Nonfiction on Environmental Activism, Aidan Higgins, Chief Joseph, Frankenstein, Drugs and Racing | Xpress Reviews

Week ending October 13, 2017

Armitage, Kevin C. This Green and Growing Land: Environmental Activism in American History. Rowman & Littlefield. Dec. 2017. 268p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442237070. $37. SCI
Armitage (history, Univ. of Miami-Ohio) offers a concise history of the United States and the environmental issues that have been vital components of that story. Beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s efforts to clean up Philadelphia, Armitage recounts familiar stories of nature writers such as Henry David Thoreau, frontier adventurers and conservationists such as John Wesley Powell, and New Deal programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. The narrative continues to detail the 20th century and what the author labels “the atomic body politic” and our current emphasis on ecology, global climate, and social justice. Chapters are filled with names of diverse activists who worked to make a positive difference. Throughout, Armitage ties together the goals of democracy and America’s social and economic structure and stresses that peoples’ creativity to form new institutions, regulations, and laws is key to the future of the planet.
Verdict This informative volume’s succinct format will appeal to general readers and libraries with general collections.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Coll., Mt. Carmel

Higgins, Aidan. March Hares. Dalkey Archive. Aug. 2017. 364p. ISBN 9781943150069. pap. $17. LIT
This anthology by the late Higgins (1927–2015), the internationally acclaimed Irish writer (Langrishe, Go Down; Lions of the Grunwald), includes essays, papers presented at various gatherings, diary entries, and letters to newspapers written over some 30 years. Subjects include modern literature, reading, and Higgins’s personal experiences in the literary world in which he met some of the 20th century’s most notable figures. Of particular interest is Part 3, which contains observations on writers such as Samuel Beckett and James Joyce as well as W.B. Yeats, Harold Pinter, and Flann O’Brien/Brian O’Nolan. Higgins’s rich, sometimes musical style exhibits the influence of innovative techniques advanced by Joyce, such as stream of consciousness, in addition to the influence of Yeats. Recognized for his fiction mixed with autobiography, travel writings, radio plays, and criticism, Higgins has been called one of modern Ireland’s greatest writers; Beckett himself acknowledged his talent.
Verdict Without an introduction providing background information on Higgins or notes for context of many of the selections, the book’s appeal is limited primarily to those already familiar with the writer’s work and reputation.—Denise J. Stankovics, Vernon, CT

Howard, Helen Addison. Saga of Chief Joseph. Bison: Univ. of Nebraska. (Classic). Dec. 2017. 408p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781496200587. pap. $19.95. HIST
The mythology surrounding Nez Percé chief Joseph (1840–1904) is built on a speech in which he purportedly said, “I will fight no more forever.” To the United States, his capitulation marked the completion of the conquest of the West. In order to make his defeat legendary, white America characterized him as a brilliant tactician. He was also given the mantle of the stereotypical Indian; a noble warrior and chief of a doomed race. It is doubtful that the historical Joseph would even recognize the caricature that was erected. When Howard first published War Chief Joseph in 1941, renamed Saga of Chief Joseph in later editions, she sought to separate fable from fact. Her work became the definitive biography through much of the 20th century. Its import still looms large among scholars researching the Nez Percé.
Verdict This work is recommended for academic and lay readers. It should be read alongside Kent Nerburn’s Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce, which incorporates primary sources not available to Howard to arrive at significantly different conclusions. Another recommended read on the topic is Elliott West’s The Last Indian War: The Nez Percé Story.—John R. Burch, Univ. of Tennessee at Martin

Shelley, Mary. The New Annotated Frankenstein. Liveright: Norton. Jul. 2017. 416p. ed. by Leslie S. Klinger. photos. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780871409492. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780871409508. LIT
Klinger’s (The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes; The New Annotated Dracula) annotated edition of Frankenstein revivifies Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel with results not unlike Dr. Frankenstein’s own experiments: the edition breathes life into the story while suffering from its own ambition. Klinger recognizes the difficulty of his project in the foreword. He notes that Frankenstein’s creature possesses a “cultural familiarity” that makes it difficult to disentangle centuries of interpretation from the source text. At times, his notes, which dominate many pages and marginalize Shelley’s words, make the text hard to read. Many references could have been compressed or relegated to the appendixes. The book also contains an introduction by screenwriter and director Guillermo del Toro and an afterword by Anne K. Mellor (distinguished professor of English and women’s studies, UCLA; Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters).
Verdict Some criticisms notwithstanding, the text would make a fine addition to a course on popular culture or film studies.—Emily Bowles, Univ. of Wisconsin Coll. & Extension, Madison

Tone, Joe. Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream. One World. Aug. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9780812989601. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780812989625. CRIME
Former Dallas Observer editor Tone writes of the different paths of two brothers. Born on the Mexican side of the border, José Treviño eventually moved to Dallas to work as a bricklayer and build a small business. His brother Miguel, however, chose a path of crime—he joined the bloody Zeta cartel and was rumored to have committed atrocities. José loved racehorses, and at a quarter horse auction, he bid the largest sum on record, which caught the attention of rookie FBI agent Scott Lawson. Lawson recruited the ranch owner who would eventually breed José’s champion horse, Bones, to help him infiltrate the cartel and catch Miguel. The story of Bones and the insider knowledge on horse racing interweave with the FBI’s hunt for Miguel and the portrayal of cartel life to create something original.
Verdict Set against the background of horse racing, this tale goes deeper, giving a peek into the drug world and police work. Though the writing style is dry at times, the story provides a riveting look into these realms and could be a solid crossover for horse lovers and true crime fans.Kristen Calvert, Marion Cty. P.L. Syst., Ocala, FL

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