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Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir

by

Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"Hughes's preference for uttering the occasional good old English (or Australian) obscenity rather than pussyfooting around euphemisms may seem refreshing to some and shocking to others. Either way, he can only rarely be accused of being dull....His anecdotes are frequently hilarious, sometimes cruel or vindictive, but largely entertaining. Hughes's sheer relish for writing is irresistible." Christopher Andreae, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Robert Hughes has trained his critical eye on many major subjects: from Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Goya) to the city of Barcelona (Barcelona) to the history of his native Australia (The Fatal Shore) to modern American mores and values (The Culture of Complaint). Now he turns that eye on perhaps his most fascinating subject: himself and the world that formed him.

Things I Didn't Know is a memoir unlike any other because Hughes is a writer unlike any other. He analyzes his experiences the way he might examine a Van Gogh or a Picasso: he describes the surface so we can picture the end result, then he peels away the layers and scratches underneath that surface so we can understand all the beauty and tragedy and passion and history that lie below. So when Hughes describes his relationship with his stern and distant father, an Australian Air Force hero of the First World War, we're not simply simply told of typical father/son complications, we see the thrilling exploits of a WWI pilot, learn about the nature of heroism, get the history of modern warfare — from the air and from the trenches — and we become aware how all of this relates to the wars we're fighting today, and we understand how Hughes's brilliant anti-war diatribe comes from both the heart and an understanding of the horrors of combat. The same high standards apply throughout as Hughes explores, with razor sharpness and lyrical intensity, his Catholic upbringing and Catholic school years; his development as an artist and writer and the honing of his critical skills; his growing appreciation of art; his exhilaration at leaving Australia to discover a new life in Italy and then in "swinging '60s" London. In each and every instance, we are not just taken on a tour of Bob Hughes's life, we are taken on a tour of his mind — and like the perfect tour, it is educational, funny, expansive and genuinely entertaining, never veering into sentimental memories, always looking back with the right sharpness of objectivity and insight to examine a rebellious period in art, politics and sex.

One of the extraordinary aspects of this book is that Hughes allows his observations of the world around him to be its focal point rather than the details of his past. He is able to regale us with anecdotes of unknown talents and eccentrics as well as famous names such as Irwin Shaw, Robert Rauschenberg, Cyril Connolly, Kenneth Tynan, Marcel Duchamp, and many others. He revels in the joys of sensuality and the anguish of broken relationships. He appreciates genius and craft and deplores waste and stupidity. The book can soar with pleasure and vitality as well as drag us into almost unbearable pain.

Perhaps the most startling section of Things I Didn't Know comes in the very opening, when Hughes describes his near fatal car crash of several years ago. He shows not just how he survived and changed — but also how he refused to soften or weaken when facing mortality. He begins by dealing with what was almost the end of life, and then goes on from there to show us the value of life, in particular the value of exploring and celebrating one specific and extraordinary life.

Review:

"Cultural critic Hughes (The Fatal Shore) slices into his own life with his ever-ready scalpel of penetrating analysis, opening his saga in 1999 with his near-fatal car accident at age 60 in his native Australia. Glimpsing death, he perceives its mouth as 'the bocca d'inferno of old Christian art,' a sampling of the rich, wide-ranging corpus of knowledge he brings to bear upon every aspect of his life. His improbable recovery touches off both earnest and acerbic reflections on his upbringing, his native country and the manifold influences that power his works and wanderings through Europe and America. Recognizing his life as an act of rebellion against his sanctimonious war-hero father, he re-enacts his virulent rejection of military aggression and his punitive boarding at Catholic school, where the priests vilify him for reading James Joyce in secret. His immersion in the artistic ferment of the '60s echoes the worldwide convulsions — both cultural and political — of that decade, pulling him into the avant-garde circles that girded his critical career. Hughes's vivid ruminations and sharp-eyed insights combine in bold, definitive strokes to yield a rich portrait of the art expert." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Cultural critic Hughes (The Fatal Shore) slices into his own life with his ever-ready scalpel of penetrating analysis, opening his saga in 1999 with his near-fatal car accident at age 60 in his native Australia. Glimpsing death, he perceives its mouth as 'the bocca d'inferno of old Christian art,' a sampling of the rich, wide-ranging corpus of knowledge he brings to bear upon every aspect of his life. His improbable recovery touches off both earnest and acerbic reflections on his upbringing, his native country and the manifold influences that power his works and wanderings through Europe and America. Recognizing his life as an act of rebellion against his sanctimonious war-hero father, he re-enacts his virulent rejection of military aggression and his punitive boarding at Catholic school, where the priests vilify him for reading James Joyce in secret. His immersion in the artistic ferment of the '60s echoes the worldwide convulsions — both cultural and political — of that decade, pulling him into the avant-garde circles that girded his critical career. Hughes's vivid ruminations and sharp-eyed insights combine in bold, definitive strokes to yield a rich portrait of the art expert. 75,000 first printing. (Sept)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Robert Hughes has been many things in his more than six and a half decades — art critic, biographer, historian, polemicist, television commentator — and he has done all of them exceedingly well. As art critic for Time magazine from 1970 to 2001 (and a continuing contributor), he raised the standards of magazine criticism to new heights and demonstrated conclusively that it is possible to write serious... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"So funny, candid, and incisive is Hughes' self-portrait and chronicle of postwar art world up to 1970, readers will hope avidly for a second installment." Booklist

Review:

"A long, unblinking look in time's mirror, by a writer who has spent his life mastering his subject and his craft." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Review:

"This fascinating and entertaining read, at times somber and at times amusing, is recommended." Library Journal

Book News Annotation:

Those familiar with any of Hughes' works--The Fatal Shore, Barcelona, The Shock of the New, American Visions, and Goya--will grab hold of this autobiographical work, knowing the author's extraordinary ability to communicate his engagement with life and art.
Annotation 2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Book News Annotation:

Those familiar with any of Hughes' works--The Fatal Shore, Barcelona, The Shock of the New, American Visions, and Goya--will grab hold of this autobiographical work, knowing the author's extraordinary ability to communicate his engagement with life and art. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

About the Author

Robert J. Hughes received a bachelor' s degree in Business Administration from Southern Nazarene University, and completed both his Master' s degree and Ph.D. from the University of North Texas with specializations in Business Administration and college teaching. Dr. Hughes currently teaches Introduction to Business, Personal Finance, and Business Math for the Dallas County Community Colleges. He is the recipient of three different Teaching in Excellence Awards at Richland College. In addition to Business, he has authored college textbooks in Personal Finance and Business Mathematics which are used throughout the world. Currently, Dr. Hughes is active in many academic and professional organizations. He has served as a consultant and investment advisor to individuals, businesses, and charitable organizations.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400044443
Subtitle:
A Memoir
Author:
Hughes, Robert
Publisher:
Knopf
Subject:
General
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Art critics
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
General Biography
Publication Date:
20060919
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9.58x6.50x1.37 in. 1.60 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism
Biography » General
History and Social Science » World History » Australia and New Zealand

Things I Didn't Know: A Memoir Used Hardcover
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Product details 416 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9781400044443 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Cultural critic Hughes (The Fatal Shore) slices into his own life with his ever-ready scalpel of penetrating analysis, opening his saga in 1999 with his near-fatal car accident at age 60 in his native Australia. Glimpsing death, he perceives its mouth as 'the bocca d'inferno of old Christian art,' a sampling of the rich, wide-ranging corpus of knowledge he brings to bear upon every aspect of his life. His improbable recovery touches off both earnest and acerbic reflections on his upbringing, his native country and the manifold influences that power his works and wanderings through Europe and America. Recognizing his life as an act of rebellion against his sanctimonious war-hero father, he re-enacts his virulent rejection of military aggression and his punitive boarding at Catholic school, where the priests vilify him for reading James Joyce in secret. His immersion in the artistic ferment of the '60s echoes the worldwide convulsions — both cultural and political — of that decade, pulling him into the avant-garde circles that girded his critical career. Hughes's vivid ruminations and sharp-eyed insights combine in bold, definitive strokes to yield a rich portrait of the art expert." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Cultural critic Hughes (The Fatal Shore) slices into his own life with his ever-ready scalpel of penetrating analysis, opening his saga in 1999 with his near-fatal car accident at age 60 in his native Australia. Glimpsing death, he perceives its mouth as 'the bocca d'inferno of old Christian art,' a sampling of the rich, wide-ranging corpus of knowledge he brings to bear upon every aspect of his life. His improbable recovery touches off both earnest and acerbic reflections on his upbringing, his native country and the manifold influences that power his works and wanderings through Europe and America. Recognizing his life as an act of rebellion against his sanctimonious war-hero father, he re-enacts his virulent rejection of military aggression and his punitive boarding at Catholic school, where the priests vilify him for reading James Joyce in secret. His immersion in the artistic ferment of the '60s echoes the worldwide convulsions — both cultural and political — of that decade, pulling him into the avant-garde circles that girded his critical career. Hughes's vivid ruminations and sharp-eyed insights combine in bold, definitive strokes to yield a rich portrait of the art expert. 75,000 first printing. (Sept)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Hughes's preference for uttering the occasional good old English (or Australian) obscenity rather than pussyfooting around euphemisms may seem refreshing to some and shocking to others. Either way, he can only rarely be accused of being dull....His anecdotes are frequently hilarious, sometimes cruel or vindictive, but largely entertaining. Hughes's sheer relish for writing is irresistible." (read the entire CSM review)
"Review" by , "So funny, candid, and incisive is Hughes' self-portrait and chronicle of postwar art world up to 1970, readers will hope avidly for a second installment."
"Review" by , "A long, unblinking look in time's mirror, by a writer who has spent his life mastering his subject and his craft."
"Review" by , "This fascinating and entertaining read, at times somber and at times amusing, is recommended."
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