Nonfiction: Mandela, Puppies, ¡Tequila!, Roman Libraries, a Mine Collapse, and Leonard Cohen | Xpress Reviews

Week ending October 3, 2014

Brand, Christo. Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781250055262. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781466858404. HIST
mandela100314This memoir by an Afrikaner prison warder is similar to James Gregory’s Goodbye Bafana, which was the basis for the well-known movie of the same name. Brand came to the prison on Robben Island a decade later than Gregory did and by all accounts had more frequent personal interactions with the historic freedom fighter. Their friendship, as reported in this debut, had a mentoring aspect, with Nelson Mandela giving Brand advice on raising his sons and encouraging him to continue his education, while the younger man wrestled with Mandela’s label as a dangerous criminal. This is the story of Mandela’s dignified leadership behind bars that first led to the release of a number of men who were coconspirators, then eventually to the end of apartheid and the establishment of a new government. The lack of an index limits usefulness as a scholarly resource.
Verdict This warm, personal story of an unlikely friendship provides further acknowledgement of Mandela’s humanitarian efforts and will appeal to readers of heroic stories and political awakenings.—Barbara Ferrara, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., VA

Casteel, Seth. Underwater Puppies. Little, Brown. 2014. 128p. photos. ISBN 9780316254892. $21. PETS
Animal activist and professional photographer Casteel made a big splash with his Underwater Dogs and Underwater Dogs: Kids Edition. He now features puppies age six weeks to six months old swimming, diving, chasing and catching balls, and just cavorting in the water. Of the 1,000 pool puppies that Casteel photographed, many were rescue dogs—a cause that he is passionate about. Narrowed down to just 80, these remarkable aquamarine photos show paddling pugs and pits, romping retrievers, bobbing boxers and beagles, and tenacious terriers. Some photos are close-ups of paws and faces; others showcase puppies that seem to glide through a profusion of water bubbles.
Verdict With fewer close-ups of canine teeth than in Underwater Dogs, which can be a bit intimidating, this work might be more enjoyable for children and those who are fearful around dogs. This delightful and unique photographic collection is recommended for photography collections and for those who enjoy looking at adorable puppies that seem to be saying, “Come on in, the water’s fine.” [See Prepub Alert, 3/31/14.]—Eva Lautemann, formerly with Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston

Gaytán, Marie Sarita. ¡Tequila! Distilling the Spirit of Mexico. Stanford Univ. Oct. 2014. 224p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780804793070. SOC SCI/BEVERAGES
tequila100314Today’s image of tequila is one that exudes glamour and a fun party lifestyle. Gaytán (sociology, gender studies, Univ. of Utah), however, aims to paint an entirely new picture with her retelling and research on tequila and its humble beginnings as well its impact on Mexicans and their heritage. Much like the cigar industry in Florida, the origins of tequila go far beyond the product itself. The author succeeds in showcasing the unexpected and complex importance of tequila to Mexican heritage and culture. By the end of this text it is clear that the drink in question is more than just a drink: it’s about national identity and aids in understanding the people of Mexico and their past.
Verdict The author provides an enlightening and intriguing look into the sociological impacts and historical importance of tequila. Lovers of Latin American culture and industry will enjoy this in-depth glimpse into what is one of the most important facets of Mexican society. Not only will fans of history appreciate this research, but students of sociology can revel in the knowledge that has come from Gaytán’s extensive probe into this often misunderstood drink.—Angie Solis, Wesley Chapel, FL

Houston, George W. Inside Roman Libraries: Book Collections and Their Management in Antiquity. Univ. of North Carolina. Nov. 2014. 432p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781469617800. $59.95; ebk. ISBN 9781469617817. HIST/LIBRARY SCIENCE
Houston (classics, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) seeks to go inside libraries in the Roman world from the first century BCE through the third century CE, exploring the book scrolls, collectors, scribes, tools, furniture, and hierarchical organization. In essence, she covers everything but the buildings themselves. There is a particular focus on what the few papyrus collections surviving can tell us about the general nature of collections at this time: how they were created, organized, used, and disposed of—the complete information life cycle. Despite limits owing to the paucity of the extant record, the impressions here are captivating and well reasoned. Houston states his aim is to make this work appeal broadly to those interested in library history and antiquities, without being too papyrology jargon heavy. And, in this, the author is somewhat successful, but the work is unquestionably for scholars of those areas, with much untranslated (not just Latin and Greek but some Italian and French as well) or unexplicated. Of particular worth for scholars are the annotations to the footnotes, which are rich and thoughtful and provide many departure points.
Verdict Recommended for academicians interested in papyrology, library history, or Imperial Rome.—Evan M. Anderson, Kirkendall P.L., Ankeny, IA

Pilar, Elizabeth. A Blue Moon in China. Matilda. Oct. 2014. 416p. ed. by Christopher Ross. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780990425199. pap. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9780990425182. TRAV
Pilar’s memoir of her trip through China as a 21-year-old is a look back at a very different country and a barely remembered manner of travel. In 1988, travelers could not use the web to check reviews on youth hostels and restaurants, sightseeing spots, or train schedules. Google Earth was not around to provide a close-up look at destinations, and no one was carrying a smartphone to make the journey easier. In 1988, Pilar hopped on a train from Hong Kong into China with no guidebook or language skills and no idea what was ahead of her. On her journey of self-discovery, Pilar learns about herself as she wanders through China, forming connections with trekkers from around the world and with the Chinese people she meets. Based on Pilar’s journal entries, the reconstructed conversations are creative and add life to her tale. One year before Tiananmen Square, China in 1988 is in the midst of change, and Pilar reflects the conflict of some of the people she encounters.
Verdict This title is a nice addition to women’s studies readings as it chronicles the kind of travel undertaken with a tattered map and the recommendations of students met on trains.Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH

Tobar, Héctor. Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. Farrar. Oct. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780374280604. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374709204. HIST
Tobar (The Barbarian Nurseries) relates the story of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped thousands of feet underground for over two months. A significant portion of the narrative portrays the initial, critical days of survival against starvation. Before rescuers could reach the group, the men managed without assistance by rationing what little food was available, drinking water that was meant for their equipment, and depending on one another for support. As their time trapped below ground lengthened, and rescue efforts grew ever more complex, the men became the object of worldwide media attention. Deep Down Dark details that international rescue effort and the perseverance of those above ground, including mining experts from the United States and Chile, scientists from NASA, and family members who lived near the mine in a tent city for the duration of the rescue.
Verdict A compelling account of a modern miracle for readers interested in survival narratives and contemporary accounts of recent mining disasters.—Jim Hahn, Univ. of Illinois Lib., Urbana

Walker, Julian. The Finishing Touch: Cosmetics Through the Ages. British Lib. Oct. 2014. 160p. illus. ISBN 9780712357524. $15. HIST
In this slight volume, Walter (How To Cure the Plague) has curated a collection of historical cosmetics recipes, focusing on the hair, skin, lips, nails, and eyes. Most are taken from British sources and span from the late 13th century to the 1930s. The compilation reveals the surprising and often dangerous methods used to enhance one’s beauty (e.g., quicklime to remove hair, ground pearls and quicksilver to whiten the face). The breadth of sources and time periods covered shows how perceptions of beauty have changed throughout the years and how certain remedies either fell out of favor or are still in use today. Walker’s contributions are limited to an introduction to each chapter as well as short comments on the recipe that provide background information on techniques and less common ingredients used and occasional dry wit. Additionally, a few somewhat lengthier spotlights on notable persons or beauty regimens are incorporated, but the work as a whole sadly contains little independent analysis.
Verdict Only recommended for readers interested in learning about the history of cosmetics from primary sources. Those wanting a lengthier analysis of cosmetics history will be advised to skip this one.—Rebekah Kati, Duke Univ. Pr., Durham, NC

Young, Cynthia. Capa in Color. Prestel. 2014. 207p. illus. ISBN 9783791353500. $60. PHOTOG
capaincolor100314Photographer Robert Capa (1913–54) is best known for his gritty, black-and-white pictures created as a war correspondent in the 1940s to 1950s. This title’s unfamiliar dimension to his work in its subject and tone includes portraits of Hemingway on a family vacation in Sun Valley, ID, a Paris model being fitted at the Dior salon, and a postwar Russian woman at work in the fields. All are reproduced in rich, vibrant colors painstakingly restored by the International Center of Photography. Motivated to a great extent by financial constraints, Capa strove to keep the Magnum agency alive in 1947 with these submissions to popular magazines like Holiday, Saturday Evening Post, and Ladies Home Journal. This large-format volume replicates many original magazine spreads; the overall layout of text and image evokes the magazine pictorials. Curator Young’s introduction outlines the technical challenges of bringing the important color archives to life.
Verdict Readers interested in photography will gain insight into not only Capa’s work but also into a critical period in media history as color encroached on black and white and television began to compete with print.Nancy B. Turner, Temple Univ. Lib., Philadelphia

Kubernik, Harvey. Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows. Hal Leonard. 2014. 226p. photos. discog. notes. ISBN 9781480386280. $34.99. MUSIC
leonardcohen100314Music journalist Kubernik (Turn up the Radio! Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles, 1956–1972) presents an 80th-birthday tribute to poet, author, and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen in a photo/interview format. He includes interview excerpts from Cohen’s biographers (Ira Nadel, Sylvie Simmons) and fellow musicians (e.g., Judy Collins and Charlie Daniels), along with his conversational take on the life and work of Cohen. The singer-songwriter aspired to be the Canadian Bob Dylan after frequenting the clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village. His poetry and music were inspired by his encounters with the Beat writers and the influence of rabbis on both sides of his family. Cohen’s work often includes themes of political and personal betrayal and Old Testament judgment. Cohen has influenced many musicians, most notably Nick Cave. A detailed discography is included.
Verdict This book will appeal to the growing number of Leonard Cohen fans. Readers interested in further exploration would enjoy Simmons’s I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen and Nadel’s Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen.Elizabeth D. Eisen, Appleton P.L., WI

Sparschuh, Jens. Leonard Cohen: Almost Young. Schirmer/Mosel. 2014. 165p. photos. discog. bibliog. ISBN 9783829606646. $29.95. MUSIC
Sparschuh (Ende der Sommerzeit) presents a sumptuous photo tribute to the Canadian-born poet/author/musician Leonard Cohen, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, on September 21. Cohen aspired to be a “world famous orator,” according to the inscription in his high school yearbook. The basis of Cohen’s work came from his admiration of Federico García Lorca’s poetry and a chance meeting with a young Spanish guitarist who taught him six flamenco chords. Photos follow Cohen’s path of discovery in Hydra (Greece), his multiyear stay at a zen monastery on Mt. Baldy (near Los Angeles), and many of his tours. Cohen seemed “almost young” in comparison to his contemporaries because he got his start in the music industry at a later age and didn’t quite fit in with the bohemian or hippie scene. His masterpiece, “Hallelujah,” has been covered by more than 500 musicians. That song was instrumental in securing his popularity with a new generation of devotees. The book includes a biography/time line and discography.
Verdict This book will appeal to Leonard Cohen aficionados both young and old.—Elizabeth D. Eisen, Appleton P.L., WI