Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, October 5, 2012

Week ending October 5, 2012

Anderson, Ann. High School Prom: Marketing, Morals and the American Teen. McFarland. Jan. 2013. c.240p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786467006. pap. $35. SOC SCI
“Americans have always been fascinated with money and fame, which is how prom night came to be,” proclaims Anderson (Snake Oil, Hustlers and Hambones: The American Medicine Show), who believes “[t]here is no more definitive marker of high school status than the person who asks you to the prom.” This in-depth look at the cultural history of the prom covers proms from their beginning in the early 1900s through every decade up to the present. Anderson focuses on the history and evolution of dance and social dating customs and studies how marketing proms has become big business. She includes examples of the prom in popular culture. Of special interest are the many photos of prom fashion over the years and illustrations of how proms have been portrayed in advertising and media of all types.
Verdict While the topic of proms could invoke memories for many of us, whether we went to a prom or not, this particular work is not likely to appeal to general prom nostalgia buffs so much as to more serious students of American social history and teen customs.—Holly S. Hebert, Brentwood Lib., TN

starred review starElie, Paul. Reinventing Bach. Farrar. 2012. c.496p. index. ISBN 9780374281076. $30. MUSIC
In this remarkable work, Elie (senior fellow, Berkley Ctr. for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs, Georgetown Univ.; The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage) makes a convincing case for the relevance of the music of J.S. Bach (1685–1750) in today’s multicultural, aesthetically diverse, and technology-driven world. The narrative ping-pongs between Bach’s life, related with unusual perception and vividness, and musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries who have used technology in imaginative ways to bring the composer’s music to a wider audience. Elie touches on topics from Fantasia to the Goldberg Variations to Steve Jobs. His prose is rich, playful, and subjective; he peppers his writing with inventive similes (e.g., “The woodwinds drift across the middle like cigar smoke in a boxing arena”). He compares his book to Bach’s Musical Offering, a collection of canons and fugues: both are multifaceted explorations of a single theme, for Bach, a melody presented to him by Frederick the Great, and for Elie, the thread of Bach’s appeal to innovative and technologically inclined musicians.
Verdict Highly recommended for music and general collections.—Larry A. Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA

Fullerton, Susannah. A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and Her Characters Went to the Ball. Frances Lincoln, dist. by PGW. Oct. 2012. 144p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780711232457. $24.95. LIT
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy asserts to Sir William Lucas that “[e]very savage can dance.” Darcy, of course, is wrong, as Fullerton (president, Jane Austen Society of Australia; Jane Austen and Crime) proves in this engaging volume. Fullerton explores Jane Austen’s “dancing life” and analyzes Austen’s use of the dance in her novels, emphasizing the ballroom as a critical element in Austen’s world and fiction. She reviews Austen’s letters and highlights her commentary on local balls and then describes and analyzes the balls that occur in each of Austen’s works. Fullerton asserts that balls are a vital arena for courtship, an important communal activity, and a stage that reveals a character’s motives and nature. To educate modern readers, she discusses the dances, dress, ballroom etiquette, music, supper, and appropriate conversation at balls, not to mention modes of transportation to and from them.
Verdict Very accessible, this book will appeal to both Jane Austen devotees and those interested in Regency society or today’s Regency fiction.—Kathryn R. Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN

Goode, James M. Capital Views: Historic Photographs of Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Loudoun County, Virginia, and Frederick County, Maryland. Smithsonian, dist. by Random. Oct. 2012. c.192p. illus. ISBN 9781588343314. $39.95. PHOTOG
Through lively, descriptive text and a treasure-trove of historical photographs (many never before published), historian Goode (Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington’s Destroyed Buildings) has woven a wonderful story of Washington, DC, and its surrounding suburban communities. The author, who has made a life’s work of the capital’s history and authored four previous books about Washington, artfully selected and organized this book around eight thoroughly enjoyable chapters: the National Mall; Market Square; the Hay-Adams Houses; Washington, DC, in 1908; Washington, DC, in the 1930s; Lost Landmarks of Alexandria, VA; Loudoun County, VA; and Frederick County, MD. Many of the images feature familiar and not-so-familiar landmarks, accompanied by brief histories and interspersed with photographs of people at work and play in a variety of activities. These latter images, in particular, offer a touching, human quality to this photo-essay and reminds readers that Washington, DC, is not only a center of politics but of people going about their everyday lives.
Verdict Anyone interested in historical photography and American social and cultural history, especially of the nation’s capital, will love this book. Highly recommended.—Raymond Bial, First Light Photography, Urbana, IL

Kania, Alan J. Wild Horse Annie: Velma Johnston and Her Fight To Save the Mustang. Univ. of Nevada. 2012. 213p. illus. index. ISBN 9780874178739. $26.95. SCI
Wild Horse Annie’s story is a biography laced with political maneuvers. Annie, whose real name was Velma Johnston, was a rural Nevada secretary and housewife with an ordinary life until one morning, when she followed a horse trailer that appeared to be leaking blood. When she learned where the trailer was headed and the fate of the horses aboard the trailer, she began a crusade that would last for 27 years. Journalist Kania (John Otto: Trials and Trails) worked with Johnston for seven years as she campaigned for fair treatment of the wild horses that roamed public lands in the Nevada countryside. Much of the information in the book is drawn from correspondence written by Johnston. As an activist, Johnston was able to look beyond the immediate crisis, sometimes agreeing to compromises on smaller issues that led to a solution to broader problems.
Verdict The book is well written and will be a fascinating read for those whose lives are affected by wild horses and burros. Unfortunately, this audience is somewhat limited, so libraries should purchase where interest warrants.—Deborah Emerson, Central New York Lib. Resources Council, Syracuse

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"