Arts & Humanities Reviews | January 2014

White, Edmund. Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris. Bloomsbury USA. Feb. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781608195824. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620406328. LIT

insideapearl013114As a major destination for artists and writers over the years, Paris never ceases to capture the imagination. White (Princeton Univ.; A Boy’s Own Story; Genet: A Biography; Marcel Proust: A Life) follows in this vein, presenting the City of Light as a serene haven in sharp contrast to the bustling New York City, where he previously resided. In Paris, he managed to learn the French language as well as master the culture with the help of his friend Marie-Claude de Brunhoff, the one person constant in his peripatetic social life. Leaving New York in 1983 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, White recounts the sad stories of his many gay friends and lovers claimed by the disease. ­VERDICT This book succeeds as a gossipy and enlightening account of living as a gay man among the French intelligentsia, although it is marred by excessive celebrity name dropping. White’s skillful writing rescues the book from being just another account of an American in Paris. Of particular interest is the penetrating look at how the French view themselves as the cultural elite of the world. Recommended for memoir enthusiasts and lovers of Paris. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/13.]—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo

Suchet, John. Beethoven: The Man Revealed. Atlantic Monthly. 2013. 400p. notes. index. ISBN 9780802122063. $34.50. MUSIC

beethoven013114Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), perhaps the most iconic of all Western classical composers, has featured in countless books and articles. Suchet (host, Britain’s Classic FM) has written another entry in a crowded field. The book is not a scholarly work (perhaps the best-known recent scholarly treatments are by Maynard Solomon, Lewis Lockwood, and Barry Cooper), nor is it a niche interpretation, such as J.W.N. ­Sullivan’s marvelous Beethoven: His Spiritual Development; rather, this book is a popular yet serious biography. Suchet does not reduce Beethoven’s difficult life to Freudian speculation, as does Solomon, nor does he focus primarily on the music, as does Lockwood; instead, he has penned a readable and sensible history of the man. On certain points, such as Beethoven’s lone meeting with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Suchet indulges in reasonable supposition, and on other points, such as the identity of the “immortal beloved,” a reasonable agnosticism. VERDICT A fine popular treatment of the great composer, this book will be welcomed by classical music fans and/or those who enjoy reading biographies of great men and women.—Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville

Barish, Evelyn. The Double Life of Paul de Man. Liveright: Norton. Mar. 2014. 564p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780871403261. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780871406934. PHIL

pauldeman013114Paul de Man (1919–83), a Belgian journalist who had worked for the Nazis, found himself in May 1948 in New York working in a bookshop. He made influential friends, including Mary McCarthy, took a job at Bard College, entered graduate school at Harvard (although he lacked an undergraduate degree), took a job at Cornell, and won a chair in literature at Yale. With Jacques Derrida, he became known as the inventor of “deconstruction.” The intellectual world shuddered when de Man’s wartime journalism first emerged. Now Barish (English, CUNY Graduate Ctr., Emerson: The Roots of Prophecy) reports a history of criminal financial fraud in Belgium and raises deeply troubling questions about the American academic world. She even speculates about Harvard doctoral examinations. De Man came from a Europe weary from two world wars, where it seemed to some that history could not be made to make sense and that the great narratives like those of the believers in progress were finished. Some, such as de Man, decided that the best understanding of language undermined claims to universal moral truth and that the Platonic eternal form of the good was the ultimate delusion. VERDICT A gripping, careful—and terrifying—narrative.—Leslie Armour, Dominican Univ. Coll., Ottawa

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
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fine Arts

Amy Sillman: One Lump or Two. Prestel. 2013. 192p. ed. by Helen Molesworth. illus. ISBN 9783791353074. $49.95. FINE ARTS

Cézanne, Paul. The Letters of Paul Cézanne. Getty. 2013. 400p. ed. and tr. from French by Alex Danchev. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781606061602 fine arts

David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition. Prestel. 2013. 228p. ed. by Richard Benefield & others. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9783791353340. $65. FINE ARTS

Doyle, Mike. Beautiful Lego. No Starch. 2013. 266p. photos. ISBN 9781593275082. pap. $29.95. DEC ARTS

redstarFiell, Charlotte & Peter Fiell. Masterpieces of British Design. Goodman/Fiell. 2013. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781847960351. $39.95. DEC ARTS

Gutterman, Scott & Miles Davis. Miles Davis: The Collected Artwork. Insight Editions. 2013. 204p. illus. ISBN 9781608872237. $50. FINE ARTS

McBriarty, Patrick T. Chicago River Bridges. Univ. of Illinois. 2013. 329p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780252037863. $44.95. ARCH

Walker, Tim with Kit Hesketh-Harvey (text) & Lawrence Mynott (illus.). The Granny Alphabet. 2 vols. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 148p. illus. ISBN 9780500544266. $40. PHOTOG

Yoga: The Art of Transformation. Smithsonian. 2013. 360p. ed. by Debra Diamond. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781588344595. $55. FINE ARTS


Cheever, Susan. e.e. cummings: A Life. Pantheon. Feb. 2014. 240p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307379979. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307908674. LIT

Churchwell, Sarah. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby. Penguin Pr. Jan. 2014. 432p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594204746. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698151635. LIT

Cowley, Malcolm. The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley, 1915–1987. Harvard Univ. (Lives & Letters). Jan. 2014. 822p. ed. by Hans Bak. notes. index. ISBN 9780674051065. $39.95. LIT

Hiaasen, Carl. Dance of the Reptiles: Rampaging Tourists, Marauding Pythons, Crazed Celebrities, Larcenous Legislators, and Tar-Balled Beaches. Vintage. Jan. 2014. 416p. ed. by Diane Stevenson. ISBN 9780345807021. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780345807038. LIT

Sebald, W.G. A Place in the Country. Random. Feb. 2014. 240p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781400067718. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812995039. LIT

Teeman, Tim. In Bed with Gore Vidal: Hustlers, Hollywood, and the Private World of an American Master. Magnus. 2013. 279p. bibliog. ISBN 9781626010413. pap. $19.95. Lit

Performing Arts

Cooley, Timothy J. Surfing About Music. Univ. of California. Jan. 2014. 232p. discog. filmog. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520276635. $65; ISBN 9780520276642. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520957213. MUSIC

Goodall, Howard. The Story of Music: From Babylon to the Beatles; How Music Has Shaped Civilization. Pegasus. Jan. 2014. 368p. illus. index. ISBN 9781605985381. $27.95. MUSIC

Hearn, Marcus. Doctor Who: The Vault; Treasures from the First 50 Years. Harper Design. 2013. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9780062280633. $45. TV

Kennedy, Matthew. Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s. Oxford Univ. Jan. 2014. 352p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199925674. $35. FILM

Komara, Edward & Greg Johnson. 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own. Scarecrow. (Best Music Bks.). Jan. 2014. 256p. index. ISBN 9780810889217. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780810889224. MUSIC

Prinzler, Hans Helmut. Sirens & Sinners: A Visual History of Weimar Film 1918–1933. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 308p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500516898. $75. FILM

Seitz, Matt Zoller. The Wes Anderson Collection. Abrams. 2013. 336p. illus. index. ISBN 9780810997417. $40. FILM

Shapiro, Eddie. Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater. Oxford Univ. Feb. 2014. 384p. photos. index. ISBN 9780199941209. $39.95. THEATER

Thomson, David. Moments That Made the Movies. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 304p. photos. index. ISBN 9780500516416. $39.95. FILM


Krznaric, Roman. How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life. BlueBridge. Jan. 2014. 320p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781933346847. $22.95. PHIL


Michaels, Anne (text) & Bernice Eisenstein (illus.). Correspondences: A Poem and Portraits. Knopf. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9780307962492. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780307962515. POETRY

Parker, Suzanne. Viral. Alice James. 2013. 80p. ISBN 9781938584015. pap. $15.95. POETRY

Spirituality & Religion

The Original Atheists: First Thoughts on Nonbelief. Prometheus. Jan. 2014. 300p. ed. by S.T. Joshi. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781616148416. pap. $20.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616148423. REL

Sports & Recreation

Appleman, Jake. Brooklyn Bounce: The Highs and Lows of Nets Basketball’s Historic First Season in the Borough. Scribner. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781476726755. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476726779. SPORTS

Freedman, Lew. Football Stadiums: A Guide to Professional and Top College Stadiums. Firefly. 2013. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9781770852174. $35. SPORTS

Hockey Hall of Fame Book of Players. Firefly. 2013. 336p. ed. by Steve Cameron. photos. index. ISBN 9781770852242. pap. $29.95. SPORTS

A Very Good Year

Adams, Charles F. 1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood’s Greatest Year. Craven Street Bks. Mar. 2014. 260p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610351973. pap. $16.95. FILM

averygoodyear013114Adams (The Complete Geezer Guidebook) discusses six of the top films of 1939: Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Wizard of Oz. Each film has its own profile and begins with “The Story” section focusing on the source material, e.g., Mark Twain’s novel or L. Frank Baum’s book. Also included are synopses, cast, crew, awards, and cost information. The work is most interesting when describing the steps that were necessary to conceive and execute the film, for instance, the casting of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes or the adaptation of a short story from Collier’s for Stagecoach. Unfortunately, the author seems stuck in 1939 when using the term Negro to discuss Gone with the Wind, as in “the casting of the principal Negro roles was almost automatic” or regarding the premiere, “the all-white audience wildly applauded the actors themselves, seemingly unaware that none of the Negro actors was present.” Other stories, involving Carole Lombard and Vivien Leigh, are simply recounted gossip. These “wrong notes” affect the overall read and diminish its effect. VERDICT For die-hard fans looking for info on these films compiled in a single volume.—Barbara ­Kundanis, Longmont P.L., CO

Vieira, Mark A. Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939. Running Pr. 2013. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9780762451562. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780762451647. FILM

By 1939, Hollywood’s studio system was a well-oiled, highly profitable industry. Seeking an escape from the lingering Depression and growing war fears, people flocked to the nation’s 18,000-plus theaters, for an average weekly attendance of 60 million. Actors and directors worked at a frantic pace, sometimes making as many as four pictures a year. ­Vieira (Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood) provides a well-illustrated survey of classic films produced in 1939, arranged as they were released, month by month. The author provides brief essays for each film, along with production notes, box office grosses, and critical reactions. Some background is given on why 1939 represents the pinnacle of achievement, soon to be eclipsed by the loss of lucrative European markets and changing moviegoing taste and habits caused by America’s plunge into war. ­VERDICT Readers will be struck by how studios catered to every audience in their production of Westerns, biopics, screwball comedies, elaborate historical epics, and costume dramas. Although there have been other periods of creative filmmaking, notably the “new wave” of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it’s unlikely we will see a Golden Age like 1939 again. This popular history, complete with rare film stills, is recommended for vintage film fans.—­Stephen Rees, formerly with Levittown Lib., PA