Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, June 1, 2012

Week ending June 1, 2012

Adler, Stella. Stella Adler on America’s Master Playwrights: Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, Clifford Odets, William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, et al. Knopf. Aug. 2012. c.368p. ed. by Barry Paris. photogs. ISBN 9780679424437. $27.95. THEATER
Arguably America’s preeminent acting teacher, Adler died in 1992 at age 91, but her legacy lives on in this second collection based on transcripts of the classes she conducted in the 1970s and early 1980s. (The first was the 1999 collection Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov.) Famously the founder of the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting, she also appeared in numerous plays and a few films and also directed for the stage. From the introductory chapter, Actor vs. Interpreter, to the book’s end, Adler’s voice comes through loud and clear. She constantly challenges her audience, saying, You can’t be boring. Life is boring. The weather is boring. Actors must not be boring. After an overview of each playwright’s work, several individual works are discussed in great detail. Tennessee Williams, Clifford Odets, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee all have multiple plays covered, along with one work apiece by Thornton Wilder, William Saroyan, and William Inge. Each discussion emphasizes interpretation, imagination, and subtext, in Adler’s unique style.
Actors, acting students, and serious theater fans will savor the insight and inspiration served up here.—Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L.

DiDonato, Tiffanie & Rennie Dyball. Dwarf: A Memoir. Plume: Penguin Group (USA). Nov. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780452298118. pap. $15. MEMOIR
Born with a rare form of dwarfism, DiDonato didn’t realize she was different until her friends grew taller than her and she found herself needing special tools to do daily tasks. After undergoing dozens of minor surgeries, DiDonato decided to suffer through two additional ones, painful bone-lengthening procedures. Doctors strategically broke her bones and forced her to live with pins in her arms and legs for about a year. The result was a radical extra 14 inches added to her originally three-foot, eight-inch frame.
Verdict DiDonato’s book reads like a long, inspirational email from a friend or a very personal blog post. This isn’t a pity party, but DiDonato’s writing isn’t as memorable as her story. While DiDonato’s experiences will appeal to anyone tall, short, or in between, the narrative suffers‚ some sections feel choppy, glossed over, or forced. (DiDonato’s parents are saints, and her teenage years are mysteriously empty of argument and bitterness.) A good story hampered by too casual a writing style.—Kathleen Quinlan, Library Journal

The New York Times Book of Wine: More Than 30 Years of Vintage Writing. Sterling Epicure. Aug. 2012. c.592p. ed. by Howard G. Goldberg. photogs. index. ISBN 9781402781841. $24.95. BEVERAGES
In 1972, the New York Times became the first U.S. newspaper to publish a weekly column on wine. Through the ensuing years, America’s love affair with wine has grown, often under the influence of these articles. This new collection gathers 125 of the best pieces from this column and covers myriad topics: terminology to help beginners through their first wine tasting, choosing wine for the holidays (it directs readers to relax and stick with their budget), dessert wines, tours of wineries around the globe, wine and food pairings, wine history, and profiles of interesting players in the wine world, among others.
Verdict No need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy this book. Written by 29 different authors, it reads like a good collection of short stories. This title is suitable for anyone wishing to learn more about wine but sophisticated enough for aficionados. A good choice for readers who want more information about the culture and context of wine consumption, delivered in an engaging format.—Jane Hebert, Mount Juliet, TN

PopMatters. Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion; The TV Series, the Movies, the Comic Books and More. Titan. 2012. 496p. illus. ISBN 9780857689863. pap. $18.95. TV
From cult television favorites Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly to the blockbuster hit film The Avengers, the works of writer/director Joss Whedon are renowned for their wit and strong women. This collection of essays and interviews, all previously published in the cultural studies magazine PopMatters, offers something for every fan of Whedon’s work. The book is divided into sections featuring each of his major TV shows, films, comics, and other creative endeavors, each containing a mix of scholarly analyses, general interest articles, and insightful interviews with Whedon’s stars and collaborators. An essay in the appendix provides a handy overview of other books, articles, and journals that also focus on the psychological, sociological, philosophical, and cultural impact of the Whedonverse.
While this book is a must-read for Whedon devotees, will also be of interest to sf fans, pop culture aficionados, and media studies students.—Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL

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"