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Notes on Current Books, Summer 2002

ISSUE:  Summer 2002

Tortella, a distinguished economist who teaches at the University of Alcalá in Madrid, draws on his considerable knowledge and analytical skills here to reinterpret Spain’s history since the Enlightenment from the perspective of social economics. The essential question he poses is, how did Spain, a country in the 18th century characterized as backward, rural and stagnant, become one of the ten most developed economies in the world by the last third of the 20th century? Tortella recognizes that Spain experienced its most significant economic transformation into a modern industrial country during the long Franco dictatorship, but he places this in a long continuum of European and world economic change. He analyzes massive quantities of data, but writes a compelling prose to prove his thesis: that the forgotten factor in Spain’s impressive achievement is “human capital formation.” Although the book is full of figures, tables, and maps to satisfy the expert reader, Tortella’s stated aim is “to delineate the basic problems of modern Spanish economic history for the general reader,” a goal at which he succeeds admirably. As an experienced economist, he looks in subsequent chapters at politics and population growth, agriculture, industry, transportation and commerce, money and banking, the role of the state, the role of entrepreneurs, demographics, and the “foreign sector.”

Empires on the Pacific: World War II and the Struggle for the Mastery of Asia, by Robert Smith Thompson. Basic Books $30

Robert Smith Thompson explores two primary themes in Empires on the Pacific. The first is to forward the argument that the Second World War in the Pacific was at its base a clash between imperial powers for the control of China. With the diminution of British power, and with the rise of American and Japanese power, the struggle for mastery of Asia was really about which of the two rising powers would rule China (directly or indirectly), thereby facilitating total domination of the Pacific. Ultimately, Thompson fails to put forth a persuasive case. This is not to say that the argument is without merit. Indeed the first part of this four-part work accurately depicts the mid 19th-century struggle among the imperial powers. Thompson should be praised for the clarity and forcefulness of his depiction of the competition for power and security among the expansionist states in the region. Unfortunately, the second task of this work undermines the first. Specifically, Thompson offers a seamless and fascinating narrative of the war in the Pacific. Thompson excels at this task, despite the fact that not much new is offered. In choosing to spend so much time on the military competition however, Thompson is distracted from the real task of this work: demonstrating how the war in the Pacific ties into the broader historical competition among the powers. Although this book is exceptionally approachable and well written, scholars of World War II history and of international relations will find Thompson’s effort less than compelling.

The Early Slavs, by P. M. Barford. Cornell $39.95

Having weathered the onslaught of Hitler and the legacy of Stalin, the Germanic and Romance peoples of Western Europe are now on a path to unity with an eye to enlisting the newly liberated Slavic peoples in the East. It is Barford’s intent to help the West European non-specialist understand this other half of Europe. His criticism of the West for not appreciating the East redounds to him, given his minimum attention to the South Slavs, while over emphasizing Polish sources. The period covered is 5th century A.D., when the Slavs first appear as an entity in the historical record, to the 10th century, when their area evolves into stable political entities. Sources are primarily archaeological, supplemented by linguistic evidence and the written observations of neighboring peoples. There are extensive notes and illustrations, but the bibliography is rather skimpy. Essentially this volume is a welcome update of Gimbutas’ The Slavs (1971).

Salamanca, 1812, by Rory Muir. Yale $35

It would be difficult to dissect the July 18, 1812 Battle of Salamanca more definitively than Rory Muir has done in this work. He has written a relentlessly detailed description of Wellington’s great Spanish victory, drawing on a multitude of primary sources including manuscript memoirs. Each chapter provides a blow-by-blow account of each phase of the battle and concludes with a separate “Commentary” section in which Muir provides his own view of mistakes made and opportunities gained or lost. The numerous maps are clear, detailed, and complement the text well, while black and white photographs of the battlefield today provide a good sense of the topography. Three of the five appendices analyze and break down the strength and casualties of the opposing armies in every conceivable manner. Overall this is a well-written and exhaustively researched book, though the extreme detail may be annoying to casual readers.

A Short History of the Civil War at Sea, by Spencer C. Tucker. Scholarly Resources $60 cloth, $17.95 paper

This is a fine anecdote for the neglect historians have shown toward the naval war which the North and South fought. Professor Tucker begins with the revolution in ships and naval ordinance occurring in the mid 19th century. The Civil War became the laboratory for this revolution. When the ironclads Monitor and Virginia/Merrimack clashed in Hampton Roads, the London Times “. . .remarked that the Royal Navy suddenly dropped from having 149 first class warships to just 2—its own ironclads.” He then describes the strategy, campaigns, and sea battles fought with a clarity, objectivity, and expertise which reflects his extensive research and writings about military and naval history. He points out what a strong hand the North had for this aspect of the war with more manufacturing capacity in New York City than existed in the entire South. Beginning the war with almost no navy, the North built a navy that was second only to England when the South surrendered. He also includes interesting aspects of the war, such as the North’s enlisting an estimated 24,000 African-Americans in the U.S. Navy by such steps as granting unparalleled social equality to its black sailors. After finishing this excellent history, one is compelled to agree with Professor Tucker’s conclusion that, “It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of the U.S. Navy in the Federal victory.”

Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, by Peter Brown. New England $15.95

“Late antiquity witnessed the transition from one model of society, in which the poor were largely invisible, to another, in which they came to play a vivid imaginative role.” It is the burden of this elegantly written and thoughtful book to explore the possible explanations for this transition. Brown seeks an answer to it in the changing nature of political life, broadly construed, in the late antique world. It was the Christian bishops, a new social force rising to prominence in the 3rd to 5th centuries, who capitalized on the concern for the poor expressed in the Jewish and Christian traditions and made of that concern a platform for claiming an obligation to care for all the weak in society—an obligation which also gave them a functional place in the political ecology of the time. In thus reaching for a place in the politics of their day, the bishops in part inadvertently encouraged the reimagining of society away from a picture of people as organized into those who were citizens of a city, and all those outside the semi-security of that group, and toward a picture of people as organized in distinct classes, divided and united by a “language of claims” that the poor have on the wealthy. Thus the understanding we have of society—as divided between upper, middle, and lower classes—is itself a product of a vast reimagination of society that occurred, in no small part accidentally, in this era. It ends with the fascinating suggestion that the great Christological controversies may themselves be equally rooted in (though not determined by) similar socio-political changes as well. A fascinating study of unintended consequences.

Religion and Politics in Enlightenment Europe, edited by James E. Bradley and Dale K. Van Kley. Notre Dame $24.95

These essays are united by the idea that notions of civic rights and representative government so dear to us and so central to our social and political life are not derived from heretical and enlightened sources that challenged orthodox Christianity and polity, but rather from debates within both religious orthodoxy and political status quo. While the Reformation era religious conflicts tended to pit Protestant and Catholic confessions and states against each other, the 18th-century religious conflicts took place within various individual confessional establishments and states that founded and maintained them. In their focal coherence, these essays provide us with a model of the comparative study of religion during the Enlightenment.

The Corset: A Cultural History, by Valerie Steele. Yale $39.95

Valerie Steele’s exhaustively researched cultural study of the corset balances between rigorous academic argument and sumptuous coffee table book aesthetics. Steele adopts a controversial stance in this work by arguing that the corset, long viewed as a tool of women’s oppression, was neither as medically injurious nor as socially constricting as is popularly believed. The crux of her argument lies in evidence of a broad range of attitudes toward the practice of wearing corsets. Not all women were subjected to the painful practice of “tight lacing,” Steele argues, and for some the corset had the positive connotation of style, beauty, youth, and self-discipline. Whether or not you accept Steele’s argument, The Corset is a compelling book both for its wealth of information and because of its array of illustrations of the corset as cultural artifact.

From Chaos to Continuity: The Evolution of Louisiana’s Judicial System, 1712—1862, by Mark F. Fernandez. Louisiana $29.95

Fernandez cuts a wide swath through a century and a half of antebellum Louisiana legal history. He shows that Louisiana’s early judicial system offers clues to the origins of state government and judicial development and claims that the state should not be viewed as an anomaly in American judicial history. On the one hand, Fernandez claims that Louisiana was a representative model of Anglo-American common law jurisdiction bearing many similarities to other Southern states. On the other hand, Louisiana (especially the post-Purchase state) is unique as the first jurisdiction to attempt to integrate Anglo-American legal principles with civilian precepts. The history of Louisiana’s first supreme court comes to life here with heroes (like Edward Livingston and his efforts in the codification struggle of the 1820’s) and villains (like Andrew Jackson who alienated the native Creole population). Ultimately, the author claims that continuity emerged out of the earlier chaos when the constitution of 1845 created the office of chief justice, set judicial terms at eight years rather than life, and limited discussion of judicial salaries. Sometimes glossing over the separate steps in the transition, this study is pathbreaking in its perspective that Louisiana does not represent a clash of legal traditions but rather an attempt to blend a common law tradition with a civilian tradition. Fernandez does not see the end result of such amalgamation as a novelty but rather a continuation in a distinctively American democratic legal tradition.

The Diligent: A Voyage Through the Worlds of the Slave Trade, by Robert Harms. Basic Books $30

The Diligent tracks the course of a trading ship that left Vannes, France in 1731 and headed for the coast of West Africa to sell goods and purchase slaves before sailing to Martinique, where the slaves were sold and sugar purchased for the return to France. Tracking the ship’s movement through the journal of an officer on board, Harms re-creates the details of the journey in intricate detail. In the process, he reveals the calculations and logic of the ship’s captain and officers as they bought and sold human lives. Where most studies of the slave trade focus on a single area, Harms’ book is a truly global history. Harms’ title reveals perhaps his most important contribution—his narrative links the different but connected economies of France, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Contrasting recent scholars who argue for a single over-arching “Atlantic economy,” Harms convincingly shows us a world composed of regions with distinct economic and moral systems.

Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, by Kenneth W. Noe. Kentucky $35

Perryville did not confirm Steinbeck’s view that war is “organized insanity.” Little organization is detectable in this, the largest scale savage domestic brawl in American history. A trick of human nature transmutes war into something more palatable. Ugly bloody battles that cannot be ennobled by glory, daring enterprise, skillful achievement, or lost opportunity become the lifelong burden of forgotten soldiers who merely had to be there. This superb book unravels the complexities of Perryville, but discloses these military details within their social and political contexts. These considerations greatly enrich our understanding of war, history, and human endeavor. The 10,000 official casualties are greatly multiplied if the full cost of this battle is to be reckoned. Lives seared by battle may be more deeply wounded if sacrifices are forgotten and dearly-bought knowledge of the futile realities of war are not contemplated. This nasty hidden cost is exacted again and again from young men by societies and causes. The Perryvilles of every war are consigned to oblivion so that the sanitized mythos of wartime glory will continue to entice youth to join the newest noble crusade. Noe compels us to face our most romanticized war for what it actually was and did, justifying with truthfulness the legacy of soldiers of all the world’s Perryvilles. Fittingly, he permits soldiers to tell their own gory and ambivalent tale of the vagaries and imponderables of war and of national memory. For the men of either army at this and other Perryvilles, at last a worthy epitaph.

The Irish in the South, 1815—1877, by David T. Gleeson. North Carolina $45 cloth, $19.95 paper

Historians have long recognized the need for a comprehensive study of Irish Americans living in the 19th-century South. David T. Gleeson fills the critical gap with this insightful and impressively-researched work, shedding new light on what he terms “a forgotten people.” The 11 chapters, written in clear prose and accentuated with useful and revealing statistics, attend to many dimensions of the Southern Irish experience—Catholicism in the Old South, ties to Ireland, labor, politics, views of slavery, and the challenge of anti-immigrant prejudice, to name but a few. Adding to what recent scholarship has said about Irish contributions to the Confederate war effort, Gleeson also explores how the experiences of Southern Irish differed from those of their Northern cousins during the decades before and after the Civil War. Readers will learn much from this important work. By showing how Irish immigrants became Southerners, and how they could thereby “disappear from southern history,” Gleeson says as much about the American South as about his Irish subjects.

Enemies Within the Gates? The Comintern and the Stalinist Repression, 1934—1939, by William Chase. Yale $35

This latest addition to the Yale Annals of Communism series, as the author and editor rightly claims, “is a story of idealism twisted into carnage, of comradeship betrayed, of hopes deformed by fear, of conspiracies perceived.” The focus of this tale is a study of how the Stalinist repression brought about the collapse of the Communist International. This organization, better known as the Comintern, was founded in 1919 by Lenin to direct revolutionary movements throughout the world. Although nominally an international organization with members drawn from Communist Parties throughout the world, the Comintern was headquartered in Moscow and controlled by Soviet leaders. By the 1930’s, as the documents of this collection show, the prevailing atmosphere of suspicion, anxiety, and xenophobia that characterized high Stalinism pervaded the Communist International. Soviet and Comintern leaders began to suspect their foreign comrades, and turned in former colleagues as enemy agents. In their misguided efforts to construct what they perceived to be a new world, these officials participated in the ultimate cruelties of Stalinism, turning their organization, in Chase’s apt description, into “an agent, instrument, and victim of terror.”

War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa, by Joshua S. Goldstein. Cambridge $39.95

Goldstein, who is both explicitly anti-war and pro-feminist, sets out in this book to solve the puzzle of the consistency, across virtually all cultures throughout history, of gender roles in war. He begins each chapter with a group of related hypotheses which articulate basic cultural assumptions and then goes about assembling evidence to determine the viability of each statement. This evidence comes from a huge variety of disciplines (Goldstein himself is a professor of international relations): history, human and animal biology, developmental psychology, philosophy, and gender studies, to name a few. He concludes that culture, and to a much smaller extent, biology, can explain the rigidly gendered nature of war, but he also wants to push for the reverse causality: war, as a virtually universal phenomenon, profoundly shapes our ideas of gender. Most of his conclusions will not surprise scholars who already sympathize with his politics, although the preponderance of evidence is interesting. The book also has its own website,, which includes excerpts from the book and a discussion list which the author both monitors and posts to.

LITERARY STUDIES Once Again, La Fontaine: Sixty More Fables, translated by Norman Shapiro, illustrated by David Schorr, foreword by John Hollander. Wesley an $45 doth, $19.95 paper

The fourth and so far best volume of Norman Shapiro’s La Fontaine project (three of the Fables, one of the Contes et nouvelles), this is the first to be accompanied by a CD-ROM (on which Douglas Sills skillfully reads 26 translated texts). David Schorr, Shapiro’s illustrator for a nine-century survey, The Fabulists French, is back, this time with amusing, computer-modified sumi studies that he cleverly integrated into the book’s odd, square format. John Hollander sums up the standard history of fable as a genre and La Fontaine’s place in it, but inexplicably gives less than a page to Shapiro’s formidable achievement as a translator. The volume is rather too lightly annotated and features a hit-or-miss bibliography of current studies in English.(For example, Anne L. Birberick’s important 1998 book Reading Under Cover: Audience and Authority in La Fontaine is slighted, while her 1996 edited collection, Refiguring La Fontaine is dated 1966.) Fortunately, the public for which this volume is intended will probably not seek out secondary sources. That said these and other readers will find Shapiro at the height of his powers, giving a fluent yet accurate account of La Fontaine’s most ironic, ambiguous, allusive, and metaphorically dense fables in a language that captures the poet’s multiple registers and subtle rhythms. To say that this collection surpasses other recent efforts would be an understatement worthy of. . . La Fontaine himself.

Voices From the Quarters: Fiction of Ernest ]. Gaines, by Mary Ellen Doyle. Loiusiana $49.95

Hot canefields, inhumane circumstances that had mislabeled and misused human capacity for many generations, and social constraints that foreclosed even the opportunity to visit a library—how did such a mixture of circumstances result in the extraordinary and universal voice of Ernest Gaines? Perhaps the lack of opportunity and injustice permit some wise men to see more clearly the gulf between the illusions and reality: self-delusions of achievement and the inner journey of self-understanding. The language and though preserved for all time in his stories and novels tells the story of repressed people of an isolated Louisiana parish. Despite harsh realities, the voices do not compose a sad litany of victimization, although there is plenty of injustice to awaken pity. The author of Jane Pittman tells an heroic tale of human resilience and determination, of the importance of an inward journey of self-discovery and an outreaching obligation for the welfare of others. This awakens admiration and love. How to be a man, although labeled “boy” becomes for Gaines the greater question first of what is a man. What is a man becomes the larger question of what is the community of mankind. Almost magically the collage of voices that compose his stories and novels disclose the shared humanity of all men and women, each of whom must cope with the challenges, unfairness, and mysteries of life. Graceful, courteous, courageous, honest, unselfish, mutually appreciative and respectful approaches to the problems of life seem to have Games’ approval. Doyle’s very fine analysis and appreciation of these and other aspects of Games’ complex, humane genius is well worth reading.

Natural Goodness, by Philippa Foot. Oxford $22

A lovely, profound, and remarkably agile work by a senior analytic philosopher which strikes out in a direction and toward an aim that will surprise the many philosophers who have not been paying attention to Foot’s work, and the work of some of her students and colleagues, in the past several decades. The book articulates, defends, and explores the implications of the idea of “natural goodness” as a conceptual lens through which to understand the moral life. By this phrase Foot means to suggest that human goodness is as much on a continuum with other creatures’ requirements for flourishing, as it is a distinct sort of concern. Thus, against Kant, Foot argues that human goodness is rooted not just in the will but in the whole shape of a flourishing life.(Evil, in contrast, becomes a kind of defect of the “health,” broadly conceived, of the person.) The book is both an exploration of this view and an explanation of why it took her so long to find a way to say it that did not seem to her to be completely philosophically disrespectable. It ends with a fascinating if frustating chapter on “Immoralism,” in which Foot discusses the problem that many great evil-doers seem to be quite happy, and the difficulty of finally endorsing the typical reflexive response to such immoralists’ apparent happiness, namely, “well, they’re not really happy.” Foot’s reply to this is obscured by a shift to a discussion of Nietzsche, but it seems to me that the chapter shows a way beyond the dichotomy by suggesting that, despite the poverty of the reflexive response, there is something to it that we cannot fully avoid.(How this would avoid a Kantian conclusion is another matter.) By refusing the analytic will-to-tidiness, Foot has given us both a bit of fine philosophising, and a model for further work.

Pope, Print and Meaning, by James McLaverty. Oxford $74

That Alexander Pope controlled the physical forms of his publications is now established (in significant part through earlier efforts of McLaverty), but never before has anyone shown with such specificity and persuasiveness how Pope—or any author—used elements of print to effect and inflect meaning. The study of the influence of physical attributes on interpretation has become a popular but mushy science. McLaverty’s understanding of the writer, the writing, the historical context, and the actual books establishes a standard for how such criticism might be carried out rigorously. His perceptiveness results in a book brimming with new insights into literature we thought we knew well and into a mesmerizing account of one of England’s greatest poets at work and play.

Bodies of Art: French Literary Realism and the Artist’s Model, by Marie Lathers. Nebraska $60

This dense but learned study will be of interest to those who are concerned with French art and literature in the 19th century, since it explores the identity of the painter’s model in both art (primarily Ingres) and literature—from Balzac and the Goncourts to Zola and Maupassant. Of particular interest here are the types of models, above all, the Jewish, Italian, and Parisian women. At the heart of this suggestive work is the myth of Raphael and his mistress—the model for la Fornarina, who informs modern legend from Balzac to Picasso and even Cindy Sherman. This book will surely challenge art historians.

Sideshow U. S. A. : Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination, by Rachel Adams. Chicago $19

Because of its subject matter, this interesting and complex study is provocative, as well as thought-provoking. Deconstructing the remembered, but not necessarily dismembered, freak, the author shows that it has no inherent meaning but has provided a stage on which 20th-century Americans have played out such pressing concerns as race, gender, disability, empire, and Self and Other. Adams provides more than an exploration of the history of human exhibition in the United States, but revises and expands Robert Bogdan’s Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit (Chicago, 1988). She also considers Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks, the photography of Diane Arbus, the criticism of Leslie Fiedler, and the fiction of Katherine Dunn, Carson McCullers, and Toni Morrison, all of whose works treat freaks as metaphor, providing a peep of a once vital form of popular culture. Most illuminating to this sheltered reader was Adams’ discussion of a vibrant revival of the freak show in the last 20 years by performance artists in metropolitan New York.

We Who Love to Be Astonished: Experimental Women’s Writing and Performance Poetics, edited by Laura Hinton and Cynthia Hogue. Alabama $ 24.95

Hinton and Hogue have assembled an intriguing and interesting set of essays from contributors from Charles Altieri to poet Ron Silliman. Addressing experimental writing, and at times writing experimentally, the volume consists of 20 essays that are divided into four sections: “Formal Thresholds,” “In the Margins of Form, “The Visual Referent/Visual Page,” and “Performative Bodies.” The range of writers covered is impressive, and gives one a sense of the different approaches experimental women writers have taken. Taken together, the essays offer valuable avenues into discussions of form and epistemology. Claiming that they are presenting “contiguous” writers, Hinton and Hogue don’t present much that holds the pieces together. Instead, there’s some unevenness and some surprising intersections between the pieces. There is some emphasis on multicultural women writers that is refreshing and too often excluded from studies of the avant garde. All and all, the collection will be very valuable to anyone working on contemporary women writers, particularly on form or on multicultural approaches to textuality.

American Studies in a Moment of Danger, by George Lipsitz Minnesota $49.95 cloth, $19.95 paper

In his newest book, Lipsitz goes meta! Looking back on the history of American Studies as a discipline and its rise in the academy within an historical and cultural context, Lipsitz attempts to come to terms with the place of American Studies in an era of increasing globalization. What’s the point of having a nation-bound discipline in a post-nationalist era? Instead of discarding the discipline as statically attached to the nation, Lipsitz rifles through the history of American Studies to show how its dynamic relation to its own moment and its fostering of new ways of thinking have produced potential, flexible strategies for contending with globalization. Better than many other disciplines, Lipsitz argues, American Studies has the theoretical pliability to confront and articulate the challenges of global capitalism, where struggles over corporate and national boundaries have led to new permutations in ethnicity, identity, and cultures. In addition to the broad range of topics covered and the close attention to how politics in the 1930’s, 1960’s and 1980’s shaped current discourse, this is an important book for its insistent affirmation of continued American Studies work.

Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity, by Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre, translated by Catherine Porter. Duke $19.95

While romanticism is often associated with the cultural peak of individual autonomy, Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity shows how romanticism evolves as a protest against bourgeois civilization. Drawing on examples from art, philosophy, literature and religion, Löwy and Sayre begin with a critique of previous definitions and discussions of romanticism (a rather romantic move on their part!). The volume then takes up texts which are representative of this rebellious—anti-bourgeois—romanticism, exploring Coleridge, Ruskin, Péguy, Ernst Bloch, and Christa Wolf. The final section of the book uses surrealism and the May 1968 movements as contemporary exemplars of this romanticism waged or staged against modernity. Löwy and Sayre have put together a valuable and insightful re-evaluation of romanticism, saving it from the intellectual dust heap known as conservatism.

Quintilian: The Orator’s Education, Vols I-V, edited and translated by Donald A. Russell. Harvard $21.50/vol

Rhetoric was less popular 80 years ago, when Butler’s original Loeb edition was issued. Russell’s fresh translation and valuable introductions take advantage of considerable subsequent scholarship. More of course, than a handbook of oratory, the lessons of Quintilian’s 12 Books are based upon the premise that only a good man may become a good orator. He advocates a way of life that is not only learned, observant, and productive, but one that does not stray from the pathways of honor and integrity. There are practical advantages to the genuine attainment of virtue, Quintilian persuasively argues. He points up the fallacy of reserving the best teachures for advanced rather than initial studies of a subject. Much must thereafter be corrected in the face of dulled enthusiasm. Once a mainstay, centuries of neglect of this great work have needlessly impoverished liberal education. Here is a wonderful opportunity to reopen a dialogue with one of the great and honorable philosophers of human history.

Amazons, Savages and Machiavels: Travel and Colonial Writing in English, 1550—1630, edited by Andrew Hadfield. Oxford $21.95

The anthology is divided into five sections: reasons and instructions for travel, accounts of travel to Europe, Africa and the Near East, the Far East and the South Sea Islands, and the Americas. The writings, which range from Raleigh’s account of Guiana, Fletcher’s description of Russia, Lithgow’s visit to the Holy Land, to Captain John Smith’s legendary encounter with Pocahontas, cover a diverse range of topics, from travel etiquette to narratives of discovery, captivity, trade, and prostitution. Andrew Hadfield’s general introduction situates these 16th- and 17th-century texts within current studies of travel writing, colonialism, and post-colonialism, and shows how the issues of race, power, and culture discussed by critics such as Edward Said and Homi K. Bhaba figure in the early modern imagination and world view. This excellent scholarly resource also includes a chronology relating the writings to their historical context, headnotes for each of the texts reproduced, and a guide for further reading.

The Unforseen Self in the Works of Wendell Berry, by Janet Goodrich. Missouri $24.95

This meticulous and compelling analysis examines the whole canon to date to Kentucky author Wendell Berry to delineate the essentially autobiographical voice throughout. Considering Berry by turns indeed as autobiographer, then poet, farmer, prophet, and lastly neighbor (one who serves, supports, and assists in creating a community both actual and literary), Goodrich demonstrates that irrespective of mode or genre, the voice remains essentially the “unforseen self,” emanating as a spokesman from a particular family and community, within an enduring regional oral tradition. Longtime admirers of Berry may particularly appreciate this work as a concise and engaging retrospective; new enthusiasts will find beneficial the illumination of an extensive and widely respected body of work.

LIVES & LETTERS Borderland: A Midwest Journal, by Richard Quinney. Wisconsin $24.95

The death of a close family member tends to confront us with our own mortality. Reactions vary: some of us start therapy, others cut their hair, buy a motorcycle, have an affair, join a church, take a trip. Richard Quinney wrote a book. Borderland: A Midwest Journal is a combination of photographs and excerpts from Quinney’s journal, gathered into a book after his retirement as a professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University and around the time of his mother’s death. The themes of death and winter color his work: dying light, killing frosts, emptiness, darkness, stillness, eternity, ice. Quinney is not an untalented photographer. In fact, the book would have been improved by including more photos and less prose. His writing strives for transcendence, but rarely rises above the mundane. Quinney quotes other writers, such as Carlos Fuentes, who observes that “Reality is a sick dream.” And James Salter, who describes the death of a fellow pilot as he ejects from a flaming plane and falls to his death when his parachute fails to open: “Arms flapping, he tumbles endlessly, his parachute, long and useless, trailing behind,” Salter writes, adding, “Not at first, and not until you accept that you are mortal, do you begin to realize that life and death are the same thing.” The book should come packaged with razor blades to save time.

Churchill, by Roy Jenkins. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $40

Yet another biography of Winston Churchill would be neither welcomed nor much anticipated were it not for Jenkins’ deserved status as an elder statesman of British politics and a fine historian. Jenkins has already written first-rate biographies of several British prime ministers as well as Harry Truman, all the while serving as a Labour M.P. and cabinet minister; and at the age of 80, after a little over two years of work, he produced this massive biography of Britain’s best-known leader. Jenkins’s knowledge of both history and the convoluted workings of British politics is profound, and it shows in his analysis of Churchill’s life. Typically, despite his own position on the political left (and in opposition to Churchill during the latter’s last stint as prime minister in the 1950’s), Jenkins writes without prejudice. His conclusion that Churchill was “the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street” therefore comes as high praise indeed. In a little more than 900 pages Jenkins has written possibly the finest single-volume biography of Churchill.

Campbell Brown’s Civil War: With Ewell and the Army of Northern Virginia, edited by Terry L. Jones. Louisiana $19.95

Campbell Brown’s voluminous papers, including his diary and memoranda of service have long been recognized as among the most important sources of Civil War history. It is thus mysterious that only now has this widely cited information become available in a single volume. One of course learns a great deal here about one of the war’s most interesting and attractive generals, Brown’s cousin/step-father Richard S. Ewell, under whom he served. But one learns something useful about all the other men and events upon which Brown casts his observant eye, so singular were his powers of analysis, wit, and humor. Brown, whose rich and productive life ended tragically, is himself a most interesting and attractive figure and a splendid writer. His book is thus very hard to put down. The superb editorial work of Terry Jones must have cost considerable labor in stitching the various bits from which this book is composed. But his task has been done so cleverly as to make the job of the reader almost effortless, the fully annotated text virtually seamless. Here is a diarist/editor combination that is comparable to the likes of Chesnut/Woodard.

The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, edited with an introduction by Steven C. Tracy. Missouri $29.95

This is the 12th volume in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. It contains 51 biographies of African Americans, most well known to those with an interest in African American culture. The biographies are written to appeal to children and young adults. The book is divided into three sections: Famous American Negroes, Famous Negro Music Makers, and Famous Negro Heroes of America. In addition, the volume includes a chronology of Langston Hughes’ life that helps readers contextualize Hughes’ career in relation to American history. Although the biographies were written in 1954, ‘55, ‘58, each provide valuable insight into the evolution of African American history and the state of African American studies at that time. As editor, Steven Tracy makes this volume accessible and as relevant today as it was when first published in the mid-’50s. Tracey’s introduction and edited entries enliven the text, enabling young readers to appreciate a history they might not otherwise learn. This volume should be in every school and home library.

Edward Sorin, by Marvin R. O’Connell. Notre Dame $49.95

O’Connell’s biography of the French priest who founded the University of Notre Dame is monumental. At nearly 800 pages, it is by far the most comprehensive profile not only of Father Sorin, but also of the origins of Notre Dame itself. The idealistic Sorin was only 27-years old when, compelled by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, he traveled from western France to the Indiana hinterland to establish one of America’s premier institutions of higher learning. The satisfying story O’Connell weaves of the obstacles Sorin overcame to secure the survival of his college—the culture shock, the financial woes, the sudden catastrophes, even the weather—is the result of some painstaking research, an ear for effective anecdotes, and a palpable emotional attachment to the consequences of Sorin’s efforts. This biography is a history of Notre Dame that has nothing to do with football, and that, all by itself, is reason enough to check it out.

Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration, by Beth Gates Warren. Norton $39.95

This book, the companion to an exhibit of the two photographers’ collaborative work at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (March 8-June 15, 2003), also serves as prelude to a forthcoming “comprehensive dual biography” by the same author. Mather and Weston met in 1913 and quickly fell into an artistic and professional partnership. For a time they collaborated so closely that they signed both names on their photographs. Though her own contributions to photography have tended to be overshadowed by Weston’s, Margrethe Mather was, according to Warren, “one of the best-known and most-honored female photographers in America” from 1915 to 1925. Warren has brought an unexpected wealth of new information to light in her attempt to rescue Mather’s life and work from obscurity. Though she seems not to have had the drive or discipline of Weston, many of the book’s 89 plates show that Mather did have the eye and a precocious sense of modernism.

The Social Thought of Ortega y Gasset, by John T. Graham. Missouri $54.95

This is the last of a three-part study of the works of Spain’s dominant 20th-century thinker, Jose’ Ortega y Gasset, whose meditations on politics, art, literature, and society challenged Spain’s conventional wisdom in the first half of the century. Ortega “opened” Spain to modern European thought, and acquired both adherents and enemies in the process. Graham’s previous books—A Pragmatist Philosophy of Life in Ortega y Gasset and Theory of History in Ortega y Gasset—traced systematically, as the titles suggest, his philosophical and historical thinking. Here, Graham turns his attention to a more overreaching whole, bringing together what he (and we) learned from the other volumes and extending that knowledge through additional analyses of Ortega’s views on reading, philology and linguistics, the individual vs. the collective, science and religion, and other topics too numerous to mention here. He looks at the well-known Revolt of the Masses and The Dehumanization of Art, as well as books like Mission of the University, History as a System, Idea of Principle in Lieibniz, Man and Crisi, s and Ideas and Beliefs. The three volumes of Graham’s study are the most sustained discussion of Ortega’s deep meditations on life and culture in the 20th century currently available to scholars. This is an impressive achievement.

Memoirs of a Courtesan in Nineteen-Century Paris, by Celeste Mogador. Nebraska $24.95

In a new translation of an autobiography first published in 1854, Monique Fleury Nagem introduces her Anglophone audience to the scandalous customs and indescent routines of 19th-century France. Unfortunately, we’ve heard all the stories before. Although Mogador’s narrative is presumably factual, we encounter the same elegant soirees, the same political intrigues, and the same tawdry theater-goers that crop up in the most popular French novels of the 19th century. While their value perhaps rests in their authenticity, these patchy, erratic memoirs portray the shady Parisian demimonde with much less charm than, say, that of the novelist Emile Zola. Not quite the hackneyed story of a whore-with-a-heart-of-gold, these memoirs nonetheless tell a rather familiar story.

My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson, by Alfred Habegger. Random House $35

While this 764-page tome lacks the elegant prose and psychological insight of Richard B. Sewall’s 1974 National Book Award-winning biography of Dickinson, Habegger provides a useful resource to the poet’s admirers and students, incorporating feminist scholarship that has emerged over the past three decades into his narrative of her life. With access to a more definitively dated oeuvre as well, Habegger attempts to draw connections between Dickinson’s writings and the events in her life more decisively than have other scholars. It’s a risky enterprise: whether addressing a specific correspondent or no one in particular, the poet offered precise analogies for her emotional states, yet withheld so much information that it’s often nearly impossible to determine the situation of a given poem. Readers can project any story they want onto her work, but, in the end, the most responsible biographical approach entails providing a context for her writings without insisting on point-to-point connections.

Gwen John: A Painter’s Life, by Sue Roe. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $30

Consider two self-portraits by Gwen John: the first with her strong painter’s hand at her waist, imperious facial expression, elegant silk dress; the second soft, even beseeching, shawl drooping, the writing and painting hand nowhere to be seen. Roe tells us, carefully and sympathetically, the story of the one woman who lived both these personnae simultaneously. John painted in Paris during the heady years before the first World War. Accepting Rodin as her long-term lover and Rilke as her friend, she nonetheless lived largely in hiding from people, even standing up Ezra Pound during one of her lay retreats. She beseeched God to inform her imagination and her modernist experiments, and eventually converted to Catholicism. Roe tells us that she painted “women in rooms,” and, in filling out that simple phrase, illuminates an important period in modern art, a woman’s life, and the mysteries of artistic intensity and vision. Roe’s excellent use of unpublished letters to tell John’s story implies the need for a carefully edited volume of John’s correspondence. After reading A Painter’s Life, one hopes that Roe will do the job.

Women Alone: Spinsters in England, 1660—1850, by Bridget Hill. Yale $37.50

Historian Bridget Hill traces the lives of unmarried women by examining roles they played in agriculture, manufacturing, business, education, and religion. She explores constraints they encountered as a result of class and gender and devotes chapters to the effects of the Poor Law and the perceived threat unmarried women posed to social order. In discussing the lives of prostitutes, entrepreneurs, “learned ladies”, and those who lived secluded within their family homes all their lives, she also investigates the importance of intense friendships with other women, “ways of escape”—marriage, artistic endeavors, emigration, communal living, and cross dressing—and circumstances in which a few prevailed over societal strictures and achieved a degree of independence. While this study is impressively researched, Hill does not always distinguish between the status and conditions of unmarried women and what was true for all women, especially if they were poor. The net effect is an accretion of facts without a unifying perspective, an ambitious, well-documented work diluted by its scope.

The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security, by Grant T. Hammond. Smithsonian $29.95

While it is true and obvious that the process of military innovation results from the confluence of diverse political, economic, organizational, and technological factors, it is also true that specific individuals color the outcomes of those developmental processes. Ideas originated in the minds of people and ideas are the stuff of military strategy and doctrine. Platitudes aside, Air Force Colonel John Boyd’s influence on the American military writ large was huge, cutting across service branches and affecting the manner in which the military approached all of the levels of war (tactical, operational, and strategic). Among his many accomplishments, Boyd was a highly successful pilot and wrote the first manual on jet aerial combat, was instrumental in the development and procurement of the F-15 and F-16, and shaped tactics were widely employed in the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. All of this is exceptionally impressive, but what is most remarkable about John Boyd is the conceptual revolution that he spearheaded in the military reform movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Put simply, Boyd created the theoretical underpinnings for the massive doctrinal reorientation culminating in FM 100—5. The most important aspect of this book is the analysis of Boyd’s Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (OODA) cycle. The “Boyd Loop” is critical to understanding the way the American military approaches operations. This is an excellent biography of a pivotal individual in American military history.

The Papers of Benjamin Franklin Vol. 36: November 1, 1781-March 15, 1782, edited by Ellen R. Cohn. Yale $85

Inaugurating the leadership of the fifth in a succession of gifted editors, this volume maintains the high standards that have typified this series through more than 50 years. Initially doubting he might live to see the end of the Revolution, Franklin learns in November of Cornwallis’ surrender of Yorktown and spends the rest of a busy winter working so indispensably for American interests as he awaits the fall of Lord North and the British hawks. Every moment that could be spared from financial and political activity was occupied with science, books, and the society of great intellects. Here are continued riches from the master craftsmen of the Yale “Franklin factory.”

Travels with a Medieval Queen, by Mary Taylor Simeti. Farrar, Straus if Giroux $30

Author Simeti, an American who has lived in Italy for four decades and written beautifully about her beloved Sicily in On Persephone’s Island, has concocted another remarkable book about a medieval queen of Sicily who traveled widely, gave birth to one of the most outstanding figures of the Middle Ages in Frederick II of the Holy Roman Emperor, and was herself by all accounts a fascinating character. Simeti tries to reconstruct the journey from her husband’s Germany to her native Sicily that Queen Constance of Hauteville took in the late 12th century and by so doing so, seeks also to uncover the inner world of this little-known but highly educated woman. As she follows the route of Queen Constance, the author communicates clearly her love of her subject and succeeds in transferring this sense of romance to her readership. This is a book that will please both the connoisseur of good travel writing and the historian in thrall to the Middle Ages. An excellent read.

Fugitives: Evading and Escaping the Japanese, by Bob Stahl. Kentucky $22.50

In 1941 When Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands, American civilian workers were caught there by the invasion. Some aided the American forces until resistance became hopeless. Unwilling to spend the war in Japanese prison camps, Jordan A. Hamner, a young mining engineer and two other American civilians, fled into the jungle after the defeat of the American troops. For almost a year they moved south to keep ahead of the Japanese troops Realizing that they only salvation lay in leaving the islands, they found a lifeboat which they outfitted and supplied for a voyage south to Australia. With two Filipino men as crew they sailed for over 1,500 nautical miles until they reached Australia. They encountered hostile islanders, storms which capsized their vessel, and a shortage of food and water. When they finally reached Australia, they became the first Americans to succeed in escaping from the Philippine Islands. The exciting account, based on Hamner’s unpublished memoir, was written by Bob Stahl, a World War II agent for the Philippine Regional Section of the Allied Intelligence Bureau.

FICTION My Happy Life, by Lydia Millet. Henry Holt $20

In this slim volume, Lydia Millet portrays a nameless character with a haunting voice. The novel is written as a memoir scribbled on the walls of the character’s locked room in a dilapidated hospital for the mentally ill. The hospital closes, leaving her trapped inside. However, she is not angry. She says, “The door is locked from the outside; they went away and forgot me. It is not difficult: many times I have almost forgotten myself.” Is the protagonist mentally disabled? Mentally ill? Perhaps she is merely exhausted and damaged by the years of abuse and neglect. Her childhood is spent being pummeled by a fellow orphan, verbally abused by her caretakers, and sexually abused by others, including a priest and a wealthy businessman. Her history is frightful and shocking. This story should not be read by the faint of heart. Yet, without being sentimental or maudlin, Millet manages to create a character who is not embittered, who instead is eerily optimistic in the face of excruciating grief and loss.

The Feast of the Goat, by Mario Vargas Llosa. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25

There is no need any longer to present Vargas Llosa as “one of Latin America’s premiere novelists”; he has gained the attention of the world since the mid-1960’s with brilliantly structured novels such as The Green House, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The War at the End of the World, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, Who Killed Palomino Molero? and In Praise of the Stepmother. Here, in this powerful historical novel, he turns his attention to the monstrous dictator of the Domincan Republic, Rafael Trujillo. In three parallel narratives, Vargas Llosa recreates the life and ignominious death of this pathetic but powerful ruler, weaving 1) the recuperation of a memory by the exiled daughter of a complicitous Dominican, 2) the maneuvers of a group of men conspiring to overthrow Trujillo, and 3) the thoughts and memories of the “goat” himself, ruthless in his political life, libidinous and salacious in his private life. Vargas Llosa re-creates in detail a world we wish were gone now, but which keeps seeping back into our contemporary consciousness with alarming frequency. His “goat” is a powerful re-creation, a man of large thirst and hunger, vicious criminal desires, and a harrowing, unforgettable cruelty.

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. Viking $24.95

In this gem of a first novel, Sue Monk Kidd creates a charmed Southern place, a bee farm in Tiburon, S.C., and its eccentric yet endearing inhabitants, the black Boatwright sisters (other wise known as the “calendar girls” May, June, and August). The main character, Lily Owens, is a fourteen-year-old white runaway who finds safe haven with these nurturing honey producing women as she tries to escape a violent father and confused, haunting memories of her past. Lily encounters a world of strong women who embrace her and mother her back to life and a future of promise and hope. Rich in symbolism and feminine adaptations of devout religious practices, Kidd uses the bee metaphor to craft a captivating story of self-discovery, shared pains and joys. Acclaimed for such insightful nonfiction as When the Heart Waits, Kidd the novelist promises to be equally noteworthy.

La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl, by David Huddle. Houghton Mifflin $24

Some novels incorporate all the tricks of modern narrative, and a few of those, including this one, come out readable anyway. The two main characters, art historian Suzanne Nelson and her PR genius husband Jack, try to overcome their childhood backgrounds, their boredom, and their drifting marriage. Jack leaps back into bed with Elly Jacobs, an old flame, while Suzanne fantasizes scenes from the life of her research subject, the painter Georges de La Tour. Suzanne’s imagined La Tour himself leads a fantasy life over his teenage model Vivienne, who has a strange growth of wolf hair on her back.

These intertwined stories leap back and forth in various combinations of chronology, betrayal, self-awareness, and viewpoint, all framed craftily to avoid confusion. Huddle, a professor at the University of Vermont, avoids the usual cliches of the academic novel, and keeps the focus on the characters rather than on the minutiae of what they do for a living. A quick read by a clever technician.

A Place Apart, by Ron Rozelle. Texas Review $24.95

It takes the reader only a few pages to feel as though they have known Sam and his family for a long time, and to therefore care about the events that transpire over the course of this novel. Living life on his own in a small Ohio town, Sam is quite content in his routine. But his world quickly changes as he finds himself wedged between two generations. Sam is suddenly and simultaneously faced with dealing with his aging parents, particularly his father, at the same time that he copes with the return of his now 19-year old son, Brett. Brett has spent most of his life with his mother, Sam’s ex-wife, in California. Father and son hardly know each other, but Brett suddenly appears on his father’s doorstep with his pregnant girlfriend, and the announcement that they have both dropped out of college. These family issues alone would be stressful enough for Sam, but he also lives under the constant threat of being laid off from the plant in which he works as a chemical engineer. Rozelle weaves an engaging tale from these “real-life experiences” that so many people endure. The short chapters set the tone for the book although at the same time, they sometimes break the mood. This is a minor issue, however, and barely detracts from the overall enjoyment one ga


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