A well-known art critic and former columnist for The New York Times Magazine, Solomon has written a pair of biographies of influential American artists, Jackson Pollock and Joseph Cornell. For her latest, American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell—which comes out next month and is excerpted on our site—Solomon chose a figure long overlooked by the art world. “Popular illustrators were written off as nonentities in my art history classes,” she says. “But Rockwell’s work proves that it’s possible for them to produce magazine covers that have the mystery and staying power of high art.”
In untangling the knotty history of Old Glory, Jenkins found that “people saw—and still see—the American flag as more than a piece of fabric,” she says. “It’s a symbol of our values, and of toughness.” Jenkins, a writer for the Washington Post and the author of nine books, is at work on a biography of Charles Sumner.
To illustrate “Mole Hunt,” about the FBI’s mission to ferret out a double agent, Delin had to put himself in the minds of the agents on the case. “They didn’t even know what the mole looked like,” the New York-based photographer says, “so I tried to picture what they would have been imagining as they hunted him down.”
“L’Étranger was one of the first French novels I ever read, when I was 15, and it really resonated with me,” says Hammer, of the seminal work of Albert Camus. “When I realized his 100th birthday was coming up, I saw it as a chance to reacquaint myself with him.” The author of three books of nonfiction, Hammer lives in Berlin.
Considered “America’s premier writer on espionage” by the Washington Post, Wise is the author of 13 books on intelligence work. When he got wind of the untold story of the FBI’s first-ever “Mole Hunt,” he could tell just from the bureau’s reaction that he’d uncovered something big. “Even after 30 years, they’re still extraordinarily sensitive about it,” he says. “They not only declined to comment, but refused to even acknowledge that there was such a case.”
Bierds’ poems, including “Secure Speech Cipher System,” are often inspired by scientific topics. “I have no scientific training at all, but I’ve been fascinated by it for years,” she says. “As the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Roald Hoffmann once said, ‘We—scientist and poet—both want to understand the beautiful and terrible universe within and around us.’” Bierds, a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant, will publish her eighth book, Roget’s Illusion, in March.
An illustrator and portrait painter, O’Brien last graced the cover of Smithsonian for the 2012 Food issue. For this month’s cover, O’Brien got to imitate one of his longtime artistic heroes. “I’m often asked to replicate a well-known artist’s work with a twist,” he says. “Of course, Rockwell’s original is masterful, so it’s hard to measure up.”