From Stage Essentials to Biogs of Novels to Soccer Matters, “Crystal-Lit” Poetry, & More | Arts & Humanities Reviews

redstarChute, Hillary L. Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists. Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2014. 272p. illus. index. ISBN 9780226099446. pap. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780226099583. FINE ARTS

Outside the BoxThis is a superb, insightful look at the world of adult cartoonists. Chute (Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of English, Univ. of Chicago; Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics) collects ten years’ worth of interviews she conducted with the elite—those working in the medium of comics who have pushed the envelope and inspired many, including one another. Scott McCloud, Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine, Daniel Clowes, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and others share their stories, celebrations, and pain. Throughout are illustrations by the artists, giving readers who might be unfamiliar with their work a glimpse of their world. The subjects answer each question frankly, and Chute is not afraid to dig in and find out what makes each person tick. It is interesting how many of the interviewees both went to art school and assert that it stunted their creativity. VERDICT It is rare to have a collection of different writer/artist perspectives, all titans in the field, each with a different reason for entering it. Chute is an effective interviewer, and her style has an organic fluidity. A fantastic book for readers who enjoy memoirs and cartoon history and for fans of ­Harvey ­Pekar.—Ryan ­Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

redstarMcGann, Jerome. A New Republic of Letters: Memory and Scholarship in the Age of Digital Reproduction. Harvard Univ. 2014. 246p. notes. index. ISBN 9780674728691. $39.95. LIT

Republic of LettersMcGann (John Stewart Bryan Professor of English, Univ. of Virginia; founder, ­Rossetti Archive; member of the executive council, NINES []; ­Radiant Textuality) critiques encoded writing and digital humanities and asks how electronic formats can handle diverse literature from a scholarly point of view. His style reveals a well-read thinker who examines the act of the reader on the page with asides and constant allusions to other writers such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Marianne Moore, and Friedrich Nietzsche. He approaches his thesis from the angle of philology, which he asserts remains the best position because it offers perspectives on human production and socially constructed artifacts of all types and allows for a culturally relativistic attitude of those objects. He fully acknowledges that research libraries and archives, globally, are reformatting their collections into digital and suggests that our limited electronic tools open new doors for the humanities because there are no coded structures that represent a work’s historical “facticities.” VERDICT This book is for readers specifically attuned to the digital “crisis” affecting humanities departments and related theoretical debates.—Jesse A. Lambertson, Metamedia Management, LLC, ­Washington, DC

redstarRadiant Truths: Essential Dispatches, Reports, Confessions, & Other Essays on American Belief. Yale Univ. Apr. 2014. 424p. ed. by Jeff Sharlet. notes. ISBN 9780300169218. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780300206968. LIT

Radiant TruthsVermont-based Sharlet (Mellon Assistant Professor of English, Dartmouth Coll.; Sweet Heaven When I Die) is an astute commentator on and questioner of American writings that investigate belief and disbelief, popular culture, and the meaning of religion and politics in American life. Here he gathers and comments on pieces composed from the Civil War through Occupy Wall Street. The collection is eclectic, in the best sense, and includes works from a broad spectrum of writers such as Walt ­Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, ­Meridel Le Seur, Zora Neale Hurston, Mary ­McCarthy, James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, John ­Jeremiah Sullivan, Francine Prose, and others to discuss “things unseen” and the meaning of an engaged conversation about religion. VERDICT Sharlet’s important and thought-provoking book is highly recommended for readers who are interested in our country’s culture (both religious and political), creative and literary nonfiction, and well-written, well-argued writing.—Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence

redstarDi Piero, W.S. Tombo. McSweeney’s. 2014. 63p. ISBN 9781938073762. $20. POETRY

tombo041414Di Piero (Nitro Nights) ventures into ecopoetical territory with his 11th collection, teasing out the essential character of places both natural and urban, from “the estuarial plenitude/ of pelicans, cattails, catkins” to the “expressway traffic/ pulling arterial tail-lights across gray water” in his hometown, San Francisco. Whether echoing Yeats (“while the night, wanting nothing, turns and turns/ as its galaxies in time past and future/ burn, collapse, darken”) or Ginsberg (“In Safeway yesterday, a young man sat on the floor”), the poet’s semitransparent pentameters exquisitely frame the still, all too easily lost “astonishments” and tactile experiences we need “to somehow talk ourselves beyond/ the sleepiness of selfhood.” VERDICT Di Piero’s treatments of poetry’s traditional concerns—mortality, memory, love, loss—rarely stray into pure abstraction but remain grounded in a shared physical world that only an attuned imagination can adequately complement. Most poets would endorse Di Piero’s ars poetica, “witness and invent,” but few are consistently able to strike such perfect balance between the two. This is one for the nightstand.—Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY

redstarPowers, Kevin. Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting. Little, Brown. Apr. 2014. 112p. ISBN . $23; ebk. ISBN 9780316401067. POETRY

Letter Composed During a Lull in the FightingWe have few poetic chroniclers of war and even fewer as eloquent as Powers is in his first collection after the ­multi-award-­winning novel The Yellow Birds. Two of the four sections cover the Iraq war and its aftermath in stark, vivid language, with many of the poems revealing how it felt to be a machine gunner in Mosul and Tel Afar, as Powers was. What the poet conveys best is the draining necessity of making difficult choices continuously during battle: “that for at least one day I don’t have to decide/ between dying and shooting a little boy.” Sometimes Powers uses under­statement to describe the immensity of war, as in the title poem: “that war is just us/ making little pieces of metal/ pass through each other.” Even more poignant are poems that describe the difficult days after a buddy returns home: “he wishes/ he had died instead of living/ houseboundbedboundmindboundbodybound/ like a child, watching/ as his mother watched/ the roads, pitted and seeded.” Longer poems like “Improvised Explosive Device” and “The Locks of the James” could have used some word winnowing, as the lack of concision dilutes some of the energy. Elsewhere, though, Powers surprises us by moving beyond a military focus and including references to art, literature, and photography. VERDICT Since the World War I poets, ­Siegfried ­Sassoon and Wilfred Owens, few poets have captured life in the war zone. Powers does so vividly and eloquently while showing the emotional costs that soldiers suffer during battle and after returning stateside. A poetry book that demands an audience.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN

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

Bazzotti, Ugo. Palazzo Te: Giulio Romano’s Masterwork in Mantua. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 276p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500517109. $95. FINE ARTS

Brougher, Kerry & others. Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950. Prestel. 2013. 224p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9783791353166. $60. FINE ARTS

Pennoyer, Peter & Anne Walker. New York Transformed: The Architecture of Cross & Cross. Monacelli. 2014. 216p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781580933803. $60. ARCH

Simon, Joan. Lorna Simpson. Prestel. 2013. 240p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9783791352664. $60. FINE ARTS

Smith, Mitchell Oakley & Alison Kubler. Art/Fashion in the 21st Century. Thames & Hudson. 2013. 319p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780500239094. $60. DEC ARTS

Stavans, Ilan & Jorge J.E. Gracia. Thirteen Ways of Looking at Latino Art. Duke Univ. 2014. 248p. illus. index. ISBN 9780822356271. $79.95; pap. ISBN 9780822356349. $22.95. FINE ARTS

Theresa Bernstein: A Century in Art. Univ. of Nebraska. 2013. 304p. ed. by Gail Levin. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780803248762. $44.95. FINE ARTS

Wyeth, Andrew. Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self-Portrait; Selected and Arranged by Richard Meryman from Recorded Conversations with the Artist, 1964–2007. National Gallery of Art. 2013. 125p. illus. index. ISBN 9781938922183. $29.95. FINE ARTS


de Montaigne, Michel. Shakespeare’s Montaigne. NYRB. Apr. 2014. 480p. ed. by Stephen Greenblatt & Peter Platt. tr. from French by John Florio. notes. ISBN 9781590177228. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590177341. LIT

Drury, John. Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert. Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2014. 416p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226134444. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780226134581. LIT

Leak, Jeffery B. Visible Man: The Life of Henry Dumas. Univ. of Georgia. Apr. 2014. 216p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780820328706. $39.95. LIT

Performing Arts

Barrios, Richard. Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter. Oxford Univ. May 2014. 288p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199973842. $34.95. FILM

Burgan, Jerry with Alan Rifkin. Wounds To Bind: A Memoir of the Folk-Rock Revolution. Rowman & Littlefield. Apr. 2014. 256p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780810888616. $45; ebk. ISBN 9780810888623. MUSIC

Cogan, Brian & Jeff Massey. Everything I Ever Needed To Know About _____* I Learned from Monty Python: *History, Art, Poetry, Communism, Philosophy, the Media, Birth, Death, Religion, Literature, Latin, Transvestites, Botany, the French, Class Systems, Mythology, Fish Slapping, and Many More! Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. 2014. 304p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781250004703. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466842168. FILM

Kasson, John F. The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America. Norton. May 2014. 384p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780393240795. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393244182. FILM

The Korean Popular Culture Reader. Duke Univ. 2014. 464p. ed. by Kyung Hyun Kim & Youngmin Choe. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780822354888. $99.95; pap. ISBN 9780822355014. $29.95. MUSIC

Leszczak, Bob. Who Did It First? Great Pop Songs and Their Original Artists. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014. 270p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442230675. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781442230682. MUSIC

Marissen, Michael. Tainted Glory in Handel’s Messiah: The Unsettling History of the World’s Most Beloved Choral Work. Yale Univ. Apr. 2014. 224p. notes. index. ISBN 9780300194586. $40. MUSIC

Raymond, Marc. Hollywood’s New Yorker: The Making of Martin Scorsese. State Univ. of New York. (Horizons of Cinema). Apr. 2014. 216p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781438445717. $85; pap. ISBN 9781438445724. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781438445731. FILM

Stanley, Paul. Face the Music: A Life Exposed. HarperOne. Apr. 2014. 464p. photos. ISBN 9780062114044. $28.99. MUSIC


Samuelson, Scott. The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone. Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780226130385. $22.50; ebk. ISBN 9780226130415. PHIL


Hamilton, Saskia. Corridor. Graywolf. May 2014. 80p. ISBN 9781555976750. pap. $16. POETRY

Lerman, Eleanor. Strange Life. Mayapple. 2014. 84p. ISBN 9781936419357. $15.95. POETRY

Spirituality & Religion

Martin, James. Jesus: A Pilgrimage. HarperOne. 2014. 528p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780062024237. $27.99. REL

White, David Gordon. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Princeton Univ. (Lives of Great Religious Books). Jun. 2014. 288p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691143774. $24.95. REL

Sports & Recreation

Carroll, Linda & David Rosner. Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing’s Greatest Rivalry. Gallery. Apr. 2014. 368p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781476733203. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476733227. SPORTS

Garner, Art. Black Noon: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. May 2014. 352p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250017772. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250017789. SPORTS

Hall, Andy. Denali’s Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America’s Wildest Peak. Dutton. Jun. 2014. 272p. notes. index. ISBN 9780525954064. $27.95. SPORTS

Pelé with Brian Winter. Why Soccer Matters. Celebra. Apr. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780451468444. $26.95. SPORTS

White, Gaylon H. The Bilko Athletic Club: The Story of the 1956 Los Angeles Angels. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014. 320p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780810892897. $38; ebk. ISBN 9780810892903. SPORTS

Between the Covers

Birmingham, Kevin. The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for Joyce’s Ulysses. Penguin Pr. Jun. 2014. 432p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594203367. $29.95. LIT

Published in 1922, James Joyce’s Ulysses relates in pointillist detail a single day—June 16, 1904—in the life of Dubliner Leopold Bloom, cast loosely as the eponymous Homeric hero. But the saga of the novel and its road to publication and sale goes far deeper than just the story between the covers, observes Birmingham (history & literature, Harvard Univ.). One of the most lauded, controversial, and frequently banned books ever published, Joyce’s masterpiece was a touchstone for the icons of modern literary and intellectual endeavor—Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway, among them—and nearly a century later stands at the pinnacle of novels published in English. Covering three decades, from the book’s conception in 1905 through Joyce’s infatuation with Nora Barnacle (who would later become the novel’s Molly Bloom) to the push-and-pull of wildly disparate critical opinion and the groundbreaking 1933 obscenity trial decision ruling in favor of publication in the United States, Birmingham brings to life a work after which “modernist experimentation was no longer marginal. It was essential.” VERDICT What begins as simply the “biography of a book” morphs into an absorbing, deeply researched, and accessible guide to the history of modern thought in the first two decades of the 20th century through the lens of Joyce’s innovative fiction. Important for literary historians, as well as any readers interested in cultural politics at the advent of the modern in post–World War I Europe and America. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Patrick A. Smith, Bainbridge Coll., GA

Schmidt, Michael. The Novel: A Biography. Belknap: Harvard Univ. May 2014. 1160p. ISBN 9780674724730. $39.95. LIT

thenovel041414Schmidt (poetry, Univ. of Glasgow; writer in residence, St. John’s Coll., Cambridge; Lives of the Poets) presents what he terms a “brief” life of the novel in English, from its origins in the 14th century through 2000. Included are writers from virtually all English-speaking countries and chapters on French and Russian novelists whose works have influenced those in English. The editions Schmidt examines “ask to be reread and become living parts of memory that affect how we hear, speak, see, feel, and act”; he also discusses books that provide sources and contexts for them or that imitate them. The content consists largely of quotations from later authors commenting on earlier ones to whom they feel a connection e.g., Muriel Spark on Mary Shelley and D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville. Biographical details are included to the extent that they are germane to the writer’s work. The volume also includes a detailed time line of major authors and their works from the 13th through 20th centuries. VERDICT The breadth and length of this book limit its interest to serious students of literature. However, the lack of citations for works quoted and of a bibliography are drawbacks for those wishing to do further research.—Denise J. ­Stankovics, formerly with ­Rockville P.L., CT

Stage Essentials

redstarJory, Jon. The Complete Tips: Ideas for Actors. Smith & Kraus. Apr. 2014. 235p. ISBN 9781575258539. pap. $19.95. FILM

Complete TipsJory (former producing director, Actors Theatre of Louisville; founder, the Humana Festival of New Plays; American Theater Hall of Fame inductee [2000]; current chair, performing arts dept., Santa Fe Univ. of Art and Design) is theater royalty. When he holds court, as in this latest “Tips” book for actors, he commands a large and attentive audience. Following Tips: Ideas for Actors (2000) and Tips II: More Ideas for Actors (2004), this title continues with an accumulation of sagacious advice and wisdom that traditionally have been passed on informally backstage, in green rooms, restaurants, and bars. The 316 entries, most no longer than half a page, are thematically divided into 17 broad categories including “Basics,” “Technique,” “Text,” “People Stuff” (which includes valuable advice for “Dealing with a Diva”), “Adding Dimension,” and “No-No’s.” Sadly, there is little attention given to working relationships with stage managers, an often overlooked and underrepresented area in theater guides. VERDICT An obligatory acquisition for performing arts collections. Jory once again delivers the goods, and a shout-out to Smith & Kraus for continuing to illuminate the publishing stage of the theater world with another excellent text.—Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX

redstarPlays for Two. Vintage. 2014. 656p. ed. by Eric Lane & Nina Shengold. ISBN 9780345804549. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780345804556. THEATER

Indefatigable editors Lane and Shengold (Talk to Me: Monologue Plays) have assembled a truly required volume of 28 new plays for two actors (one man, one woman; two women; two men) and a multiplicity of ethnicities in an astonishing variety of styles. Authors include David Ives, Paul Rudnick, Neil LaBute, and Doug Wright, among others. Four of the plays are full-length; the others take, on average, about 20–30 minutes. Not every work is a shining example of the playwright’s craft, but the clunkers are few and far between. Highlights include Frank Higgins’s Black Pearl Sings!, which treats the relationship between exploiter and exploited; Anthony Clarvoe’s The Art of Sacrifice, a play about chess and roommates that any actor would find enormously satisfying; Pete ­Barry’s Hearing Aid, a rare, well-written comedy that is sure to strike fear in the hearts of baby boomers dealing with aged parents; Mark Harvey Levine’s sweet and tender The Kiss; Waking Up, a terrifying short work by Cori Thomas; and Halley Feiffer’s hilarious Frankenstein’s Amends. ­VERDICT Readers won’t find a better deal with more pleasurable plays anywhere else. Essential for academic libraries as well as for high school seniors who are serious about going to college and majoring in theater.—Larry Schwartz, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Moorhead

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