Arts & Humanities Reviews

LaPlante, Eve. Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother. Free Pr: S. & S. Nov. 2012. c.384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451620665. $26. LIT

LaPlante (Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall) sheds light on Abigail May Alcott (1800–77), mother of Louisa May Alcott, creator of Little Women and of that book’s beloved mother, Marmee. Stumbling upon an inscription in a book found among her ancestral belongings, LaPlante began to uncover the life of a woman whose husband, controversial teacher and writer Bronson Alcott, and renowned daughter Louisa May (the second of four daughters) overshadowed her own accomplishments. Abigail, called Marmee by her daughters, is shown to have been a remarkable intellect and a progressive who played a primary role in Louisa’s life. LaPlante pays meticulous attention to primary sources, delving into the surviving diaries of mother and daughter. VERDICT This heavily researched double biography serves as a kind of twin to John Matteson’s Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. Nineteenth-century New England literature buffs and Alcott aficionados will appreciate this well-wrought study.—Elizabeth Heffington, Lipscomb Univ. Lib., Nashville, TN

Hendel, Ronald. The Book of Genesis: A Biography. Princeton Univ. (Lives of Great Religious Books). Nov. 2012. c.288p. illus. index. ISBN 9780691140124. $24.95. REL

Hendel (Norma & Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible & Jewish Studies, Univ. of California, Berkeley) traces the impact of the book of Genesis on science, literature, politics, society, and religion. The author sets the tone with a short overview of the J, P, and E sources, expounds on the traditional “four assumptions” of early biblical interpretation, then outlines the differences between the apocalyptical and the Platonic interpretations of Genesis. He continues by weaving a narrative of this ancient text’s influence on how society viewed the world and, in turn, how some major thinkers shaped future interpretations of Genesis. Hendel supports his argument by relating the experiences of Luther, Galileo, Spinoza, Darwin, Kafka, Dickinson, and others. He also illustrates the influence of Genesis on the American Civil War, abolitionists, and the work of philologist Erich Auerbach. VERDICT Clearly written and well organized, this is a thought-provoking account of an ancient text’s effect on the people who helped shape the course of history. Although intended for a general audience, this will also be welcomed by academics. —Jacqueline Parascandola, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York

Byrne, David. How Music Works. McSweeney’s. Sept. 2012. c.352p. photogs. ISBN 9781936365531. $32. MUSIC

As this book’s title suggests, musician and Talking Heads cofounder Byrne (Bicycle Diaries) brings the same ambition and wide-ranging focus to his writing that has always been present in his music and visual art. In chapters that function as distinct essays, he explores several hows of music: how technology has shaped its history, how artists can make money from it, and how our culture and surroundings affect our reactions to it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this broad approach results in shallow spots, with underdeveloped lines of thought and interesting topics that vanish too quickly. Yet despite the lapses in rigor, Byrne has a knack for presenting ideas and theories from music scholarship—notably, the still-emerging field of sound culture—in an accessible manner. VERDICT While he avoids focusing on his musical career, Byrne’s ability to draw upon his experiences with Talking Heads and as a solo artist to illustrate his points is a clear strength. Music fans of all stripes will find engaging material in this book.—Chris Martin, North Dakota State Univ. Libs., Fargo, ND

The following titles are reviewed in the September 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

fine arts

Belozerskaya, Marina. Medusa’s Gaze: The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese. Oxford Univ. (Emblems of Antiquity). Oct. 2012. c.312p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199739318. $24.95. FINE ARTS

Brunet, Geneviève. The Wallpaper Book. Thames & Hudson, dist. by Norton. 2012. 240p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500516072. $50. DEC ARTS

Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. Harvard Univ. 2012. 288p. ed. by Venetia Porter. illus. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780674062184. $39.95. FINE ARTS

Modern Sculpture Reader. Getty Museum. 2012. c.544p. ed. by Jon Wood & others. photogs. ISBN 9781606061060. pap. $50. FINE ARTS

starred review starOrsanmichele and the History and Preservation of the Civic Monument. National Gallery of Art, dist. by Yale Univ. (Studies in the History of Art). 2012. 416p. ed. by Carl Brandon Strehlke. illus. index. ISBN 9780300135893. $75. FINE ARTS

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations. Metropolitan Museum of Art, dist. by Yale Univ. 2012. 324p. ed. by Andrew Bolton & Harold Koda. photogs. ISBN 9780300179552. $45. FINE ARTS

Selwyn Pullan: Photographing Mid-Century West Coast Modernism.

West Vancouver Museum, dist. by Douglas & McIntyre. Oct. 2012. c.160p. ed. by Adele Weder & others. ISBN 9781553659471. $45. ARCHITECTURE


Austen, Jane. Emma: An Annotated Edition. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Sept. 2012. c.576p. ed. by Bharat Tandon. illus. ISBN 9780674048843. $35. LIT

Eco, Umberto. Inventing the Enemy: Essays. Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2012. c.240p. tr. from Italian by Richard Dixon. illus. ISBN 9780547640976. $25. LIT

Garnett, Robert. Charles Dickens in Love. Pegasus. Dec. 2012. c.256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781605983950. $26.95. LIT

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance. Oxford Univ. Oct. 2012. c.320p. illus. index. ISBN 9780195390346. $65; pap. ISBN 9780199927692. $29.95. LIT

Nel, Philip. Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature. Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. Sept. 2012. c.368p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781617036248. $70; pap. ISBN 9781617036361. $40. LIT

Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature. Gallaudet Univ. Sept. 2012. c.368p. ed. by Edna Edith Sayers. ISBN 9781563685392. pap. $35. LIT


Elliott, Chris. The Guy Under the Sheets: The Unauthorized Autobiography. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780399158407. $26.95. FILM

Graves, Josh. Bluegrass Bluesman: A Memoir. Univ. of Illinois. (Music in American Life). Sept. 2012. c.184p. ed. by Fred Bartenstein. photogs. discog. ISBN 9780252078644. $21.95. MUSIC

Hicks, Michael & Christian Asplund. Christian Wolff. Univ. of Illinois. (American Composers). Sept. 2012. c.144p. ISBN 9780252037061. $80; pap. ISBN 9780252078965. $25. MUSIC

Howard, Jason. A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music. Univ. of Kentucky. Oct. 2012. c.256p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813136455. $24.95. MUSIC

Mordden, Ethan. Love Song: The Lives of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.352p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780312676575. $29.99. MUSIC

Roemer, Michael. Shocked but Connected: Notes on Laughter. Rowman & Littlefield. Sept. 2012. c.244p. ISBN 9781442217560. $35. FILM

Smith, Michael Buffalo. Prisoner of Southern Rock: A Memoir. Mercer Univ. (Music and the American South). Sept. 2012. c.320p. illus. index. ISBN 9780881463811. $27. MUSIC

Tolinski, Brad. Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. Crown. Oct. 2012. c.320p. photogs. ISBN 9780307985712. $26. MUSIC

Will Oldham on Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Norton. Sept. 2012. c.400p. ed. by Alan Licht. illus. index. ISBN 9780393344332. pap. $16.95. MUSIC


Beasley, Bruce. Theophobia. BOA, dist. by Consortium. (American Poets Continuum, No. 136). Oct. 2012. c.108p. ISBN 9781934414910. pap. $16. POETRY

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence. Time of Useful Consciousness. New Directions, dist. by Norton. Sept. 2012. c.96p. ISBN 9780811220316. $22.95. POETRY

starred review starOliver, Mary. A Thousand Mornings. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2012. c.82p. ISBN 9781594204777. $24.95. POETRY

starred review starStern, Gerald. In Beauty Bright. W.W. Norton. Sept. 2012. c.128p. ISBN 9780393086447. $25.95. POETRY


Bloom, Howard. The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates. Prometheus. 2012. c.575p. illus. ISBN 9781616145514. $28. REL

Blum, Edward J. & Paul Harvey. The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. Univ. of North Carolina. Sept. 2012. c.336p. illus. index. ISBN 9780807835722. $32.50. REL

English, Adam C. The Saint Who Would be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra. Baylor Univ. Nov. 2012. c.245p. illus. index. ISBN 9781602586345. $24.95. REL

Hendel, Ronald. O’Malley, John W. Trent: What Happened at the Council. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Jan. 2013. c.336p. index. ISBN 9780674066977. $27.95. REL