Nonfiction on the Philadelphia World’s Fair of 1926 and from “The Movie Doctors” | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 18, 2016

Keels, Thomas H. Sesqui! Greed, Graft, and the Forgotten World’s Fair of 1926. Temple Univ. Feb. 2017. 376p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439903292. $40. HIST
sesqui111816Historian Keels (Philadelphia’s Golden Age of Retail) recounts Philadelphia’s spectacularly unsuccessful attempt in 1926 to celebrate the sesquicentennial of American independence with a world’s fair. Poorly planned from the beginning, the event was beset throughout by organizational, financial, and political problems. A short time line and budget problems meant construction of the exposition’s buildings was not completed until after it had opened, and national and international participation was minimal. Recriminations began before the celebration opened. The author demonstrates at length how the fair was entangled with local and state factional politics. Unfortunately, this nicely illustrated book’s early chapters are extremely slow-going, with considerable—sometimes too much—detail on meetings, speeches, and construction of buildings exhibits. Only later in the volume do readers get broader context in a series of well-presented chapters that address the fascinating intersection of the fair with important national issues related to immigration, race, gender, and even sports.
Verdict Most relevant to those interested in the history of Philadelphia, 1920s culture, and the world’s fair but limited beyond that.—Charles K. Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato

Mayo, Simon & Mark Kermode. The Movie Doctors. Canongate. Jan. 2017. 304p. illus. index. ISBN 9781782116646. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781782116639. FILM
The hosts of Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live, radio personality Simon Mayo and film critic Mark Kermode are the British version of Siskel and Ebert. Doctors by way of academic dissertation (Kermode) and honorary degree (Mayo), their book is an excessively overblown and lame review of approximately 200 films employing trite medial metaphors that, in a just world, would culminate in the revocation of their licenses in a malpractice suit. The conceit arranges the films by chapters named after areas of medical specialization—cardiology, ophthalmology, psychiatry, general surgery—you get the picture—and other tangential services such as pharmacy, fertility clinic, X-ray department, sleep clinic, and, this reviewer’s personal favorite, the stone-cold, drop-dead final word on this moribund treatment: the morgue. The introductions to each section provide some informative and substantive relief (“paging Dr. Kermode…”), but they shortly give way to the brief paragraph-long (or less) predominantly bitchy review.
Verdict Conspicuously absent from the Simon Mayo Clinic is the department of proctology; what a waste. This book is a flatliner. Pull the plug STAT!—Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX