Deaf Separatists, Goddesses, Spies, Pies, and Supertalls | Classic Returns

I dug deep into the heavily laden Classic Returns bookshelves for this week’s column. Yes, I did say “week”; for the foreseeable future, I’m going to post weekly spotlights on reprints, reissues, and updated versions of classic reads. For today’s post, I found a deaf-separatist fiction title that the original publisher likened to John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces; an 1824 title said to be the “first American cookbook”; several anniversary reprints; Joseph Campbell’s thoughts on goddesses; and a soaring salute to skyscrapers, updated for the 21st century.

Bullard, Douglas. Islay. Gallaudet Univ. (Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies Series, Vol. 8). 2013. 390p. maps. ISBN 9781563685637; ebk. ISBN 9781563685644. $39.95. F
Originally released in 1986 by a deaf publisher-entrepreneur who concentrated on books and references on American Sign Language (ASL) and other deaf topics, Bullard’s satirical novel follows a man with a Great American Dream. Lyson Sulla, tired of dealing with the sleights and slings and arrows of the hearing, signs to his wife Mary that he’s going to form a state of deaf people on the island of Islay, governed by him. He journeys across America, seeking recruits—deaf only—to join him. The original publisher called this book the deaf A Confederacy of Dunces, and like that novel, this one skewers one and all, the deaf and the hearing, equally.
A Gallaudet alum, Bullard was an Alaskan geologist, ASL storyteller, and onetime president of the Florida Association of the Deaf. He died in 2005. His novel is the eighth title in the “Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies” series. Other “rescued” works in the occasional series include Harlan Lane’s The Deaf Experience: Classics in Language and Education and Albert Ballin’s The Deaf Mute Howls, originally published in 1930. To read about Bullard’s book and the other series titles, visit this link:

Campbell, Joseph. Goddesses: Mysteries of the Human Divine. New World Library. Nov. 2013. 432p.ed. by Safron Rossi. Illus. bibliog. notes. index. ISBN 9781608681822. $24.95. SOC SCI
Campbell, a scholar who popularized the study of universal myths (The Power of Myth; The Hero with a Thousand Faces), died in 1987 without focusing an entire book on the Goddess. But he did have much to say on the subject; in addition to appearances on PBS with Bill Moyers, he led over 20 lectures and workshops on goddesses from 1972 to 1986.
Now the Joseph Campbell Foundation, dedicated to preserving, protecting, and perpetuating Campbell’s work with the series, “The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell,” has gathered the documentation from the lectures into this volume. Editor Safron Rossi (Dir., Opus Archives and Research Ctr., Santa Barbara, CA) seeks to counter the assumption that “…Campbell was focused solely on the hero, and was not sensitive to or did not find of interest goddesses, their mythologies, or the questions and concerns of women who seek to understand themselves in relation to these stories.”

Dupré, Judith. Skyscrapers: A History of the World’s Most Extraordinary Buildings. Black Dog & Leventhal. Nov. 2013. 176p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781579129422. $29.95. ARCH
Look up!  Architectural historian Dupré, who’s also written about bridges (Bridges: A History of the World’s Most Important Spans), churches (Churches), and monuments (Monuments: America’s History in Art and Memory), has updated her 1996 “instant classic” with 15 new essays and plenty of new contenders for World’s Tallest Building. Reflecting the many changes in the world, and in the world of architecture, since 1996, the new edition looks at the myriad “supertalls” in China and elsewhere, the wave of “green” skyscrapers, and the barrier-busting work of architects such as Adrian Smith, who designed the current tall champion, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Burj Khalifa won’t hold the title for long: Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture are busy working on the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which will top out at one kilometer. It’s scheduled to be completed in 2018. The book’s design is supertall itself, measuring 9″ x 18″ to really make the gorgeous renderings and photos pop. Dupré starts with the world’s first skyscraper (Chicago’s Home Insurance Building, built in 1885, demolished in 1931) and proceeds through the classics like the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building in New York, Marina City and the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) in Chicago, to newer achievements in building height located in London, Atlanta, Sweden, Asia and various Arab countries. I spent a lot of time gazing at the photos of Cesar Pelli’s beautiful design for the Petronas Towers in Juala Lumpur, Malaysia, the tallest building(s) in the world from 1997–2004. Dupré writes:

Although Pelli was charged with creating a design that would be uniquely Malaysian, there was little authentically Malaysian design in the city: British Colonialists had built its most significant buildings and its commercial structures were rendered in a nondescript International Style. The only truly traditional constructions were short bamboo structures with thatched roofs. Instead, Pelli said he “tried to respond to the climate, to the dominant Islamic culture, and to the sense of form and patterning that I could perceive in traditional Malaysian building.”

Evidently, the architect achieved that aim: In 2004, Pelli was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the towers’ design. The dear departed (can you say that about a structure?) World Trade Center towers are documented as well—the photo representation is of the double “towers of light” that make their appearance every September 11. The single-spire replacement for the towers, which LJ staffers can see out our office window, is also documented. That much-delayed project is due to be completed next year.

LeCarré, John. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. Penguin. 2013. pap. 225p. ISBN 9780143124757. $15. F
Viva the ever-hot topic of spies, which never seems to go out of fashion. On the 50th anniversary of its publication deep in the Cold War era, LeCarré’s breakout novel, his third, set the standard for espionage novels. Many, including author Graham Greene, who was no slouch himself when it came to writing in the genre, have called it the best spy novel ever. Following a spate of rereleases of other LeCarré novels in 2011 (which tied in with the latest film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley), this reprinting ties in loosely with another movie. No, thank heavens they’re not remaking The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, a chilling 1965 black-and-white classic starring Richard Burton and Clare Bloom—yet. But director Anton Corbijn and a star-studded cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright) are wrapping up a film version of LeCarré’s 2008 novel, A Most Wanted Man. And Oldman has hinted around that a cinematic sequel to Tinker Tailor is in the works.

South, Sheri Cobb. The Weaver Takes a Wife. CreateSpace. Jan. 2014. 266p. pap. ISBN 9781492261216. $12.99. ROMANCE
Ask any historical romance reader—or publisher—and they’ll confirm that Regency-set love stories are still all the rage. While there are plenty of new romances set in that short era while “Prinny” was romping and rollicking through London and England, the old Regencies, both short and long format, are also enjoying a resurgence. Practically every Georgette Heyer title has been repackaged and reissued to much acclaim, and many pioneers of the genre are getting their backlists back and republishing titles (often electronically). To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the publication of her Regency-set romance, Cobb is releasing both an ebook and a print version, with a foreword by best-selling historical author Mary Balogh. Balogh tells the reader exactly why you shouldn’t fall for the unconventional hero nor for the sharp, haughty heroine— but why you will! The story is a take on The Taming of the Shrew, with some of the common Regency tropes upended. The hero, formerly a workhouse orphan who worked his way up to wealthy mill owner; the heroine has a pedigree but no family money, and her sharp tongue drives away suitors by the carriage load.

Randolph, Mrs. Mary. The Virginia Housewife. Andrews McMeel. (American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection). 2013. 239p. ISBN 9781449427467. $24.99. HOME ECON
Those who like poring over vintage cookbooks and housekeeping narratives will have plenty to enjoy with this fine-looking facsimile of the “first American cookbook” by Southerner Randolph, so called because the recipes within originated in American kitchens. With an informative introduction by Southern cookbook author Nathalie Dupree, gold-lined pages, and fetchingly reproduced yellowed and grease-spotted pages, the book is lovely to look at—and surprisingly useful even today. The title, originally published in 1824, features household tips as well as recipes for foodstuffs and household supplies—there’s a soap recipe that sounds terrifying and messy, for instance. The industrious author entertained the bigwigs of her time at her Virginia plantation, then kept a boardinghouse when she fell on harder times. Dupree notes in the foreword that her “culinary prowess” was widely admired at both establishments. Here’s a piquant recipe:

To Keep Lemon-Juice
Get lemons quite free from blemish, squeeze them and strain the juice; to each pint of it, put a pound of good loaf sugar pounded; stir it frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved, cover the pitcher closely, and let it stand ‘til the dregs have subsided and the syrup is transparent; have bottles perfectly clean and dry, put a wineglass full of French brandy into each bottle, fill it with syrup, cork it and dip the neck into melted rosin or pitch; keep them in a cool dry cellar—do not put it on the fire, it will destroy the fine flavour of the juice.

I’m betting Mrs. Randolph’s lemonade stand did a brisk business!

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench