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Reviews | Short Takes

Short Takes

Alger Hiss’ Looking-Glass Wars: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy. By G. Edward White ’63. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 320 pp. $30 hardcover.

For decades, a great number of Americans saw Alger Hiss as an innocent victim of McCarthyism—a distinguished diplomat railroaded by an ambitious Richard Nixon. And even as the case against Hiss grew over time, his dignified demeanor helped create an aura of innocence that in many minds outshone the facts. White draws together the countless details of Hiss’ life to paint a portrait of a man whose life was devoted to perpetuating a lie. He catalogs the evidence that proved Hiss’ guilt—from Whittaker Chambers’ famous testimony to copies of State Department documents typed on Hiss’ typewriter to Allen Weinstein’s groundbreaking investigation in the 1970s—and offers a compelling analysis of Hiss’ denial in the face of growing evidence of his guilt. White is a professor at the University of Virginia Law School and the son-in-law of John F. Davis, the man who served as Alger Hiss’ counsel during a 1948 appearance before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the 20th Century. By Andrew Heinze ’77. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004. 456 pp. $19.77 hardcover.

What do Joyce Brothers and Sigmund Freud, Rabbi Harold Kushner and philosopher Martin Buber have in common? They belong to a group of pivotal and highly influential Jewish thinkers who altered the face of modern America in ways few people recognize. So argues Heinze, who reveals in rich detail the extent to which Jewish values, often in tense interaction with an established Christian consensus, shaped the country’s psychological and spiritual vocabulary. Jews and the American Soul claims to be the first book to recognize the central role Jews and Jewish values have played in shaping American ideas of the inner life. It overturns the widely shared assumption that modern ideas of human nature derived simply from the nation’s Protestant heritage.

Medical Management of Glaucoma. By Max Forbes and James C. Tsai ’85. West Islip, N.Y.: Professional Communications, Inc., 2004. 254 pp. $21.95 paperback.

Tsai, the director of the Glaucoma Division and associate professor of ophthalmology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, presents a comprehensive overview of glaucoma, including its diagnosis and treatment options.

PhB—The Professional Human Being—Profiting from Purpose. By John M. Bean ’69. Edina, Minn.: Beaver’s Pond Press, Inc., 2004. 128 pp. $15 paperback.

In PhB, Bean aims to help general readers and visionary organizations use humanity as a strategic advantage. Drawing on his experience as a management consultant and motivational speaker, he provides the tools that he says can help anyone become a professional human being. This, he says, will help individuals, large and small companies and entrepreneurs achieve personal fulfillment and more sustainable profitability.

Rainbow Green: Live-Food Cuisine. By Gabriel Cousens ’65. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books, 2003. 544 pp. $30 paperback.

Medical researchers have found that a high-fat, high-sugar diet, combined with environmental pollutants and stress, can lead to a buildup of toxins in the body collectively known as chronic degenerative disease. In his book, Cousens provides a dietary regimen that may help reverse this process by introducing whole, natural, organic and raw foods into the diet. These restorative “live” foods, he says, can reverse chronic disease and bring back health and vitality. This eclectic cookbook shares 250 vegan recipes from chefs at the Tree of Life Cafe. International entrees, juices and aromatherapeutic remedies also are featured. Cousens is the founder and director of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Ariz.

The Renaissance Perfected: Architecture, Spectacle and Tourism in Fascist Italy. By D. Medina Lasansky ’90. University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 2005. 560 pp. $85 hardcover.

Anyone acquainted with the beauties of Tuscany will be surprised to learn that architects, planners and administrators working within fascist programs fabricated much of what today’s tourists admire as authentic. Public squares, town halls, palaces, gardens and civic rituals (including the famed Palio of Siena) all were “restored” to suit a vision of the past shaped by fascist notions of virile power, social order and national achievement in the arts. Ultimately, Lasansky forces readers to question long-standing assumptions about the Renaissance even as she expands the parameters of what constitutes fascist culture. Lasansky is an assistant professor of the history of architecture and urbanism at Cornell University.

A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal. By Allen F. Roberts ’67. Seattle, Wash: University of Washington Press, 2003. 284 pp. $45 paperback.

Drawing on the long history of Islamic arts in sub-Saharan Africa, A Saint in the City investigates in depth the vibrant and sophisticated arts of urban Senegal. Underscoring the interconnectedness of art and life, it provides insight into the visual culture of the Mouride Way, a Sufi movement steeped in the mystical teachings of Sheikh Amadou Bamba (1853–1927). This way of life, grounded in Bamba’s teachings about the dignity and sanctity of work, is observed by more than 4 million Senegalese—half the country’s Muslim population—and by thousands more around the globe. Roberts focuses in particular on the ways in which sacred images work for people as powerful acts of devotion and prayer. The remarkable proliferation of arts in the city of Dakar, from bold street murals to virtuosic calligraphy and intricate, colorful glass paintings, offer vivid examples of the potency of Mouridism. Roberts is a professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center.

Writing and Holiness: The Practice of Authorship in the Early Christian East. By Derek Krueger ’85. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. 298 pp. $59.95 hardcover.

One of the thorniest problems facing early Christian writers was the conflict between the pride implicit in authorship and the Christian ideal of humility. In this book, Krueger draws on comparative literature, ritual and performance studies and the history of asceticism to show how writers resolved this dilemma by coming to view writing as salvific— worship through the production of art. In exploring this history, Writing and Holiness uncovers Christian literary theories with implications for both Eastern and Western medieval literatures. Krueger is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

—Compiled by Samuel Masinter ’04


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