Hollywood History, Comedy Writers on Humor, Creative Crafting, & More | Arts & Humanities Reviews

redstarBailey, Mark (text) & Edward Hemingway (illus.). Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History. Algonquin. Aug. 2014. 336p. illus. index. ISBN 9781565125933. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616203986. FILM

ofallginjoints072414Screenwriter and author Bailey (coauthor with Hemingway, Bartending Guide to Great American Writers) presents a tour of the famous restaurants and watering holes of Hollywood, with recipes for the cocktails they inspired, sprinkled with anecdotes about the famous drunks who imbibed them from the silent era to the 1960s. Readers tour Romanoff’s, Musso & Frank, the Brown Derby, the Garden of Allah, Trader Vic’s, and more. Some of the stories related are well known, such as how Elizabeth Taylor loved the chili at Chasen’s so much that she had it flown over to Italy while she was filming Cleopatra. But there are many lesser-known tales: the Zombie cocktail was invented at Don the Beachcomber and was so potent that the restaurant imposed a two-Zombie limit. The bartender at the Cock ‘n Bull Pub found himself saddled with too much vodka and ginger beer that would go bad if he didn’t use it so he put the two together and the Moscow Mule was born. VERDICT Foodies and celebrity watchers alike will be delighted by this walk through Hollywood drinking history.—Rosellen Brewer, Sno-Isle Libs., Marysville, WA

redstarSacks, Mike. Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers. Penguin. Jul. 2014. 480p. photos. ISBN 9780143123781. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781101613276. HUMOR

pokingadeadfrog072414Vanity Fair writer Sacks’s follow-up to his 2009 book And Here’s the Kicker is a compendium of 40-plus interviews, short pieces, and advice from comedy writers. The title comes from an E.B. White New Yorker quote: “Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.” Aside from fascinating interviews with some comedic heavy hitters such as Glen Charles, Dan Guterman, and Mel Brooks, there are also sections of advice for aspiring writers—although much of it can be summed up thusly: if you can do something else, then do it. But if you can’t do anything but comedy, then just don’t give up. Ever. The collection is full of great moments that are funny, thought provoking, and poignant. VERDICT If a casual humor enthusiast can appreciate the work this much, the book is going to be snapped up by comedy writers and aficionados. Title, contents, author photos: it’s all great.—Audrey Snowden, Orrington P.L., ME

redstarWerker, Kim Piper (text) & Kate Bingaman-Burt (illus.). Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises & Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty. Sasquatch. Sept. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781570619144. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781570619151. CRAFTS

makeitmightyugly072414For every person who produces creative works there are legions who do not because of their fear of failing or of producing “bad” work. Werker (Crochet Me) encourages everyone to push through that fear and just go ahead and make something, no matter how it turns out. Divided into three parts: “name the demons,” “make stuff,” and “keep on making stuff,” the book highlights the most common creative demons and discusses how to move beyond them in an engaging and friendly manner. The author uses prompts, exercises, and her own and others’ personal experiences to show that creativity does not have to be beautiful; in fact, it can be mighty ugly. VERDICT Werker provides a thoughtful look at the internal voices that keep people from expressing their creativity in a book that will work well beyond the crafting world; anyone needing to identify their own blocks will find this inspiring title useful in their own lives. [See Q&A with Werker, LJ 7/14, p. 84.]—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield

Things and playthings

Biondo, Brenda. Once Upon a Playground: A Celebration of Classic American Playgrounds, 1920–1975. ForeEdge. 2014. 188p. photos. ISBN 9781611685121. $35. PHOTOG

Writer/photographer Biondo’s visually appealing book of photographs provides a healthy dose of nostalgia for lunchtime recesses and summer mornings spent on monkey bars and jungle gyms. She structures her book so that playthings appear chronologically; every two decades share a chapter, from the 1920s until the 1970s. A foreword by playground historian Susan Solomon and an afterword by Kaboom! founder Darell Hammond offer historical and contemporary context, respectively. Images from archival catalogs and pamphlets, as well as a few historical pictures, portray children at play on evolving playground structures. The bustling scenes from the play equipment companies’ promotional materials serve as a foil for the modern-day photographs of many of these “antique” playgrounds, all of which are empty, no children in sight. In several of the images, contemporary play equipment in plastics and bright colors have been installed alongside the older, faded metal structures; readers can see clearly how approaches to children’s play spaces have evolved over time. VERDICT This book is both a reminiscence as well as a fitting commentary on our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and a surging preference for techno-centric activities.—­Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Ctr., Laramie, WY

redstarHyers, Martin & Will Mebane. Empire. Daylight. 2014. 136p. photos. ISBN 9780988983182. pap. $39.95. PHOTOG

empire072414From 2004 to 2007, photographers Hyers and Mebane traveled across the United States to document the possessions, domestic interiors, and workplaces of a cross-section of Americans. Their project came to include 9,000 photographs, a selection of which were exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago in 2013. As the excellent reproductions of the accompanying exhibition catalog make clear, Hyers and Mebane are deeply invested in a photographic tradition of capturing the banality of suburban existence. The images often appear bereft of people and framed by car windows, suggesting that suburban space is not inhabited directly but rather driven through, thus underlining its alienating qualities. Distinguishing the coauthors’ work from their forebears is the emphasis they place on the outmoded and decrepit. Instead of gleaming corporate logos and smartphones, we see decades-old computers, shabby houses, dated carpets, and rows of white bread, all of which imbue these images with a sense of the uncanny. This volume does not present the material culture of a contemporary imperial nation, as its title and introductory essay suggest, so much as the spectral artifacts of a past society. VERDICT The images of Hyers and Mebane are highly compelling, and the book is recommended to anyone interested in the history of street photography or American visual culture.—Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Graduate Ctr.


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Fine Arts

Clark, Judith & Amy de la Haye. Exhibiting Fashion: Before and After 1971. Yale Univ. 2014. 251p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300125795. $60. DEC ARTS

Congdon, Kristin G. & Doug Blandy. Happy Clouds, Happy Trees: The Bob Ross Phenomenon. Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. 2014. 176p. illus. notes. ISBN 9781617039959. $30. FINE ARTS

Koda, Harold & Jan Glier Reeder. Charles James: Beyond Fashion. Metropolitan. 2014. 264p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780300204360. $50. DEC ARTS

Koones, Sheri. Prefabulous World: Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Homes Around the Globe. Abrams. 2014. 300p. illus. ISBN 9781617690839. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781613125922. ARCH

Little, Carl. Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: Closer to Wildness. Pomegranate. 2014. 152p. illus. ISBN 9780764967016. $45. FINE ARTS

Lloyd, Christopher. Edgar Degas: Drawings and Pastels. Getty. 2014. 320p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781606063279. $39.95. FINE ARTS

Martineau, Paul. Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit. Getty. Jul. 2014. 200p. photos. index. ISBN 9781606063224. $39.95. PHOTOG

Ratcliff, Carter. The Art of Li-lan: A World Achieved. Hudson Hills. 2014. 192p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781555953812. $50. FINE ARTS

Schneider, Annie. Hats by Madame Paulette: Paris Milliner Extraordinaire. Thames & Hudson. 2014. 160p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500517314. $50. DEC ARTS

Striner, Richard & Melissa Blair. Washington and Baltimore Art Deco: A Design History of Neighboring Cities. Johns Hopkins. 2014. 256p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781421411620. $49.95. ARCH


Epstein, Joseph. A Literary Education and Other Essays. Axios Pr. 2014. 537p. index. ISBN 9781604190786. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781604190793. LIT

Italoamericana: The Literature of the Great Migration, 1880–1943. Fordham Univ. 2014. 1032p. ed. by Francesco Durante & others. tr. from Italian. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780823260614. $125; pap. ISBN 9780823260621. $40; ebk. ISBN 9780823260638. LIT

Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen’s Country Life: Uncovering the Rural Backdrop to Her Life, Her Letters and Her Novels. Frances Lincoln. 2014. 256p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780711231580. $29.95. LIT

Mills, Marja. The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee. Penguin. Jul. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781594205194. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698163836. LIT

Morphologies: Short Story Writers on Short Story Writers. Comma: Carcanet. 2014. 208p. ed. by Ra Page. bibliog. ISBN 9781905583485. pap. $15.99. LIT

redstarWe Go Far Back in Time: The Letters of Earle Birney and Al Purdy, 1947–1984. Harbour. 2014. 480p. ed. by Nicholas Bradley. photos. ISBN 9781550176100. $39.95. LIT

Performing Arts

Biesen, Sheri Chinen. Music in the Shadows: Noir Musical Films. Johns Hopkins. 2014. 224p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781421408378. $65; pap. ISBN 9781421408385. $29.95. FILM

Doyle, Tom. Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s. Ballantine. 2014. 272p. discog. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780804179140. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780804179157. MUSIC

Grant, Lee. I Said Yes to Everything. Blue Rider. Jul. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780399169304. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698155114. FILM

Harvey, James. Watching Them Be: Star Presence on the Screen from Garbo to Balthazar. Faber & Faber. Jul. 2014. 432p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780571211975. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374712068. FILM

Perone, James E. The Words and Music of Melissa Etheridge. Praeger. (Singer-Songwriter Collection). 2014. 156p. discog. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440830075. $37; ebk. ISBN 9781440830082. MUSIC

Pugh, Tison. Truman Capote: A Literary Life at the Movies. Univ. of Georgia. 2014. 328p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780820346687. $79.95; pap. ISBN 9780820346694. $28.95. FILM

Zone, Paul & Jake Austen. Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground. Glitterati. 2014. 208p. photos. ISBN 9780988174559. $50. MUSIC


Jaeggi, Rahel. Alienation. Columbia Univ. (New Directions in Critical Theory). Jul. 2014. 352p. ed. by Frederick Neuhouser. tr. from German by Frederick Neuhouser & Alan E. Smith. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780231151986. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780231537599. PHIL

Weisberg, Richard H. In Praise of Intransigence: The Perils of Flexibility. Oxford Univ. 2014. 208p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780199334988. $24.95. PHIL


Merwin, W.S. Moon Before Morning. Copper Canyon. 2014. 120p. ISBN 9781556594533. $24. POETRY

Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words That Move Them. S. & S. 2014. 336p. ed. by Anthony Holden & Ben Holden. ISBN 9781476712772. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476712796. POETRY

Ramke, Bin. Missing the Moon. Omnidawn. Oct. 2014. 104p. ISBN 9781632430007. pap. $17.95. POETRY

Williams, C.K. All at Once. Farrar. 2014. 208p. ISBN 9780374216429. $24. POETRY

Spirituality & Religion

Coogan, Michael. The Ten Commandments: A Short History of an Ancient Text. Yale Univ. 2014. 176p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780300178715. $25. REL

Lopez, Donald S. Jr. & Peggy McCracken. In Search of the Christian Buddha: How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint. Norton. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780393089158. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393244212. REL

Price, Robert M. Killing History: Jesus in the No-Spin Zone. Prometheus. Sept. 2014. 300p. notes. ISBN 9781616149666. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781616149673. REL

Storbakken, Jason. Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, Revolution. Orbis. Sept. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9781626981034. pap. $25. REL

Yanklowitz, Shmuly. The Soul of Jewish Social Justice. Urim. 2014. 463p. ISBN 9789655241563. $27.95. REL

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