Reviews | Short Takes
AudoBioDiversity: True Stories from ZYZZYVA. Edited by Howard Junker ’61. Berkeley: Heyday Press, 2005. 192 pp. $14.95 paperback.
This collection of true stories celebrates the 20th anniversary of ZYZZYVA, the journal of West Coast writers and artists. Founding editor Junker selects his fifth anthology from the pages of the journal, presenting voices from across the full spectrum of society. According to Elle, the book “Gracefully skirts the line between hip and highbrow.”
Christianity in the United States: A Historical Survey and Interpretation. By David W. Wills, Winthrop H. Smith ’16 Professor of American History and American Studies (Religion and Black Studies). South Bend, Ind.: Notre Dame Press, 2005. 140 pp. $14 paperback.
This book is a brief but comprehensive study that provides a broad interpretation and a wealth of factual information on the history of Christianity in the United States. Placing this history in the larger context of the globalization of the Christian religion, Wills links the rise of African-American Christianity with the emergence of Christianity in the non-Western world. He also argues that the history of Christianity in the United States concerns itself in a central way with the relation of religious ideas, institutions, constituencies and practices to the creation and exercise of political power.
The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment: Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, and Christian Boulanger. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2005. 342 pp. $24.95 paperback.
How does the way we think and feel about the world around us affect the existence and administration of the death penalty? What role does capital punishment play in defining our political and cultural identity? For centuries, capital punishment was a normal and self-evident part of criminal punishment; it has now taken on a life of its own in various arenas far beyond the limits of the penal sphere. In this book, the authors argue that in order to understand the death penalty, we need to know more about the “cultural lives,” past and present, of the state’s ultimate sanction.
Dissent in Dangerous Times. Edited by Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. 200 pp. $22.95 paperback.
A collection of essays by six distinguished scholars who write about issues related to patriotism and dissent, the book examines, according to the publisher, “the role of political opposition, the nature of political repression in liberal societies, the political and legal implications of fear, and how past generations responded to similar situations.”
E Pluribus Unum: Nineteenth-Century American Literature and the Constitutional Paradox. By W.C. Harris ’94. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005. 320 pp. $39.95 hardcover.
“Out of many, one.” But how do the many become one without sacrificing difference or autonomy? This problem was critical to both identity formation and state formation in late 18th- and 19th-century America. Harris’ book is premised on the idea that American writers of the time came to view the resolution of this central philosophical problem as no longer the exclusive province of legislative or judicial documents, but capable of being addressed by literary texts as well. Harris is assistant professor of English at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
The Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, Society. Edited by Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture, and Harold Augenbraum. Trumbull, Conn.: Grolier Academic Reference, 2005. 2,000 pp. (4 vols.) $449 hardcover.
In its four volumes, 650 entries, 2,000 pages and 1.2-million words, Encyclopedia Latina explores every aspect of Latino life in America from a myriad of perspectives, spanning the arts, media, cuisine, government and politics, science and technology, business, health and sports, among others. To develop Encyclopedia Latina, Stavans assembled a who’s-who editorial advisory board of such prominent Latino figures as Ray Suarez of PBS’ NewsHour; Jorge Ramos of Univision; Richard Delgado, author of The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader; and Marcus Burke of the Hispanic Society of America. Contributors include academics as well as journalists, musicians, filmmakers, poets, novelists, chefs, curators, translators and independent scholars. The resulting work frames the social and historical context of Latinos’ impact on the United States from colonial to modern times.
Envisioning an English Empire: Jamestown and the Making of the North Atlantic World. Edited by Robert Applebaum and John Wood Sweet ’88. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. 368 pp. $59.95 hardcover.
Envisioning an English Empire brings together leading historians and literary scholars to reframe our understanding of the history of Jamestown and the literature of empire that emerged from it. The collection begins by exploring the initial encounters between Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians and the relations of both these groups with London. The book then examines the ways in which settlers and natives were transformed over the course of the 17th century, considering conflicts and exchanges over food, property, slavery and colonial identity. Sweet teaches history at the University of North Carolina.
Feeling Italian: The Art of Ethnicity in America. By Thomas J. Ferraro ’79. New York: New York University Press, 2005. 256 pp. $21 paperback.
In Feeling Italian, Ferraro argues that Italian-American iden-tity, now a mix of history and fantasy, flesh-and-bone people and all-too-familiar caricature, still has something to teach us, including why each of us is, in crucial ways, already Italian. Contending that artful performance has become the primary vehicle of Italian sensibilities, Ferraro explores books, movies, paintings and records in 10 vignettes. Featured cultural artifacts run the gamut from the cityscapes of Joseph Stella to Madonna’s Catholic spirit. Ferraro is an associate professor of English at Duke University.
Idyll Banter: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town. By Chris Bohjalian ’82. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003. 240 pp. $22 hardcover.
Years ago, Bohjalian and his wife traded their Brooklyn co-op for a century-old Victorian house in Lincoln, Vt. (population 975). Bohjalian began chronicling life in that gloriously quirky little village with a wide variety of magazine essays and his newspaper column, “Idyll Banter.” Written over the course of 12 years, Idyll Banter is a collection of these pieces. Bohjalian is the award-winning author of nine novels.
Law on the Screen. Edited by Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Social Thought; Lawrence Douglas, associate professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought; and Martha Merrill Umphrey, associate professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought. Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005. 288 pp. $50 hardcover.
The contributors to Law on the Screen examine how law works in the movies, exploring the consequences of this cinematic representation of law. Images of law, legal processes and officials on television and in film have proliferated in recent years. This is significant because mass-mediated images are as powerful, pervasive and important as other social forces, such as globalization, neo-colonialism and human rights, which are transforming legal life. Law on the Screen critiques the present legal world and imagines an alternative one that expands studies of the representation of law in film to include questions of reception.
The Memoirs of Catherine the Great. Translated by Markus Cruse ’93 and Hilde Hoogenboorr. New York: Modern Library, 2005. 352 pp. $26.95 hardcover.
Empress Catherine II brought Europe to Russia, and Russia to Europe, during her long and eventful reign. She fostered the culture of the Enlightenment and greatly expanded the immense empire created by Czar Ivan the Terrible, shifting the balance of power in Europe eastward. Famous for her will to power and for her dozen lovers, Catherine was also a prolific and gifted writer. This definitive new translation from the French is scrupulously faithful to her words and is the first for which translators have consulted original manuscripts written in Catherine’s own hand. Cruse teaches at Arizona State University.
The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance. By Charlotte Canning ’86. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005. 280 pp. $34.95 hardcover.
In her new book, Canning establishes an analytical framework to reveal the Circuit Chautauquas as unique performances that both created and unified small-town America. One of the last strongholds of the American traditions of rhetoric and oratory, the Circuits created complex intersections of community, American democracy and performance. Canning acknowledges their goals of community support, informed public thinking and popular education, but also focuses on the reactionary and regressive ideals they sometimes embraced. In the true interdisciplinary spirit of Circuit Chautauquas, she reveals the Circuit platforms as places where Americans performed what it meant to be American. Canning is an associate professor in the department of theatre and dance at the University of Texas at Austin.
Option Writing Strategies for Extraordinary Returns. By David G. Funk ’60. New York: McGraw Hill, 2005. 256 pp. $39.95 hardcover.
Option Writing Strategies for Extraordinary Returns details put and call writing techniques sophisticated investors can use to profit from market movement in any direction. It first outlines a strategy for selling options short, using tables and charts to illustrate each step, and then builds a three-legged model for using popular options tools to purchase stocks. Additional features include techniques for extending a position or writing “up” a position, a listing of available online option tools and steps for taking advantage of market volatility.
Reflections over the Long Haul: A Memoir. By Robert McAfee Brown ’43. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005. 305 pp. $24.95 hardcover.
Brown, who passed away in 2001, was a renowned Presbyterian theologian, teacher and social activist. This is his memoir, the story of a modest man who lived life according to his conscience and his faith and who was a model of responsible social activism within and outside of the church. The book incorporates comments from family members who share their own contrasting experiences of the turbulent and sometimes frightening events through which they all lived.
Transitions: From Eastern Europe to Anthracite Community to College Classroom. By John W. Anderson ’56. Lincoln, Neb.: iUniverse, 2005. 142 pp. $14.95 paperback.
Anderson’s book gathers stories of transformations, which occurred to the land, people and communities of the anthracite coal region in general and Mt. Carmel in particular. It describes how Eastern Europeans were recruited by giant railroad companies to work (and often die) in their dangerous mines. It also shows how these people, who were at first alienated by their new surroundings, soon developed confidence and pride in their work and built a supportive community that survived the boom and bust of anthracite mining. Anderson retired from Bucknell in 1996 after teaching there for 35 years.
The Worlds Cause Lawyers Make: Structure and Agency in Liberal Practice. Edited by Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, and Stuart Scheingold. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2005. 504 pp. $29.95 paperback.
This book describes the constraints to cause lawyering and the particulars that shape what cause lawyers do and what cause lawyering can be, while also focusing on the dynamic interactions of cause lawyers and the legal, professional and political contexts in which they operate. It presents a constructivist view of cause lawyering, analyzing what cause lawyers do in their day-to-day work, how they do it and what difference their work makes. Taken together, the essays collected in this volume show how cause lawyers construct their legal and professional contexts and also how those contexts constrain their professional lives.
The Wilderness. By Herbert R. Coursen ’54. Topsham, Maine: Just Write Books, 2005. 122 pp. $14.95 paperback.
Coursen’s 23rd novel explores the life of Richard Turbull as he approaches middle age and “everything seems to turn against him. He loses his girlfriend. He loses his job as an editor at the local newspaper. And, as a result of his efforts to disclose the secret behind a plane crash that killed a prominent progressive senator, he finds himself being interrogated by the Homeland Security Police.” Coursen has recently been a guest lecturer at Ohio University and the University of Louisiana, Shreveport.
—Compiled by Samuel Masinter ’04