Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, September 27, 2013

Week ending September 27, 2013

Allan, John. Berthold Lubetkin: Architecture and the Tradition of Progress. Artifice. 2013. 632p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781907317149. $59.95. ARCH
A practicing architect, Allan first produced this 600-page, ten-pound volume almost 20 years ago, and, by his own account in the preface, he saw little reason to revise the text, other than to reassess the value of Berthold Lubetkin’s postwar housing blocks. British modernism, unlike the more identifiable expressions in the Netherlands or in Russia, is a hybrid phenomenon, and Lubetkin (1901–90) is perhaps its most noted exponent. Having experienced the Bolshevik Revolution and studied in France, Lubetkin combined the sculptural form of the former with the more planar and seemingly weightless volumes of the latter (as epitomized by Le Corbusier)—all in the context of the “politicised artist.” Divided into four sections with assonant titles (“Expectation,” “Exposition,” “Exile,” “Encore”), the book takes an overall chronological approach. At many points along the way, the author reminds us of the social responsibility of the architect—and how Lubetkin, with his Marxist roots, embodied that aim. At the same time, through numerous sketches, plans, sections, and graphic analyses of elevations, the author deepens our understanding of Lubetkin’s contributions. Most of the illustrations are black and white, with a signature of exceptionally fine and detailed color photographs toward the back.
Verdict For large architecture collections only; this is fundamentally a reprint and therefore may not add much to the literature of modernism.—Paul Glassman, Felician Coll. Lib., Lodi, NJ

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. Seal Pr. Oct. 2013. 224p. ed. by Sari Botton. ISBN 9781580054942. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781580054959. LIT
Jumping off writer Joan Didion’s well-known essay “Goodbye to All That,” in which she describes her arrival in New York and the reasons for her later decision to leave, editor Botton (editorial director, TMI [Too Much Information!] Project), with Seal Press (dedicated to publishing books “By Women for Women”), here anthologizes 28 essays by women authors including Ann Hood, Dani Shapiro, and Emma Straub, among others, outlining why they came to New York, how they became disillusioned with living in the Big Apple, and how they escaped by moving to other places in both the United States and Europe. A sameness in tone exists in many of the narratives, as most of the women came to New York with ambitions of becoming a writer—some succeeded, others failed—and several experienced setbacks in the form of substance abuse, failed relationships, etc. Few returned to the city after they left. One standout piece is the wonderfully written short essay by Cheryl Strayed (Wild), which evolves from horrific to moving. A recurring theme is how New York itself has changed—from a dangerous, graffiti-ridden and low-rent metropolis to a place that is safer but also more expensive and homogenized.
Verdict Recommended for those who enjoy personal essays, as well as anyone who has lived or is living in New York.—Morris Hounion, New York City Coll. of Technology, CUNY, Brooklyn

Lipkin, Nicole. What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues. AMACOM. 2013. 288p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780814432112. $21.95; ebk. ISBN 9780814432143. BUS
Management consultant Lipkin (coauthor, Y in the Workplace: Managing the “Me First” Generation) addresses the issues that cause leaders the most fear and worry. Based on both her background in clinical psychology and her experience as an executive coach and manager, Lipkin’s title weaves a compelling analysis. Each chapter covers a single issue, ranging from self-awareness and communication to stress, competition, and dealing with change. While this is a practical book meant to assist leadership in day-to-day work, it also features an engaging mix of research, anecdote, and humor, presenting both the business and psychology of managing people. Each chapter ends with a “wrap-up” that brings the main points together in an easy to understand summary.
Verdict Lipkin’s informal yet informative style creates management advice that is easy to follow, with practical solutions useful for those who recognize themselves in her examples. While intended for managers and business leaders, the work’s unique perspective on management struggles and those of others may also be of interest to readers of psychology and sociology.—Elizabeth Nelson, UOP Lib., Des Plaines, IL

Martin, John. The Man That Never Was: Daniel Defoe 1644–1731; A Critical Revision of His Life and Writing. Heritage. 2013. 495p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780954317249. $35. LIT
Business consultant, novelist, and biographer Martin (Beyond Belief; The Man Himself: A Life of Jonathan Swift) seeks to reconceive the importance and impact of the work of English author Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) in light of his assertion that historians have been wrong about both the identity of Defoe’s father and the writer’s birthdate. Defoe was a complex man about whom there is a dearth of biographical detail, and Martin takes particular interest in Defoe’s secrecy and obfuscation around his personal life. He hypothesizes that Defoe’s fiction is a recasting of events from his own life and uses Freudian interpretation and the work of Leo Abse (The Bi-sexuality of Daniel Defoe) to interesting effect. The research to support the idea that Defoe deliberately concealed the first 15 years of his life has been extensive, and while Martin makes an interesting case, he ultimately fails to shed significant new light on Defoe’s literature based on this thesis. Novices interested in Defoe’s life and work might do better to start with John J. Richetti’s The Life of Daniel Defoe or Richard West’s Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures or Maximillian E. Novak’s more scholarly Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions; His Life and Ideas.
Verdict Die-hard Defoe scholars may find this a useful addition to their collections.—Felicity Walsh, Emory Univ. Libs., Atlanta

The Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses. Pushcart. Nov. 2013. 600p. ed. by Bill Henderson & others. index. ISBN 9781888889703. $35; pap. ISBN 9781888889666. $19.95. LIT
In tracing the trajectory of literary anthologies, one might say the form enjoyed its heyday around 1960, with the publication of Donald Allen’s venerable volume The New American Poetry, 1945–1960. While a few anthologists continue to make valuable contributions (e.g., Jerome Rothenberg), “best of” compilations have arguably become the textbooks of the literary world, tools for shaping the tastes of the reading public. This year’s installment of the Pushcart Prize anthology, edited by Pushcart Prize founder Henderson (All My Dogs: A Life) and more than 200 contributing editors, is emblematic of a format that has outlived its effectiveness as it takes matters of taste and markets them as authoritative examples of literary goodness. With pieces by Davy Rothbart (My Heart Is an Idiot), Natalie Díaz (When My Brother Was an Aztec), and Deb Olin Unferth (Vacation) among the collection’s most engaging, this is little more than a harmless paper brick filled with work by known authors.
Verdict New readers might desire the comfort of an anthology, but they should beware: yearly roundups of the “best” literature are usually anything but.—Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO

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"