Monthly Archives: September 2006

Review: Bruegmann, Sprawl

September 7, 2006
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Review: Bruegmann, Sprawl

A review written for the Times Literary Supplement summarizes Robert Bruegmann’s latest work, Sprawl: A Compact History, as a “polemic issue with one of the great environmental issues of today: how to reconcile the burgeoning demand for detached greenfield settings with the limits on the use of land, energy resources, and the loss of traditional urban cultures and identities.” While the detractors of suburbanization call it sprawl and assert that it is economically inefficient, socially inequitable, environmentally irresponsible, and aesthetically ugly, Bruegmann calls it a logical consequence of economic growth and the democratization of society, with benefits that urban planners have failed to recognize. The TLS review applauds this unique perspective on the suburbs saying: “In the 20th century the suburbs had bad press. Bruegmann compensates with a book that will be uncomfortable to read for many but is elegantly written and fair to nearly all points of view. Anybody interested in the future of planning policy will have to read it.” Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Houlbrook, Queer London

September 7, 2006
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Review: Houlbrook, Queer London

With topics like same-sex marriage, adoption rights, and other queer issues taking center stage in much of the current political, religious, and social debate, Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-57 delivers a timely and significant back-story to the role of queer sexualities in modern culture. A recent review in the London Review of Books applauds Houlbrook’s work in its attempt to deconstruct some of the modern preconceptions of the historical role of homosexuality in one of its modern urban meccas: Matt Houlbrook’s impressive study of queer life in London between 1918 and 1957 does much to revise our understanding of homosexuality in that period. Coverage of recent changes in the law has tended to portray the 20th century as a time of darkness, in which gay men struggled to escape the shadow of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment; Queer London complicates that account. Houlbrook’s story is lucid, subtle and at times very funny. A history remarkable in its complexity yet intimate in its portraiture, Queer London is a landmark work that redefines queer urban life in England and beyond. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Time Interrupted

September 6, 2006
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Time Interrupted

An excerpt from 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration by David Simpson. The whole play of history and power is disrupted by this event, but so, too, are the conditions of analysis. You have to take your time. —Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism and Requiem for the Twin Towers Has the world changed since 9/11? If it has, then in what ways? If it has not changed, then who has an interest in claiming that it has? Whose world are we talking about? Acts of commemoration are particularly sensitive occasions for assessing the balance of change and continuity within the culture at large. They often declare their adherence to time-honored and even universally human rituals and needs, but nothing is more amenable to political and commercial manipulation than funerals, monuments, epitaphs, and obituaries. Outpourings of communal or national grief are proposed as spontaneous but are frequently stage-managed: Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train made carefully scheduled and choreographed stops on its protracted twelve-day passage from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, in the sad spring of 1865. . . .

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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

September 5, 2006
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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

An August 26 review in the Wall Street Journal praises Alessandro Scafi’s new book Mapping Paradise for its groundbreaking “fresh look” at the historical practice of cartographically depicting paradise. “His book is richer in text than images,” says the WSJ reviewer John J. Miller, “though the images are the highlight, and they are well presented. An ancient map rendered on faded parchment—labeled in a cramped script and written in a dead language—can be as incomprehensible to modern viewers as Mapquest directions would be to a Crusader seeking the Holy Land. Mr. Scafi displays originals and, where appropriate, offers close ups and diagrams to help decipher their content.” The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply reflective thoughts about the ultimate destiny of all human life have been molded and remolded, generation by generation. . . .

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Press Release: Scientific American, Evolution

September 5, 2006
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Press Release: Scientific American, Evolution

Drawing from the pages of Scientific American—one of the most respected science magazines in the world—Evolution contains more than thirty articles written by some of the world’s most respected evolutionary scientists. An accessible and timely collection of the most exciting research and thinking on evolution in the past ten years, the book is organized into four sections—the universe, cells, dinosaurs, and humans—with articles, reproduced here in their entirety, that shed light on topics such as the search for life in our solar system and cybernetic cells to the evolution of feathers and the design of the human body and whether it was meant to last. In all, Evolution will be a reference for any reader curious about what’s motivating the science of evolution at present—and where it’s likely to go from here. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Bernstein, Girly Man

September 3, 2006
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Press Release: Bernstein, Girly Man

“Cofounder of the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, from which language poetry takes its name, as well as the online poetics list and the audio poetry archive PENNsound, Bernstein is also a prolific critic and a consummate poet, as he shows again in this collection of seven discrete chapbooklike works. After the invocational four-poem opening of ‘Let’s Just Say,’ the book moves to ‘Some of These Daze,’ Bernstein’s prose dispatches in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and on to the acerbic intimacies of ‘World on Fire,’ which critiques clichés like ‘what are we fighting for?’ ‘In Parts’ takes up the serial form Bernstein perfected in the classic Islets/ Irritations (1983) to examine the pieces of ‘a world in which there are no narratives in which to believe// simultaneous double negative// flop flip.’ A fascination with the sloganlike rhetoric of Tin Pan Alley runs through the collection, culminating in the title poem: ‘So be a girly man/ & sing this gurly song/ Sissies & proud/ That we would never lie our way to war.’”—Publishers Weekly Read the press release. “Report from Liberty Street,” one of the prose pieces included in the section “Some of These Daze,” was originally published on the UCP Web site . . .

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Review: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

September 1, 2006
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Review: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Library Journal recently ran a prepublication review of Piero Melograni’s new book Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography commending Melograni’s work as both insightful and apropos. From the review: “Melograni, an Italian historian who writes principally on nonmusical topics of the 20th century, has made a valuable contribution to the crowded field of Mozart studies published this year, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. The author draws extensively from letters and notes of the Mozart family, and thus his conversational, chronological account of the composer’s life is unusually rich in detail.” The review also cites Melograni’s engaging commentary on the historical events he recounts, making of particular note Melograni’s provocative “case for the removal of the Requiem from the Mozart canon, that this masterpiece is mainly the work of others and is not up to par with Mozart’s final works.” Written with a gifted historian’s flair for narrative and unencumbered by specialized analyses of Mozart’s music, Melograni’s is the most vivid and enjoyable biography available. At a time when music lovers around the world are paying honor to Mozart and his legacy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will be welcomed by his enthusiasts—or anyone wishing to peer into the mind . . .

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