Week ending January 13, 2012
Alford, Henry. Would It Kill You To Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners. Twelve: Hachette. Jan. 2012. c.256p. index. ISBN 9780446557665. $24.99. ETIQUETTE
Alford (How To Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People [While They Are Still on This Earth]) maintains pitch-perfect humor throughout this reflection on how we treat one another. Whether sardonic, self-deprecating, or gleefully crass, his observations are eminently readable and usually manage to slip in a moral or two. Do not expect much concrete guidance on how to behave in particular situations, as you might find in Emily Post’s Etiquette. Instead, Alford loosely threads together culture shock anecdotes about his travel to Japan and his life in New York to paint a broad picture of manners, etiquette, and protocol in the modern world. At times the effect can be disjointed, especially when stories are told merely for their humor but fail to add otherwise significant content.
Verdict This light fare will keep manners mavens in stitches and will appeal more broadly to readers of humorous nonfiction about travel or the intersection of cultures. Readers looking for a guide to proper behavior with a modern twist will be better served by Caroline Tiger’s How To Behave: A Guide to Modern Manners.‚ Audrey Barbakoff, Kitsap Regional Lib., Bainbridge Island, WA
Buti, Antonio. Brothers: Justice, Corruption and the Mickelbergs. Fremantle Arts Centre, dist. by Intl. Specialized Bk. Svcs. Jan. 2012. 240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781921888472. pap. $23.95. CRIME
This true crime tale details the nearly 30-year saga of the Mickelberg brothers and the Perth Mint swindle, a case that made headlines in Australia but is less well known in the United States. The three brothers were convicted in 1983 of using stolen checks to obtain gold from the mint. While gold has never been found, the brothers were given harsh sentences. Buti (member, Western Australian Legislative Assembly) uses the case to explore larger issues of corruption in the Australian criminal justice system. Though an interesting story, it was written for an Australian audience. Unlike Douglas Preston in Monster of Florence, which translated Italian culture for an American crowd, Buti assumes his readers are familiar with the case and the culture surrounding it.
Verdict While legal terms are explained thoroughly in endnotes, readers will wish they had a list of the people involved as well as a stronger sense of Western Australia’s recent history. Much of the emotional resonance of the book is likely to be lost on Americans. For serious true crime junkies with an Australia fixation.‚ Kate Sheehan, Bibliomation, Middlebury, CT
California Design 1930‚ 1965: Living in a Modern Way. MIT. 2011. 360p. ed. by Wendy Kaplan. photogs. index. ISBN 9780262016070. $60. FINE ARTS
Ah, the California dream! A compound of sunshine, prosperity, and the restless desire to leave older, grayer, stodgier places and reinvent oneself, the dream has been carefully nurtured by Sunset magazine, Hollywood movies, and lavish publications like this catalog, which accompanies an exhibition in Southern California. There is a measure of truth to this version of California, although it certainly isn’t the whole story‚ as readers of John Steinbeck know well. It’s appropriate that the exhibition’s corporate sponsor, Mattel, which started in a California garage, illustrates its statement page with a swimsuit-clad Barbie doll rather than one of its toy guns. This beautifully illustrated catalog contains ten essays detailing the history of modern design in California, looking at objects as diverse as flying cars, plywood chairs, ceramic ware, swimsuits, record albums, surfboards, architecture, posters, clothing, and Barbie’s Dream House. From the influx of European war refugees such as Marguerite Wildenhain, Gertrud and Otto Natzler, and Paul László and the talents of native-born designers including Jade Snow Wong, Charles and Ray Eames, and Doyle Lane flowed an endless stream of designs for a new, lighter, less-formal lifestyle based on open plan houses that welcomed the benevolent California outdoors inside.
Verdict Readers interested in how mid-20th-century Americans moved into new homes, new clothes, new furniture, and new lives will appreciate this catalog.‚ David McClelland, Santa Fe, NM
Davis, Stephen (text) & Peter Simon (photogs.). More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2012. 448p. photogs. ISBN 9781592406517. $27.50. MUSIC
Seasoned rock journalist Davis (Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga) offers the first full biography of singer-songwriter Carly Simon. A casual friend of the Simon family, he spends the first quarter of this unauthorized book on Simon’s upbringing in a wealthy, dysfunctional home and focuses on her phobias and lack of self-esteem. Davis organizes the remainder of the book around the manifestations of these ingrained childhood fears and feelings. He charts Simon’s first foray into music with her sister Lucy as the Simon Sisters; breakthrough during the early 1970s; turbulent, highly publicized marriage and breakup with James Taylor; and more recent battle with breast cancer and financial troubles.
Verdict In a well-written, engaging book, Davis captures the complexity of Simon’s character‚ self-effacing but driven, a highly successful performer plagued by stage fright, a fiercely independent feminist who traded on a sex-kitten image, and someone seeking domestic stability but drawn to a bevy of men to obtain a kind of surrogate approval from her father long after his death. Recommended to anyone interested in the singer-songwriter era of rock music, especially readers who enjoyed Sheila Weller’s Girls Like Us. [Previewed as I Believe in Love in Prepub Alert, 7/25/11.]‚ Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of: The Most Astounding Papers on Quantum Physics‚ and How They Shook the Scientific World. Running Pr. 2011. 1088p. ed. by Stephen Hawking. illus. ISBN 9780762434343. $30. SCI
Physicist Niels Bohr, whose work is amply represented in this anthology, once remarked that if quantum theory doesn’t shock you, then you don’t understand it. Appropriately, this book is full of shocking material‚ for those readers who can understand it. Here, the revered Hawking (A Brief History of Time) has assembled a sampler of seminal papers and lectures by the pioneers of quantum theory, beginning with Max Planck’s 1901 study of black body radiation. There are nine roughly chronological chapters, each with a brief introduction that sets the context for the papers in terms of how they contribute to theoretical development. Included are the major contributors, including Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, and Richard Feynman, and the final chapter contains summaries of the field by George Gamow and Paul Dirac. Although precise bibliographic information is not always provided (in some cases, undated reprints are cited as the source), the time span appears to be 1901‚ 49.
Verdict The selections are indeed all classic. Although today quantum theory is taught to undergraduates, this material remains inaccessible to any but scientists and serious science enthusiasts.‚ Gregg Sapp, Olympia, WA
González, Juan & Joseph Torres. News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media. Verso, dist. by Norton. 2011. 456p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781844676873. $29.95. COMM
With vivid detail, González (columnist, New York Daily News; Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America) and Torres (senior advisor, Free Press) trace the history of minority journalism in the United States from Colonial newspapers to today’s blogs. They look at how black, Latino, Asian, and Native American populations have struggled to find their voices represented and to have their stories heard. Using extensive archival research, they analyze how the mainstream media perpetuated racial tensions and stereotypes in both the stories they covered and those they failed to report. Likewise, González and Torres illustrate the crucial role the minority press played in shaping and preserving the nation’s democratic principles.
Verdict This important text should be required reading in journalism schools. General readers interested in minority studies, media history, and engaging nonfiction will also appreciate this book.‚ Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., West Palm Beach, FL
Guy, John & Jorrit Britschgi. Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100‚ 1900. Metropolitan Museum of Art, dist. by Yale Univ. 2011. 224p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300175820. $45. FINE ARTS
This lavishly illustrated exhibition catalog was published in conjunction with the eponymous show that appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past fall. Both the exhibition and catalog challenge the conventional wisdom that extols the anonymity of Indian art. They argue that through careful analysis of style and inscriptional evidence (mainly found in the art of illuminated manuscripts and ornate interiors of places of worship), the identities of individual artists and their oeuvres can be revealed. The 40 artists identified in the catalog and exhibition are arguably the most important painters in the history of Indian art. The idea behind this project was conceived by three acharyas in the field of Indian painting: Milo Beach, Eberhard Fischer, and B.N. Goswamy and executed in collaboration with Guy (curator, arts of South and Southeast Asia, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Britschgi (curator, Indian painting, Museum Rietberg, Zurich).
Verdict A work of consummate scholarship, this book is perfect for readers with a serious interest in the history, art, and artists of India and Southeast Asia.‚ Jennifer H. Krivickas, Univ. of Cincinnati Lib.
Handlen, Zack. If You Like Monty Python: Here Are Over 200 Movies, TV Shows and Other Oddities That You Will Love. Limelight Editions. Jan. 2012. c.156p. index. ISBN 9780879103934. pap. $14.99. FILM
This is the third title (after Leonard Pierce’s If You Like the Sopranos and Bruce Pollock’s If You Like the Beatles) in a new series of advisory guides for various popular culture subjects. By tying in Monty Python’s often absurd and deconstructionist themes, distilling the elements that make up a Python sketch, and exploring related productions, Handlen, a media reviewer for the Onion A.V. Club, brings together myriad popular culture totems and obscure works from across the decades to whet the appetites of Pythonites. From film predecessors such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Marx Brothers, to television shows ranging from The Simpsons to Black Adder and the Larry Sanders Show, to over four decades of movies from diverse filmmakers, Handlen writes plot synopses and provides commentary and explanations of why a Python fan might appreciate each work.
Verdict Concluding with a brief section on stand-up comics, books, and even a few video games, Handlen provides a focused yet highly selective list that also serves as a brief overview of comedy in the popular culture of the past 50 years.‚ Jim Collins, Morristown‚ Morris Twp. Lib., NJ
Herschdorfer, Nathalie. Afterwards: Contemporary Photography Confronting the Past. Thames & Hudson, dist. by Norton. 2011. 192p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780500543986. $50. PHOTOG
This book brings together 35 contemporary photographers who investigate the aftermath of global traumatic events. In her introductory essay, Herschdorfer (reGeneration2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today) explains the distinction between photographers who document natural disasters or acts of violence while they are taking place and photographers who step back and explore horrific events only after the fact. The photographers included here do the latter. Blurring the line between document and art, their photographs serve as powerful records of what has happened and allow viewers to connect with each event. This profound collection looks at a wide range of socially engaging subjects (e.g., survivors of a Bosnian massacre, homes damaged by Katrina, Wall Street buildings after 9/11, land mines from around the world) and an equally wide range of photographers, including Raphaël Dallaporta, Pieter Hugo, Suzanne Opton, Robert Polidori, and Taryn Simon. Several relevant essays by noted scholars like William A. Ewing, Roger Mayou, and Klaus Scherer accompany the images and place them within a cultural and historical context.
Verdict Highly recommended for photography, anthropology, and history collections.‚ Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA
Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World. Duke Univ. 2011. c.392p. ed. by Jeremy Wallach & others. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780822347330. pap. $26.95. MUSIC
Wallach (popular culture, Bowling Green State Univ.), Harris M. Berger (music, Texas A&M Univ.), and Paul D. Greene (ethnomusicology & integrative arts, Pennsylvania State Univ., Brandywine) collect essays from professors of popular culture, performance studies, and ethnomusicology to study heavy metal as a response to modernity and how globalization has facilitated its growth. The contributions favor descriptions of cultural phenomena over a discussion of technical aspects of the music, and Asia and Europe are well represented. Some of the research is based on online fan culture, and the collection includes autobiographical notes bordering on fandom. Readers may appreciate the genre analysis in each essay; however, the intended academic audience may find it redundant. Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind’s Lords of Chaos or Mark LeVine’s Heavy Metal Islam are more appropriate for metal fans.
Verdict This is a timely collection, as recent books and films about punk and metal in the Middle East and South Asia shed light on a worldwide audience. Ethnomusicology collections and students of popular culture take note.‚ Ed Graves, Rutland Free Lib., VT
Patten, Rena. Cooking with Quinoa: The Supergrain. New Holland Australia, dist. by Midpoint Trade. 2011. 192p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781742570556. $19.99. COOKING
High in protein, rich in vitamins and minerals, free from cholesterol, and perfect for anyone on a wheat-free diet, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), the seed from a plant that has been harvested since the Incas ruled South America, is an almost complete food. Patten, an Australian culinary instructor, is determined to show home cooks how they can successfully incorporate this protein powerhouse into their own diets with 90 clearly written and easy-to-follow recipes for everything from soups and salads to main dishes and desserts. The result is a solid cookbook that would be an excellent choice for anyone trying to boost nutritional values in his or her diet.
Verdict Both Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming’s Quinoa 365 and Robin Asbell’s The New Whole Grains Cookbook also offer recipes featuring quinoa, but Patten’s practical, reasonably priced guide to this superfood deserves equal consideration from any cook who wants all the benefits of healthy eating without having to give up flavorful foods in the process.‚ John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ
Polsky, Richard. The Art Prophets: The Artists, Dealers, and Tastemakers Who Shook the Art World. Other. 2011. c.272p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9781590514061. $24.95. FINE ARTS
A longtime denizen of the commercial art world, Polsky recounts the stories of dealers and collectors from the past 50 years who not only have achieved financial success but also altered the direction of art history. Readers learn of relatively well-known dealers such as Virginia Dwan, whose financial largess allowed for the ambitious projects of Robert Smithson and other Earth artists, and more obscure figures such as John Ollman, whose representation of artists such as Martín Ramírez was decisive in establishing the public profile of outsider art.
Verdict Polsky deserves praise for addressing such a wide range of figures, and his many behind-the-scenes anecdotes make this book an engaging read. However, those pursuing scholarly research will come away disappointed‚ Polsky’s fast-moving portraits emphasize character over contextual detail and are marked by a tendency toward hyperbole. His suggestion that art might never have moved out of the gallery without Dwan is suspect at best. While the book will appeal to a general audience, more specialized readers may grate at its lack of historical rigor.‚ Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Graduate Ctr.
Rossi, Shorty with S.J. Hodges. Four Feet Tall & Rising: A Memoir. Crown Archetype. Jan. 2012. c.272p. photogs. ISBN 9780307985880. $25. TV
Fans of Animal Planet’s Pit Boss will recognize Rossi as talent manager and owner of Shortywood Entertainment and founder of Shorty’s Pit Bull Rescue. Here, he tells his life story‚ and what a story it is! A third-generation Little Person, Rossi wasn’t expected to survive infancy, but, in his first defiance of authority, he was born without the limitations doctors predicted. After an abusive childhood, Rossi fled the suburbs for the projects of South Central Los Angeles, where he became the only white member of The Bloods. A gangland shoot-out led to an attempted murder charge and a ten-year prison stint, which Rossi credits with saving his life. Through education, anger-management classes, and business acumen picked up from being a housing clerk in Folsom State Prison, Rossi launched an entertainment career. At the same time, his love for pit bulls turned him from animal hoarder to activist.
Verdict Rossi’s riveting account includes prison encounters with Richard Night Stalker Ramirez and Rick James, his stint as Alvin at Universal Studios, and dealing with international fame as a reality-television star. Funny and foul-mouthed, Rossi and his book have tremendous appeal.‚ Terry Bosky, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., West Palm Beach, FL
Rothman, Julia. Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life. Storey. 2011. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781603429818. pap. $16.95. AGRI
Talented visual artist Rothman (Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists) takes readers through a working Iowa farm’s inventory of equipment, livestock, and produce‚ scattering practical observations and recipes throughout this richly illustrated book. She captures the excitement and longing the growing back-to-basics, back-to-the-farm, and do-it-yourself movements reported in the news often produce. This book continues the spirit of publications like the 1968‚ 72 counterculture publication Whole Earth Catalog, which guided readers toward self-sufficiency. Rothman’s sprightly and engaging illustrations are also accurate; all are labeled so that readers can find information about the parts of a hay baler, the process of making homemade cheese and bread, among many other bits of knowledge at their fingertips.
Verdict Though substantive information is embedded in the illustrations, the overall tone is entertaining. This book is appropriate for all readers looking for an accessible introduction to farm life.‚ Sara Rutter, Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa
Stark, Ruth. How To Work in Someone Else’s Country. Univ. of Washington. 2011. 174p. index. ISBN 9780295991368. pap. $18.95. CAREERS
Don’t let the title mislead you: this book is aimed at a select audience of high-level consultants who work in the developing world. Not meant for readers actually seeking employment in a foreign country, it does, however, offer practical (if elementary) advice for anyone considering working abroad in this field. Stark, currently a senior technical advisor in South Africa, has worked with the World Health Organization, several nongovernmental organizations, and national government institutions. Her experience gives weight to her introductory comments: the book’s purpose is to give you practical tips on how to be effective when you work in a resource-limited country, on how to avoid the common blunders that can cause grief all around. Stark’s advice covers everything from clarified job descriptions, gift giving, press gatherings, and relationships to dress codes. She argues that the major stumbling blocks for international consultants are ignorance about the host country and arrogance about their own expertise, and Stark cautions heavily against both.
Verdict Of limited general appeal, this book is most appropriate for professionals from developed nations who work (or want to) in underdeveloped ones.‚ Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV
Wilson, Henry. Pattern and Ornament in the Arts of India. Thames & Hudson, dist. by Norton. 2011. c.256p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500515822. $60. DEC ARTS
The architecture of India contains a wonderful mix of excess and restraint, ostentation and order. When applied to building, the great wealth of traditional Indian design creates lovely, imagistic surfaces. Accomplished with precision and creativity, the decorations reflect the religious beliefs, especially the union between nature and human-made spaces, that dominate the culture of northwest India. Photographer and designer Wilson surveys Indian architectural decoration over almost 2000 years, tracing its development from the earliest Buddhist stupas to the elegant palaces of the Rajput period. He describes in loving detail the varieties of patterns: e.g., repeat, borders and bands, single motifs and panels, and ornamental scenes. The elegant photographs are often juxtaposed with stylized graphic reproductions of the patterns that serve to identify the single theme in each image. These illustrations are a revelation and a delight to the eye; they offer insight into decoration that may initially seem like surface embellishment but is revealed to be an integral part of the architecture itself.
Verdict A fine tool for research into the art of architectural decoration in a country famous for it. The only caveat is that the book is bound so tightly it is difficult to keep open and many gutter margins obscure two-page layouts.‚ Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York