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'On Demand' publishing eclipses book industry

Two reports this week from the publishing industry illustrate the dynamic changes print culture is currently undergoing, as new technologies reshape the marketplace and the ongoing recession continues to erode the traditional book publishing business model.
R.R. Bowker LLC, the company that compiles official bibliographic information, issues International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) in the United States, and maintains the proprietary publishing industry books-in-print database, reported on Wednesday that "traditional" book publishing in the United States declined by 3.2% in 2008.  Bowker's preliminary figures obtained from over 75,000 publishers show 275,232 new titles and editions published in 2008, down from the 284,370 that were published in 2007.  Bowker's statistics previously noted a 2% drop in titles published in 2007 from audited 2006 figures. 

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Greg Gerke's 21st century Grotesques

In his 1987 essay "The New Sentence" poet-critic Ron Silliman argued for new kind of writing that would displace traditional narrative with a "dematerialized" prose based on the juxtaposition of sentences (or "parataxis") without a preordained hierarchy of meaning.
Outside of academia, this dematerialized writing style has found its expression in the development of "flash fiction" as a popular literary subgenre. While not all flash fiction has the non sequitur quality of surrealism and literary pastiche, the extreme compression of the form tends to favor broad gestures over subtle ones, and a predisposition toward hyperbole and incongruous juxtaposition.
In Buffalo-based fiction writer Greg Gerke's debut collection There's Something Wrong With Sven(BlazeVox Books), flash fiction illuminates some of the same eccentricites of small town, middle American experience that Sherwood Anderson explored in his classic early 20th century story collections Winesburg, Ohio (1919) and Triumph of the Egg (1921).   Like Anderson, Gerke reveals the core of strangeness underlying familiar societal conventions as grotesque, and depicts his 21st century "grotesques" as intimately familiar.

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Going beyond the Albright-Knox

All’s quiet this afternoon at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

On a typical Wednesday, the venerable institution at 1285 Elmwood Ave. would be abuzz with activity as it welcomed busloads of schoolchildren and opened its doors to the public for the coming week. But these times are anything but typical, as a sign taped to the gallery’s west entrance grimly announces: “This one-week closing is part of a series of cost-cutting measures to address current and anticipated financial challenges as a result of the economic downturn.”

On the sign, the words "cost-cutting" have been underlined in blue pen by a disappointed art-seeker who also took the opportunity to scrawl a telling three-letter acronym  next to the offending paragraph.

Gallery staffers, who’ve been told to stay home without pay until next Wednesday, are taking advantage of the unfortunate weeklong furlough to catch up on long-neglected personal projects.

Albright-Knox Director Louis Grachos will be catching up on household tasks and bringing his parents down from Canada for a long-postponed visit. Curator Holly Hughes, a member of a Buffalo roller derby team, will be brushing up on her skating skills. And Gretchen Grobe, who runs the gallery’s information counter, spent Monday leading a tour of City Hall for 20 of the gallery’s employees and the rest of the week preparing for the upcoming Allen West Festival.

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Tom Dudzick returns to form with new play


Buffalo-born playwright Tom Dudzick, who penned the beloved "Over the Tavern" series, stepped outside his comfort zone with "Don't Talk to the Actors" a comedy he wrote for for Studio Arena Theatre in 2007. The show, clever and well-acted though it was, failed to sell tickets. Å subsequent production at the Laguna Playhouse was panned by the Los Angeles Times.

Now, Dudzick has returned to his fertile source material with a new comedy, "Our Lady of South Division Street," which had its world premiere May 15 at Penguin Repertory Theatre in Stony Point. The show focuses on a Buffalo family whose matriarch maintains a peculiar shrine to the Virgin Mary. It's said to be based on an actual shrine on South Division Street.

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'Can this be Buffalo?'


That headline just about says it all. The Toronto Star's Peter Goddard, an occasional chronicler of Buffalo's more high-profile artistic endeavors, wrote a mostly glowing review of the current Albright-Knox Art Gallery mega-show "Action/Abstraction," which is up at the gallery through June 10.

In coverage of Buffalo from places else, like the New York Times and American Style magazine, what sometimes comes across is a sense of shock or surprise that our woebegone citizenry is still making and exhibiting art in Buffalo at all, let alone the sort that would merit a "world class" designation. But, given our national reputation as a snowbound "cultural hinterland" (thanks for that, NYT) -- however ill-deserved -- that's understandable enough.

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Miraculous murals


Artist Tom Holt near one of his murals outside of Squeaky Wheel (Robert Kirkham/The Buffalo News)

Sometimes we seek out art. We go to museums, we look at works of art in books, we listen to it, watch it, absorb it.

And then there is art that is placed strategically to gracefully surprise, to add beauty - a sculpture in the center of a traffic circle, let's say, or a photograph on a drab office building wall.

In Buffalo, we are rich with so much creativity and exciting works showing up in our world class museums, in small galleries, and yes - on our streets. Some of these works - murals - tend to go mostly unstudied.

But there are pockets of remarkable murals in Western New York - both inside and outside of our buildings. In today's Spotlight section, we take a look at these huge works of art, which range from commissioned pieces in official buildings to street art and works on a school wall that include an educational game.

Reporter Jane Kwiatkowski takes us on a small tour of them, through the eyes of their creators, the talented people who paint these interesting works that just may have the widest audience in town.

Do you have a favorite mural? Tell us which of Buffalo's murals mean the most to you, and why. And, which ones did we miss?

Isherwood on 'Joe Turner'


Latanya Richardson Jackson and Marsha Stephanie Blake star in August Wilson's play "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," which opened this week in New York City. Photo by Sarah Krulwich / New York Times.

Nobody gushes like Charles Isherwood, the second-string (and first-rate) theater critic at the New York Times. His review today of August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," in a Lincoln Center Theatre production at the Belasco Theatre in New York City, contains the sort of fawning adulation most critics are loath to employ even for superlative productions, lest they be thought unprofessionally partisan. But Isherwood, to his great credit, busts out gushing praise whensoever he's moved to do so (for "Rock of Ages," for "August: Osage County," and so on) without a speck of regret. His enthusiasm for the show is stunning to behold, and this review is highly recommended, even for folks with no interest whatsoever in the theater.

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The great Guarneri


Thanks to the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, Kleinhans Music Hall was one of the stops on the Guarneri String Quartet's farewell tour. Together 45 years with only one recent change of personnel, the Guarneri musicians are parting ways later this year so they can pursue individual projects. In their twilight days as a team, they are generally acknowledged as the greatest existing string quartet.

That is the great Guarneri pictured above. From left, they are: John Dalley, Michael Tree, Arnold Steinhardt, and the group's newcomer cellist, Peter Wiley.

Tuesday, they played the Mary Seaton Room. I got to hear them while sitting on the stage 10 feet away, an experience I do not think I will ever forget. Here is what I wrote about it, but really, words can't begin to describe it.

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'Bada Bing' extended, again


Paschal Frisina III, Louis Colaiacovo and Paul Maisano star in MusicalFare Theatre's "Bada Bing."

MusicalFare Theatre's production of "Bada Bing" has proven a hit for the theater, which announced today that it would extend the production for two more performances, through June 4. The show -- as you may have already gathered from the image above -- is a jokey musical revue about the reunion of a singing trio specializing in the standards of Louis Prima, Perry Como, Jerry Vail and others. It had already been extended for an additional weekend due to overwhelming audience response.

Check out Jana Eisenberg's review of the show here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Buffalo native mounts dance showcase in New York City

JasenIt's a tough world out there for aspiring young choreographers. Before their big break arrives, some spend years developing an individual style, seeking out competent performers and pasting together performances at any space that will have them. And sometimes, try as they may, that fabled big break never comes.

For Buffalo native Cristina Jasen (at left), a 2006 graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and daughter of former WIVB anchor Carol Jasen, her years of sweat and hard work are about to pay off. Jasen's company, Sawtooth, will mount a performance at The Tank, a performance space in Manhattan, on Friday and Saturday. While living in Western New York, Jasen studied and performed with the Western New York Academy of Dance, David De Marie Dance Studio, Neglia Ballet Artists and Pick of the Crop.

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