Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, August 9, 2013

Week ending August 9, 2013

Bell, Jeannine. Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-in Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing. New York Univ. 2013. 256p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780814791448. $30. LAW
The problem of racial segregation in housing is a troublingly persistent one, lingering even as national attitudes toward diversity become more positive. In this disturbing book, Bell (law, Illinois Univ.; Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Hate Crime) explores this issue not by focusing on the oft-discussed “white flight”—white residents leaving a neighborhood when minorities move in—but by looking at what happens when white residents choose to stay and fight integration, often with chilling violence. Bell’s richly detailed book is a comprehensive exploration of the issue of “move-in violence.” She begins by examining the history of housing segregation and the legal and policy frameworks that have affected the state of housing integration since the Civil War. Especially illuminating is the chapter exploring the roles that class and power play in this complicated dynamic and examining the paradox of persistent violence in a culture that has become increasingly racially tolerant. Bell also discusses remedies that may be available to help address this problem.
Verdict A fascinating and deeply upsetting look at the issue of white Americans perpetrating violence in order to prevent housing integration. Recommended for scholarly readers interested in the intersection of law, public policy, and race.—Rachel Bridgewater, Portland Community Coll. Lib., OR

Cottrell, Stephen. The Saxophone. Yale Univ. (Musical Instrument). 2013. 352p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300100419. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780300190953. MUSIC
Here Cottrell (music, City Univ. London) chronicles the life, times, and ultimate significance of the saxophone. The instrument is a relatively recent addition to the orchestral canon: invented in the mid-19th century by Adolph Sax, the horn travels a rocky road to acceptance in its European homeland only to triumph in various genres of American popular music. Cottrell begins with a biography of Sax that details the litigation and multiple bankruptcies he faced and ultimate success he found in the dog-eat-dog world of Parisian instrument manufacture. Saxophones really take off when they hit stateside, and Cottrell’s descriptions of their various use by vaudeville practitioners are among the most entertaining passages in the book. Also covered is the instrument’s physical evolution (information probably lost on the lay reader), its constant struggle to be recognized by the classical music establishment as a serious instrument, and (most invaluably) its history in jazz.
Verdict A comprehensive survey of an intriguing instrument, this book belongs in any serious music collection.—John Frank, Los Angeles P.L.

Davis, Paul K. Masters of the Battlefield: Great Commanders from the Classical Age to the Napoleonic Era. Oxford Univ. 2013. 608p. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780195342352. $34.95. HIST
Davis’s (100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present) latest work focuses on 15 commanders across history who demonstrated prowess at the “grand tactics” of operational warfare. Each chapter is devoted to a particular commander, from the classical world through the Napoleonic wars. Davis begins with Epaminondas, a Theban who defeated Sparta in the fourth century BCE, and ends with Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. He explains in his introduction that he chose these particular men because they stood out in “their ability to deploy forces and their ability to motivate those forces in combat.” Each chapter contains the same basic structure: a brief biographical introduction, followed by a section on “Warfare of the Time,” an analysis of the opponents that the commander faced, and then one to three segments on particular battles, leading to a summation of the leader’s generalship. Additionally, Davis’s final chapter discusses the qualities of great commanders. He cites retired general Montgomery Meigs’s four qualities possessed by great commanders—intellect, energy, selflessness, and humanity—to which he adds one more.
Verdict Most commanders here are obvious inclusions—Alexander, Julius Caesar, John Churchill, Wellington, but one must wonder at some of the omissions. Why not Charlemagne, or Suleiman the Magnificent, among others? Nonetheless, this is a worthwhile introduction to famous generals for students and readers new to the topic.—Matthew Wayman, Pennsylvania State Univ. Lib., Schuylkill Haven

Eisenbeiss, Philip. Bel Canto Bully: The Life and Times of the Legendary Opera Impresario Domenico Barbaja. Haus. 2013. 300p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781908323255. $28.95. MUSIC
A story that started with a personal obsession (the author’s passion for opera and, more specifically, its 19th-century impresarios) becomes a highly readable, even entertaining historical work about music and culture in Italy during the 1800s. Author Eisenbeiss, heart in hand, displays admirable research and analytic skills as he makes sense of an almost-unheard-of opera impresario, Domenico Barbaja. Barbaja, writes Eisenbeiss, revolutionized the way Neapolitans enjoyed music and opera, including the performances’ costuming, singing styles, impact on society, and the halls themselves. Besides that, he was a womanizer, a gambler, and a charming bully. Readers get a firsthand look at the cultural and political fabric of Naples, Vienna, and Paris, including a discussion of the Bourbons vs. the Hapsburgs. The opera that grew and developed during this time would foster later composers such as Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. Includes appendixes about singers, currencies, and operas.
Verdict A rich look at an overlooked figure in opera history.—Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA

Goodman, John F. Mingus Speaks. Univ. of California. 2013. 306p. index. ISBN 9780520275232. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520954687. MUSIC
Clearly a labor of love, this set of annotated interviews conducted by Goodman (Working at the Calling) were the result of a commission from Playboy magazine to review Charles Mingus’s “comeback” concert in 1972. Over the next two years, the artist and the journalist conversed frequently, resulting in over 24 hours’ worth of recorded conversations. Mingus’s candid intelligence shines through in these interviews as the discussion ranges through all aspects of jazz, from composition to performance to history and more, and on to matters of American culture, politics, and race. Goodman provides just enough ancillary content to give the reader context for their conversations, plus a little additional reflection born of his own acquaintance with Mingus and love and knowledge of jazz, as well as comments from ten of Mingus’s closest friends and associates, including his wife, Sue. Goodman has further organized these interviews into thematic chapters; a glance at the table of contents whets the appetite to read their talks.
Verdict Not for newbies, but fans of Mingus will definitely want to get their hands on this book, not to mention jazz scholars looking for primary sources.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma

McIntyre, Julie. First Vintage: Wine in Colonial New South Wales. Univ. of New South Wales, dist. by IPG. 2013. 304p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781742233444. $51.99; ebk. ISBN 9781742241241. BEVERAGES
Readers may encounter few Australian wine books and fewer still on the colonial history of Australian wine, which is what makes this title such a gem. McIntyre (Australian & European history, Univ. of Newcastle, Australia) incorporates a variety of fascinating facts into this work (e.g., in 1887, there were more than 400 colonial wine shops and more than 3,000 pubs in New South Wales [NSW]). Readers will surely drink in descriptions of wine’s arrival in NSW, the first vineyards (including a time line of the first wine grapes across NSW), surplus and exports (wine economists argue that surplus led directly to wine’s exportation), drinking culture, technology of crushing grapes, and wine-growing regions. The appendix contains tables that list first year imported, variety, importers, vineyards, numbers of presses, and regions. Those interested in history are sure to enjoy the illustrations and historical photographs.
Verdict Though this book is well researched, owing to its specialized subject, it will largely appeal to the serious history buff and large libraries.—Carrie Scarr, West Fargo P.L., ND

The Many Faces of Beauty. Univ. of Notre Dame. 2013. 536p. ed. by Vittorio Hösle. index. ISBN 9780268011192. pap. $65. LIT
Hösle (German languages & literatures, philosophy, political science, Univ. of Notre Dame; The Philosophical Dialogue: A Poetics and a Hermeneutics) puts forth a collection of essays written by distinguished scientists, critics, scholars, and artists devoted to the topic of beauty. Each contributor explores a variation on aspects of beauty from a different school of thought (e.g., mathematics, anthropology, psychology, economics, and religion) in a style that is overtly academic and thus less accessible to a general audience. The aim of this interdisciplinary approach is to bring theoretical models from various disciplines together in one place. A drawback is the sharp contrast between subjects such as sociology, psychology, and literature, which follow similar trends of criticism and use similar vocabularies, and their mathematical counterparts. The reader then feels required to have a basic understanding of the working methodologies within every field to appreciate the arguments.
Verdict The ambiguity of the book’s core audience may be the title’s appeal; readers with an eclectic approach to theoretical debate and aesthetic theory will find the discussions here illuminating. Recommended for academic libraries.—Matthew Gallagher, Victoria, BC

Parish, James Robert & George H. Hill. Black Action Films: Plots, Critiques, Cast, and Credits for 235 Theatrical and Made-for-Television Releases. rev. ed. McFarland. 2013. 399p. index. ISBN 9780786476107. pap. $25. FILM
Black action films get the star treatment in this dense yet entertaining reference work, written and compiled by Parish (Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops) and Hill (Blacks in Hollywood), a revised and updated version of their original 1989 collaboration. Focusing on four decades’ worth of black action cinema—from overlooked Sidney Poitier films from the 1950s to familiar blockbuster comedies of the 1980s and early 1990s—Parish and Hill greatly expand and celebrate the richness of the genre with 235 film or made-for-TV selections, each with full cast and crew listings and essential synopsis. Many films are additionally enhanced with thoughtful and extensive critical essays that add core details such as production information, reception and box office notes, thematic analysis, and historical/cultural context. Blaxploitation films of the early to mid-1970s are especially well covered by the authors, who make explicit in the work’s all-too-brief front matter their intention to promote the value of this subgenre while acknowledging the highs and lows of its relationship to black entertainment history. Existing genre fans will appreciate the inclusion of a foreword written by Shaft actor Richard Roundtree, as well as numerous images from famous or infamous black action movies. However, the lack of a chronological list of films or other thematic parsing tool will trouble both historians and serious reference fans, who must instead make do with a single index that combines titles with cast and crew members.
Verdict An entertaining and insightful look at a much-loved, sometimes maligned, and too-often-overlooked film genre. Recommended highly for those interested in black history or entertainment, as well as general film studies fans and students.—Robin Chin Roemer, Univ. of Washington Lib., Seattle

Weiss, Helga. Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Life in a Concentration Camp. Norton. 2013. 240p. tr. from Czech by Neil Burmel. illus. ISBN 9780393077971. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393089745. AUTOBIOG
Helga Weiss (b. 1929) offers readers a narrative that adds to our understanding of the Nazi occupation and of daily life for prisoners in the Third Reich’s concentration camps. Her diary begins in Prague during 1939, describing the humiliating and brutal treatment of the Jews by the invading Nazis. Weiss then continued her diary while interned at Terezin—the German prison camp from which Jews were then assigned to the death camps. Weiss’s uncle, also a prisoner there, hid her writings behind a brick wall after Weiss was transported to Auschwitz. He recovered it shortly after the war and returned it to her. She herself narrowly escaped death. Edited and enhanced by the author after the war, this first-person account, which Weiss much later rediscovered among her possessions, is a powerful report of the systematic brutality perpetrated by Hitler and his henchmen. Francine Prose’s introduction helps put the diary in historical context, while an interview by the diary’s translator, Burmel, with Weiss will further aid readers in understanding the published work’s genesis.
Verdict This is ultimately an inspiring account of adolescent strength and endurance in unimaginably horrific conditions. Other juvenile journals of this dark time have been published, such as in We Are Witnesses, a collection of five teenage Holocaust victim’s diaries edited by Jacob Boas, not to mention, of course, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. Especially suitable for young adults interested in the Holocaust, this compelling chronicle by a living survivor is a powerful reminder of humankind’s capacity for evil.—Mary Jennings, Camano Island Lib., WA

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"