Arts & Humanities Reviews | January 2013

Library Journal Reviews starred review Sullivan, Randall. Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. Grove. 2012. 704p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780802119629. $35. ebk. ISBN 9780802195654. MUSIC

Sullivan’s (The Miracle Detective) examination of Michael Jackson’s final years (and what exactly made him so strange) is the kind of authoritative, definitive book that dares its readers to peek ahead to the final pages—even though the ending is already well known. The book begins with a damning anecdote that underscores how manipulative and greedy Jackson’s family could be. Sullivan also reveals how the pop star wanted to give up music for an acting career—he wanted to play Spider-Man on the big screen—and that his finest role may have been as a father. Sullivan doesn’t ignore the charges of pedophilia, but his take isn’t damning. Ultimately, he tells an objective, thorough story that makes it feel like the author shadowed Jackson for decades. (He didn’t.) ­ VERDICT Some of Jackson’s most ardent fans have been up in arms about Sullivan’s latest take on the pop icon, and this book doesn’t ignore the superstar’s blemishes. For everyone but the most devoted, this is the Michael Jackson book the public wanted to read when he was still alive. Surprisingly, it makes him a more sympathetic figure than readers might expect. —Rob Morast, Norfolk, VA

Library Journal Reviews starred review Ronk, Martha. Partially Kept. Nightboat. Jan. 2013. 80p. ISBN 9781937658014. pap. $15.95. POETRY

The very title of PEN USA/National Poetry Series winner Ronk’s (VertigoPrepositional) new collection, gorgeously told slant, suggests her underlying theme: “As I understand my job, it is, while suggesting order, to make things appear as much as possible/ to be the way they are in normal vision.” But what, in fact, is normal vision? We always see the world piecemeal, from different perspectives. Life is in the movement, in the distance we travel—“the morning moving gladly, is now come to pass”—and we define ourselves less by concrete being than by the progress we make. In one particularly felicitous observation, Ronk says: “Let me not be, or being only in gravel/ the brushed sound it makes underfoot// or under that or before the foot hits the ground.” Not for nothing are ever-growing plants featured strongly here, and judiciously used quotes from 17th–century essayist Sir Thomas Browne highlight both distance and connection, as befitting the book’s organic feel. VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone interested in contemporary poetry.—Barbara Hoffert,Library Journal

Library Journal Reviews starred review Cahan, Richard and Michael Williams. Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows. Cityfiles. 2012. 288p. index. ISBN 9780978545093. $60. PHOTOGRAPHY

Over the course of several decades, Vivian Maier took more than 100,000 photographs, but only after she died alone and impoverished in 2009 did she become known and her talent recognized. By chance, her photographs, including many rolls of undeveloped film, were found in a storage locker that was sold at auction. When Maier’s story and some of her photographs were published online, the world was introduced to the haunting story of a lonely, anonymous photographer who saw the world so vividly. As in the extraordinary Vivian Maier: Street Photographer (PowerHouse Books, 2011), Cahan and Williams (coauthors, The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed its River and the Land Beyond ) of this fine book have carefully selected and arranged the images, and while the book includes curious vignettes about this unknown photographer, the collection of brilliant images is the strength of the work. They show that Vivian Maier was a great artist—not simply “the nanny photographer,” as some have called her. ­ VERDICT This book will be greatly appreciated by anyone interested in art photography, 20th-century art, and American cultural history. Highly recommended. —Raymond Bial, Urbana, IL

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


Ellsworth-Jones, Will. Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781250025739. $27.99. GRAPHIC ARTS

Keats, Jonathon. Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age. Oxford Univ. Jan. 2013. 208p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199928354. $19.95. ebk. ISBN 9780199311484. FINE ARTS

Kreamer, Christine M. African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. Monacelli Pr. 2012. 352p. illus. ISBN 9781580933438. $60. FINE ARTS

Jess. Jess: O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica. Siglio Pr. 2012. 192p. illus. ISBN 9781938221002. $47.50. FINE ARTS

Jury, David. Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers: The Printer as Designer and Craftsman, 1700–1914.Thames and Hudson. 2012. 312p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500516461. $60. GRAPHIC ART

Smith, Carolyn M. Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat. Andrews McMeel. 2012. 320p. illus. ISBN 9781449432607. $75. GRAPHIC ART

Stabile, Gabriele (photogs.). Refugee Hotel. McSweeney’s. 2012. 296p. ed. by Juliet Linderman. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781936365623. pap. $25. PHOTOGRAPHY

Stierlin, Henri. Persian Art and Architecture Thames and Hudson. 2012. 279p. bibliog. illus. index. ISBN 9780500516423. $65. FINE ARTS

Updike, John. Always Looking: Essays on Art. Knopf. 2012. 204p. illus. index. ISBN 9780307957306. $45.FINE ARTS


Ferguson, Robert A. Alone in America: The Stories That Matter. Harvard Univ. Jan. 2013. 285p. bibliog. index.ISBN 9780674066762. $27.95. LIT

Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers. Continuum. 2012. 373p. ed. by Sarah Churchwell & Thomas Ruys Smith. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781441162168. pap. $29.95. LIT

Shulman, Nicola. Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Poet, Lover, Statesman, and Spy in the Court of Henry VIII. Steerforth Pr. Feb. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781586422073. pap. $19.99. LIT


Alleyne, Mike. The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae. Sterling. 2012. 332p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781402785832. pap. $24.95. MUSIC

Ankerich, Michael G. Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips. Univ. of Kentucky. 2012. 392p. ISBN 9780813136905. $40. ebk. ISBN 9780813140384. FILM

Benjaminson, Peter. Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown’s First Superstar. Chicago Review. 2012. 304p. discog. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781569762486. $26.95. ebk. ISBN 9781613745298. MUSIC

Lubasch, Arnold H. Robeson: An American Ballad. Scarecrow Pr. 2012. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780810885226. $50. ebk. ISBN 9780810885233. MUSIC

Piazza, Tom. The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax: Words, Photographs, and Music. Norton. 2012. 136p. discog. photogs. index. ISBN 9780393081077. $35. MUSIC


Goodyear, Dana. Boulevard. Norton. Jan. 2013. 96p. ISBN 9780393082463. $25.95. poetry

Szybist, Mary. Incarnadine. Graywolf. Feb. 2013. 72p. ISBN 9781555976354. pap. $15. poetry


Thavis, John. The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church. Viking: Penguin. Feb. 2013. 308p. index. ISBN 9780670026715. $27.95. REL

Ventresca, Robert A. Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pope Pius XII. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Jan. 2013. 414p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780674049611. $35; ISBN 9780674067301. REL


Sports Illustrated Football’s Greatest. Sports Illustrated. 2012. 288p. ed. by Bill Syken. photogs. ISBN 9781618930033. $32.95. SPORTS



  1. Judy says:

    I bought the book but, only read half of it. I found it to be quite tabloidy. Mr Sullivan attacks Michael sexuality, says he died a virgin. Funny that his exwife Lisa Presly says different. I must say that I feel that I ahave wasted my money. I am going to take it back to the store and see if I can get my money back. If I do not get the money back, then it is straight into the trash. An as far as a campaign to trash the book. Is it no wonder! Sullivan is apparently unsure whether Michael was guilty of abuse. When, really Michael has been proven not guilty in a court of Law. Geraldine Huges was the legal secetarty of the lawyer whom Evan Chandler hired. She says ut was extortian straight, she was there, she watched them do it. It seems that Mr Randall did not get his story straight. I paid a lot of money for that book because it was endorced by Tom Meseraue. I was sorely dissappointed in the Book. Why is Tom Meseraue defending a book that is definately not saying anything good about Michael Jackson. Oh and by the way I am not part of the group that is making the fuss, this is my personal opinion. However I am a Michael Jackson supporter and to say in the least I could have spent that forty dollars somewhere else other than a book that left me with a bad taste in my mouth.