Arts & Humanities Reviews | June 15, 2013

School Library Journal starred reviewsAgee, James (text) & Walker Evans (photogs.). Cotton Tenants: Three Families. Melville. Jun. 2013. 224p. ed. by John Summers. ISBN 9781612192123. $24.95. LIT

Before journalist Agee (1909–55) and photographer Evans (1903–75) published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), a 400-page blend of prose and photography documenting the lives of three tenant farming families living in Hale County, AL, at the height of the Great Depression, they completed a heavily researched precursor titled Cotton Tenants. Commissioned in 1936 by Fortune magazine, the unpublished typescript was rediscovered in 2010. Beautifully written, the work is a stark, lucid, and organized indictment of the U.S. economic system, reporting its effects on the lives of three white sharecropping families. Arranged in chapters (e.g., business, food, shelter, clothing, picking season, etc.) and illustrated throughout with Evans’s photographs, the work doesn’t compare to the 1941 book, as author Adam Haslett (You Are Not a Stranger Here) in the book’s introduction describes it as a “poet’s brief,” noting Agee’s level of inquiry, that if applied to today’s culture, would “help burn off some of that fog, waking us from the fantasy that we can all earn or win lottery sums.” VERDICT Accessible, hard-hitting, moving, and still thematically relevant. Highly recommended for all collections.—Audrey Snowden, Orrington P.L., ME

School Library Journal starred reviewsMoretti, Franco. The Bourgeois: Between History and Literature. Verso. Jun. 2013. 224p. index. ISBN 9781781680858. $29.95. LIT

Moretti (literature, Stanford Univ.; Signs Taken for Wonders) examines the notion of the 19th-century “bourgeois,” their middle-class values, and well-known works such as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as well as lesser-known novels such as Dinah Craik’s 1856 John Halifax, Gentleman. He also investigates how diction changed through the 19th century as seen in the novels’ characters. Added is the expertise of theorists Georg Lukács and Max Weber, among others, and the analysis of literary databases and proper use of encoded text employed in the digital humanities. For instance, Moretti acknowledges the rise of free indirect style, the subjugation of the subjective, the emergence of description in 19th-century literature as a signifier for “reality,” and makes the worthy observation that “bourgeois” style balances a line between comedy and tragedy. Moretti’s style works for philosophically minded readers and yet remains a bit slippery owing to its deferment of meaning—a deferment amplified by Moretti’s questionable connection of “bourgeois” to “middle class.” VERDICT This work is history and literary criticism steeped in a social consciousness for readers who love language and the granularity of word play and for hard-working thinkers.—Jesse A. Lambertson, Arlington P.L., VA

Freedman, Samuel G. Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights. S. & S. Aug. 2013. 320p. photogs. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439189771. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781439189795. SPORTS

Freedman (columnist, New York Times) here looks at the nexus of 20th-century American culture, race, and civil rights through sports as he takes readers back to 1967 when two historically black college football powerhouses, Grambling and Florida A&M (FAMU), played against each other at the Orange Blossom Classic to determine the champion of black college football. He focuses on the coaches—Grambling’s Eddie Robinson and FAMU’s Jake Gaiter—and their quarterbacks, James Harris and Ken Riley, respectively. Robinson dreamt of Harris breaking the NFL barrier for black quarterbacks, while Gaither wished simply that a black college might play a white one in the Deep South. Ironically, while both coaches spent a lifetime effecting slow but real change by working within the system, they came in for blistering criticism from 1960s activists for not striking a more radical stance. Freedman’s subtitle exaggerates: Harris indeed became a pioneer quarterback and executive in the NFL, while Riley transformed into a star pro defensive back, but they were part of a long and slow progression of change. VERDICT This story is expertly reported and engagingly written. Both sports fans and students of 20th-century American studies will be drawn to it.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ

The following titles are reviewed in the June 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


The Books That Shaped Art History: From Gombrich and Greenberg to Alpers and Krauss. Thames & Hudson.2013. 264p. ed. by Richard Shone & John Paul Stonard. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500238950. $34.95.FINE ARTS

Crandell, Gina. Tree Gardens: Architecture and the Forest. Princeton Architectural. 2013. 165p. illus. index.ISBN 9781616891213. pap. $40. ARCH

Japan’s Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto. Getty Museum. 2013. 224p. ed. by Judith Keller. photogs. index. ISBN 9781606061329. $49.95. PHOTOG

Late Raphael. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 382p. ed. by Tom Henry & Paul Joannides. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500970492. $65. FINE ARTS

Trumble, Angus & Andrea Wolk Rager. Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century.Yale Univ. 2013. 420p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300190250. $75. FINE ARTS

Wels, Susan. San Francisco: Arts for the City; Civic Art and Urban Change, 1932–2012. Heyday. 2013. 224p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781597142069. $45. FINE ARTS

Wood, Denis. Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas. Siglio. 2013. 152p. illus. maps. ISBN 9781938221026. pap. $32. FINE ARTS


Crystal, David. Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2013. 336p. illus. index. ISBN 9781250003478. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250028860. LIT

Eagleton, Terry. How To Read Literature. Yale Univ. 2013. 256p. index. ISBN 9780300190960. $26. LIT

Feigel, Lara. The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. Bloomsbury, dist by Macmillan. Jul. 2013. 528p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608199846. $35. LIT

Josyph, Peter. Cormac McCarthy’s House: Reading McCarthy Without Walls. Univ. of Texas. (Southwestern Writers Collection). 2013. 304p. photogs. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780292744295. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780292748866. $29.95. LIT

Mohr, Melissa. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing. Oxford Univ. 2013. 368p. bibliog. notes. ISBN 9780199742677. $24.95. LIT

Newman, Barbara. Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular Against the Sacred. Univ. of Notre Dame. (Conway Lectures in Medieval Studies). 2013. 392p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780268036119. pap. $42. LIT


Densmore, John. The Doors: Unhinged. CreateSpace: Amazon. 2013. 270p. photogs. ISBN 9781479263134. pap. $14.95. MUSIC

Stoller, Fred. Maybe We’ll Have You Back: The Life of a Perennial TV Guest Star. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. 2013. 224p. photogs. ISBN 9781620877067. $24.95. TV


Hösle, Vittorio. God as Reason: Essays in Philosophical Theology. Univ. of Notre Dame. 2013. 416p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780268030988. pap. $48. PHIL


Fitzgerald, Adam. The Late Parade: Poems. Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9780871406743. $23.95. POETRY

Krog, Antjie. Skinned. Seven Stories. 2013. 177p. ISBN 9781609804633. $23.95. POETRY

Lorsung, Éireann. Her Book. Milkweed Editions, dist. by PGW. Aug. 2013. 76p. ISBN 9781571314338. pap. $16. POETRY


Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. Seal Pr. 2013. 224p. ed. by Cami Ostman & Susan Tive. ISBN 9781580054423. pap. $16. REL

Gelb, Norman. Herod the Great: Statesman, Visionary, Tyrant. Rowman & Littlefield. 2013. 200p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442210653. $34; ebk. ISBN 9781442210677. $33.99. REL

Lucado, Max. You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times. Thomas Nelson. Sept. 2013. 240p. notes. ISBN 9780849948473. $24.99. REL

Schreiber, Mordecai. Hearing the Voice of God: In Search of Prophecy. Jason Aronson: Rowman & Littlefield.2013. 264p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780765709714. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780765709721. REL

Siddiqui, Mona. Christians, Muslims, and Jesus. Yale Univ. 2013. 296p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300169706. $32.50. REL

Webb, Stephen H. Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints. Oxford Univ. Oct. 2013. 240p. notes. index. ISBN 9780199316816. $27.95. REL


Williams, Robert & Michael Trostel. Great Moments of the U.S. Open. Firefly. Jun. 2013. 216p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781770851887. $35. SPORTS