Arts & Humanities Reviews, April 15, 2012

starred review starFranzen, Jonathan. Farther Away: Essays. Farrar. May 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780374153571. $26. LIT

Do you say Love you! when ending cell phone conversations? If so Franzen (Freedom) may have an issue with you. In his essay I Just Called to Say I Love You, he states that the cell phone enables and encourages the inflicting of the personal and individual on the public and communal. While shopping, waiting for a plane to depart, or walking down the street, he does not want to be pulled into the sticky world of some nearby human being’s home life. In this collection of 21 essays and speeches written from 1998 to 2011, readers see the world through Franzen’s eyes‚ including when those eyes are engaged in his leisure pursuit of bird-watching‚ but for the most part he zeroes in on how society impacts the individual, mainly via technology, and how people influence one another. His remarks at the memorial service for David Foster Wallace are also included, as is his address to the 2011 Kenyon College graduating class. VERDICT Readers get a good look at Franzen’s keen observations here, which help make this an excellent collection for fans of his fiction as well as for aspiring writers. [See Prepub Alert, 11/7/11.]‚ Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

starred review starLarson, Kay. Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jul. 2012. c.496p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594203404. $29.95. MUSIC

This excellent book takes its place among the several monographs on John Cage written in the run-up to the centenary of the American composer’s birth in 1912; Kyle Gann (No Such Thing as Silence) and Kenneth Silverman (Begin Again) each contributed valuable studies of Cage. Larson, a practicing Buddhist and astute art critic, here considers in depth the Zen practices and philosophies that had a profound effect on Cage’s music and writings from the late 1940s until his death in 1992. Throughout her biographical narrative, Larson includes lengthy discourses on the writings of Zen masters and other philosophers who influenced Cage. We also meet many post‚ World War II avant-garde luminaries whose work was inspired by Cage: musicians such as Earle Brown and Morton Feldman; artists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Yoko Ono; and dancer and life partner Merce Cunningham. Larson peppers her narrative with quotes from Cage as well as with epigrammatic and illuminating koans, a style much favored by Cage himself in his own writings. VERDICT This is a thoroughly researched and wittily written guide to Cage and the Zen mind. There are delightful surprises and revelatory anecdotes on nearly every page. Essential for all collections.‚ Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA


starred review starNussbaum, Martha C. The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age. Harvard Univ. Apr. 2012. c.304p. index. ISBN 9780674065901. $26.95. REL

Nussbaum (Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law & Ethics, Univ. of Chicago; The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future), among our most original social thinkers today, enters the debate on anti-Muslim discrimination with a voice of established authority. She invites us to examine disputes about women’s use of the burka and the construction of an Islamic-initiated multifaith community center near New York’s Ground Zero. The author’s argument for tolerant accommodation falls within the Socratic and Christian/Kantian commitment to live an examined life in relations with religious minorities. In pursuit of this goal, Nussbaum considers the psychology of narcissistic fear, the jurisprudence of religious freedom, and the power of imaginative empathy in fiction. She supports her argument through a demand for consistency, progress, and precedent, using examples that move comfortably from the life of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams, through novelist George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, as well as relevant Supreme Court arguments. The parallels she draws between past anti-Semitic and present anti-Islamic sentiment are convincing. The new religious tolerance is less new than we might imagine. VERDICT This powerful and profound book is useful to anyone seriously concerned with religious pluralism and civil liberty.‚ Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ.-Erie

The following titles are reviewed in the April 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


Johnston, John & Chan Lai Pik. 5,000 Years of Chinese Jade: Featuring Selections from the National Museum of History, Taiwan, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

San Antonio Museum of Art, dist. by Univ. of Washington. 2011. 130p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780615471808. pap. $29.95. DEC ARTS

Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination. Vanderbilt Univ. (Frist Ctr. for the Visual Arts). 2012. c.160p. ed. by Mark W. Scala. ISBN 9780826518149. pap. $29.95. Fine Arts


Auster, Paul. Winter Journal. Holt. Aug. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780805095531. $26. LIT

Gladfelder, Hal. Fanny Hill in Bombay: The Making and Unmaking of John Cleland. John Hopkins Univ. Apr. 2012. c.328p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781421404905. $54.95. LIT

Nelson, Victoria. Gothicka: Vampire Heroes, Human Gods, and the New Supernatural. Harvard Univ. Apr. 2012. c.352p. illus. index. ISBN 9780674050143. $27.95. LIT

Warner, Marina. Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights. Harvard Univ. 2012. c.560p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674055308. $35. LIT

Performing Arts

Hendrix, Leon with Adam Mitchell. Jimi Hendrix: A Brother’s Story. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. May 2012. c.304p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780312668815. $25.99. MUSIC

Wolff, Christoph. Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune: Serving the Emperor, 1788‚ 1791. Norton. May 2012. c.256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393050707. $27.95. MUSIC

Sports & Recreation

Goldblatt, David & Johnny Acton (text) with Belinda Evans (illus.). How To Watch the Olympics: An Instant Initiation into the Stories, Statistics, Heroes, and Zeroes of Every Sport. Penguin. Jun. 2012. c.400p. illus. index. ISBN 9780143121879. pap. $15. SPORTS

Parsons, John with Henry Wancke. The Tennis Book: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Tennis. Carlton, dist. by Sterling. May 2012. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781780970127. $34.95. SPORTS