20th-century Art, Memoir by Jones, Opera Divas, On Tocqueville & Democracy | Arts & Humanities Reviews

redstarThe Image of the Black in Western Art. Vol. 5, Pt. 1: The Twentieth Century; The Impact of Africa. Belknap: Harvard Univ. 2014. 320p. ed. by David Bindman & Henry Louis Gates Jr. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780674052673. $95. FINE ARTS

The Image of Black in Western ArtThe latest volume in this now half­-century-old continuing publication is the first of two on the art of the 20th century. Three themes—“Photography, Popular Imagery, Anthropology, and Racial Theory,” “Europe and ‘The Primitive,’ ” and “Beyond Europe: The Caribbean and Latin America”—structure essays by several international academic authors on specific media, topics, or geographic areas as well as particular artists, such as Pablo Picasso, and their encounters with and portrayals of Africans in their art. The writing is clear and accessible in this well-illustrated, scholarly volume that’s also suitable for a broader audience. Much of the material covered here, particularly on photography and on non-European representations, will be new to most readers. ­Verdict Both a reflection of its evolving times and an agent in their evolution, this title is appropriate for both academic and public library collections.—Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Libs.

redstarJones, Lloyd. A History of Silence: A Memoir. Text. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781922147332. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781922148360. LIT

A History of SilenceNew Zealand–born Jones is best known for his novel Mister Pip (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2007, made into a film starring Hugh Laurie in 2012). The author’s first memoir is a meditation on the loneliness and willful forgetting of a family’s history, inspired by the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. The city was built on swamplands, but its origins had long been forgotten and the foundations considered solid. But when the earth shook, the soil turned to water. Jones was inspired to examine his own underpinnings and found much of his family mythology was oversimplified or patently false. Taking what facts he could find, Jones reconstructs a story of his ancestry. The resulting account is complex, written in spare, evocative prose, combining time lines and verb tenses and reading more as poetry than as linear narrative. The sense of the world’s largeness to a child is captured effectively, as are Jones’s adult observations. VERDICT Those who enjoy quality literature should savor this deeply moving and beautifully communicated memoir. Readers who prefer narratives in neat packages with definitive answers and resolutions will be less stirred.—Audrey Snowden, Orrington P.L., ME

Ryan, Alan. On Tocqueville: Democracy and America. Liveright: Norton. (Classics). Aug. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9780871407047. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780871408198. PHIL

On TocquevilleRyan’s (politics, Princeton Univ.) short work on Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) and his classic text Democracy in America is meant to be an introduction to the political thinker’s life and thought. The book is divided into two sections. The first contains Ryan’s overview of Tocqueville himself, his influences and writings, and the two volumes of the aforementioned seminal work. The second section contains excerpts from Tocqueville’s writings that showcase his views and observations on such topics as the rights of women in America, the role of religion in American democracy, and social conditions in this country. For the author, Tocqueville’s work represents a “turning point in political thinking” because he looked at how a society and government can be built on the principle of equality for all without succumbing to the will of an oppressive majority. VERDICT Ryan succeeds in showing not only the historical importance of his subject’s writings but also how relevant they are for contemporary readers. Those new to Tocqueville will find this book an easy-to-understand and appealing introduction.—Scott Duimstra, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MI

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Fine Arts

Bailey, Martin. The Sunflowers Are Mine: The Story of Van Gogh’s Masterpiece. Frances Lincoln. 2013. 256p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780711232983. $40. FINE ARTS

Brassaï & Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr. Brassaï: For the Love of Paris. Flammarion. 2014. 256p. photos. bibliog. ISBN 9782080201683. $50. PHOTOG

Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering. Princeton Architectural. 2014. 271p. ed. by Michael Bell & Craig Buckley. illus. notes. ISBN 9781616891664. $70. ARCH

Slonem, Hunt. Bunnies. Glitterati. 2014. 256p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780989170451. $85. FINE ARTS


Hidden Possibilities: Essays in Honor of Muriel Spark. Univ. of Notre Dame. May 2014. 296p. ed. by Robert E. Hosmer Jr. bibliog. ISBN 9780268030995. pap. $35. LIT

Homer. The Odyssey. Oxford Univ. Jun. 2014. 528p. tr. from Greek by Barry B. Powell. illus. maps. notes. ISBN 9780199360314. $29.95. LIT

Patterson, William H. Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century. Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better. Tor. Jun. 2014. 624p. notes. ISBN 9780765319616. $34.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429987967. LIT

Tillman, Lynne. What Would Lynne Tillman Do? Red Lemonade. 2014. 376p. ISBN 9781935869214. pap. $16.95. LIT

Performing Arts

Fearnley, James. Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues. Chicago Review. May 2014. 416p. photos. index. ISBN 9781556529504. pap. $18.95. MUSIC

House, Gerry. Country Music Broke My Brain: A Behind-the-Microphone Peek at Nashville’s Famous & Fabulous Stars. BenBella. 2014. 240p. index. ISBN 9781939529909. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781939529916. MUSIC

Kotowski, Mariusz. Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale. Univ. Pr. of Kentucky. (Screen Classics). 2014. 312p. photos. filmog. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813144887. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780813144894. FILM

Nayman, Adam. It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls. ECW. (Pop Classics). 2014. 136p. notes. ISBN 9781770411746. pap. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781770905139. FILM


Chin, Marilyn. Hard Love Province: Poems. Norton. Jun. 2014. 80p. ISBN 9780393240962. $24.95. POETRY

Mehigan, Joshua. Accepting the Disaster: Poems. Farrar. Jul. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9780374100988. $23. POETRY

Spirituality & Religion

Harline, Paula Kelly. The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women. Oxford Univ. Jun. 2014. 256p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199346509. $29.95. REL

Hershock, Peter D. Public Zen, Personal Zen: A Buddhist Introduction. Rowman & Littlefield. (Critical Issues in World & International History). 2014. 298p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442216129. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781442216143. REL

Jalil, Tariq. Islam Plain and Simple: Women, Terrorism, and Other Controversial Topics. Quinn Pr. May 2014. 143p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780615790756. pap. $9.95. REL

Sports & Recreation

Revsine, Dave. The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation. Lyons. Aug. 2014. 320p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762791774. $25.95. SPORTS

OPERA for All

David, Ron (text) & Sara Woolley (illus.). The History of Opera for Beginners. For Beginners. 2013. 167p. illus. discog. bibliog. ISBN 9781934389799. pap. $16.99. Graphic Novels

This documentary comic combines black-and-white drawings with primarily nontechnical language (“Nobody Loves the Fat Lady,” “French Dudes,” “The La Scala Gang”) to explore the history of opera and specific opera singers and offer tips for learning to enjoy opera, summaries of “listener-friendly operas,” and a list of YouTube videos. David (former editor in chief, Readers and Writers Publishing; Toni Morrison Explained: A Reader’s Road Map to the Novels) touts the “commonness” of his background and maintains that finding individual singers who please the ear, rather than plots or sets, are the key to learning to love opera. Woolley’s illustrations, along with shaded boxes and boxed quotes, fill at least half of every page, making this a fast read. A friendly book, it demystifies opera and counters the idea that the art form is only for the elite. David directs readers to Google and to YouTube clips to experience great opera moments for themselves. VERDICT Consider when updating selections, especially where David Pogue and Scott Speck’s Opera for Dummies and Barrymore Laurence Scherer’s Bravo! A Guide to Opera for the Perplexed have been popular.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

Hendricks, Barbara. Lifting My Voice: A Memoir. Chicago Review. Jun. 2014. 496p. photos. discog. index. ISBN 9781613748527. $32.95. MUSIC

In this compelling aut­obiography, ­Hendricks recounts her journey from Stephens, AR, to opera stages all over the world. Born in 1948 in the South just before the advent of the civil rights movement, the author sang in the church where her father was a pastor and over the years her repertoire would grow to include opera, art songs, spirituals and jazz. One of the greatest influences on her singing was the mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel, who taught her at both the Aspen Festival of Music and the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Hendricks has also worked with a number of noted conductors, among them James Levine, Georg Solti, and ­Leonard Bernstein. In the last four decades she has performed with renowned orchestras across the globe and sold 14 million albums. In 2005, she started her own record label, Ate Verum. This leading lyric soprano is also an astute observer of life around her and sets her own story in the context of historical events. Describing herself as a citizen of the world (she has lived in Europe since 1977), Hendricks is also a humanitarian, worked for the United Nations Committee for Refugees for 20 years, and is now its honorary Goodwill Ambassador. In 1998, she established the Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation. VERDICT Fans of opera and vocal music will enjoy this absorbing narrative, as will anyone who likes to read about strong and accomplished women.—Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago

Norman, Jessye. Stand Up Straight and Sing! A Memoir. Houghton Harcourt. May 2014. 320p. index. ISBN 9780544003408. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780544003385. MUSIC

Celebrated American soprano Norman (b. 1945) Jessye Normancombines episodes from her life with remarks on singing technique, ­African American history, and the role of the performing arts in society in this captivating memoir. She opens each chapter with the text from a spiritual and closes each with original and translated writings of a song or opera excerpt; in between she delves into her upbringing and family background in Augusta, GA, and her experiences in opera houses and concert venues throughout the world. While the tone of the volume is quite serene and emphasizes her philosophy of humanity, Norman unflinchingly details the struggles of African Americans against racism both in and out of the arts as well as her own challenges when confronted with difficult colleagues, conductors, or directors, while eschewing gossip. Throughout one senses her gratitude for her abilities as well for the people around her, especially her female relatives and friends; surprisingly, her siblings appear and disappear rather abruptly and readers may wish for a fuller portrait of them. A CD or links to online versions of her performances of the highlighted pieces would have added to the work. VERDICT For anyone who has heard Norman sing or been inspired by the programs with which she has been involved, this book will be essential. It should also appeal to those interested in vocal performance and those exploring the ­black experience in contemporary life.—Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH

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