Arts & Humanities Reviews | October 1, 2012

 Bair, Deirdre. Saul Steinberg: A Biography. Doubleday. Nov. 2012. c.752p. illus. index. ISBN 9780385524483. $40. FINE ARTS

National Book Award winner Bair (Samuel Beckett: A Biography) meticulously connects the puzzle pieces of the complex, often paradoxical life of graphic artist Saul Steinberg (1914–99), the luminary best known for his postwar New Yorker cartoons but also notorious for his scandalous affairs even while he was married to artist Hedda Sterne (one of many of his peers whom Bair interviewed for the book). Bair offers a balanced portrayal, noting Steinberg’s sometimes conflicted generosity (e.g., his lifelong financing of family and friends) with the same evenhandedness with which she acknowledges his philandering. Steinberg was at once a hardworking fine artist, a sharp intellect, and a commercial success who hustled his witty illustrations even during bouts of depression. He spent various periods in North America and his native Romania, and served as an OSS officer in Italy, China, and North Africa. His address book read like a volume of Who’s Who, with entries for Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Vladimir Nabokov, and others. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Steinberg, as well as Bair, who will snatch up this substantial biography steeped in postwar popular culture and art. Readers will only wish there were more illustrations for comic relief. This celebrity life, told without sensationalism, will fascinate. [See Prepub Alert, 5/2/12.]—Marianne Laino Sade, Maryland Inst. Coll. of Art Lib., Baltimore

Vonnegut, Kurt. Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. Delacorte. Oct. 2012. c.464p. ed. by Dan Wakefield. photogs. index. ISBN 9780385343756. $35. LIT

Vonnegut’s early antiestablishment novels, notably Slaughterhouse Five, were embraced by counterculture youth of the 1960s and ’70s as they raged against the debacle of Vietnam and the deceit that was Watergate. Ever popular, Vonnegut’s novels, short stories, and essays are still in print and on college reading lists. This selection of his letters to family, friends, editors and publishers, critics, and fellow authors (primarily Gail Godwin, Vance Bourjaily, Nelson Algren) spans the 1940s, when Vonnegut was in his twenties, to his death in 2007. The letters describe his survival, while a POW, of the Allied bombing of Dresden, as well as the fog and fiasco of war. They also reveal a dogged pursuit of his chosen profession and a desperate need for financial security and recognition that rendered him spiteful, self-aggrandizing, sarcastic, sensitive to criticism, and intermittently estranged from family and friends. Vonnegut’s longtime friend, novelist Wakefield (Going All the Way) prefaces the letters with interesting contextual biographical and literary information. VERDICT For Vonnegut readers and libraries, this is an essential complement to Charles Shields’s recent biography, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut; A Life.—Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal

Collins, John J. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography. Princeton Univ. (Lives of Great Religious Books). Nov. 2012. c.288p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691143675. $24.95. REL

After reading this work, the conceit of writing a biography of the Dead Sea Scrolls will seem most apt. Collins (Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism & Interpretation, Yale; Introduction to the Hebrew Bible), a respected Dead Sea Scroll scholar, sketches a concise historical narrative of what was found in the Qumran caves south of Jericho in 1947, then traces the nearly 50-year journey these scrolls, pages and, in some cases, indecipherable fragments took to publication. He recounts the major players and, more important, the theological, political, and recurring personal conflicts that are the narrative fodder for all good biographies. The author is somewhat professionally invested in these fights but adopts as neutral a voice as possible. Collins is especially good at highlighting where scholars often—but not always—unwittingly massaged evidence to fit prevailing hypotheses and assumptions. This is a bit of fascinating historical biography that shows the high stakes involved in obscure academic and theological finds. VERDICT Historians and seminarians looking for a short, quick study with extensive bibliographies on the subject will be well served by this book. Recommended. [The reviewer is no relation to the author.—Ed.]—Sandra Collins, Byzantine Catholic Seminary Lib., Pittsburgh

The following titles are reviewed in the October 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Baig, Amita (text) & Joginder Singh (photogs). Mighty Maharajas: Forts & Palaces of India. Vendome, dist. by Abrams. 2012. 256p. illus. ISBN 9780865652934. $75. ARCHITECTURE

Bernadac, Marie-Laure & Jean-Pierre Criqui. Wim Delvoye: At the Louvre. c.92p. ISBN 9780300188684. $35.

Dannatt, Adrian & others. Wim Delvoye: Introspective. c.384p. ISBN 9780300188677. $95. ea. vol.: Mercatorfonds, dist. by Yale Univ. 2012. illus. FINE ARTS

Blaszczyk, Regina Lee. The Color Revolution. MIT. (Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation). 2012. c.368p. bibliog. illus. index. ISBN 9780262017770. $34.95. DEC ARTS

The Book of Books: 500 Years of Graphic Innovation. Thames & Hudson, dist. by Norton. 2012. 464p. ed. by Mathieu Lommen. illus. index. ISBN 9780500515914. $65. FINE ARTS

. Frank, Stuart M. Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Godine. 2012. 400p. illus. ISBN 9781567924527. $65. DEC ARTS

Gompertz, Will. What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art. Dutton. Oct. 2012. c.436p. illus. ISBN 9780525952671. $28.95. FINE ARTS

Jones, Jonathan. The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, and the Artistic Duel that Defined the Renaissance. Knopf. Oct. 2012. c.352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307594754. $35. FINE ARTS

Nehama, Sarah. In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry. Massachusetts Hist. Soc., dist. by Univ of Virginia. 2012. c.144p. illus. ISBN 9781936520039. $35. DEC ARTS

Valavanis, William N. (text) & Jonathan M. Singer (photos). Fine Bonsai: Art & Nature. Abbeville. 2012. 416p. illus. ISBN 9780789211125. $150. DEC ARTS


Broderick, Damien & Paul Di Filippo. Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels, 1985–2010. Nonstop. 2012. c.288p. illus. ISBN 9781933065397. pap. $14.99. LIT

Gaillard, Frye. The Books that Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir. NewSouth. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781588382870. $27.95. LIT

London: A History in Verse. Belknap: Harvard Univ. 2012. 784p. ed. by Mark Ford. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674065680. $35. LIT

Portis, Charles. Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany. Butler. Oct. 2012. c.378p. ed. by Jay Jennings. illus. ISBN 9781935106500. $27.95. LIT


The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More! Univ. of Illinois. (Music in American Life). Oct. 2012. c.360p. ed. by Helena Simonett. bibliog. illus. photogs. maps. index. ISBN 9780252037207. $90; pap. ISBN 970252078712. $30. MUSIC

De Barros, Paul. Shall We Play That One Together?: The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland. St. Martin’s. 2012. c.496p. photogs. ISBN 9780312558031. $35. MUSIC

Hendrix on Hendrix: Interviews and Encounters with Jimi Hendrix. Chicago Review, dist. by IPG. (Musicians in Their Own Words). Oct. 2012. c.304p. ed. by Steven Roby. photogs. index. ISBN 9781613743225. $24.95. MUSIC

Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies. Univ. of Kentucky. Nov. 2012. c.288p. ed. by Christel Schmidt. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813136479. $45. FILM

starred review starMcKinney, Devin. The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.448p. photogs. ISBN 9781250008411. $29.99. film

Peretti, Burton W. The Leading Man: Hollywood and the Presidential Image. Rutgers Univ. 2012. c.344p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813554044. $29.95. FILM


Greenbaum, Jessica. The Two Yvonnes. Princeton Univ. (Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets). Oct. 2012. c.80p. ISBN 9780691156620. $29.95; pap. ISBN 9780691156637. $12.95. POETRY

Meek, Sandra. Road Scatter. Persea Bks, dist. by Norton. 2012. c.96p. ISBN 9780892554195. pap. $15.95. POETRY