Skip to main content

Book Notes

ISSUE:  Spring 2004


Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Knopf, April 2004. $30
This is a most implausible and frustrating piece of work. The author evidently set out to write simultaneously an ambitious academic monograph and a sensationalistic best-seller. He acknowledges the advice and/or assistance—genuine gratitude or borrowed dignity?—of dozens of authorities in the field. He cites interviews with members of the family and members of what he designates as the “Kremlin family,” i.e., those associates of Stalin who made up his inner circle. In addition, he cites an imposing abundance of unpublished material from hitherto closed or improbably accessible archival collections, including the party archive, the military archives, the security service archives, and, most intriguingly, the notoriously arcane presidential archive. Of course, we can all profit by learning the contents of such repositories, but we are entitled to be suspicious of them if others cannot also get the kind of access to their holdings that would allow us to verify allegations from them. The end product of this work is allegedly a more intimate portrait of a remote and elusive personality. Stalin is identified as a “charmer,” a “people person.” He is represented as being as avuncular as bloody-minded. There is a plethora of particulars apparently designed to add breadth and depth to our knowledge of the tyrant. The author preserves and serves every scrap of comment from his nearly private sources, regardless of how little pertinent or informed it is. In fact, the material presented—even if it were subject to responsible substantiation—is not collated and organized in such a fashion as to add up to a coherent portrait of the subject. In fact, it amounts only to a numbing accumulation of dubiously reliable trivia. The book is a good example of how not to do historical work. If it hides other redeeming features, they are wonderfully obscure.
—Hugh Ragsdale

The Slavery Debates, 1952—1990: A Retrospective,
by Robert W. Fogel. LSU, December 2003. $22.95
This slender volume, based on his 2001 Fleming Lectures at Louisiana State University, is Robert Fogel’s personal retrospective on the debates that raged over slavery during the last half of the 20th century. For Fogel, the post—World War II battle over slavery commenced with Kenneth Stampp’s assault on Ulrich B. Phillips’s long-revered interpretation of slavery (as an economically flawed but beneficial social system that civilized blacks) that began a new era of scholarly debates over the peculiar institution. While traditional historians fought with one another, economists such as Fogel entered the fray and used quantification to transform the historical interpretation of slavery (in ways, he implies, that traditional historians never could). This new economic work, while often fiercely contested by traditional historians, changed the slavery debates by “proving” that slavery was more productive and viable than free labor, and that slaves were better fed and clothed than previously thought. For Fogel, this has fundamentally altered how historians understand the South’s slave-based economy and, more importantly, how we understand the moral problem of slavery—as an efficient economic system that was still morally reprehensible. Fogel is generally even-handed in his treatment of his critics, even if he deems himself the ultimate winner of the slavery debates. Still, this is very much Fogel’s own personal retrospective on the debates, a point he makes clear in the introduction. There are no footnotes or references, although a bibliography is appended. Ideally, this book should be read as a historiographical companion to his earlier books Time on the Cross and Without Consent or Contract, as Fogel’s greatest goal is to demonstrate where he believes his own work fits into the ever-expanding historiography of American slavery.
—Andrew J. Torget

Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age,
by Tom C. Crouch. Norton, November 2003. $29.95
Timed for the Wright Brothers centennial, this survey of the history of the airplane, written by the senior curator of the Aeronautics Division of the National Air and Space Museum, promises to be the history of one of our finest accomplishments. Crouch, after all, has custody of the premier artifact, the Wright plane itself, in the largest collection of aircraft objects and research resources. He focuses on people rather than things, unlike most aviation histories, which tend to trace a succession of scientific discoveries (mostly disregarded) and machines (mostly crashed). So we see aviation pioneers and entrepreneurs and charlatans struggling not only against entrenched ideas, but also against governments and each other. Aircraft design, especially in wartime, tends to leapfrog, leaving many actual planes obsolete as they roll off the factory floor. What do you do with all those too-slow P-39s and P-40s? Send them to Russia and China. The final chapter, on the future, ends in a flurry of questions, as open-ended histories should, as well as a glossary and full notes, bibliography, and index. One problem: the focus on people leads to blurs of names. Three pages on Leonardo da Vinci contain 16 names. Otherwise, a readable, enthusiastic, and detailed survey, likely to last.
—Don Fry

The Burma Road: The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II,
by Donovan Webster. FSG, October 2003. $25
The Burma Road is an important work in two respects. First, while the bulk of the popular historical literature on the Second World War has been devoted to the perils and triumphs of the soldiers on the Western and Eastern Fronts in Europe and to the brutalities experienced by the forces in the Pacific Theater, far fewer works focus on the critically important theater that comprised the three countries of India, Burma, and China. Webster does a great service to his audience by presenting a narrative that, while theater-specific, nevertheless demonstrates the importance of this area to the outcomes of the war outside Europe. Second, although little new evidence is presented in this volume, Webster’s contribution extends beyond the historical material. With powerful imagery and fascinating detail, The Burma Road presents a particularly vivid depiction of the human costs of war. The sacrifices of both the soldiers on the ground and the airmen charged with clearing the “Hump” over the Himalayas are retold with impressive detail. Given the inherent challenges facing the American forces in establishing the logistical linkage with Communist and Nationalist forces in China, the importance of General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell’s acumen of command emerges as a defining element, not only of the war itself, but also of Webster’s account. The Burma Road is highly accessible and offers a painful reminder of how precarious warfare is for those unfortunate enough to be called to do the nearly impossible.
—Spencer D. Bakich

Gouverneur Morris: An Independent Life,
by William Howard Adams. Yale, October 2003. $30
Adams, an independent scholar who has written about Jefferson’s years in France, has given us an excellent account of a remarkable life. Morris, a New York patrician who played a leading role during the entire revolutionary era, spoke eloquently and persuasively at the Constitutional Convention, and later represented his country in Paris during the French Revolution, led a life that was nothing short of fascinating. A complex figure who was skeptical of democracy but who had no faith either in hereditary aristocracy, Morris was a passionate advocate of civil liberties and a scathing critic of slavery. Adams is scrupulously fair in his treatment of this irascible but fair-minded figure who is generally omitted from the pantheon of the founding fathers. Outspoken, rakish, and honest to a fault, Morris deserved better and at last has received the attention of a skillful biographer. This book will delight both the serious student and the reader out for a colorful yarn.
—Lou Tanner

Daniel Boone: An American Life,
by Michael A. Lafaro. Kentucky, September 2003. $25
Biographers are always helped by having interesting lives to narrate. Few Americans offer better stories to write about than those of Daniel Boone. But such rich materials come at a cost: few American lives are as steeped in legend, myth, and tall tale as Boone’s either. Michael Lafaro’s new biography takes on both the factual and fictional Boone to mixed results. Concise and readable, Lafaro’s book seeks to escort Boone out of the realm of folklore and legend and seat him in the American pantheon next to his contemporary, George Washington. This is an admirable task: bringing the “backcountry” into the main story of American history has for many years been a worthy project of early American historians. Still, there are some difficulties in the text. Lafaro has dedicated his career to the study of frontier “heroes” in American culture, and his veneration for Boone is clear throughout, so much so that the subject is let off the hook rather easily, including his “happy” acceptance at being made a cuckold, his unaddressed slaveholding, and the sheer volume of violence narrated throughout the book. In Lafaro’s estimation, the legend of Boone and his real life are intertwined, an interpretation with significant legacies that demand explanation. Scholars may be better served by John Mack Faragher’s 1992 biography of Boone, a longer work that takes more opportunities to delve into analysis and social context. Lafaro’s work is nonetheless a useful short introduction to Boone’s life and America’s early difficulties in exploring and settling Kentucky.
—Robert Parkinson

Siting Jefferson,
edited by Jill Hartz. Virginia, September 2003. $19.95
This album of photos and accompanying essays represents the only permanent record of an exhibition mounted in the summer of 2000, by the University of Virginia Art Museum, to show site-specific artworks created by twenty-four contemporary artists who were addressing a unifying theme stated by Art Director Jill Hartz: “What does Jefferson—the man, his writings and actions—offer to new generations of Americans?” Entitled “Hindsight/Foresight: Art for the New Millennium,” the show consisted of some thirty works distributed to various convenient and/or historic locations, such as Jefferson’s Monticello, the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, and President Monroe’s Ash Lawn—Highland. News media reported that viewers were delighted and sometimes astonished at the forms individual artists used to interpret facets of Jefferson’s visions, virtues, and paradoxes. Susan Crowder, on historic Edgehill Farm, covered three large, round hay bales in tar and asphalt to represent the tension between the Jeffersonian ideal of the pastoral and the present-day reality of rapid loss of farmland to development. Agnes Denes engraved twenty granite blocks with prose and poetry and embedded the blocks in the grounds of the University of Virginia to create a semipermanent Poetry Walk “to bring the essence of many great minds into one work of art and preserve the past for fruitful use in the present and future.” This book is an elegant tribute to a fascinating show that asked viewers to stretch their imaginations and ponder the meanings of new artworks having old, old roots.
—Ed Imhoff

Current Events

Pivotal Deterrence: Third-Party Statecraft and the Pursuit of Peace, by Timothy W. Crawford. Cornell, December 2003. $39.95
Timothy Crawford has written a well-supported, theoretically intriguing book that has significant relevance to American foreign policy. The primary question that Crawford asks is, How can a state prevent a dispute between two states from erupting into armed conflict? Significantly, the answer that Crawford offers bears little resemblance to the extant work on diplomatic mediation, which tends to analytically privilege mechanisms for international cooperation. “Pivotal deterrence” is predicated on one state employing a threat to use force in ways that attempt to manipulate the cost/benefit calculations of potential belligerents; his is an argument that employs the threat of conflict to prevent conflict. Drawing from Neoclassical Realism as well as traditional understandings of material power balances, Crawford contends that three prime factors are necessary for successful pivotal deterrence: (1) the pivot must prefer the status quo between two adversaries to conflict, (2) the pivot must believe that each adversary holds revisionist aims toward the other and that each is willing to risk war to achieve those aims, and (3) each adversary must see the other as being more threatening than the pivot. Pivotal deterrence works when the pivot is able to convince each adversary that, should it initiate conflict, it will be an isolated belligerent fighting against both its adversary and the pivot. When each fears potential isolation, uncertainty will induce caution, and each will seek to curry the favor of the pivot. When each is cautious and cooperative with the pivot, the pivot will be able to prevent war among adversaries. A major contribution to the literature on deterrence.
—Spencer D. Bakich

Dismantling Democratic States,
by Ezra Suleiman. Princeton, October 2003. $39.50
Although not suggested by the title, Dismantling Democratic States is a book focusing on issues concerning the existence and reform of state bureaucracies. Among Suleiman’s central arguments is that for democracies to function properly (i.e., in order for democratic states to govern legitimately), they must govern effectively. Effective governance requires, inter alia, a properly functioning and efficacious bureaucratic system. These points are not new, but they do bear repeating, especially in light of the sustained attack from the political Right (although the Right does not possess a monopoly on such criticism) which calls into question the necessity of bureaucracy per se. Under the title “New Public Management,” critics have charged that the modern form of bureaucracy is inappropriate today and, worse, is counterproductive to the democratic experience. Rather, proponents of New Public Management contend that the model states should follow is that of the private sector with its emphasis on entrepreneurism, delivering products to a customer rather than the general citizen, structuring organizations along flatter hierarchical lines, and implementation though outsourcing. Suleiman answers the challenge posed by NPM directly and indirectly. Suleiman demonstrates precisely how legitimacy requires bureaucracy that is effective and how new and old democracies alike require bureaucracies at each stage of development. Perhaps the most intriguing discussion in this volume focuses on the deleterious effects on civil society that accompany a customer service orientation by the government. This is an important work and should be considered by those concerned with the proper functioning of democratic states.
—Spencer D. Bakich

An Alliance at Risk: The United States and Europe since September 11,
by Laurent Cohen-Tanugi. Johns Hopkins, September 2003. $19.95
A timely and remarkably wise prescriptive analysis of U.S.-European relations in the wake of 9/11, Cohen-Tanugi’s book has critical words for both sides of the Atlantic. He identifies and addresses a “vicious circle” (p. 96) between U.S. unilateralism and European anti-Americanism, whose origins seem lost in history (origins which, in any event, are relevant only to the childish among us) but whose effects continue today, like a dysfunctional marriage. He recognizes that the positions have changed; it used to be Europe which scoffed at American naïveté (a trope as old as Henry James and as recent as Jimmy Carter), but today it is the Americans who face the dangers of the world with a cold eye, while Europeans look inward, lured by the siren songs of Brussels and “human rights,” which allow them to avoid facing the realities of the world that they inhabit. The U.S.’s unilateralist tendencies are almost explicable (and thus forgivable) when one imagines the provincial arrogance of European elites more interested in sniping from the sidelines than in offering any constructive alternatives to direct action. And yet Cohen-Tanugi stresses the “almost”; the U.S. too often returns European petulance with petulance of its own, and this does no one—not the U.S., not the Europeans, certainly not the rest of the world—any good. Thus both sides come in for a good bit of criticism, and both sides need to change their ways, from Cohen-Tanugi’s perspective. It seems to me very, very wise. But the problems that he notes are quite different in kind, and this may leave less ground for hope of future improvement. The U.S.’s problem seems relatively contingent and local, largely related to a tendency toward unilateralism—certainly not unique to the current administration (as Cohen-Tanugi takes pains to point out)—but, then again, a tendency easily countered. Europe’s problem looks more structural and material, even perhaps cultural, rooted in narcissism, ressentiment, and escapism. The U.S. needs to change its foreign policy leadership; Europe needs not only a foreign policy but also the general political will to construct one and give it the strength to make it serious. The former, to this reader, seems more likely than the latter. A lot more likely.
—Charles T. Mathewes

Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars behind the Terror Networks,
by Loretta Napoleoni. Pluto, September 2003. $24.95
Loretta Napoleoni, a journalist and economist, examines global terrorism not as a political tool or an expression of religious fervor, but as an economic system that generates over $1 billion annually. While state sponsors used to finance global terrorism, with the end of the Cold War the terrorists entered the global free market, making alliances with organized crime and taking over the infrastructure of collapsing states. This well-researched book untangles a web of economic interests that links terrorists to illegal activities, charitable organizations, and legitimate businesses around the globe. Given the interdependence between Western capitalism and what Napoleoni calls the New Economy of Terror, in order to fight terrorism, the West must be willing to suffer the consequences of forgoing the capital terrorism’s business activities introduce into our economy.
—Todd A. Price

Black Earth: A Journey through Russia after the Fall,
by Andrew Meier. Norton, September 2003. $28.95
There is something about the Slavic East that invites travelogues which also strive to explain contemporary history. The more tortured the present, the more interesting the journey. The Balkans have been served first by Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and more recently by Robert D. Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts. Andrew Meier’s investigation into post-Soviet Russia has been compared to these well-known works, and the comparison is deserved. Blessed by circumstance to witness the last years of the U.S.S.R. and drawn back to chronicle for Time magazine the ambivalent progress of Russia toward a democratic future from 1996 to 2001, Meier traverses the far expanses of Russia to give a compelling glimpse into a country that cannot seem to transcend the legacy of its authoritarian past. Beginning in Moscow, the center of power, Meier then bravely ventures south into war-tortured Chechnya, then to the arctic north to Norilsk, the northernmost city on earth, out to the oil-rich far eastern edge of Russia, Sakhalin Island, and then back to the “wild wild West” of gangster-plagued St. Petersburg, before finally decamping again in Moscow. During the journey, Meier helps the reader to understand post-Soviet Russia, a country that cannot find a clear path to a democratic and prosperous future.
—Alex Kish

Literary Studies

The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865—1900, by Jane Turner Censer. LSU, December 2003. $59.95 cloth, $24.95 paper
While recent decades have seen a surge in works on women in the antebellum and Civil War eras, not since 1970 has a scholar focused exclusively on white women in the postwar South. Jane Turner Censer’s latest monograph revisits Anne Firor Scott’s classic, The Southern Lady, in an effort to explore the changes wrought by the Civil War on the South’s elite white women. While numerous historians have disputed Scott’s claim that the war served as a watershed for these women, Censer’s meticulous research supports the argument for change. Although her work concentrates only on the Upper South states of Virginia and North Carolina, she offers a refreshing and fruitful approach by applying a generational model. Comparing the experiences of those born before 1820, between 1820 and 1849, and between 1850 and 1869, she finds that “it was the younger two generations that largely sought to redefine women’s sphere and influence after the war.” Censer masterfully appraises women’s private and published writings to illuminate how these different generations of women thought about and addressed such issues as domesticity, working for wages, property rights, race relations, and public life. This engaging and eloquently written book is a must-read for those interested in the history of the postwar South.
—Caroline E. Janney

Lone Star Literature,
edited by Don Graham. Norton, November 2003. $29.95
Cracking the cover on a new anthology is like heading out to shop in an upscale store; we anticipate that all the goods presented will be of high quality but expect to be allured into buying only a few items. I began reading Lone Star Literature in that mind-set—and a bit analytically, planning to compare it to other recent, notable anthologies (e.g., The Great Plains Reader). But after reading only a few stories and essays, I forgot all about being a critical appraiser and became a mad shopper in Graham’s emporium of Texas truth and fiction—where the distinction between these is often unmarked. Perhaps wary of Texan hyperbole, Graham introduces the anthology as “a collection [that] seeks to provide through fiction, autobiography, and a few discursive essays an overview of the diversity, excellence, and characteristic tropes of Texas writing.” Graham could well have bragged, for not only has he stocked this storehouse of literature with the old, finely woven fabrics of O. Henry, Katherine Anne Porter, J. Frank Dobie, and the like, but he has added scores of modern works that cause the reader to linger and admire the intense colors of the stories: Gertrude Beasley’s memoir of a child’s rare moments of beauty in a brutal household; John Allen’s cantina dwellers, who find the best way to see the world is “through the bottom of a glass”; Harryette Mullen’s bad girls, who “go from man to man … like they once collected high school class rings”; and Betty Sue Flowers’ heroine, who was dancing the cotton-eyed Joe in a blouse “of such vivid pink you could close your eyes and still see the color.” That’s the way I felt when I finished this anthology and put the book on a shelf near my desk—so I could go there again and again. Don Graham, you should have bragged.
—Ed Imhoff

Left of the Color Line: Race, Radicalism, and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States,
edited by Bill V. Mullen and James Smethurst. North Carolina, October 2003. $55 cloth, $19.95 paper
Pursuing the line of cultural analysis made famous by Michael Denning’s The Cultural Front, this collection of fourteen essays provides much-needed context to the history of the impact of the Left on race and ethnicity, and the equally profound influence of ethnicity and race on the Left. The volume includes essays by leading scholars of race and the Left, such as Cary Nelson, Alan Wald, and Mary Helen Washington, as well as work by emerging critics. Organized into four “general cultural moments,” the essays take up the following historical periods: modernism, the 1930s (the “Red Decade”), the rise of ethnic nationalisms and “ethnopoetics,” and contemporary cultural studies. The volume consists primarily of new work on a range of topics, including against-the-grain readings of canonical intellectuals (T. S. Eliot, Alain Locke), new analyses of underread writers (Chicano/a poets of the 19th and 20th centuries, the “cracker” poet Don West), and critical framings of undertheorized positions (Asian Pacific American movements, Borderlands criticism). By placing these diverse leftist authors in context and conjunction, the collection reveals a complex portrait of the meaning of the Left and the place of people of color in the history of U.S. culture and politics.
—Jolie A. Sheffer

Ireland and Postcolonial Theory,
edited by Clare Carroll and Patricia King. Notre Dame, October 2003. $25
For those initiates to postcolonial theory and Irish studies, it will be enough to say that this collection includes field-redirecting essays by Kevin Whelan, David Lloyd, Joe Cleary, and Seamus Deane, and ends with an epilogue by Edward Said to sell you on its importance. For those in need of more convincing, this book offers an extensive survey of the intersection of those two fields and asks from a variety of vantages whether and how Ireland should be considered in light of postcolonial theory. Was Ireland a colony? Is it now not? Is there any use in comparing it in terms of similarity or dissimilarity with more theoretically typical former British possessions that Ireland both antedated and (in the case of Northern Ireland) has not yet joined in independence? As Said’s postscript avers, these questions do not constitute a “mere antiquarian or academic squabble” but go to the heart of Irish political and cultural identity, as well as the way the rest of us, along with the Irish, interpret their history. Consequently, the essays in this collection stick to a historicizing method which seeks to reveal occluded complexities and balance the more tendentious and reductive aspects of theory with the respectful lens the Irish situation warrants. There is just as much about the uniqueness of the Irish case as there are analogous comparisons, and the two essays which parallel Ireland with India are nicely coupled with a longish survey of how the post-Parnellite Celtic revivalists borrowed from Oriental tropes to define themselves against their British masters.
—Jason Coats


The Book of Ralph, by John McNally. Free Press, March 2004. $24
You may not have met Ralph and Hank, but you already know them. If you survived suburban junior high, then you know Ralph, the pyromaniac whose interest in optics extends only to trying to set his next door neighbor on fire with a magnifying lens, whose love of history begins and ends with a 19th-century pricelist for injuries inflicted by a New York gang. And if you’re holding a book, then you know Hank too—you are Hank, the kid equally drawn and repulsed by Ralph, afraid of what he might do, afraid to miss it. McNally is a master of such in-betweens. He evokes the seventies—complete with references to KISS, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Stars Wars, and Evel Knievel—without ever playing to nostalgia or kitsch. Instead, he explores the simmering tension between Hank’s parents, a Halloween night with Ralph’s criminal cousin, or Ralph and Hank’s chance reacquaintance years later with an unsettling mix of menace and belly laughs. Like a bully who lurks in bathroom stalls, McNally knows to dangle you over the toilet before plunging you in but has enough sense to pull you back before you drown. Sound a little harrowing? Well, it is—but it’s also funny as hell, and McNally knows how to balance the hair-raising with the hysterical better than any other young writer at work today.

Love, by Toni Morrison. Knopf, November 2003. $23.95
Love—Toni Morrison’s eighth novel—is unarguably a Toni Morrison novel. It deals with women’s relationships, the complexities of race and class, the overwhelming power of the past, and cooking. Its narrative loops dreamily through time and pans between various narrators—both living and dead. For Morrison, this is familiar territory. But Love, despite its predictability, is a wonderful, even surprising, read. It tells the story of Cosey’s Hotel and Resort, where in the earlier part of the century large numbers of middle-class African Americans “came partly for the music but mostly to dance by the sea with pretty women.” Now the men—Bill Cosey in particular—are long gone, and what remains is his empty hotel and the women he left behind. Love centers on the loveless relationship between Cosey’s daughter, Christine, and his widow, Heed, who live together in his decrepit mansion, each conspiring to disinherit the other. Heed enlists Junior, a recent release from “Correctional,” to help her, but Junior is soon developing plans of her own. She discovers Romen, a teenager who helps clean the house, and recruits him as her unknowing assistant and sexual accomplice. Schemes unfold languorously until the novel’s forced concluding scene, where these characters converge in a blatantly calculated reconciliation. But unlike other Morrison books, Love is not fatally scarred by this flaw. Its blunt nastiness and hate-filled characters endow it with a digestible ideological subtlety. And at just over 200 pages, it offers a graceful variation on Morrison’s perennial themes.
—Nicholas Hengen

Elizabeth Costello,
by J. M. Coetzee. Viking, October 2003. $21.95
Elizabeth Costello is a bleak work, witnessing a novelist’s urgent need near the end of her life to uncompromisingly tell what she has learned of the human condition. Coetzee denies the reader even the distraction of story, instead in speeches and long discourses arguing the failure of humans as a species. It isn’t as if Nobel Prize-winner Coetzee lacks the ability to dramatize ideas. His other books, most recently Disgrace, stirringly confront human violence and redemption in postapartheid South Africa. In Elizabeth Costello, each chapter instead scantily frames arguments focused on humans’ self-deceiving dependence on reason, which, he says, is only a tautology, existing to continually enthrone itself, and which finds any means to justify violence. It’s as if Coetzee believes argument more fictionally embedded might lack sufficient force, though more likely the scantiness of his fictional framework optimally expresses a vision robbed of all palliatives. Nevertheless, the book achieves poignant resonance in its depiction of the ultimate loneliness of the individual, denied commonplace fictions and isolated by vision.
—Karen Kevorkian

Fanny: A Fiction,
by Edmund White. Ecco, October 2003. $24.95
Fanny Trollope, the Englishwoman who caused a furor in this country with the 1832 publication of her travel book Domestic Manners of the Americans, has been skewered by an American once again, this time by the insightful and elegant prose writer Edmund White. White has cleverly allowed his fictional Fanny to expose herself most unwittingly in her own authorial voice in notes for a book on the life of her friend, the radical reformer Fanny Wright. What is revealed is a silly, pretentious woman, much on the order of E. F. Benson’s Lucia. The other Fanny is silly in her own way, and the contrast between them—idealist and pragmatist—makes for lively narrative. This mock biography encompasses much social history but reads more like a personal journal. It doesn’t really matter why a good hack writer would talk mostly about herself in attempting a biography, nor why the fictional Fanny would do any of a number of unlikely things. This is a broadly satiric novel, and Edmund White, to use an expression the historical Fanny noted, has “gone the whole hog!” Fanny Trollope’s travel book makes a good accompaniment to White’s fiction.
—Elizabeth Brickhouse

Don Quixote,
by Miguel de Cervantes. Translated by Edith Grossman. Introduction by Harold Bloom. Ecco, October 2003. $29.95
If you have never read Don Quixote—and you know you should read it at least once in your life—here’s your chance. This extraordinary novel, universally applauded as the greatest novel ever written, is now available in a superb and affordable new translation. Cervantes’ rich imagination and Grossman’s readable prose (along with some welcome footnotes to inform modern readers of now-forgotten details of history and literature) combine to bring Don Quixote’s marvellous adventures alive on the page. Beset by scoundrels, overwhelmed by delusion, attacked by thieves, deceivers, rascals, wizards, and fakery at every turn, the noble Knight of the Mancha nevertheless remains eternally optimistic, virtuous, honorable, and consistent in his nutty vision. This wise simpleton, this profound fool, will enchant you, just as he has been enchanted in the name of righting wrongs and winning the love of the elusive Dulcinea. His funny sidekick Sancho Panza, the sorties, jokes, confusion, surprises, and great depths of emotion await you. Sally forth.
—David T. Gies

True Cross,
by T. R. Pearson. Viking, September 2003. $24.95
If it were not for Pearson’s ability to mix wry humor with social commentary, True Cross would be just another story about a roaming rural accountant on a quest for a backbone. As it is, Paul Tatum hails “from an uninterrupted line of ruthlessly sane people” and lives in a town where the county paper is “largely given over to grocery ads, undignified birthday announcements, church-league softball scores and forensic descriptions of bridal attire.” It has been his ambition to find a girl who impresses him as mentally instable, though “zany would do in a pinch.” Zany would be the best word to describe the people who surround the reticent Paul, and what Paul lacks in enthusiasm, they supply in abundance. True Cross explores the shadowy yet often comical world found somewhere between the back roads of rural Virginia and the winding alleyways of Venice, Italy. Even if Pearson’s characters—from Stoney, a questionable handyman with an almost disturbing resemblance to Carpaccio’s St. George, to Mona, a recent divorcée who wears dubious red “lingerie in fluorescent kitchen light”—are caricatures of themselves, their hilarious antics nonetheless make the read worthwhile.
—Emily Ackerman

American Wives,
by Beth Helms. Iowa, September 2003. $15.95
In Beth Helms’s debut short story collection, a subtle and surprisingly sad representation of love will leave the reader astonished—and somewhat unnerved. The winner of the 2003 Iowa Award, this book displays marriage, romance, affairs, and infidelity—and in the process breaks down conventional definitions of love. In “Oysters,” a woman assumes she’s dating a married man and is disturbed when she finds out he’s actually not married. In “Glazing,” a woman reflects on her boyfriend: “She thought, with equivalent horror, of the two possibilities—that he wouldn’t leave his wife and that he might.” In “Antique Map Collection,” a wife realizes she knows nothing about her husband of forty-two years. She realizes with haunting clarity that her own husband is, in fact, a stranger. The married couples in this collection have a “vacuumed-out” type of romance. These marriages, juxtaposed with women in love with strangers, make the short and passionate romances seem disturbingly safe, and also very real.
—Anna Shearer


The Rented Violin, by Karen Whalley. Ausable Press, November 2003. $14
“Beauty is a form of suffering,” declares this book’s opening poem, a volley across the bow of a poetic landscape where “nothing ever ends / And nothing ever lasts.” Whalley’s work tends to find its occasion not in the standard Wordsworthian moments of overwhelming emotion recollected in tranquility, but rather in the explicitly ordinary: suburban neighbors’ voices mingling with highway noise, the sounds of work being done in gardens, the Tuesday morning garbage truck. The best of these poems imitate unfiltered thought, moving with no apparent effort from the immediate (for example, the scent of French-milled soap in a leisurely bath) to the imponderable (mass murder, in the form of 2001’s terrorist attacks). Their tone is frank, unguarded, and elegant; when she arrives at a transcendent moment, this poet is able to say more than she knows, and far more than her speaker’s situation implies. The results can be superb. In “Picking Plums,” for example: “I lift this weight of who I am away from this tree, / Whose loss I bear into the bare house of myself.” Recent history has given us several good first books of poems by mature authors, writers who appear not too recently pushed in one direction or another by their mentors, and on that count The Rented Violin will not fail to please; this is a work unconcerned with being fashionable, fascinated by the revelations provided, whether we welcome them or not, by real life. Whalley’s book is populated by drunk, gone husbands; mothers who have lost their children; friends, neighbors, and kin whose lives are in various states of disrepair. But “I am poor and single. / I am poor and married / To the idea of happiness,” she says, willing them, and us, to avail ourselves of those moments of insight that instruct us: “This is how you live, this / Is what you do.” —John T. Casteen IV

Collected Later Poems,
by Anthony Hecht. Knopf, October 2003. $25
Collected Later Poems brings together the complete text of Hecht’s last three collections of his poems. The book is a small, handsome volume, with no preface or introduction. Randall Jarrell once wrote, famously, that a poet is someone who, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, might hope to be hit by lightning five or six times: “a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.” To strain the metaphor terribly, I suppose a central question when considering Hecht’s work is, Does he not risk the lightning but instead stay indoors, in a comfortable chair, to read and write? The poems in this book, taken as a whole, reflect a disciplined, humane, cultivated mind—even a great mind. The poems are hard, thorny, rich in historical and literary allusion: they do not, much, send you searching through the house for someone to read them to. He is easy to admire but tough to love. Then one comes to Flight Among the Tombs, the second of the three collections reprinted here, opening with the poem sequence “The Presumptions of Death,” with the woodcuts by Leonard Baskin. Here death speaks in myriad voices, dry, witty, patient, implacable, bizarre: “Death the Mexican Revolutionary,” “Death the Archbishop,” “Death as a Member of the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke.” Taken alone, the poems are funny, chilling, unnerving. Taken as a group, with the woodcuts, it is hard not to see “The Presumptions of Death” as an astonishing contemporary masterpiece.
—Peter Walpole

General Nonfiction

Occasions of Sin: A Memoir, by Sandra Scofield. Norton, January 2004. $24.95
Even in a sea of outstanding memoirs, this one stands out as particularly excellent. From the most ordinary of circumstances, the author crafts a riveting, deeply moving story about her West Texas childhood. Fundamentally a mother-daughter history, the book also provides a lens onto American mores of the 1950s and the sadness of poor people. Pedophilia, posing naked for the camera, mental illness, masturbation, premarital sex, adultery: all these topics make an appearance in the book, yet each receives sensitive and intelligent treatment. The memoir drips with the culture of Roman Catholicism, yet the author writes in such a way as to help those outside the faith to understand the rituals, customs, and peculiarities of her people. I came to like the author deeply in the course of reading her book. I responded emotionally to the gang rape; I wept as if she were my own daughter, or a beloved sister. And I reacted angrily when she gave up the struggle to keep her faith alive. I yearned to get Scofield to see that so much of what was good in her life had come from the nuns who loved her (and the troubled mother who gave her to the nuns), the nuns who did everything in their power to prevent bad things from happening to her. A writer of such imaginative and creative gifts should be able to see how she gives herself away in this book: I believe the way forward for Scofield is the way back to the past, to the tradition that sustained and gladdened her.
—John Portmann

Feast: A History of Grand Eating,
by Roy Strong. Harcourt, November 2003. $35
This history of the feast, from ancient Greek times to the 20th century, investigates not so much the food served, as the traditions, rules, and rituals that governed lavish dining. Feasts have been a microcosm of society, revealing complicated rules of power and class: where dining took place, the décor, who sat where (and on what), and who served whom. Strong informs readers about changing food fashions (including sugar sculpture), courses in a meal, the evolution of tableware and utensils, and styles of serving food. He covers dining from the raucous debauchery of Roman banquets to contemporary dinner parties at high-end restaurants. In between, Strong reveals that dining in the Middle Ages reflected Christian rites and later evolved into the political one-upmanship of staggeringly opulent, multiday royal festivals. Eighteenth-century revolutions led the way to urbanization and industrialization, and the first popular cookbooks, restaurants, and dinner parties in private homes (both pre- and post-servants). Strong offers a comprehensive, fascinating, and learned history. His primary sources include paintings and engravings (60 are reproduced in the book), travelogues, records, diaries, letters, and cookbooks, plus exhaustive research.
—Joan B. Fry

The Beast in the Garden,
by David Baron. Norton, November 2003. $24.95
On a mild winter day in 1991 in Idaho Springs, Colorado, a mountain lion of moderate size made a quick kill of an eighteen-year-old athlete and dragged him away for dinner. There had been forewarnings of such an event by two field biologists who had become alarmed while observing the changing behavior of mountain lions along the Front Range. The lions had begun prowling through residential areas to prey on shrub-feeding deer and on domestic animals. Upon encountering humans they seemed unafraid, and some lions even crouched and whipped their tails in an aggressive posture. “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed,” the biologists declared in calling for a control and prevention program. “No. The lions are not a threat to people,” responded state game managers, parroting conventional wisdom. Community meetings were called to discuss the increasing number of ominous happenings. To the chagrin of the biologists (whose protagonist roles are well defined by the author), public expressions of love of wilderness drowned out stories of killings and stalkings. Nothing was done until the young athlete died. And though a control program has since been implemented in Colorado, Baron states that there are those who continue to embrace the mountain lion as a sacred symbol of wilderness that must be protected at almost all costs. In response to this point of view and in recognition of continuing problems with mountain lions in urbanizing America, Baron closes this challenging work of nonfiction with this moral lesson: “We are changing animal behavior in unexpected and troubling ways… . Reducing conflicts between people and wild animals will require controls on human actions—where we build our homes, how we landscape our yards, the ways we dispose of trash and manage house pets.”
—Ed Imhoff

An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland,
by Michael Dirda. Norton, October 2003. $24.95
Michael Dirda, senior editor of the Washington Post Book World, knew early in life that “books and I were drawn together.” But his father, a steelworker in Lorain, Ohio, couldn’t understand why his son “had his nose in a book” all the time. Dirda’s picture of growing up in working-class Lorain in the fifties and sixties is woven with comments on the books he was reading. There were so many from childhood to the present that I wondered whether he’s been reading day and night all his life and has never slept. A 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner for distinguished criticism, Dirda describes himself as “a hangdog personality … with myopia.” While the bespectacled photo of him on the book jacket flap attests to his myopia, there is no evidence of the “hangdog.” On the contrary. Young Dirda was far more advanced in grade school and secondary school than his classmates and admits that he felt “insufferably sure of myself.” By ninth grade he was reading Will Durant’s Story of Philosophy as well as War and Peace. When he gave an oral book review on the latter, he assured his ninth-grade classmates that he’d read Tolstoy’s “Complete and Unabridged” version. When he was ready for college, Dirda chose Oberlin, “reputed to be a haven for beatniks, radicals, musicians and East Coast intellectuals—just those sorts of unconventional identities I myself yearned after.” At Oberlin, however, he finally encountered his equals, or betters, and during his first semester he felt “dwarfed by friends immeasurably superior to me.” The first essay he wrote was graded D, sending the self-assured young man into a “slough of despond.” When his father visited soon after and learned of his son’s despair, he suggested to him that he “work harder than anybody else.” Those simple words, uttered by a father who’d wondered why his son always “had his nose in a book,” enabled Dirda to pull himself together and, at the same time, to feel respect for the father whom he had never seen read a book. Dirda describes Oberlin College as a place that “crackled with passion and energy,” and his lively, detailed, enthusiastic descriptions of his classes and professors constitute one of the finest sections of the book. In 1977, after he received his Ph.D. from Cornell in comparative literature, he “drifted into journalism,” started writing book reviews, and in 1978 was offered a job by the Washington Post Book World. Now in his mid-fifties, Dirda may be too young to be writing a memoir. Perhaps if he’d waited another twenty years he would not have lingered for ten pages over his adolescent crushes, nor quoted, word for word, his eight-point plan as to exactly how and when he’d kiss a girl for the first time. But Dirda has written more than a memoir. It is a hymn to the joys of reading by a man who believes that “reading has shaped his life.”
—Bernice Grohskopf

In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa,
by Daniel Bergner. FSG, October 2003. $22
Bergner’s work recounts his travels in Sierra Leone amongst the wreckage, both material and human, of a vicious, decade-long civil war. In this little-known West African country, Bergner illuminates people against a background of chaos, corruption, and extreme poverty. His portraits are points of light in a constellation of brutality: the South African mercenary whose helicopter-gunship saved Freetown; stoned nine-year-old rebels with AK-47s; armless villagers; rape victims; hopeful missionaries; jaded aid workers; local medical students; the British army. His excursions into uncomfortable racial issues are sometimes distracting but always honest. Ravenous storytelling and fearless prose make Bergner’s book a classic of journalism on Africa.
—Adam Gaiser

Not Much Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers,
by Linda Perlstein. FSG, September 2003. $24
Perlstein, an education reporter for the Washington Post, spent a year immersed in the lives of five Maryland middle school students. What emerges is a fascinating, intimate, comfortingly banal portrait of the current world of suburban American childhood: sexier and more complex than we might remember, but filled with the expected joys and anxieties of adolescence—problems with boys and teachers and the convoluted demands of family. The narrative style, like most sixth graders, is a bit frenetic, loosely structured: both lively and a bit wearying. One can hear the voices of the different children, and the sense of being in a small, insular, emotionally charged world is palpable. This book has been touted as an excellent resource for parents, and certainly it must be. As the world of children is a mystery to those outside who most passionately want to know, Perlstein has done a singular service in offering this portrait, however representative it might be. The reader may find more that is familiar—distant echoes of crushes and embarrassments—than might be expected.
—Peter Walpole

Paul Bowles on Music,
by Paul Bowles. Edited by Timothy Mangan and Irene Hermann. California, September 2003. $34.95
Before turning his attention to writing fiction, Paul Bowles, who was also a composer, worked as music critic for Modern Music and the New York Herald Tribune from 1939 to 1945. Bowles reviewed film soundtracks, jazz and folk records, and scores of concerts. This collection provides glimpses of Bowles as a burgeoning writer as well as firsthand accounts of some of the 20th century’s musical giants. The book contains reviews of world premieres of Aaron Copland and Shostakovich compositions, as well as performances given by Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. As a critic, Bowles proves to be educated, sensitive, and at times humorous. Timothy Mangan’s introduction does much to situate these reviews in the overall context of the writer’s life as a transition between his musical and literary careers. Also included is the last interview Bowles gave, which is devoted to a discussion of his time as a critic. This collection should prove useful to those interested in Bowles as well as music from this period.
—Gavin Benke

Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series,
by David Pietrusza. Carroll and Graf, September 2003. $27
The doings and undoing of gambler Arnold Rothstein have been a perennial puzzle and—unsurprisingly—the stuff that fiction’s made on. AR (a nickname Rothstein preferred to “The Brain” and “The Big Bankroll”) was the model for at least two archetypes of total seaminess: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Meyer Wolfsheim and Damon Runyon’s Nathan Detroit. For finally sorting out many of Rothstein’s mythic triumphs and fumbles, as well as his mysterious comeuppance, we are indebted to David Pietrusza. Like an academic historian, he researched his subject as thoroughly as possible and critically reviewed conflicting accounts (often from highly impeachable sources). His book is solid and, unlike most academic history, both colorful and rich in gallows humor. That said, Rothstein is also digressive and even padded—do we really need an appendix to tell us (not always for the first time) that some of AR’s contacts died on their uppers in Florida during the ’50s and ’60s? By contrast, Pietrusza tells us less than we would like to know about AR’s formative relations with such apprentices as Frank Costello, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, and—above all—Meyer Lansky, who morphed, reportedly under AR’s tutelage, into the mob’s brilliant, risk-averse “investment syndicator.” Likewise, the inner Rothstein eludes us in this biography, except in plaintive quotations from some of the women he left behind. Hopefully, such unexplored dimensions will tempt yet another gifted fiction writer to reinvent this dark American icon.
—David Lee Rubin

Woody Allen: A Life in Film,
by Richard Schickel. Ivan R. Dee, September 2003. $22.50
In 2002 Woody Allen sat for an unprecedented four-hour interview on camera with Time film critic Richard Schickel. The interview became the basis for a highly acclaimed ninety-minute biographical documentary for Turner Classic Movies (April 2002), written, directed, and produced by Schickel. The transcription of the full interview is presented for the first time in this volume, which uses the same title as the documentary. The interview covers a range of subjects relating to Allen’s career in film, including influences—Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Mort Sahl, the Russian literary classics—his preoccupation with the “tragedy of life” (“in the end you’re screwed by death”), and some surprising observations about his own movies—”You know, if you ask me, I think most of the films I’ve made, almost all the films I’ve made, are very wanting, and I don’t have a tremendous opinion, a tremendously high opinion of them.” There are some personal revelations: “Celebrity is something that came uneasy to me”; “I always was interested in gangsters”; and “I’ve always been a firm believer that there’s a certain number of things in life that just cannot be tackled head on, no matter how much you try.” Allen discusses his natural ability to write jokes and how easy it was for him to work as a teenage gag-writer for “The Herb Shriner Show” and for NBC. He freely describes how he became interested in film, the role of film and comedy in his life, and the magical quality of existence and his use of magic in his films. He has specific, often complex, goals for his films; each treats some universal facets of the human condition as manifested in American society or culture. But Allen acknowledges that he has little awareness of what his audiences expect of his films or of how they see him on the big screen, and he insists that as a person he is not much related to the characters that he plays in his films—frenetic, obsessive, and self-absorbed but intellectually cognizant individuals. He also recalls growing up in Brooklyn and seeing Manhattan for the first time, and reaffirms his love of New York City. Schickel’s sixty-five-page introductory essay, “Woody in the Afternoon,” recounts to varying degrees each of Allen’s thirty-two films (to date). He adeptly explores the themes we typically associate with Allen’s films—comedy, death, sex, romance, Jewishness, magic, and the existence of God—all the while keeping in mind the nuances of Allen’s film style. Schickel obviously admires Allen’s work and is always respectful to the famous actor/director, but he lauds only the films that he likes and does not hesitate to assert that in the last decade we have witnessed “a falling off in the imaginative intensity” of Allen’s work. Schickel’s own insights into his subject are thought provoking: “I wondered if we should instead think of him [Allen] as a novelist who happens to ‘write’ on film. Like the purveyors of what we have come to call ‘literary fiction,’ he has a small, loyal audience. Like them, he has a small number of themes to which he returns more or less obsessively with varying results, but almost never without admirable ambition. Like them, he is made nervous by the attention of the mass media. . . . Like them, his work is primarily moved by his own needs, not the audience’s expectations. Like them, he is an isolated figure in a mass culture [that is] almost entirely moved by momentary sensation and interested primarily in grosses, ratings, big deals, celebrity preening, and (temporary, generally curable) celebrity folly.” Schickel is a thoughtful observer and critic, a lively writer, and we owe him a service for capturing in print one of the great artists of our day.
—Frank E. Grizzard Jr.

Art of War,
by Niccol˜ Machiavelli. Edited and translated by Christopher Lynch. Chicago, September 2003. $25
Throughout his career as a secretary and statesman in Florentine politics, military life fascinated Machiavelli. In 1521, the Art of War was published, and in the words of Sebastian de Grazia, it represented “a timely success that gives him a greater reputation for military than for political writing and rivals his fame as a playwright.” In this modern version of Machiavelli’s classic, Lynch offers a faithful and idiomatic English translation of the only major prose work that Machiavelli published during his lifetime. Not only is the translation readable, but Lynch also supports the text with a first-rate introduction, which places the work in an historical and political context and discusses its import in contemporary scholarly debates. The text includes hand-drawn maps and figures, an interpretive essay, a glossary, and an index of names. The Art of War enables its readers to appreciate the complex relationship between war and politics, strategy and technology, and military organization in battle. Above all else, as Lynch points out, “it must not be forgotten that it is first and foremost a book about how to fight and win wars.” The Art of War is a graceful rendition, as well timed as it is lasting.
—Benjamin Mitchell


On Not Being Able to Sleep: Psychoanalysis and the Modern World, by Jacqueline Rose. Princeton, October 2003. $29.95
Recent critics of psychoanalysis have tried to decry the movement’s importance by either discrediting its therapeutic efficacy or attacking its theoretical incarnation in university humanities departments in the United States. Jacqueline Rose directs this collection of essays to challenge such reductive accounts by bringing her own clear and nuanced view of psychoanalysis to literary, political, and institutional questions. Consisting of book reviews, articles, and conference papers that Rose has produced in the last decade, On Not Being Able to Sleep contains three sections: an exploration of the tension between biography and self-revelation in women’s writing, an account of the disruptive and mystical role of the unconscious in psychoanalytic writing, and a short discussion on publicity and social justice. Though Rose attempts to relate these sections through a discussion of shame, each part seems more coherent when examined on its own. The essays of the second and third parts of the book are the strongest of the lot, with the titular essay on Freud and Proust, the later essay on Lacan called “What Makes an Analyst?” and the closing essay on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission being the most thoughtful and exciting. Because Rose takes on often messy debates while resisting assumptions and vocabularies that would give her easy answers, this collection is certainly worthwhile reading.
—Neil Emory Hultgren

Hitler’s Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil’s Pact,
by John Cornwell. Viking, October 2003. $29.95
Early in the 20th century, German science was supreme, but then came Adolf Hitler and German science changed. John Cornwell, of the department of history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University, has written a masterful history of science and scientists during the Nazi era. Early in the Nazi regime, Jewish scientists were forced to resign their posts. Many fled abroad, where they aided the Allied powers. Meanwhile, German scientists were successful in developing the first jet aircraft, mechanical encryption, and a form of radar. A new field of study opened up with the development of rockets by Werner von Braun. Nazi scientists did not hesitate to use concentration camp inmates as guinea pigs for their experiments. Although German scientists discovered nuclear fission, they failed to develop an atomic bomb. Here are stories of unique German scientists, including Albert Einstein, Otto Hahn, and Werner Heisenberg. Cornwell’s chapter on Farm Hall is fascinating. There captured German physicists were held in rooms that had been bugged in order to listen in on their discussions. But after the war, Soviet and American authorities scrambled to obtain the services of these same German scientists. Cornwell’s book offers a view of an unusual aspect of the Nazi era.
—Keith Eubank

War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race,
by Edwin Black. Four Walls Eight Windows, September 2003. $27
There are a lot of ugly stories in the creation of America. The eugenics campaign has got to rank among the ugliest. As the 20th century began, the idea was around in some educated circles that the “pure” Nordic “race” could be improved by controlled breeding of “superior” individuals and by eliminating “inferior” individuals through “segregation, deportation, castration, marriage prohibition, compulsory sterilization, passive euthanasia—and ultimately extermination.” Based on extremely tenuous notions of how genetics worked in humans, supported and funded by the fortunes of John D. Rockefeller, E. H. Harriman, and Andrew Carnegie, and carried out by dedicated zealots, the campaign began at the Carnegie Institution’s experimental station at Cold Spring Harbor, New York. The widow of E. H. Harriman provided the money to set up the Eugenics Record Office nearby, which would undertake the gathering of records (confidential and otherwise) from insane asylums, prisons, homes for the deaf and blind, hospitals and almshouses, and many other facilities. The campaign was aimed “against any individual or group considered physically, medically, morally, culturally or socially inadequate in the eyes of [Charles] Davenport and [Harry] Laughlin,” the primary directors of the hunt for “defectives.” Not all of the methods envisioned by the eugenicists were utilized, but ultimately 26 states passed laws establishing mandatory sterilization of “defectives,” and more than 66,000 individuals were sterilized. California accounted for about half of this number. Virginia came in second with about 4,200 sterilizations. These numbers may be far from complete. Eugenics programs were carried out in a number of countries—nowhere more enthusiastically than in Nazi Germany. The Nazis took their lead from American eugenicists but rapidly developed an efficiency that some American eugenicists could only marvel at. As Joseph DeJarnette, superintendent of Virginia’s Western State Hospital, put it in 1934, “Hitler is beating us at our own game.” This is a book that should be read by every American who is concerned about where current genetic programs may be leading us.
—Charles L. Perdue

Understanding the Language of Science,
by Steven Darian. Texas, September 2003. $27.95
Science differs from other ways of knowing because it offers a means of observing and a way of thinking that permit both the verification and the sharing of knowledge about attributes or properties of the world. The author, by contrast, is interested in reporting on and categorizing the various components and properties he has observed in scientific thought and scientific l


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading