Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, July 19, 2013

Week ending July 19, 2013

Eliot, T.S. The Letters of T.S. Eliot. Vol. 4: 1928–1929. Yale Univ. (Letters of T.S. Eliot). Jul. 2013. 872p. ed. by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden. index. ISBN 9780300187243. $50. LIT
Like the preceding three books in the “Letters of T.S. Eliot” series, volume four contains the letters of poet and critic T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), meticulously annotated by his second wife Valerie Eliot (1926–2012) and editor Haffenden (emeritus, English, Univ. of Sheffield; The Letters of T.S. Eliot). It covers the period when Faber & Gwyer, the publishing company for which Eliot was a director, emerged from reorganization as Faber & Faber. The Monthly Criterion, a literary magazine founded by Eliot, who served as its editor from1922–39, went from a monthly to a quarterly publication as the result of financial difficulties. Eliot’s first wife, Vivien, continued to suffer from mental health issues, a cause of strain on their marriage from the start. Received into the Church of England as an Anglo-Catholic, Eliot turned to his faith for consolation and sustenance. Mostly addressed to business associates, Eliot’s correspondence also includes friends, family, and literary figures Ezra Pound, Conrad Aiken, W.H. Auden, James Joyce, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Letters composed by publishing house chair Geoffrey Faber and Vivien Eliot are also included.
Verdict An important resource for Eliot scholars, this volume will appeal to readers interested in Eliot’s life in business, balancing the duties of publisher, editor, husband, and poet.—Denise J. Stankovics, formerly with Rockville P.L., CT

Epstein, David. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. Current: Penguin. Aug. 2013. 352p. notes. index. ISBN 9781591845119. $26.95. SPORTS
Epstein (senior writer, Sports Illustrated) presents a fascinating account of the latest discoveries in sports science. His conclusions are uncertain, however. He spends the bulk of the book focusing on genetic and anatomical differences in humans, and how these differences seem to help in making individuals, and groups of individuals, particularly skilled at certain sports. The evidence he presents thus leans heavily in favor of nature being the primary factor in the formation of athletes. Yet, he opens and closes his book by stating that nature and nurture are inseparable when it comes to the question of athletic performance. That is, training your body to do an activity is as important as having the raw ability to do that activity. From this, readers may understandably conclude that Epstein is suggesting one thing while stating another. Nonetheless, he should be commended for the clear and unbiased manner in which he presents his information, not in itself an easy task, especially when tackling controversial issues such as gender and race differences in athletic performance.
Verdict Fuzzy conclusions aside, this book is essential reading for sports fans interested in the science of sports, and for readers (not scholars) interested in the science of human differences.—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

Gawthrop, Daniel. The Trial of Pope Benedict: Joseph Ratzinger and the Vatican’s Assault on Reason, Compassion, and Human Dignity. Arsenal Pulp. 2013. 304p. index. ISBN 9781551525273. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781551525280. REL
Gawthrop (national communications representative, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canada; The Rice Queen Diaries), who defines himself as a lapsed Catholic, argues that Pope Benedict should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity arising out of the sexual abuse crisis. In fact, he argues, it was Benedict’s refusal to answer for his role in the crisis that led to his resignation. Holding that Benedict’s theology is medieval, and has been the source of pain and anguish for women, homosexuals, and liberal Catholics, Gawthrop says that Benedict created the conditions that have turned the world mean spirited. Since Benedict is unlikely to be called before the world court, Gawthrop presents the charges himself, among them that Benedict destroyed the Church of Vatican II and derailed its reforms. Gawthrop ends the book with a hope that Pope Francis will put the Church back on the right track.
Verdict Gawthrop’s book will appeal to those who share his view of Pope Benedict. John Allen’s Pope Benedict XVI, The Life of Joseph Ratzinger, is almost as critical of Benedict, but is a bit more balanced and certainly more scholarly. Readers interested in this topic may first turn to Allen’s book.—Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ

Jensen, Rolf & Mika Aaltonen. The Renaissance Society: How the Shift from Dream Society to the Age of Individual Control Will Change the Way You Do Business. McGraw-Hill. 2013. 194p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780071806053. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780071806060. BUS
Business consultant Jensen (chief imagination officer, Dream Company; director, Copenhagen Inst. for Future Studies) aims here to refresh and extend concepts and predictions first launched in his best-selling book, The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business, in which he captivated audiences with ideas on targeting consumers’ dreams and emotions along with advertising core product attributes. Jensen and coauthor Aaltonen (economics, research dir., Aalto Univ., Finland) predict in this book—based on an eclectic mix of statistics, popular literature including Wikipedia, and public opinion polls—a renaissance that will “release new energy and hope” and a departure from “top-down management, hierarchy, and control.” The authors extrapolate from a blend of economics theories and examples familiar to the casual news reader (e.g., the burgeoning middle class in developing countries, the ubiquity of social media, the devolution of mature economies to the service sector, and innovations like the 3D printer), to offer readers their outlook on the role of businesses in a society that is constantly reshaping itself. This amalgam of pedestrian business advice, pedantic philosophical statements, and longwinded anecdotes as “an inspiration for your visions and strategies,” may be a stretch.
Verdict The ideas presented by Jensen and Aaltonen will appeal to fans of popular economics, business and political futurists, and those interested in alternative approaches to company building.— Elizabeth J. Wood, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

Kertész, Imre. Dossier K. Melville. 2013. 224p. tr. from Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson. notes. ISBN 9781612192024. pap. $18.95. LIT
At the age of 14, Hungarian Kertész was arrested in Budapest and sent to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The trauma of this harrowing experience is conveyed in Kertész’s fiction (Fatelessness; Fiasco; Kaddish for an Unborn Child) in an intentionally prosaic style lacking in sentimentality, self-pity and protracted anguish. This dispassionate approach and his rejection not only of the term “Holocaust” to signify the annihilation of Europe’s Jews, but also the notion of “Holocaust literature,” have evoked sustained criticism and ostracism. However, it was Hungary’s right-wing, anti-Semitic regime that prompted his move to Berlin shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002. This memoir, first published in Hungary (2006), is in the form of an analytical self-interview with Kertész guilefully playing both psychiatrist and patient. In the “dossier” Kertész is prompted to recall childhood and family episodes and their relevance to his fiction, his incarceration in the concentration camps, and to elaborate on “the Holocaust” and his literary and intellectual influences. London-based Wilkinson serves again as Kertész’s chief translator. His 2005 translation of Fatelessness was awarded the PEN Club/Book of the Month Club Translation Prize.
Verdict Familiarity with Kertész’s fiction, though not essential, would enhance the reading of this idiosyncratic yet compelling memoir.—Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal

Pak, Susie J. Gentlemen Bankers: The World of J.P. Morgan. Harvard Univ. (Studies in Business History). 2013. 356p. notes. index. ISBN 9780674073036. $55; ebk. ISBN 9780674075573. BUS
In this social history, Pak (history, St. John’s Univ.) examines the relationship network that facilitated J.P. Morgan’s gentlemanly style of private banking up to 1940. She argues that trust between parties was achieved through a homogenous outlook and interest shared among the Morgan partners and other bankers. Morgan Partners were male, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, and socially prominent. They belonged to the same clubs, lived similar lifestyles, and attended the same prestigious schools. Pak explores Morgan interactions with Jewish banks such as Kuhn, Loeb & Co., and partner attitudes toward both anti-Semitism and racism. She also looks at how the partners balanced their financial interests in dealing with Japan against concerns over Japanese imperialism. The book includes tables, maps, numerous photos, and over 100 pages of notes.
Verdict Though Pak writes clearly and makes a strong case that the Morgan bank should be considered in its social as well as its economic context, her narrow thesis will restrict interest in the work to specialists in the history of banking and finance. General readers would probably prefer Ron Chernow’s National Book Award-winning House of Morgan.—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

Rosencrance, Richard. The Resurgence of the West: How a Transatlantic Union Can Prevent War and Restore the United States and Europe. Yale Univ. 2013. 208p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300177398. $27.50; ebk. ISBN 9780300190649. ECON
Economist Rosencrance (director, U.S.-China Relations Project, public policy, Harvard; The Rise of the Trading State) lays out a compelling and very readable case for greater political and economic integration of countries that are political democracies, economically interdependent, and ready to cooperate rather than solve conflicts by force. Broadly speaking, this includes an arc of nations from Japan to the Americas to the European Union states. Russia, India, and China are currently seen as outside the potential cooperative because of their nondemocratic politics and/or current economics system. At first glance, this book may appear to be restating, in 21st-century terms, the age-old fear from the West of an encroaching East. However, Rosencrance makes clear his belief that only through a democratic government and symbiotic economic systems can the “Western” world prevent conflict with China over resources, trade, and human rights, and therefore improve its own economy as a result.
Verdict This is one of those rare books that places political economy into understandable, even enjoyable form. Academics, researchers, and certainly policy makers would do well to purchase this work.—Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City

Samuels, Robert. Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free: How To Decrease Cost and Increase Quality at American Universities. Rutgers Univ. Aug. 2013. 192p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813561240. $75; pap. ISBN 9780813561233. $22.95. ED
Adding his voice to a growing chorus of critiques of the state of higher education (William J. Bennett & David Wilezol’s Is College Worth It?; Jeffrey J. Selingo’s College (Un)Bound), Samuels (president, Univ. Council–American Federation of Teachers; New Media, Cultural Studies, and Critical Theory After Postmodernism), a prolific blogger on the subject of higher education, seeks to convince his readers of the disconnect between the cost of tuition and the quality of instruction and, furthermore, that a high-quality combination of research and instruction could be maintained without the need for tuition at all. He explains how a large portion of tuition dollars go toward administration costs, research, noneducational programs (e.g., athletics, recreational extras, etc., and technology.) Samuels also points out that many universities are making risky investments and borrowing large sums to fund construction of new facilities that do not necessarily enhance learning and to increase compensation to already highly paid faculty and administrators. He argues that if current government funding to higher education were used more effectively, public institutions could be tuition free.
Verdict Samuels presents a thought-provoking case for reform, and his book will appeal to anyone concerned with the current and/or future state of higher education in the United States.—Sara Holder, McGill Univ. Libs., Montreal

Schirripa, Steve. Big Daddy’s Rules: Raising Daughters Is Tougher Than I Look. Touchstone: S.& S. 2013. 242p. ISBN 9781476706344. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476706368. CHILD REARING
Best known as Bobby “Bacala” on the long-running HBO series The Sopranos, Schirripa is no cream puff on the homefront. The father of two daughters (17 and 21), he shares his “Big Daddy” parenting tips, which he defines as being “Enormously Present.” Discussing everything from diapers to visits to Candy Land to escorting his daughters to the men’s room, Schirripa encourages fathers to be heavily engaged with their kids, and he wants dads to get some credit for their involvement, too. “Being a dad means getting into ridiculous situations you never expected to get into. You take them too seriously, you’ll drive yourself crazy. It’s not gonna scar your daughter for life to walk into a room full of men taking a leak—unless you make a big deal of it. Kids are resilient. Dads gotta be, too.”
Verdict Schirripa’s wonderful sense of humor is as big as he is; the book is full of the colors and flavors of his own youth. The organization is a bit haphazard and feels like someone transcribed interview questions about parenting, but fans won’t be displeased. Good job, Big Daddy.—Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti Dist. Lib., MI

starred review starWright, Hal. The Complete Guide to Special Needs Planning: Creating a Brighter Future for a Person with a Disability. Jessica Kingsley. Jun. 2013. 368p. bibliog. ISBN 9781849059145. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780857006844. PSYCH
Author Wright, a former certified financial planner (CFP) has filled a very definite need in this comprehensive, thought-provoking guide to “life planning” for the adult child with special needs. Beginning with envisioning the “best possible life” and focusing always on the capabilities of the individual, he leads parents in a top-down manner to develop plans to support a life with challenging demands. This invaluable handbook contains ideas for developing a team of caregivers and supporters, and provides clear case studies, checklists, graphs, and available resource lists. Wright supplies a resource for what every parent wants for their child’s life: to succeed and to reach for their dreams. Planning is especially crucial for the parent of a special needs child, as their physical, mental, and emotional well-being literally depends on it. There is a plethora of information for the parents of a preschool and/or school-aged special needs child, but there is a definite dearth of information about planning for the adult child, making this book both needed and valuable.
Verdict Essential for parents of special needs children, educators, medical and legal professionals, insurance agents, financial planners, and others interested in the special needs community.—Virginia Johnson, Weymouth P.L., MA

Annalisa Pesek About Annalisa Pesek

Annalisa Pesek (apesek@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor, LJ Book Review
[photograph by John Sarsgard]