LJ Best Books 2016

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Arts & Humanities Reviews, October 15, 2011

ljx111002webArts(Original Import)

Crewdson, Gregory (photogs.) & Craig Burnett (text). Gregory Crewdson: In a Lonely Place. Abrams. 2011. 160p. photogs. ISBN 9781419701108. $40. PHOTOG
This companion to a European traveling exhibition of the works of Crewdson (art, Yale Univ.; Twilight) collects three distinct series, each exploring a variety of lonely places, and an essay in which London-based gallery director Burnett briefly analyzes each grouping. In the first series, “Beneath the Roses,” an odd illumination pervades the pieces, hinting at something unnatural. Readers will easily invent their own narratives for the scenes in the photographs. Next, Crewdson’s “Sanctuary” series plays the ruins of Mussolini’s Cinecitt√† film studios against the outskirts of modern Rome. In soft grays, he explores the alleyways, scaffolding, and crumbling facades that linger from the 1930s. As the photographer winds through the abandoned movie set, viewers may feel trapped in a twilight zone. “Sanctuary” ends on a note of relief: Crewdson reaches the gates of Cinecitt√†, and his audience is released. In the final series, “Fireflies,” he examines the activity and frenetic pace of an otherwise solitary, peaceful summer night.>VERDICT An excellent survey of Crewdson’s recent work, accentuating the key themes of his artistic approach. Of interest to modern art aficionados and students as well as casual readers.‚ Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Ctr., Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie

Foster, Hal. The Art-Architecture Complex. Verso, dist. by Norton. Oct. 2011. c.320p. illus. ISBN 9781844676897. $26.95. ARCHITECTURE
In this new collection of 11 essays, brimming with ideas and analysis, Foster (art history, Princeton) treats different guises of modernism and the often messy intersections of art and architecture apparent in the global styles of star architects such as Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Herzog & de Meuron. On the artistic side, the minimalism of sculptors Richard Serra, Dan Flavin, and Donald Judd receive prime attention. Foster focuses on high-profile building and art projects where art and architecture are juxtaposed or combined, both to dazzling results and dismissals as banal. He addresses questions about sculptural architecture, design integrity, mixed media and hybridity, collaboration and competition, aesthetics, “imageability,” and technologies. The last piece is a fascinating conversation with Serra about influences, techniques, and spatial effects. Versions of about half of the essays appeared in Artforum and the London Review of Books. VERDICT Foster’s forceful, informed opinions will appeal to readers interested in the fusion, complexities, and tensions of contemporary architecture and its convergence with modern art.‚ Russell T. Clement, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, IL

Franklin, David & Sebastian Schütze. Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome. Yale Univ 2011. 224p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780300170726. $50. FINE ARTS
A companion to the National Gallery of Canada exhibition surrounding the legacy of Caravaggio and his followers, known as the Caravaggisti, this catalog traces changes in the subject matter and presentation of paintings under Caravaggio’s influence. Never forming his own school, unlike his contemporary Carracci, and never having a large workshop, as did his fellow artist d’Arpino, Caravaggio was still influential beyond Italy to Spain, France, Germany, and the Low Countries. Organized thematically and offering signed essays by art historians and museum curators, the book includes a brief biography and discussion of Caravaggio’s most notable patrons. Following its restoration, a painting of Saint Augustine, included here, was determined to be a newly identified, never-before-published work. Each catalog entry has a physical description, provenance, and references. While lavishly illustrated, the catalog lacks an index to the paintings. VERDICT With its easily read essays, lovely illustrations, and reasonable price, this is appropriate for scholars, students, and general readers.‚ Nancy J. Mactague, Aurora Univ., IL

Krauss, Rosalind E. Under Blue Cup. MIT. Nov. 2011. c.200p. illus. index. ISBN 9780262016131. $24.95. FINE ARTS
A book comprised of “almost alphabetically” arranged aphorisms and ideas, this new work by Krauss (art history, Columbia; editor & cofounder, October magazine; The Picasso Papers) is a unique specimen of philosophically rigorous scholarship. In it, she explores and relates the complexities and subtleties of human memory to aesthetic medium and stresses medium as a form of remembering. Through her use of well- selected and well-placed images, Krauss does an excellent job of illustrating her complex proposition that the “white cube” of the museum or gallery wall, deemed obsolete by conceptual artists, lives on courtesy of what the author terms “technical support.” The images plus the segmented layout of the text give this scholarly work a certain approachability. VERDICT A dense little book likely to be embraced by art and aesthetics scholars and art critics.‚ Jennifer Krivickas, Univ. of Cincinnati Lib.

Marsh, Graham & Glyn Callingham. Coast to Coast Album Covers: Classic Record Art from New York to LA. Collins & Brown, dist. by Sterling. 2011. 240p. illus. ISBN 9781907554353. $19.95. GRAPHIC ARTS
Pulling together two earlier titles, California Cool and East Coasting, this excellent survey of the cover art of the classic jazz labels of the 1950s and 1960s, along with Marsh and Callingham’s reissued The Cover Art of Blue Note Records, keeps this aspect of jazz’s history readily available and affordable. Succinct essays give important context and lead into the body of the book, which consists of page after page of lovingly reproduced examples of the adventurous and still compelling album art from such labels as Riverside, Atlantic Records, Prestige, and Pacific Jazz. These bold graphic concepts coupled with now-classic photographs and the innovative use of color and art reveal the degree to which these designs were more than just packages for the music; they served, along with jazz itself, to help create and convey the feel of an era. VERDICT An essential title for jazz fans and, at this price, a good choice for most readers with even a passing interest in the cultural history of the mid-20th century.‚ Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll., NY

Millett, Larry. Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities. Univ. of Minnesota. 2011. 376p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780816674305. $39.95. ARCHITECTURE
Millett (Lost Twin Cities), no stranger to the architectural landscape of the Midwest, serves up a delectable love letter to the lost manors and estates of the greater Minneapolis area. Profiled in this well- illustrated survey are 90 grand and not-so-grand properties that failed to survive the depredations of time, taxes, and changing property values. What’s special here is the spotlight on the lives of those who built and lived in these mostly mid- to late Victorian piles. Of the many trenchant tidbits Millett finds, one concerns a widow saddled with perhaps the grandest and most short-lived of manses in Minneapolis: “I did nothing but shop for food to feed [the staff]. My whole life seemed to be running that big house.” Millett also showcases the Frank Lloyd Wright prairie houses that didn’t survive and even includes a mod-style anomaly from the 1960s. Fans will love the more than 250 vintage photos. VERDICT A badly needed title for Twin Cities history buffs; otherwise, it’s of interest only to specialized tastes.‚ David Soltesz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH

Nairne, Sandy. Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners. Reaktion, dist. by Univ. of Chicago. 2011. 280p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781861898517. $29. FINE ARTS
In 1994, two paintings by J.M.W. Turner were stolen from a German art gallery while on loan from Tate Britain. Both important paintings by one of Britain’s most famous artists, they were valued at ¬£24 million. Nairne (former director, Tate Britain; current director, National Portrait Gallery, London) was directly involved in the search for the paintings and the negotiations for their ransom and return. With its cast of colorful characters and intrigue, this true-crime story should be riveting; however, a rather plodding style makes this read more like a painstakingly documented explanation to the Tate trustees. In the second half of the book, Nairne analyzes the ethical and practical questions surrounding art theft, taking examples from famous art thefts in history and examples from fiction and film. VERDICT This is no Da Vinci Code or Thomas Crown Affair and will disappoint readers looking for a good thriller with an art theme, but museum administrators and trustees will benefit from reading about the Tate’s experience‚ Marcia Welsh, Dartmouth Coll., Hanover, NH

Rybczynski, Witold. The Biography of a Building: How Robert Sainsbury and Norman Foster Built a Great Museum. Thames & Hudson, dist. by Norton. Oct. 2011. 240p. illus. index. ISBN 9780500342763. $29.95. ARCHITECTURE
Rybczynski (Meyerson Professor of Urbanism, Univ. of Pennsylvania) is a prima facie writer of the first order. In his readable and context-rich work, every detail and comment is deeply sourced and conveyed with reason. This book undoubtedly launches a new international phase of architectural writing focused on the building itself: how it was built, why it was built, what went into it, and what came out of it. Rybczynski concentrates on the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts at East Anglia University in Norwich, England, designed by the prominent English architect Norman Foster. The Sainsbury Centre, built in the 1970s, helped to transform architecture into the high-tech, engineering-reliant field it is today. Its museum also broke new ground when curators placed diverse art objects in close proximity to one another to foster new insights and impressions in their audience. VERDICT Already, this book is a classic. Highly recommended to all readers interested in modern architecture.‚ Peter S. Kaufman, formerly with Boston Architectural Coll.

Shiff, Richard. Between Sense and de Kooning. Reaktion, dist. by Univ. of Chicago. 2011. 356p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781861898531. $49. FINE ARTS
Willem de Kooning, the now canonical 20th-century abstract expressionist painter, has been much written about. In this volume, Shiff (art history, Univ. of Texas, Austin) offers a rambling, sometimes puzzling text divided into sections with such enigmatic titles as “Spread” and “Glimpse.” One could say that Shiff’s prose strategies are analogous to de Kooning’s visual strategies, which are described as “tentative, unfinished, probing.” Shiff’s stated purpose is to interpret de Kooning’s art by thinking “as he thought, not with his mind but with divided attention, without a plan.” The result is unconventional and full of phrases like signs ambiguate. A good sampling of the art is provided in 100 color and 15 halftone plates, but an organized account of de Kooning’s life is provided only in a brief chronology. VERDICT For a conventional overview and assessment of de Kooning’s art, readers will be better served by Jim Coddington’s de Kooning: A Retrospective. This extended meditation on the work of Willem de Kooning will fascinate some readers and madden others.‚ Kathryn Wekselman, MLn, Cincinnati

Wilson, Kathleen Curtis. Irish People, Irish Linen. Ohio Univ. Nov. 2011. c.322p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780821419717. $49.95. DEC ARTS
The warp threads of this book are linen, but the weft of the story is the sociology and history of the people who devoted their lives to transforming the fibers of the flax plant into a product known around the world for its quality, Irish linen. Wilson (Textile Art from Southern Appalachia), an authority on the textile arts of Appalachia, has completely integrated her appreciation of linen and lace as art into a much larger story of colonial politics, religion, climate, trade history, and moving personal stories. Beginning with the immigration of Scots to Ireland and the emigration of Irish, Wilson follows the extensive trade with the American Colonies to the replacement of hand spinning and weaving by steam-powered mills to the gradual diminution of the present-day linen industry by competition from China and changing popular fashion. VERDICT A lively social history replete with fine photographs, this book will be of interest to many readers far beyond the pool of Irish textile fanciers.‚ David McClelland, Andover, NY

Literature

Beattie, Ann. Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life. Scribner. Nov. 2011. c.320p. ISBN 9781439168714. $26. LIT
Short story writer and novelist Beattie (Chilly Scenes of Winter) here turns her attention to Pat Nixon. She incorporates interesting historical information, but her asides on narrator reliability, her comments about how she might change events if she could take part in the story, and her lengthy references to other works all will make readers acutely aware that this is a novelist’s take on Mrs. Nixon’s life, rather than a true biography. Beattie’s comment, mid-book, that “writers tend to love people who volunteer very little, for their silence frees them to project onto them, though such characters are also confusing” is unfortunately true of this confusing work as a whole. Mrs. Nixon’s actual historical silence makes her a good canvas for Beattie’s questions and theories, but the reader is left with a baffling and incomplete portrait. VERDICT Although Beattie clearly did research, this is not a biography. Nor is it entirely fiction. Nor is it literary criticism, as the publisher’s advance copy categorizes it. In other words, it’s easy to say what it is not, but as to what it is, readers are certain to be left uncertain. Beattie’s real strengths are not evident here. For Beattie completists only.‚ Crystal Goldman, San José State Univ. Lib., CA

Curran, John. Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making; More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks. Harper: HarperCollins. Nov. 2011. 432p. ISBN 9780062065421. $25.99. LIT
Interest in Agatha Christie’s works continues unabated 35 years after her death. Curran is an archivist, Christie expert, and literary adviser to the Christie estate who in 2005 discovered 73 of the writer’s notebooks in a cupboard in her Devon home while he was advising the National Trust on its restoration. He began to mine the notebooks for insights into Christie’s works and published Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks (2009), which included two previously unpublished short stories, excerpts from the notebooks, and Curran’s comments placing the excerpts in context for the reader. The present volume follows the same pattern. Excerpts from the notebooks (dashed-off notes, brief plot or character ideas, fragments of writing) are filtered through Curran’s extensive knowledge of Christie’s works, shedding light on the writer’s creative process. Also included are a previously unpublished Miss Marple story and an essay by Christie on her attitude toward her character Hecule Poirot. VERDICT Not for those who simply seek a good mystery, but recommended to avid Christie fans and researchers wanting deeper knowledge of her life and works.‚ Alison M. Lewis, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia

Eliot, T.S. The Letters of T.S. Eliot. Vol. 1: 1898‚ 1922. rev. ed.912p. ISBN 9780300176452.
Eliot, T.S. The Letters of T.S. Eliot. Vol. 2: 1923‚ 1925. 878p. ISBN 9780300176865.
ea. vol: Yale Univ. 2011. ed. by Valerie Eliot & Hugh Haughton. photogs. index. $45. LIT
The letters, most written by Eliot but some written to him and some between related third parties, cover the first half of his life and provide rare insight into this important figure who shaped modernist literature and criticism. Eliot’s intellectual ambition and humor are clear even in his St. Louis childhood, during which he studied the classics and several foreign languages. The correspondence narrates his move to England, his shifting religious views, and his famously problematic first marriage, and contains drafts of poems that cannot be found elsewhere. The letters also chart the evolution of his relationships with other authors, notably Ezra Pound, to whom he dedicated The Wasteland. The first volume was originally published in 1988. The second volume, receiving U.S. publication for the first time after its UK publication in 2009, is an impressive piece of scholarship 13 years in the making, again edited by Valerie Eliot, the poet’s widow and literary executor, and Haughton (English, Univ. of York; The Poetry of Derek Mahon). VERDICT With extensive annotations placing each letter in context, and with 200 additional letters in the revised first volume, these are important additions to any academic or research library.‚ Kate Gray, New York

Hemingway, Ernest. The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: 1907‚ 1922. Cambridge Univ. Oct. 2011. c.431p. ed. by Sandra Spanier & Robert W. Trogdon. photogs. index. ISBN 9780521897334. $40. LIT
This first of an eventual 12 volumes in Cambridge’s ambitious program to publish all of Hemingway’s roughly 6000 letters covers his childhood through his early apprenticeship in expatriate Paris. These juvenile missives are lighthearted and rife with slang and fabricated words, and Hemingway employs multiple silly nicknames for everyone, including himself. Ernest seems a very loving son and brother and a good pal. Though most of these juvenile missives (or screeds) are fairly routine, they reveal his developing voice‚ e.g., notes to his siblings and friends use vastly different language and tone from those to his parents. Readers can occasionally spy his BS machine forming‚ at 19 he’s already embellishing stories about himself (e.g., he claims he carried “a Colt gat” as a cub reporter and beat a champion boxer). Each letter is well footnoted, and Spanier (English, Pennsylvania State Univ.) and Trogdon (English, Kent State Univ.) include numerous scholarly extras. VERDICT As close to a full-length Hemingway autobiography as possible, these letters provide a unique opportunity for framing him in everyday perspective and, frankly, humanizing him. Academics and aficionados will want this initial volume, but the best is yet to come.‚ Mike Rogers, Library Journal

Rasmussen, Eric. The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios. Palgrave Macmillan. Oct. 2011. c.240p. illus. index. ISBN 9780230109414. $24. LIT
Part literary history and part detective story, this is an engaging book about the known surviving copies of the 1623 First Folio, which published 36 of Shakespeare’s plays. Of the 232 recorded surviving copies, the majority are in public institutions rather than private hands. Rasmussen (English, Univ. of Nevada; coeditor, RSC Complete Works of William Shakespeare) and his team of researchers were part of the global quest to catalog every extant copy. Rasmussen uses a lively, nonacademic style and engrossing anecdotes to tell us about one of history’s most fascinating books. The original price of the First Folio was about ¬£1, when the average worker made about ¬£4 a year, and the price has climbed exponentially since then; in 2002, Paul Getty paid $7 million for a copy. Meisei University in Japan now owns a dozen folios, essentially as financial security. VERDICT Rasmussen is to be congratulated for an entertaining and informative book. Recommended for readers interested in literary and bibliographic history, Shakespeare, eccentric book collectors, and book theft. Serious students and specialists will prefer the formal study of the team’s work, Anthony James West’s The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book (two volumes so far).‚ Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston

Tomalin, Claire. Charles Dickens: A Life. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2011. c.576p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594203091. $36. LIT
Tomalin (Thomas Hardy) offers what is effectively the bicentennial biography of Dickens. She examines all aspects of her subject’s life and career, with an emphasis on his personality’s many contradictions: he was kind and cruel, charitable and pitiless, gregarious and intensely private. Dickens’s friendships, as Tomalin illuminates, were numerous and lifelong. His close friends, such as his first biographer, John Forster, loved and honored him. But in family relationships, especially with his wife and many children, he was often cold and unfeeling. Tomalin investigates and speculates on Dickens’s relationship with Nelly Ternan, providing information beyond what is in her prize-winning The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (1992). She praises Dickens’s many accomplishments and the sterling qualities that endeared him to so many friends and readers, while also delineating his dark side and how it cast a shadow over his later years. He died at age 58. VERDICT Michael Slater’s recent biography examines Dickens’s literary works more deeply; Tomalin’s focus is the writer himself. While it neither offers much in the way of new insights nor replaces classic studies of Dickens, Tomalin’s entertaining book deserves to be the go-to popular biography for readers new to Boz and his works. (Index not seen.)‚ Morris A. Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology Lib., CUNY

Performing Arts

Bernstein, Jay as told to Larry Cortez Hamm with David Rubini. Starmaker: Life as a Hollywood Publicist with Farrah, the Rat Pack and 600 More Stars Who Fired Me. ECW, dist. by IPG. Oct. 2011. c.368p. photogs. ISBN 9781770410121. pap. $16.95. FILM
Hollywood public relations man Bernstein (who died in 2006) here recounts his experiences promoting celebrities and launching star trajectories. Completely involved with his profession, he shares the highs and lows of his life’s work. He worked with the Rat Pack‚ Frank Sinatra was “terrible,” and Sammy Davis Jr. affable‚ and the success of Farrah Fawcett and Suzanne Somers are among the highlights of his career. He pays particular attention to Fawcett, who was catapulted to fame with her swimsuit poster and Charlie’s Angels. Bernstein shares his war stories in a relaxed style as if we’ve met him for lunch. He had various axes to grind (the firings of the title) and can seem a bit catty. An old-school type who enjoyed his run while it lasted, he also promoted Linda Evans in Dynasty and got the legs of Entertainment Tonight‘s Mary Hart insured by Lloyds for a million. VERDICT For readers interested in what a career in public relations in Hollywood is like and in celebrity culture.‚ Barb Kundanis, Longmont P.L., CO

Bidini, Dave. Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972. McClelland & Stewart. Oct. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9780771012624. $27.95. MUSIC
Seasoned author Bidini (Home and Away: One Writer’s Inspiring Experience at the Homeless World Cup of Soccer) showcases a creative take on music history writing in this series of imagined letters to Canadian folk artist Gordon Lightfoot. He takes readers on a startlingly authentic journey through myriad events that occurred during the week of July 10‚ 17, 1972, culminating in the annual Mariposa Folk Festival that weekend. Throughout the letters to Lightfoot, Bidini weaves a historical context of events that changed not only Canada but also the world, sometimes in bits of deliciously wild, Kerouac-like narrative, in parts real, imagined, and embellished. While readers learn of growing tensions between the Soviet Union and the West, airline hijackings, and a massive solar eclipse, concertgoers (including Lightfoot) quietly arrive in Toronto for one of the most memorable music festivals in the nation’s history. VERDICT Bidini’s letters conjure a sense of deeply personal introspection that forces us all to consider our connection to the musicians we love. Fans of Lightfoot, folk music, and early 1970s history will greatly enjoy this inventive book.‚ Carolyn M. Schwartz, Westfield State Univ. Lib., MA

Campbell, Jonathan. Red Rock: The Long, Strange March of Chinese Rock & Roll. Earnshaw, dist. by IPG. Oct. 2011. c.304p. bibliog. ISBN 9789881998248. pap. $19.99. MUSIC
One does not usually associate rock ‘n’ roll with China, but a passion for this music has been growing there since the post-Mao era, when yaogun (Chinese rock) began to emerge, speaking to the confusion and frustration of the younger generation. From certain defining events, including a landmark 1986 performance by Cui Jian, to the latest Midi Music Festival, musician/promoter and journalist Campbell traces the history of this phenomenon. He discusses the behind-the-scenes workings of groups that molded music from a different culture into something uniquely theirs that they can, in turn, introduce to the world. Drawing from a wealth of sources and personal experiences, Campbell explores the individuals and their philosophies, the cultural conflicts, and the singular challenges inherent in this musical movement‚ from the artistic to the political‚ and raises provocative questions about how far yaogun has come and where it is going. VERDICT This in-depth, thoughtful, and well-written book will appeal to those with an interest in rock ‘n’ roll and related genres of contemporary music on an international level. An especially welcome addition to world music collections.‚ Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ

Evans, Mark. Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC. Bazillion Points, dist. by PGW. Dec. 2011. c.288p. photogs. ISBN 9781935950042. pap. $19.95. MUSIC
While former AC/DC bassist Evans provides a rare “been there, done that” perspective of touring with the group, he doesn’t focus on the sultry details of groupie action or condemn the notorious dictatorial control of the band’s Young brothers. Although some readers may wish for more dirt, this is the life journey of a guy who just happened to be part of the biggest rock band in Australian history. Evans’s prose reads like a casual conversation you’d hear while nursing a pint on a barstool‚ folksy, with a gentleman’s dose of rock ‘n’ roll attitude. He paints the late Bon Scott as a kind person more worried about being a good friend than living a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, and his glimpses of Angus Young show that the uptight teetotaler guitarist knew how to let his hair down. And without the annoying flood of “I” sentences, Evans lets us know who he is as he opens up about his post-AC/DC depression and the shock of losing his oldest daughter. VERDICT By the end of this rewarding book, readers may find themselves more interested in Evans than his former band. Great for AC/DC fans and memoir readers, this is easy entertainment with a sincere heart.‚ Robert Morast, Fargo, ND

Greenfield, Robert. The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun. S. & S. Nov. 2011. c.496p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781416558385. $30. MUSIC
In 2006, at 83 years old, the businessman with a passion for music who was as comfortable wheeling and dealing in French as he was joking around with Kid Rock died after falling backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. Greenfield‚ who has written exemplary biographies of Bill Graham and Jerry Garcia‚ draws on extensive interviews with Ahmet Ertegun’s widow, the musicians who worked with him, and his many friends and traces Ertegun’s emigration from Turkey at age two, growing love of jazz and early acquisition of around 20,000 78s, first partnership with Herb Abramson and the formation of Atlantic Records, often contentious relationship with David Geffen (founder of Asylum Records), and deep friendships with everyone from Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. VERDICT Greenfield’s definitive biography gracefully sums up the life of a man who, in record mogul Jerry Wexler’s words, “had eyes to make records.” A must for every collection, this enchanting book captures the life and work of a seminal figure without whom the business of making records would not have had its lasting impact. [See Prepub Alert, 5/23/11.]‚ Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL

Poetry

Bolaño, Roberto. Tres. New Directions, dist. by Norton. 2011. c.176p. tr. from Spanish by Laura Healy. ISBN 9780811219273. $24.95. POETRY
This second translated volume of the late Chilean writer’s poetry (after 2008’s The Romantic Dogs) contains three long pieces‚ two sequences of prose vignettes and one spare, narrative poem‚ that move through the harrowing registers of despair and alienation characteristic of his fiction. Written in 1981, “Prose from Autumn in Gerona” documents a young screenwriter’s repeated, doomed attempts to frame and clarify his innermost romantic aspirations amid the external world’s kaleidoscopic chaos. “The neochileans,” from 1993, reconstructs a rock band’s road trip through “godforsaken/ provinces” of a Latin America “Positioned within the geometry/ Of impossible crimes,” while 1994’s “A stroll through literature” is a dream diary in which literary figures make cryptic cameo appearances (“I dreamt that Earth was finished. And the only human being to contemplate the end was Franz Kafka”). The original, Spanish-language versions are included. VERDICT For all its surreal moments, Bola√±o’s bitter vision of life, like Charles Bukowski’s, is rendered with a candid, unmagical realism that springs from painful experiences and a militant refusal to seek comfort in the familiar conventions of literary genre. For all readers of contemporary poetry.‚ Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY

Boyle, Megan. Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee. Muumuu House. Nov. 2011. c.96p. ISBN 9780982206720. pap. $12. POETRY
This is the latest print release from Muumuu House, a small, Brooklyn-based press founded in 2008 by literary enfant terrible Tao Lin. As its tongue-in-cheek title suggests, the poetry and prose poems found here are organized by date, as if they were real-life journal entries by the author. The voice is slow and deliberate, full of mundane details and pop-culture references; the reader is privy to every thought as Boyle confronts loneliness and tries to find meaning in drugs, food, novels, and acquaintances. She holds nothing back; one of the pieces is titled “Everyone I’ve Had Sex With.” This voyeuristic view is telling of the “post-ironic” digital age, creating a portrait of someone who feels uncomfortable in daily routine and spends much of her time cultivating an online persona. VERDICT Only time will tell whether this press finds widespread acclaim or continues as an Internet-based cult favorite, but Boyle has a unique voice worth following. She is adept at describing ineffable everyday emotions, and much comfort can be found in her honesty. Recommended for those who enjoy personal blogs, Twitter, and confessional fiction from Lorrie Moore to Charles Bukowski.‚ Kate Gray, New York

Clarvoe, Jennifer. Counter-Amores. Univ. of Chicago. Oct. 2011. c.88p. ISBN 9780226109282. pap. $18. POETRY
Referencing mainly Ovid’s Amores (as well as his Metamorphoses) but also works by other poets, the poems in Clarvoe’s latest (after Invisible Tender) revel in their own attempts at resonance. The wordplay results in a pandemonium of literary puns (dare I say a pundemonium?), with the language at once flippant, colloquial, and reverent, thriving partly because of Clarvoe’s strong and captivating voice. One can almost hear the poet arguing with a significant other or musing about her visit to Italy, which took place around 9/11. Debating the meaning of love, the book builds to the evocative third section, where the voice is the strongest and the focused allusions clever, intelligible, and imbued with a sense of irony. VERDICT With her skill at heroic couplets, line breaks, enjambment, word choice, and word placement, Clarvoe‚ winner of the Rome Prize in Literature, among other honors‚ not only brings life to ancient Greek poetry but also brings it to life.‚ Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD

Derricotte, Toi. The Undertaker’s Daughter. Univ. of Pittsburgh. Oct. 2011. c.104p. ISBN 9780822962007. pap. $15.95. POETRY
Paterson Poetry Prize winner Derricotte (Tender) offers a painful memoir of child abuse balanced by poems that attempt to unbury and heal the self. The narrator’s father, who studied embalming in order to apprentice with her grandfather, never practiced that trade. But he used his anatomical knowledge to beat her so that the bruises wouldn’t show. When she fails to clean her dinner plate, she has given him the excuse he needs: ” ‘Your story is so touching till it sounds like a lie.’ I swallowed it down; I wiped that look off my face.” Derricotte recalls how her bed had to be folded up each night to make room for the dinner table; other versions of the story occur within similarly claustrophobic places, followed by poems about family, love, art, and a pet betta (fighting fish) named Telly, which she loves and nurses into death. This childlike attempt to reverse her life’s karma by caring for a fish whose natural habitat is a puddle in Asia shows us that “it’s either a very small or a very large place we live in‚ our cosmos, our kitchen.” VERDICT This is a personal, moving work about child abuse, racial “passing,” and women making art, and will attract all readers interested in these topics.‚ Ellen Kaufman, New York

Religion

Brown, Samuel Morris. In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death. Oxford Univ. Jan. 2012. c.400p. illus. index. ISBN 9780199793570. $34.95. REL
As a discipline, Mormon studies has advanced to the point where development of Mormon doctrine has become a significant topic of research, exemplified by Douglas J. Davies’s The Mormon Culture of Salvation and Devery S. Anderson’s mesmerizing The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846‚ 2000. Brown (pulmonary & critical care medicine, Univ. of Utah Sch. of Medicine) ably tackles Mormon beliefs about death in a highly readable series of connected essays. Most important to Brown’s work is the relationship between Joseph Smith’s confrontation with death and illness in his own family and the larger culture of death in the early 19th-century United States, the context that was the basis of Smith’s evolving thought on death and the interconnecting Mormon doctrines of the preexistence of souls, Mother in Heaven, angels, and the embodiment of God. VERDICT Readers should not be put off because Brown is not a professional historian. He has covered the primary sources in depth and unearthed little-used materials to support his argument. Students of American religious history will be interested in this readable book as will a more general readership.‚ David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib., Philadelphia

Jefferson, Thomas. The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English. Smithsonian Bks., dist. by Random. Nov. 2011. 200p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781588343123. $35. REL
This is a painstakingly produced full-color facsimile of the original volume that Jefferson created, now at the Smithsonian, where it received top-level conservation treatment prior to its high-resolution reproduction here. Jefferson created his version of the New Testament by cutting and pasting from Greek, Latin, French, and English printed texts of the Gospels, which he placed in four parallel columns and accompanied with his marginal notes. This edition also contains two essays: “The History of the Jefferson Bible,” in which curators at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History explain Jefferson’s intent and his methods, and an essay on the volume’s extensive conservation. The passages that Jefferson selected and pasted together present a much-edited, single chronological account of Jesus’s life, teachings, and death‚ ending with Jesus’s burial and avoiding redundancies. The passages are those that Jefferson deemed to be supportable by reason. The “History” essay draws parallels between the way Jefferson revised Virginia’s laws and the way he revised the Bible. VERDICT Jefferson’s Bible has been published before, but never in full facsimile with all its contents. With great cultural importance for all readers from preteens through scholars in American studies, biblical studies, or the Enlightenment, as well as general readers. Also a handsome gift.‚ Carolyn M. Craft, formerly with Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA

Kendall, R.T. The Sermon on the Mount: A Verse-by-Verse Look at the Greatest Teachings of Jesus. Chosen. 2011. c.368p. index. ISBN 9780800794729. pap. $19.99. REL
Prolific author Kendall (former senior minister, Westminster Chapel, London; Total Forgiveness) is well known to both charismatics and evangelicals. Combining a literalist viewpoint of scripture with an emphasis on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Kendall weaves together an interpretation of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that fuses the evangelical and charismatic perspectives. Kendall’s evangelical views accentuate the importance of scripture as interpreted by the doctrinal traditions of Luther and Calvin, and yet his charismatic approach emphasizes the inspirational power of the Holy Spirit as displayed through signs and wonders as described in the book of Acts. Kendall examines the sermon through the lens of Paul’s epistles (Galatians and Romans) and concludes that the sermon is in fact Jesus’s own doctrine of the Holy Spirit. VERDICT This extensive and comprehensive look at the sermon is neither a quick nor an easy read, but for charismatic and evangelical pastors, seminarians, and lay readers who appreciate Kendall’s sermons, the rewards are well worth the effort.‚ Brian Greene, Northeastern Univ. Libs., Boston

Religion & Politics

Lacorne, Denis. Religion in America: A Political History. Columbia Univ. (Religion, Culture, & Public Life). 2011. c.256p. tr. from French by George Holoch. bibliog. ISBN 9780231151009. $29.50. REL
As a sympathetic outsider, French political scientist Lacorne (senior research fellow, Centre d’études et de recherches internationals, Paris; With Us or Against Us: Studies in Global Anti-Americanism ) examines the complex relationship between religion and politics in American history. What makes his book most valuable is his examination of the perspectives of key French thinkers such as Voltaire, Tocqueville, and Lévy along the way. Lacorne identifies two competing narratives that have shaped America’s national identity. The first, largely secular, comes from Enlightenment philosophy, the Founding Fathers, and the founding documents of the nation. The second is more overtly religious and comes from the Protestant Reformation and the Puritans, seeing America as the culmination of a progression toward freedom and a city on a hill. Out of the tension between those two narratives comes the fascinating story of religion and politics in America, one that is frequently baffling to the French. VERDICT This book provides a much welcomed viewpoint from outside our ongoing religious squabbles in American politics. Lacorne admirably avoids oversimplification while remaining eminently readable.‚ Brian T. Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY

McKanan, Dan. Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition. Beacon, dist. by Random. Nov. 2011. c.320p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780807013151. $34.95. REL
In the current U.S. political environment, it’s easy to forget the prominent role that the religious Left has played in our history. McKanan (Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer, Harvard Divinity Sch.; The Catholic Worker After Dorothy: Practicing the Works of Mercy in a New Generation) comprehensively chronicles the history of the sibling rivalry and relationship between religion and radicalism in the United States. Covering religious groups as diverse as Protestants, Catholics, humanists, Jews, and neopagans and radical causes such as labor, abolition of slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, and opposition to war, McKanan highlights the important religious threads within the fabric of the Left over time. As siblings, the connection between religion and radicalism has drifted between cooperation and combativeness through the years, but almost never reflects indifference as the two have found themselves intimately linked at many key historical moments. VERDICT A fine storyteller, McKanan may inspire readers to seek out more on many of the topics he covers here. An excellent starting point for those interested in learning about a frequently overlooked aspect of American history. ‚ Brian T. Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY

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