Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, March 23, 2012

Week ending March 23, 2012

The Age of American Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago. Art Inst. of Chicago, dist. by Yale Univ. 2011. 160p. ed. by Judith A. Barter. illus. index. ISBN 9780300175745. $50. FINE ARTS
The Art Institute of Chicago’s galleries are well suited to tell the story of American impressionism: the movement and museum came of age simultaneously, while the museum’s founding collection brought French impressionism to a wider American audience. Gathering stylistically and philosophically distinct artists, Barter (Field-McCormick Chair & curator, American art, Art Inst. of Chicago) organizes essays on Homer, Whistler, Cassatt, and Sargent at the book’s front, while later chapters examine Chase, Glackens, Hassam, Prendergast, and others in the context of shared American impressionist themes: study in Paris, rural landscapes, and urban subjects. The essays offer visual and historical evidence delineating these two schools of impressionism. This scholarly but accessible volume spins off from the museum’s earlier and more comprehensive American Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago and sits companionably alongside its The Age of French Impressionism.
Verdict A luxuriously illustrated collection of insightful essays that highlights the richness of the Art Institute’s holdings in American impressionism.‚ Lindsay M. King, Yale Univ. Lib., New Haven, CT

Austen, Jane. The Annotated Emma. Anchor: Random. 2012. 928p. ed. by David M. Shapard. illus. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780307390776. pap. $17.95. LIT
Shapard’s annotated edition of Austen’s longest and most ambitious novel follows his previous Anchor annotated editions of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion. As with these volumes, this provides added value through detailed facing-page annotations, which include definitions of terms (aimed to some extent at American readers), explanations of cultural and social conventions, and insights into characters and plot developments. The 200 black-and-white illustrations of fashions, furniture, architecture, and everyday scenes aid the less well-read Austen reader in visualizing the world of the novel. Shapard’s introduction provides a brief overview of Austen’s life and career as well as insight into the writing of Emma and the novel’s cultural significance. As with his previous Austen editions, Shapard provides a useful chronology of the novel’s events, maps depicting the various geographical locations mentioned, and a lengthy bibliography covering Austen and her works as well as the historical background of the novel.
Verdict Upper-level academic readers may prefer the recent Norton Critical Edition edited by George Justice, but anyone reading for entertainment enriched with some scholarship will find this valuable for its detailed and illuminating annotations and supplementary material.‚ Alison M. Lewis, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia

Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World. Los Angeles Cty. Museum of Art, dist. by Yale Univ. 2011. c.320p. ed. by Ilona Katzew. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300176643. $70. FINE ARTS
Edited by Katzew (curator & cohead, Latin American art, Los Angeles Cty. Museum of Art; Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico), this book works to dispel the notion that when the Spanish conquered much of Central and South America, the indigenous peoples and their cultures simply vanished. The accompanying publication to an exhibition of the same name at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it consists of a dozen detailed, scholarly, illustrated studies by a roster of international experts focusing primarily on Mexico and Peru in the pre-Columbian and colonial eras. Each essay provides a different look at the ways indigenous populations perceived and responded to colonialism, as evidenced in various artistic works ranging from Aztec and Inca artifacts to colonial-era murals, paintings, prints, and more.
Verdict Since interest in colonial Latin American art continues to grow, this is an essential title. An excellent guide to the complexity and vitality of the indigenous response to the colonial experience in art.‚ Eugene C. Burt, Seattle

Hjortsberg, William. Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan. Counterpoint. Apr. 2012. c.896p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781582437903. $42.50. LIT
This is both an exhaustive and an exhausting account of the life of Richard Brautigan (1935‚ 84), who was famous in the 1960s and 1970s as a countercultural writer and poet, most noted for his 1967 novel Trout Fishing in America. Novelist and screenwriter Hjortsberg (Falling Angel) follows Brautigan closely: growing up in the Pacific Northwest, journeying to the San Francisco area, gaining both fame and notoriety in the 1960s, earning a substantial amount of money in the 1970s, buying homes in Montana and California, traveling to Japan and Europe, and committing suicide in 1984‚ it is all here. We learn of his dealings with publishers, his numerous public readings, his many relationships, his interest in guns, his seemingly perpetual drunkenness. Hjortsberg was Brautigan’s friend and neighbor in Montana and admired him as a writer before meeting him. Aside from noting this, however, he provides no explanation of his rationale for this undertaking, nor does he indicate the sources of his information.
Verdict There have been other books on Brautigan’s life and writings, including Keith Abbott’s Downstream from Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan. Unless you feel like slogging through nearly 900 pages of detail, consider this one a marginal purchase.‚ Gina Kaiser, Univ. of the Sciences Lib., Philadelphia

starred review starMcPhee, Constance C. & Nadine M. Orenstein. Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine. Yale Univ. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780300175813. $45. FINE ARTS
A catalog presenting the first exhibition in 40 years to provide an overview of caricature and satirical art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, this book includes 165 examples, most of which come from the vast but largely unknown collection of works on paper at the museum. They span five centuries, from about 1500 to the present‚ the majority produced in France and Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Both well-known caricaturists (Daumier, Gillray, Rowlandson, and Hirschfeld) and their lesser-known counterparts are highlighted alongside a number of anonymous works. McPhee and Orenstein (both, associate curators, prints & drawings, Metropolitan Museum of Art) contribute an overview of humor on paper‚ the art and history of caricature. Subsequent sections cover the elements of caricature and the broad themes of social satire, politics, and celebrities.
The authors provide ample context and historical background for the works, essential to understand their meaning. Breadth of coverage and reasonable price will make this an attractive purchase for many. Highly recommended for collections focusing on art, history, and culture of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.‚ Martha Smith, Elmira Coll., NY

Mayost, Eric. Gorgeous Wedding Hairstyles: A Step-by-Step Guide to 34 Spectacular Hairstyles. Sterling. Mar. 2012. 336p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781402785894. pap. $16.95. PERSONAL GROOMING
In his second book, Tel Aviv, Israel, salon owner Mayost (Spectacular Hair: A Step-by-Step Guide to 46 Gorgeous Hairstyles) helps readers create a variety of wedding hairstyles, from loose, flowing curls (The Princess Bride, Maiden Mermaid) to contemporary versions of traditional updos (High Twister, Wondrous Weave). Though the styles are primarily for brides, a number of them could be worn by other members of the wedding party or by guests. There are also four hairstyles for children. The designs require naturally long hair or extensions. Some could be modified for medium-length hair, but there are no suggestions for short hair. The well-organized text features a detailed list of Essential Supplies (e.g., hair wraps, bobby pins, molding wax). Mayost also includes tips for inserting and removing a bridal veil.
Verdict The beautiful hairstyles will inspire readers already familiar with hairdressing techniques and tools.‚ Meagan Storey, Virginia Beach

Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America. Verso, dist. by Norton. 2012. ed. by Astra Taylor & others. illus. ISBN 9781844679409. pap. $14.95. COMM
While the impact of the Occupy movement remains an open question, its early days are captured in this eclectic collection of pieces contributed by writers from the journal n+1, along with a few prominent social critics. The 29 contributors share personal accounts of their participation, analysis of the organizational structure of the movement, and critiques of participant behavior and activities. Mark Greif, a founding editor of n+1, offers a cultural overview of drumming circles and touches on the rift between the drummers and other activists at New York’s Zuccotti Park. Angela Davis questions the use of the term occupy, tracing its history back to oppression and violence. Interspersed are reports from outside of New York, in cities around the world. Writers recount the deliberations on mundane matters, such as how to get the laundry done, in addition to more substantial discussions such as whether to welcome the homeless into camps.
The book’s structure mirrors the movement’s, with a decentralized mix of text, photos, and sketches. Supporters will welcome this effort by sympathetic writers to capture Occupy Wall Street’s early days, scholars will appreciate the access to primary sources, and activists will be pleased to know that the book’s profits are donated to the movement.‚ Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib.

Ostrer, Harry. Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People. Oxford Univ. Jun. 2012. c.256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780195379617. $24.95. HIST
Are the Jews a race, an ethnic group, or a religious community? This is one of the most politically fraught questions in the modern world, for in it we hear echoes of the Holocaust, the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the very nature of identity. In each chapter here, Ostrer (pathology & genetics, Albert Einstein Coll. of Medicine) moves from the historic visions of race science and ideology to the modern study of genetics. Inventive medical professionals have built an immense database of genetic information on the Jewish people, and while their primary goal is to improve health, Ostrer recognizes that their research also helps address contemporary political and religious questions. For example, genetics reveal that certain segments of the Jewish people can trace their ancestry back to ancient Eretz Yisrael, while those who claim Cohanim lineage (descent from the ancient priesthood) are not always genetically related.
Intended for a general audience, this fascinating book contains science that may sometimes baffle the reader, but for those who stick with it, it is well worth the time. Recommended for a wide audience of interested readers.‚ Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll.

Ozersky, Josh. Colonel Sanders and the American Dream. Univ. of Texas. (Discovering America). Apr. 2012. c.130p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780292723825. $20. BUS
James Beard Award‚ winning food writer Ozersky (The Hamburger: A History) describes the branding process of KFC in this brief account about the establishment of Harland Sanders as the nationally known fried-chicken king, Colonel Sanders. The author does not offer a biography (many already exist) but focuses on the business model of KFC from its inception to today. He begins with Sanders’s failed attempts to find his niche in the army, railroad, and insurance sales and then as a gas station owner (which made him wealthy before he went broke again at age 65). To make more money, he moved his noontime family meal into the storefront so he could sell it. Eventually, it became a restaurant and franchise, complete with personal demos of Sanders’s pressure-cooking technique. As Sanders grew his company and image, he added Colonel to his name, dyed his beard white, and wore only white.
Verdict This account is brief and offers little new information concerning the significance of Sanders’s contribution to American or food culture. Recommended for secondary-school students and early college business students wanting an introduction to and a classic example of how business branding works.‚ Kimberley Bugg, Villanova Univ. Lib., PA

Patton, Brian L. The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude. New World Library, dist. by PGW. Mar. 2012. c.272p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781608680450. pap. $16.95. COOKING
More irreverent than sexy, this new vegan cookbook puts a zesty spin on traditionally meat-centric dishes, such as burgers, sliders, and ribs. Patton, executive chef for a Los Angeles‚ based vegan food delivery service, provides recipes for breakfast dishes, meat substitutes, soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza, entrées, and snacks like jalape√±o poppers and potato skins. To avoid the salt, preservatives, and additives of commercial versions, Patton limits meat substitutes to those you make yourself, providing a more nutritious base for his recipes. Many of the recipes call for ingredients that you’ll want to make ahead; these range from spice mixes to meat substitutes to vegan mayonnaise and other sauces and condiments. Some dishes call for up to five other recipes, included elsewhere in the book.
Verdict With slang-infused recipe titles (e.g., Barbecrazyshit Sauce, Buffalo Wangs, The Seitan Worshipper), this cookbook will appeal to a younger, comfort food‚ craving crowd. Because there are many crossover recipes‚ i.e., vegan versions of more traditional dishes‚ it may hold particular appeal for those who’ve recently adopted a vegan diet.‚ Rachael Dreyer, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie

Randall. Honey Badger Don’t Care: Randall’s Guide to Crazy, Nastyass Animals. Andrews McMeel. 2012. 80p. photogs. ISBN 9781449419653. $14.99. SCI
Capitalizing on the viral Honey Badger YouTube videos, their famous narrator, Randall (the only name provided), has put his trademark sayings and catchphrases about honey badgers on paper, along with comments on a few other crazy, nastyass animals like the Tasmanian devil (whom he calls Satan’s best friend), the Solenodon (Li’l grumpypants), and the tarsier (Little crazyface). Presented in a picture book format, this work features short factoids about each animal, all elaborated with Randall’s handwritten comments‚ even down to his heart-shaped dots over the letter i. Just like the YouTube videos, however, Randall’s language is not at all PG-13, and as such the scope of this book is extremely limited.
Verdict Similar to Go the Fuck to Sleep, this is a picture book for adults. Inappropriate for school libraries and public children’s collections because of the language and more humorous than scientific, this book offers little to academic libraries. While this book will have a spot in personal holdings, it will have a harder time finding one in academic, school, or public libraries.‚ Susan E. Brazer, Salisbury Univ. Lib., MD

Reynolds, Simon. Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull. Mar. 2012. c.512p. index. ISBN 9781593764074. pap. $21.95. MUSIC
When it first appeared in 1998 under the title Generation Ecstasy, Reynolds’s (Rip It Up and Start Again) work received praise for its insider take on the myriad subgenres of electronic dance music. Critics took issue, though, with its lack of objectivity in describing those subgenres. This reissue, which includes four new chapters covering developments from the late-1990s resurgence of trance to the current dubstep phenomenon, acknowledges that partisanship but does little to rectify it. Nevertheless, you won’t find a better all-in-one historical overview of the music, personalities, drugs, and cultural trends that influenced the rave scene in the UK and beyond.
Verdict Although this book is neither an academic study nor a scene memoir, Reynolds uses his authoritative voice and ability to draw clear parallels to more established genres to pull off that most difficult of feats: effectively describing a style of music that may be completely alien to his audience. That this music can, as Reynolds himself admits, often be fully appreciated only by listeners in a chemically altered state makes this achievement doubly impressive. Highly recommended for contemporary music collections and all fans of electronica.‚ Neil Derksen, Gwinnett Cty. P.L., Lawrenceville, GA

Rossi, Allegra. Barbra: A Retrospective. Sterling. 2012. 288p. photogs. filmog. discog. index. ISBN 9781402788239. $29.95. MUSIC
Rossi (Romancing the World: A Biography of Il Divo), an entertainment writer, film journalist, and Streisand enthusiast, offers a colorful look back at Barbra Streisand’s work over half a century. Chapters are divided by decade, each containing full-color photographs, Playbill inserts, cast albums, color plates, and rare primary-source material. Emphasis is placed on Streisand’s projects; her movies, soundtracks, and albums are summarized at the end of each chapter. Brief blurbs about her personal life, including the section The Men in Her Life, are interspersed throughout. The book ends with a discography (separating albums from soundtracks and live performances), a filmography, a list of DVDs, and an index.
Verdict Those interested in Streisand’s work will appreciate this in-depth, comprehensive retrospective, but readers seeking intimate biographical details won’t find them here. Recommended for music, theater, and movie scholars and enthusiasts, as well as Streisand fans.‚ Karen McCoy, Northern Arizona Univ. Lib., Flagstaff

Sbardellati, John. J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies: The FBI and the Origins of Hollywood’s Cold War. Cornell Univ. May 2012. c.264p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780801450082. $27.95. FILM
Sbardellati (history, Univ. of Waterloo, Ont.) presents a convincing case for the important role of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in contributing to the Second Red Scare that followed World War II. To Hoover, communism not only ran counter to the American way of life but, when present in film content, also posed a threat to national security. Sbardellati draws upon FBI documents to detail how Hoover, beginning in 1942, directed his agents to undertake a massive, secret review of the Hollywood film industry. He pointed to the presence of communists in Hollywood to justify his fear that new film productions‚ particularly social-problem films‚ contained propaganda. When the House Un-American Activities Committee investigated Hollywood in 1947, it used the FBI’s findings as the basis for targeting suspected Reds; this led to the creation of the Hollywood blacklist and a more conservative Cold War film culture.
Verdict Sbardellati’s thorough research on Hoover’s early investigations of Hollywood makes this a great choice for readers interested in 20th-century American cultural history.‚ Chris Martin, Univ. of Dayton Lib.

Sever, Shauna (text) & Leigh Beisch (photogs.). Marshmallow Madness! Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes. Quirk. Mar. 2012. 96p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781594745720. $16.95. COOKING
Sever, a San Francisco‚ based dessert caterer and blogger (Piece of Cake, shaunasever.com/blog), whips up a fun, treat-filled cookbook. Homemade marshmallows are rare, but those willing to indulge will appreciate the thoroughness of this title. Sever describes the key ingredients and encourages cooks to stick with the basics (although she suggests substitutions, including a vegan version). The recipes are clear and easy to follow, with color-coding and particular icons linking ingredient groups to sets of instructions. There are recipes showcasing basic flavors as well as more creative concoctions‚ e.g., Concord Grape, Key Lime Pie, Creamsicle, and Pumpkin Spice. There are also instructions for creating such desserts as elevated crisped rice treats and whoopie pies with homemade marshmallow crème. Marshmallow connoisseurs will appreciate a sea salt caramel swirl version and a mango-chili-lime version.
Verdict This is an irresistible book, recommended for all cooks with a sweet tooth.‚ Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH

Stenger, Victor J. God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. Prometheus. Apr. 2012. c.375p. ISBN 9781616145996. pap. $20. REL
Stenger (physics & astronomy, emeritus, Univ. of Hawaii; God: The Failed Hypothesis) is part of the New Atheism movement, which no longer accepts religion as a separate sphere of study but chooses to confront religion as a destructive force in society. He argues that religion is a remnant of caveman logic, full of cowardly denial and self-defeating ignorance used by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line. Stenger, who has written multiple books on rejecting religion, provides many reasons for abandoning ideas of God, from the classic religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance to more unusual theories comparing religion to infectious parasites and destructive viruses. He warns about a small, secret cabal of wealthy Christians (mainly Republicans) who control the U.S. government and conspire to stop good science.
Verdict Stenger’s shock-jock style of humor (Science flies us to the moon. Religion flies us into buildings) is unlikely to change minds and instead lessens the chances for respectful dialog. While dyed-in-the-wool New Atheists may enjoy this book, it will not go far with the average reader.‚ John M. Kistler, Washington, PA

Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook: The Ultimate Kitchen Companion with Over 300 Recipes. Wiley. 2012. 384p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781118038123. $29.99. COOKING
Given the popularity of Weight Watchers, this collection of easy, quick, and satisfying recipes and beautiful photos will be in demand. One pot does not refer only to a slow cooker; rather, the cookbook includes one-pot recipes for a bowl, skillet, wok, saucepan, slow cooker, and much more. All the dishes list Weight Watchers PointsPlus values‚ important for readers following the Weight Watchers plan‚ plus nutritional information for those watching their weight without following the official program. Unlike some foodie cookbooks that call for expensive or difficult-to-find ingredients, the recipes here are made with ingredients that are easy to locate at your grocery store‚ crucial for cooks who are shopping on a budget.
Verdict Just as home cooks want a cookbook featuring tasty, satisfying dishes that will give them a bang for their buck, so do libraries want to stretch their collection dollars while providing excellent materials. This cookbook meets those needs; highly recommended.‚ Nyama Y. Marsh, Frank L. Weyenberg Lib. of Mequon‚ Thiensville, WI

Young Brides, Old Treasures: Macedonian Embroidered Dress. Museum of Intl. Folk Art and Macedonian Arts Council, dist. by Univ. of Washington. 2011. 263p. ed. by Bobbie Sumberg. illus. maps. ISBN 9780295991634. $60. DEC ARTS
A partnership between the Museum of International Folk Art (Santa Fe, NM) and the Macedonia Arts Council has resulted in this stunning, large-format (9″ x 13″) exhibition catalog with 383 full-color illustrations. While some previous titles have covered the folk costumes of the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, none have offered the combination of beautiful photography and excellent essays found in this volume. The four essays, written by Macedonian experts, cover the materials, techniques, embroidery, and significance of the Orthodox Christian Macedonian textiles shown in the exhibit. Editor Sumberg (curator, textiles & costume, Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe) and contributor Vladimir Janevski have written helpful legends for the plates. One set of plates of a particular wedding dress shows all seven of its layers as they are donned one by one by the wearer and also includes photographs of the embroidery detail on the dress. In addition to clothing, the book displays hats, buckles, jewelry, socks, and other ornaments from the collection.
Verdict An essential, and beautiful, book for anyone interested in folk costume, textiles, or embroidery.

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"


  1. Karl Helicher says:

    Hi, Gina Kaiser, As the youngsters admonish YMMV, and for me I found Brautigan to be one of the truly light weight authors of his era. The redeeming feature of his books was that they were short. Ironic that he is feted in a door-stop sized bio that is probably longer than his body of works combined.

    • teetop says:

      That’s the problem with daring to use humor in your work. Some people won’t take you seriously as a result.