Arts & Humanties Reviews | September 15, 2013

Adkins, Roy & Lesley Adkins. Jane Austen’s England. Viking. 2013. 288p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670785841. $26.95. LIT

In the England of novelist Jane Austen (1775–1817), the cost of postage was paid by the recipient of a letter—not the sender; almanacs sold well owing to the details they contained on when the moon would rise and set—important information for anyone traveling at night; and rhubarb “dried and powdered” was a popular home remedy for ailments ranging from earache to congestion. In this comprehensive book, coauthors Roy and Lesley Adkins (Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World) discuss how people lived in England two centuries ago; their narrative describes daily life—marriage, birth, work, religion, entertainment, travel, illness, and death—for the different classes of English people. Through meticulous examination of diaries and letters, travelogs, journals, and newspapers as well as histories and local records, the authors document the accepted beliefs, common practices, and everyday activities of Austen’s time. VERDICT This well-documented text is easily accessible and includes lengthy quotations from primary sources and numerous references to Austen’s novels and letters that highlight the middle- and upper-class society she knew best. An excellent resource for Austen devotees interested in rich details of late 18th- and early 19th-century English life.—Kathryn Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN

redstar Maxwell, Glyn. On Poetry. Harvard Univ. Oct. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9780674725669. $19.95. LIT

This wonderful new book by respected poet and dramatist Maxwell (The Sugar Mile) presents an inspiring how-to as well as a strong defense of poetry as a craft. The work reads as a prose poem in celebration of poetry, with a focus on sound and silence—two fundamental components of the lyrical art. Maxwell begins with a discussion of the whiteness of the page and the darkness of the ink and ends with an 18-page cacophonous pandemonium in the guise of an odd pastiche poem, “Time.” With an eye for how the poet brings life to words on a page, the author guides the reader through the importance of form and sound, thus teaching how a poem breathes. Each of the six chapters explicates a different poetic element—“White” (page), “Black” (ink), “Form” (structure), “Pulse” (meter), “Chime” (sound), and “Space” (a discussion of dramaverse)—with a clarity of vision and delightful examples sure to engage poets, readers, and writers alike. ­VERDICT Maxwell’s intelligent, conversational approach is exhilarating in its openness and breathtaking in its insight into the art of writing poems; a highly recommended book for all readers, teachers, and students of poetry.—Herman ­Sutter, St. Agnes Acad., Houston

redstar Solomon, Alisa. Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof. Metropolitan: Holt. Oct. 2013. 432p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780805092608. $30. THEATER

More than a cultural history of the ­extraordinarily popular Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, this wonderfully detailed and highly readable text also touches on Sholem Aleichem, the history of Yiddish theater, shtetl life, American politics, theater in the 1960s, and the roles of Jews in America in a post–World War II, post-McCarthy era. Theater critic Solomon’s (dir., arts & culture concentration, MA program, Columbia Journalism Sch.; Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender) love for this iconic musical is evident throughout; she comments that “the greater sum that Fiddler’s parts added up to went beyond the soul-stirring, radiant enchantment of even the best Broadway musicals.” The book also details Fiddler’s great success: within a decade of its 1964 opening, the musical had played in two dozen countries, and by the time of the release of the 1971 film, there had been 15 productions in Finland alone. Solomon sets the context for this landmark musical by examining New York City politics and race relations and the assimilation of the Jewish community in America at this time. A detailed, selective bibliography and notes will be an asset to scholars. VERDICT Although this work is thin on illustrations and pictures, the fascinating narrative more than compensates for the lack of visuals and is highly recommended for public libraries as well as for more specialized academic theater and Jewish history collections.—Herb Shapiro, ­Lifelong Learning Soc., Florida Atlantic Univ., Boca Raton

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
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Davis, Ben. 9.5 Theses on Art and Class. Haymarket. 2013. 224p. notes. ISBN 9781608462681. pap. $16. FINE ARTS

Hardy, Hugh. Theater of Architecture. Princeton Architecture. 2013. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781616891312. $50. ARCH

Flores, Tatiana. Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes: From Estridentismo to ¡30-30! Yale Univ. 2013. 376p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780300184488. $65. FINE ARTS

McHam, Sarah Blake. Pliny and the Artistic Culture of the Italian Renaissance: The Legacy of the “Natural History.” Yale Univ. 2013. 464p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300186031. $75. FINE ARTS


Dodgson, Rick. It’s All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey. Univ. of Wisconsin. Oct. 2013. 250p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780299295103. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780299295134. LIT

Nin, Anaïs. Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939–1947. Ohio Univ. Oct. 2013. 428p. ed. by Paul Herron. index. ISBN 9780804011464. $34.95. LIT

Weisser, Susan Ostrov. The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories. Rutgers Univ. Oct. 2013. 264p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813561783. $80; pap. ISBN 9780813561776. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780813561790. LIT


Austin Film Festival.On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft. Univ. of Texas. Oct. 2013. 178p. ed. by Barbara Morgan & Maya Perez. ISBN 9780292754607. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780292756274. FILM

Jones, Brian Jay. Jim Henson: The Biography. Ballantine. Sept. 2013. 592p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780345526113. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780345526137. PERFORMING ARTS

Sokolove, Michael. Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater. Riverhead. Sept. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781594488221. $27.95. THEATER

Gaston, Sean. The Concept of World from Kant to Derrida. Rowman & Littlefield. Sept. 2013. 256p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781783480005. $120; pap. ISBN 9781783480012. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781783480029. PHIL


Brock-Broido, Lucie. Stay, Illusion. Knopf. Oct. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9780307962027. $26. POETRY

Chang, Victoria. The Boss. McSweeney’s. 2013. 64p. ISBN 9781938073588. pap. $20. POETRY

Kirby, David. The Biscuit Joint. Louisiana State Univ. 2013. 54p. ISBN 9780807151068. $50; ebk. ISBN 9780807151099. POETRY

Oliver, Mary. Dog Songs. Penguin Pr. Oct. 2013. 121p. ISBN 9781594204784. $26.95. POETRY

Petrosino, Kiki. Hymn for the Black Terrific. Sarabande. 2013. 59p. ISBN 9781936747597. pap. $14.95. POETRY

Piazza, Jessica. Interrobang. Red Hen. 2013. 72p. ISBN 9781597097222. pap. $17.95. POETRY


Le Donne, Anthony. The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals. Oneworld. Nov. 2013. 224p. illus. notes index. ISBN 9781780743059. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781780743066. REL

Nation, Mark Thiessen & others. Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking. Baker Academic. Oct. 2013. 256p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780801039614. pap. $29.99. REL

Weigel, George with Elizabeth Lev (text) & Stephen Weigel (photos). Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches. Basic: Perseus. Nov. 2013. 448p. illus. ISBN 9780465027699. $35. REL

Zimmerman, James. Deliverance at Hand! The Redemption of a Devout Jehovah’s Witness. Freethought House. Oct. 2013. 336p. notes. ISBN 9780988493803. pap. $22. REL