Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, November 16, 2012

Week ending November 16, 2012

Bandy, Mary Lea & Kevin Stoehr. Ride, Boldly, Ride: The Evolution of the American Western. Univ. of California. 2012. 361p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9780520258662. $39.95. FILM
The American Western has evolved from its beginnings as a stereotypical conflict between cowboys and Indians, rustlers and ranchers, to become a respected and much-analyzed cinema genre. Bandy (former director and chief curator, film and video, Museum of Modern Art) and Stoehr (humanities, Boston Univ.; Nihilism in Film and Television: A Critical Overview from Citizen Kane to the Sopranos) are among the latest to reexamine a group of classic Westerns beginning with the silent era. Much discussion is afforded to the Victor Sjostrom’s 1928 classic The Wind, which could be called the progenitor of the so-called psychological Western. They later devote an entire chapter to this subgenre in the years following World War II. Other lengthy discussions cover the comic Western and women on the frontier. It is with these often less-discussed aspects that the book’s primary interests lie. Otherwise, Bandy and Stoehr cover already much-plowed ground with examination of such icons as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne. Only one-half of one page is devoted to body of thousands of so-called “B” Westerns.
Verdict Despite its broad-sounding subtitle, this is not comprehensive in its coverage of the history of the Western genre. Its somewhat dry style and generally familiar content will probably limit its appeal to die-hard Western buffs and those seeking a more scholarly approach to the subject.—Roy Liebman, formerly with California State Univ., Los Angeles

Brogan, Chris & Julien Smith. The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise? Portfolio. 2012. 261p. ISBN 9781591844907. $26.95; eISBN 9781101572436. BUS
Brogan and Smith (coauthors, Trust Agents: Using the Web To Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust) have written an innovative and practical guide on how to attract a larger audience, promote interaction, and build a community around an idea or experience. They outline the titular equation as “Impact = C x (R +E+A+T+E),” or “Contrast times (Reach plus Exposure plus Articulation plus Trust plus Echo).” The authors analyze each of the six attributes that make up the CREATE acronym and illustrate each with specific case studies. The book is organized into four parts: “Goals,” which introduces the actual equation; “Ideas,” which explains contrast and articulation; “Platforms,” which addresses reach and exposure; and, finally, “Network.” Brogan and Smith provide case studies that encompass companies such as McDonald’s and Chipotle as well as performers like Adele. They stress that social networking sites such as Facebook and Google Plus are temporary and that instead “people are what matter.”
Verdict Fans of Trust Agents will enjoy this book. Well researched and packed with nitty-gritty advice, it’s designed for anyone with a good business idea but who needs the tools to promote it. Recommended.—Lucy Heckman, St. John’s Univ. Lib., NY

Mabry, Sharon. The Performing Life: A Singer’s Guide to Survival. Rowman & Littlefield. 2012. 192p. bibliog. ISBN 9780810884083. $34.99. MUSIC
Here classical vocal soloist and educator Mabry (music, Peay State Univ.; Exploring Twentieth Century Vocal Music: A Practical Guide to Innovations in Performance and Repertoire) gives lessons gleaned from a lifetime of performing and teaching applicable not just to aspiring singers but also to anyone pursuing a career in the performing arts. With a breezy, easy-to-read style, she offers substantial advice on the training and maintenance of the vocal instrument, interacting with both the public and fellow singers, and—in a series of diary entries—maintaining professionalism despite malfunctioning equipment, inadequate venues, and every performer’s nightmare of forgetting the lyrics in the middle of a lengthy oratorio. Equally valuable is the career advice Mabry shares about making informed choices between a teaching or performing career (or, as she did, a blend of both) and finding genres and styles that will both inspire and showcase a particular artist’s talents. A very helpful bibliography at the book’s end features more sources of information on the topics she raises.
Verdict An enjoyable and also thorough volume that deserves a place in any collection that caters to students of the performing arts.—John Frank, Los Angeles P.L.

starred review starMoran, Caitlin. Moranthology. Harper Perennial: HarperCollins. 2012. 237p. ISBN 9780062258533. pap. $14.99. HUMOR/ESSAYS
British journalist Moran’s (How To Be a Woman) award-winning columns for The Times are available here for an American audience for the first time. In the introduction, she declares her intentions to write “a collection of instances of how brilliant the world often is.” To that end, she covers topics that range from her personal history (being homeschooled in a housing project in the industrial city of Wolverhampton, her work interviewing musicians including Keith Richards and Lady Gaga), social issues (benefit reform, the welfare state, the importance of libraries, particularly to poor communities; she describes them as places “where the wealthy’s taxes pay for you to become a little more extraordinary”), and cultural matters (Michael Jackson’s funeral, her unexpected delight in the role-playing game World of Warcraft, how very, very good Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock is). Each essay offers readers a look at the world from the perspective of someone who is sharply intelligent, deeply kind, and extremely funny.
Verdict A must read for anyone who enjoys topical humor, personal narrative, or any kind of cracking good story.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

Simmons, Sylvie. I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. Ecco: HarperCollins. 2012. 576p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780061994982. $27.99; pap. ISBN 9780062096913. $14.99; eISBN 9780062096913. MUSIC
At age 78, iconic musician Leonard Cohen is enjoying a remarkable comeback. The singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist has started his fourth major tour in five years and released the highly acclaimed album Old Ideas in January. Veteran music journalist Simmons (Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass) spent three years tracking Cohen’s life, career, and travels. The result is the most extensive biography of the man to date—more substantial and insightful than Anthony Reynolds’s 2010 Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life. Simmons covers every aspect of Cohen’s fascinating life, the highs and the lows (and Cohen had many lows). She interviewed the musician at length, as well as his friends, lovers, and associates (including Judy Collins, Lou Reed, and Philip Glass). The book discusses Cohen’s creative process and his endless search for enlightenment at length. Simmons also provides a revealing account of Cohen’s five years in a Zen Buddhist monastery and the financial and legal woes that propelled him back on the road as a performer.
Verdict Die-hard fans will appreciate the many details of album production and business deals, while casual fans will enjoy the personal drama and the origins of Cohen’s best-known songs, such as “Suzanne,” “Hallelujah,” “Sisters of Mercy,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat.”—Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA

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"