Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940–1990. Getty Research Inst. 2013. 320p. ed. by Wim de Wit. illus. index. ISBN 9781606061282. $59.95. ARCH
As Chicago architecture was to the 19th century, so was Los Angeles architecture to the 20th. Both cities were laboratories of architectural experimentation, reinvention, and redefinition. Both reckoned with environmental disasters, whether fire, earthquake, or mudslides. But while Chicago’s Commercial Style preserved a classical or Gothic ornamental overlay, Los Angeles architects embraced an uncompromising modernism. Edited by de Wit (architecture & design, Stanford Univ.) and Christopher James Alexander (assistant curator, architecture & design, Getty Research Inst.), this book accompanies an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum and features 16 essays exploring five themes: car culture, urban networks, engines of innovation, community, and houses. Like the Art Institute of Chicago’s Chicago Architecture, 1872–1922, this title reassesses 50 years of building activity. It also offers a foreword, expertly translated from German, by Thomas W. Gaehtgens (director, Getty Research Inst.), who bows to Reyner Banham’s seminal 1971 work, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, and in only five pages captures what is singular about the city’s built environment. VERDICT This book is unmatched in portraying the personality of Los Angeles’s urbanism. Essential for all students of architecture and urbanism.
Beachy-Quick, Dan. A Brighter Word than Bright: Keats at Work. Univ. of Iowa. (Muse Bks.). Sept. 2013. 190p. notes. index. ISBN 9781609381844. $24. LIT
Poet Beachy-Quick (English, Colorado State Univ.; Circle’s Apprentice) composes a concentrated examination of the life and work of English Romantic poet John Keats (1795–1821) that seeks to unearth the epistemological assumptions that appear early within Keats’s work, morph and coalesce over time, and finally mature to produce the high poetry and philosophy of the majestic six odes of 1819. Portraits of the poet at different moments in his writing life alternate with ruminations on particular poems and letters and the concerns they present. Beachy-Quick views Keats’s work as a dialog between the facts of history on the one side and, on the other, his poetic sensibility. The book sparkles with sudden realizations that illuminate both Keats’s frame of mind and the nature of poetizing: a poem “is not an argument to convince, but an evidence of conviction” and “vision begins where direction ends.” Keats wrote once that the difference between his poetry and that of his contemporary Lord Byron’s was that Byron “describes what he sees, I describe what I imagine. Mine is the harder task.” It’s hard to leave this book without agreeing. VERDICT A very good book but a specialized one. Its audience will be primarily devoted Keats readers, poets, and teachers of poetry. While this is not an easy book to absorb, it’s worth the effort.—
Labor, Earle. Jack London: An American Life. Farrar. Oct. 2013. 496p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780374178482. $30. BIOG
Labor (Emeritus Wilson Professor, American literature, Centenary Coll. of Louisiana) offers a biography and researched treatise on the work, life, loves, and philosophical leanings of American author John Griffith “Jack” London (1876–1916). More than 20 biographies have been written about London, but this volume promises to be one of the best for those who have read London’s books but know less about his life. As London’s official biographer and curator of the Jack London Museum in Shreveport, LA, Labor had access to London’s personal diaries and letters, as well as those of his wife Charmian, and knew London’s daughters and others with insight into the writer’s life. Labor portrays London as a complex person, at once disciplined and wild, who lived as an adventurer, “oyster pirate” (or poacher), prospector, and factory worker before establishing himself as a writer. London’s humble and impoverished background led him to work in factories and take other menial jobs to help support his family. His disciplined rise to celebrated author through willpower and hard work makes this a fascinating tale of success. VERDICT Highly recommended for London fans and readers who enjoy biographies, especially those of literary figures.—
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The following titles are reviewed in the August 15, 2013 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
Bolton, Andrew & others. Punk: Chaos to Couture. Metropolitan Museum of Art, dist. by Yale Univ. 2013. 240p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300191851. $45. FASHION
Gillow, John. Textiles of the Islamic World. Thames & Hudson, dist. by Norton. 2013. 320p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500290835. pap. $39.95. DEC ARTS
Leavell, Linda. Holding on Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore. Farrar. Oct. 2013. 464p. notes. index. ISBN 9780374107291. $28. LIT
Mason, David. The Pope’s Bookbinder: A Memoir. Biblioasis. 2013. 424p. ISBN 9781927428177. $32.95; ebk. ISBN 9781927428160. LIT
Slattery, David. How To Be Irish: Uncovering the Curiosities of Irish Behaviour. Orpen. Oct. 2013. 244p. ISBN 9781871305241. pap. $22.95. Humor
Sons of Thunder: Writing from the Fast Lane; A Motorcycling Anthology. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. 2013. 256p. ed. by Neil Bradford. ISBN 9781250020963. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250020956. LIT
Ebersole, Stewart Dean (text) & Jared Castaldi (photos.). Barred for Life: How Black Flag’s Iconic Logo Became Punk Rock’s Secret Handshake. PM Pr. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781604863949. pap. $24.95. MUSIC
Evans, Peter & Ava Gardner. Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations. S. & S. 2013. 272p. index. ISBN 9781451627695. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451627718. FILM
Kane, Larry. When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles’ Rise to the Top. Running Pr. Aug. 2013. 384p. bibliog. ISBN 9780762440146. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780762450954. MUSIC
Dworkin, Ronald. Religion Without God. Harvard Univ. Oct. 2013. 182p. notes. ISBN 9780674726826. $17.95. PHIL
Latour, Bruno. An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. Harvard Univ. Aug. 2013. 515p. tr. from French by Catherine Porter. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674724990. $39.95. PHIL
Hillman, Brenda. Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire. Wesleyan Univ. (Poetry). Aug. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9780819574145. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780819574152. POETRY
Mlinko, Ange. Marvelous Things Overheard: Poems. Farrar. Sept. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9780374203146. $24. POETRY
Ronk, Matha. Transfer of Qualities. Omnidawn. Oct. 2013. 88p. ISBN 9781890650827. pap. $17.95. POETRY
Voigt, Ellen Bryant. Headwaters: Poems. Norton. Oct. 2013. 64p. ISBN 9780393083200. $24.95. POETRY
SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION
Ashton, Dianne. Hanukkah in America: A History. New York Univ. Oct. 2013. 368p. notes. index. ISBN 9780814707395. $29.95. REL
Graham, Billy. The Reason for My Hope: Salvation. Thomas Nelson. Oct. 2013. 218p. notes. ISBN 9780849947612. $19.99. REL
Haws, J.B. The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception. Oxford Univ. Nov. 2013. 432p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199897643. $29.95. REL
Wilder, Lynn K. Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way out of the Mormon Church. Zondervan. Aug. 2013. 352p. notes. ISBN 9780310331124. pap. $15.99. REL