Mark Kurlansky has written books about the strangest things: cod, salt, Basque culture. But the one thing he's constantly invested in all of them is a strong worldview -- the social history of where such things came from and where they went. Though he's focused on very singular subjects, one could never accuse him of literary tunnel vision. The man is out there, covering all the angles. The same is true of his newest book, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, a month-by-month chronicle inspired by his own experience but researched and written to explain the year's impact on every corner of the globe. The publication itself was an idea that evolved over time for the author. "It took me all these years to understand why so many major events happened at same time, why completely different countries with completely different problems had identical movements," he says. It was a year of student riots and the blossoming power of the media, which provided immediate pictures of world events, many of which -- from Vietnam to the Soviet bloc to the Middle East to the civil rights movement on the home front -- were reaching pivotal points simultaneously.
"It was a combination of things that will never coincide in exactly the same way again," Kurlansky ventures. "Whether consciously or unconsciously, everybody was involved. And there was that wonderful sense that you could do things, participate in world politics. There was an opportunity to change direction, like we had some kind of say in it."
That sense, Kurlansky feels, is something Americans need to, and can, reclaim in modern times: "We've become out of step with rest of the world, become backwards in ways most Americans don't even realize." And if a call to arms isn't exactly what he intended the book to be, he doesn't mind if it is. "I'm not sure I'm trying to cause activism, but as a concerned citizen of the U.S., yeah, I would like to see a lot more of it," he adds. "That was one of good things about '68: Then, the activists did find each other."
Kurlansky speaks at a noon luncheon today at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place; admission is $15 to $18, and reservations are required. Call 303-571-5260. Or hear him read free of charge tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street. Call 303-436-1070 for information on the bookstore stop. -- Susan Froyd
Radiant Souls showcases African-American works
Boulder photographer Stanley Lanzano isn't black, but he has a strong understanding of at least one subset of the African-American experience. For over ten years, he's ensconced himself among the Gullah island people of South Carolina and Georgia, his camera capturing baptisms and church services in close-knit communities with a spiritual, unstudied eye. It's no surprise that when Carol Dickinson, former gallery director at Foothills Art Center, first saw his soulful images of upturned, religion-possessed faces, they reminded her of another artist: Kansas painter Dean Mitchell, whose paintings capture similar scenes and moods in water media and oils. That led to the birth of Radiant Souls: African Americana in Painting, Photography and Sculpture, a new exhibit of works rooted in black culture by five diverse regional artists: Lanzano, Mitchell, sculptor Ed Dwight, painter Michael Gadlin and ceramic artist Ella Maria Ray. Though Dickinson is officially gone, the show opens today at the center, 809 15th Street, Golden, and continues through March 28; a public reception is scheduled for tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m.
Additional events throughout the show's run include a brown-bag gallery talk with the artists at noon on January 31, a day-long symposium in February and a performance by the Spirituals Project Chorus in March; for details and reservations, call 303-279-3922 or log on to www.foothillsartcenter.org. -- Susan Froyd
Rodents Perform Stories
Well-read rats will be let loose at the West Side Books Annex tonight when the monthly literary series Stories for All Seasons presents a performance of literary improvisational comedy by local troupe Rodents of an Unusual Size. "Every skit that we do is going to be based on literary suggestions from the audience -- from their favorite children's book to different styles of literature," says Rodents member Jeff Chacon. "I think that you can take a classic story and make it your own; it's going to be a very interactive show."
The free evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a monologue by author Ed Bryant, followed by the Rodents performance at 7. "Every once in a while, we try to do something different than just poetry and author readings," says Melanie Tem, a Stories organizer. "I think that this will stretch people's horizons a little, which is the whole point."
West Side Books is located at 3434 West 32nd Avenue. For more information, call 303-480-0220. "I like the idea of combining classic literature with modern characters like Elvis or Steve Irwin," says Chacon. "It should be pretty silly." -- Julie Dunn
The universe is on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Gaze into the cosmos at tonight's Nitescapes: The Universe in 3-D, a presentation by local astrophotographer Bryan White at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. "I started taking astro 3-D pictures with the comet Hyakutake in 1996 and took five weeks off from work in 1997 to travel around the country and take 1,500 3-D images of Hale-Bopp. This had never been done before," says White, who also manages the telescopes at DMNS and holds monthly "Star Parties" on a ranch east of Denver. "You would not believe some of the images."