Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, December 14, 2012

Week ending December 14, 2012

Brodie, Judith & others. Shock of the News. Ashgate. 2012. 168p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781848221215. $65. FINE ARTS
Here, Brodie (curator, modern prints & drawings, National Gallery of Art) tackles a rich but underexplored subject: newspapers as raw material and as subject matter in modern art. In the early 20th century, European and American readers devoured newspapers as voraciously as today people absorb the Internet. Artists were drawn to them, too, and began to work with scraps of newsprint, tearing and shaping the material, punning and playing with words culled from headlines, articles, advertisements. Other artists appropriated methods of newspaper publishing, broadcasting manifestos or creating mock newspapers as a medium of social or political critique. This catalog, published in concert with an exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, features high-quality color illustrations of works by some 60 artists with text describing the materials and techniques used and discussion of each piece’s themes. The three essays that conclude the book will be most rewarding to readers looking for more in-depth information. (Sarah Boxer’s, in particular, is intriguing: she describes an epic struggle to transform newspaper itself from a medium for news into one for art.)
Verdict Both general readers and academics will appreciate the intelligent essays and excellent illustrations.—Michael Dashkin, New York

Chinese Silks. Yale Univ. (Culture & Civilization of China). 2012. 624p. ed. by Dieter Kuhn. illus. index. ISBN 9780300111033. $85. DEC ARTS
Produced by a cooperative effort between Western and Chinese scholars and part of “The Culture and Civilization of China” series, which hopes to make previously inaccessible resources available to Western scholars, this book—the first general history of Chinese silk in English and the most comprehensive in any language—is an unqualified success. Its editor, Kuhn (sinology, emeritus, Univ. of Würzburg, Germany; coauthor, The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China), along with a host of expert contributors, covers every aspect of Chinese silks from the Neolithic Era through the Qing Dynasty. Each chapter discusses a different period in history from archaeological, technological, art historical, and aesthetic perspectives. Artistic and technical innovations are highlighted as well as the economic and social significance of silk production in China. This book is a visual pleasure and is extensively illustrated with color photographs of textiles.
Verdict Providing a sense of the rich craftsmanship of Chinese silk making, this title will be of interest to anyone curious about textiles or the art, culture, or history of China. A delight for the mind and the eyes.—Julia A. Watson, Marywood Univ. Lib., Scranton, PA

Davis, Keith F. The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker. Yale Univ. 2012. 224p. bibliog. photogs. ISBN 9780300171051. $60. PHOTOG
Ray K. Metzker’s impeccable technical skills extend across an incredible range of approaches to photography, including composites, abstractions, nature studies, and bemused social observations. His images will likely be familiar to readers even if his name is not, through numerous solo exhibitions and group shows in a career surpassing six decades. Davis (senior curator, photography, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City) bases his comprehensive study of Metzker’s (b. 1931) career on that institution’s holdings, the largest museum collection of Metzker’s photographs in the United States. The book, which accompanies a traveling exhibition that Davis curated, complements other recent publications on Metzker, particularly the retrospective 2008 Ray K. Metzker: Light Lines. After studying under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Institute of Design in Chicago, Metzker developed a distinct modernist vision—seen here in 116 beautifully printed full-page plates. The catalog concludes with a checklist, some documents of Metzker’s philosophy and working methods, and a bibliography.
Verdict A thorough and accessible survey of Metzker’s work for all students of contemporary photography. [The reviewer has no affiliation or connection to the university press, which operates as a separate entity.—Ed.]—Lindsay King, Yale Univ. Libs., New Haven, CT

Garson, Barbara. Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession. Doubleday. Apr. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780385532747. $26.95. ECON
Garson (All the Livelong Day: The Meaning and Demeaning of Routine Work; Money Makes the World Go Around: One Investor Tracks Her Cash Through the Global Economy, from Brooklyn to Bangkok and Back) takes the reader on a journey throughout the United States, interviewing people on three main topics: jobs, homes, and savings.The subjects of the interviews vary, and the author creates cogent connections among their individual stories. Still, the reader wonders if people in more dire economic conditions would have been more appropiate for the interviews since most of the interviewees were educated and affluent before the recession. Garson concludes, “None of the recession sufferers…were hungry, and only one was truly homeless.” However, none knew if their current job would last or if they would find work again.
Verdict For readers interested in the success stories of people who experienced a major life change as a result of the economic maelstrom. It will also appeal to those seeking an anthropological view of the Great Recession and its lasting impacts.—Meghan Dowell, New York

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"