limericks
by Julie & John Hope
illustrated by Sue Hellard
Published by Bantam Books
32 pages, 2000
ISBN: 0553812963

There was an old cat from Duluth
With one eye and hardly a tooth
Eats food with a paw
Drinks milk through a straw
Which makes her look rather uncouth

It is, of course, pure silliness: since when do cats need limericks? Even festive ones? The cat lover in your life might enjoy this one more than the cats actually do. A plus though: it would fit into a stocking and is sure to make someone smile. What higher recommendation is needed?

Coca-Cola Girls: An Advertising Art History
by Chris H. Beyer
Published by Collectors Press,
288 pages, 2000
ISBN 1888054441

Collectors Press continues its tradition of producing some of the loveliest art books in the industry. Chris H. Beyer's Coca-Cola Girls: An Advertising Art History is no exception. This time focusing on Coca-Cola advertising that featured a pretty girl or two, Coca-Cola Girls is an in-depth look at, not only the advertising of the day, but also giving the reader detailed insight of the art styles and fashions of the late 19th century through to the 1960s. Coca-Cola Girls also provides an intimate and extensive history of not only the 115-year-old Coca-Cola industry but of the soft drink industry itself. Since 1886 Coke has used the talents of such artists as Alberto Vargas, N.C. Wyeth, Gil Elvgren, Haddon Sondblom and Norman Rockwell which means that Coca-Cola Girls is rich with superb artwork. A must-have for Coke connoisseurs, collectors and memorabilia buffs.

Driven: The Racing Photography of Jesse Alexander 1954-1962
by Jesse Alexander
Published by Chronicle Books,
112 pages, 2000
ISBN 0811828514

For over 45 years, Jesse Alexander has been one of the leading motor sport photographers and Driven hearkens back to those halcyon days of postwar Europe and the golden age of auto racing. Driven takes a small page out of the sport's history book and concentrates on eight influential years of the motorcar racing circuit. Alexander's great black and white photos evoke not only nostalgia for the sport but highlight the almost primitive conditions and dangers of early racing -- as compared to today's hightech version of the sport -- while still emphasizing the creativity and passion of all involved. Nicely rounding out the book is a foreword by racing legend Stirling Moss waxing romantic about the glamour and adventure of those exciting times and his days as a driver.

The Goddess: Power, Sexuality and the Feminine Divine
by Shahrukh Husain
Published by Duncan Baird Publishers
184 pages, 2000
ISBN: 1900131994

The title alone is beyond resisting. The ultimate girl power book, author Shahrukh Husain manages to combine some pretty erudite stuff with engaging illustrations and a personal style that is both conversational and informative. "Restored to her ancient status as Supreme Being, the Goddess is today a potent figurehead for feminists, Paganists and environmentalists, as well as for countless others concerned to find a more harmonious way to live in the modern world." For some, those will be fighting words, for others a balm for the soul, but no one will be bored.

Inherit the Earth
by Sheila Metzner
Published by Bulfinch Press
136 pages, 2000
ISBN: 021226010

In giving gifts, sometimes presentation is everything. For sheer coverage of coffee table space, nothing this season beats photographer Sheila Metzner's Inherit the Earth. Voluptuously packaged and produced, Inherit the Earth is a hard-bound monument to a talented photographer's ego. Begin with the endpapers: enlarged reproductions of the passport stamps Metzner presumably accumulated while traveling the earth in pursuit of these photos. Inside the book, all of the text -- and there isn't tons of it -- is in uppercase letters. Except, of course, for the snippets of her journal that have been reproduced as they fell. As the author says, "The text accompanying these photographs was in every case written at the time of the journey. To in any way alter by editing, correcting punctuation or to refine my intense reaction to these places would be to redefine the truth of my experience." Except, of course, it's set in all uppercase. The real inheritance here is in Metzner's photographs. There is a haunting, otherworldly quality to the images she shares with us here, enhanced by the process she's used to reproduce them. An artist who has been embraced by both the world of fashion -- she includes Ralph Lauren and Fendi on her client list -- and art -- her work is in the permanent collections at the MOMA, the Getty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- Inherit the Earth seems like the purest expression of pure Metznerism we've seen yet.

Nerve/The New Nude
by Genevieve Field
Published by Chronicle Books,
148 pages, 2000
ISBN: 081182957X

Aficionados of the naked human form (and who isn't?) will be pleased to discover that Genevieve Field, cofounder of nerve.com -- an online magazine devoted to a more intelligent view of sexuality and nudity -- has put together an irreverent and eclectic assortment of bare bodies for Nerve/ The New Nude. Contributions from 49 photographers fill Nerve with some stunning and shocking displays of everything from the simple nude to shots of a porn movie in progress and much in between. Taking a fresher approach than the standard studio portrait nude, Nerve finds people not only in various stages of undress but in sometimes odd and juxtaposing venues both indoors and out. It blurs the boundaries and shakes up the status quo of how and where the naked self is found. Nerve is not just another gratuitous peek at others' fleshy bits. Well, maybe it is. But it at least treats with respect and openness, something which we all possess: our own fascinating nakedness.

Rolling Stone: The Illustrated Portraits
edited and designed by Fred Woodward
published by Chronicle Books
220 pages, 2000
ISBN: 0811828166

Since 1969, Rolling Stone has been reporting on the music and entertainment industry. Alongside many of their reviews, profiles, interviews and features have been some stunning artwork created by some of the best illustrators and cartoonists in the business. Rolling Stone: The Illustrated Portraits is the culmination of more than 30 years of often brilliant, sometimes scathing but always-entertaining portraits of the people who sing, dance, write, act or just generally make spectacles (or have spectacles made) of themselves in the media. Throughout the history of the magazine, Rolling Stone has always been a leader in supporting illustrators and The Illustrated Portraits showcases over 200 works from nearly 100 illustrators and cartoonists; artists who have venerated and vilified the famous and the infamous, creating portraits of subjects both adored and abhorred. Included with many of the portraits are quotes from the subject along with often hilarious interviews with the artists -- and what they had in mind when creating the piece -- as well as the subjects and their reaction to the work.

Terence Donovan: The Photographs
edited by Diana Donovan and David Hillman
Published by Little, Brown and Company
256 pages, 2000
ISBN: 0316854204

Like 1999's The Sixties by Richard Avedon and Doon Arbus, Terence Donovan: The Photographs celebrates an era as witnessed through the lens of a single photographer. A book so big and unwieldy it almost defies easy usage, but whose size and stark setup provide an appropriate venue from which to review the best of Donovan's work. If you're unfamiliar with this photographer, you won't be with many of his subjects. Vidal Sassoon holding forth in 1959; Maria Kazan looking stormy in 1964; a tousled Julie Christie in 1962; a creamy Michelle Geddes baring a lot in 1988; Brian Ferry looking cheerfully suave in 1996; Celia Hammond in many poses -- and sometimes unposed -- in all of the eras that Donovan's work represents. Terence Donovan includes examples of all of the types of work that the British photographer, who died in 1996, involved himself with. Represented is fashion work, for which Donovan was perhaps best known, various types of advertising photos throughout the years and portraits of many people from friends and family to politicians, socialites and film and music stars. The portrait work is especially interesting: most of the subjects meet the photographer head-on and center frame. And many of them are laughing.

Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art
by Debora Silverman
Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
494 pages, 2000
ISBN: 0374282439

The spiky friendship shared by the painters Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh has been discussed often since its thorny conclusion over 100 years ago. The fact that their experiment in spiritual collaboration ended violently -- and with van Gogh's ear irreparably damaged -- has become the focus of much of the discussion. Author Debora Silverman looks deeper into the relationship and gives us an elaborate and convincing portrait of the spiritual differences that focused both painters' lives and art. However, Silverman also uses the book as a point of reference from which to frame her thought that, "we need to reemphasize the critical role of religion in the development of modernism, to bring religion back into the story of artists' mentalities and formations." Beautifully illustrated and heavily researched, this is a gift for the person who is serious in their consideration of all things modernist.

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