Monthly Archives: May 2007

Review: Cheney, Baboon Metaphysics

May 9, 2007
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Review: Cheney, Baboon Metaphysics

The ALA’s Booklist magazine recently ran a positive review of Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth’s new book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. The review notes that many recent book-length studies of primates have successfully documented primate social organization, but not until Cheney and Seyfarth’s ground breaking new study has anyone attempted to document the intelligence that underlies it. Nancy Bent writes for Booklist: Primatologists Cheney and Seyfarth have studied the same troop of chacma baboons since 1992, and here they demonstrate the importance of their social behavior. Living in a world of predators, baboons must rely on each other for safety, and the resulting large groups they live in are perfect hotbeds for complicated relationships. Matrilineal groups of females retain status by helping their own kin, whereas males act individually and for themselves. Females form short-term bonds with males for mating and long-term friendships with the same or other males for protection. But how do baboons view the world? How do they decide who to associate with, who to defer to, and who to dominate? Cheney and Seyfarth discuss these and other related questions in a style that both explains complex concepts and challenges the . . .

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Press Release: Kaplan, The Interpreter

May 9, 2007
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Press Release: Kaplan, The Interpreter

No story of World War II is more triumphant than the liberation of France, made famous in countless photos of Parisians waving American flags and kissing GIs as columns of troops paraded down the Champs Élysées. But one of the least-known stories from that era is also one of the ugliest chapters in the history of Jim Crow. In The Interpreter, celebrated author Alice Kaplan recovers this story both as eyewitnesses first saw it, and as it still haunts us today. The American Army executed 70 of its own soldiers between 1943 and 1946—almost all of them black, in an army that was overwhelmingly white. Through the French interpreter Louis Guilloux’s eyes, Kaplan narrates two different trials: one of a white officer, one of a black soldier, both accused of murder. Both were court-martialed in the same room, yet the outcomes could not have been more different. Kaplan’s insight into character and setting make The Interpreter an indelible portrait of war, race relations, and the dangers of capital punishment. “American racism could become deadly for black soldiers on the front. The Interpreter reminds us of this sad component of a heroic chapter in American military history.” Los Angeles Times “A . . .

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Review: Nouvian, The Deep

May 8, 2007
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Review: Nouvian, The Deep

Another great review of a book the critics can’t stop talking about, Claire Nouvian’s The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss received high praise from reviewer Andrew Robinson in this month’s issue of the Literary Review. The review begins: When Robert Hooke published his famous folio of drawings, Micrographia, based on observations using a simple microscope and including astonishing fold-out copperplate engravings (some by Christopher Wren), the book caused a sensation and became a bestseller. Samuel Pepys bought it, sat up until 2am reading it, and noted in his diary for 1665 that it was ‘the most ingenious book I ever read in my life’. It is possible that Claire Nouvian’s The Deep will have a similar impact in our time, given its perfect marriage of astounding images with ingenious science and exotic ideas. This superbly designed large-format book of photographs of deep-sea creatures, eloquently edited by a French journalist and film director, with brief and highly readable contributions from sixteen leading scientific explorers of the deep, is eye-poppingly magnificent. So much so that it provokes gasps of amazement and awe at the complexity, beauty and uniqueness of life in the abyss. … The Deep deserves to become a . . .

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Review: Kripal, Esalen

May 7, 2007
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Review: Kripal, Esalen

In the May 6 New York Times Book Review, Diane Johnson reviewed Jeffrey Kripal’s new book Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. NYTBR also has an excerpt from the first chapter. Johnson recognizes the Esalen Institute’s powerful social and political influence as one of the American counterculture’s leading centers for alternative and experiential education, as well as its noting its hedonistic reputation: People of a certain age will remember Esalen, the famous (or infamous) spa in Big Sur on the California coast, founded in the 1960s as a center of the human potential movement. In his book Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, Jeffrey J. Kripal describes it as “a utopian experiment creatively suspended between the revelations of the religions and the democratic, pluralistic and scientific revolutions of modernity.” In 1990, someone painted graffiti (unprintable in its entirety here) at the entrance: “Jive … for rich white folk.” Both descriptions are justified, it turns out. It won’t escape any reader of this interesting book that almost all the players are good-looking and rich, but we learn that along with the sex and drugs with which it was synonymous, the Esalen Institute, as it was formally known, . . .

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Review: Diggins, Eugene O’Neill’s America

May 4, 2007
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Review: Diggins, Eugene O’Neill’s America

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Press Release: de Góngora, Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora

May 4, 2007
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Press Release: de Góngora, Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora

Making the poet available to contemporary readers of poetry without denying him his historical context, Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora represents Góngora as master of many genres and a writer whose life and poetry are closely intertwined. John Dent-Young’s free translations capture Góngora’s intensely musical voice and transmit the individuality and self-assuredness of the poet. The first significant edition of this seminal and challenging poet in many years, Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora puts the Spanish master in his rightful place alongside other masters of the difficult, such as John Donne and Stéphane Mallarmé. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: McGhee, The Last Imaginary Place

May 4, 2007
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Press Release: McGhee, The Last Imaginary Place

The Arctic of towering icebergs and midnight sun, of flaming auroras and endless winter nights, has long provoked flights of the imagination. Now, in The Last Imaginary Place, renowned archaeologist Robert McGhee lifts the veil to reveal the true Arctic world. Based on thirty years of work with native peoples of the Arctic and travel in the region, McGhee’s account dispels notions of the frozen land as an exotic, remote world that exists apart from civilization. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Attlee, Isolarion

May 3, 2007
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Review: Attlee, Isolarion

Reviews of James Attlee’s Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey have flooded the UK periodicals recently. Attlee’s book is an engaging chronicle of his unusual pilgrimage down Oxford’s Cowley Road—a bustling multi-ethnic side street not more than a few blocks from his own doorstep. It’s quite telling of the author’s rhetorical prowess and insight that the his depiction of this decidedly lesser-known thoroughfare in his hometown has become such a a smash hit. Especially amongst so many of his fellow Brits who, before Attlee’s book, probably never knew such a diamond in the rough existed, let alone right in their own back yards. (Or should that be “in their own gardens”? Or maybe “just beyond their gardens”?) In the past ten days the book has received some outstanding reviews from the Times, the Financial Times, as well as the Spectator magazine. Here’s a sampling of what the reviewers are saying: “ remains one of the last three Oxford thoroughfares with a bit of life in it. For the time being, before the rents shoot up and the developers triumph, it is where you go for foreign fruit, halal meat, exotic dry goods, cheaper domestic wares, direct calls to Dakkar, the . . .

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Press Release: Diggins, Eugene O’Neill’s America

May 3, 2007
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Press Release: Diggins, Eugene O’Neill’s America

In the face of seemingly relentless American optimism, Eugene O’Neill’s plays reveal an America many would like to ignore, a place of seething resentments, aching desires, and family tragedy, where failure and disappointment are the norm and the American dream a chimera. Though derided by critics during his lifetime, his works resonated with audiences, won him the Nobel Prize and four Pulitzer, and continue to grip theatergoers today. Now in Eugene O’Neill’s America: Desire Under Democracy noted historian John Patrick Diggins offers a masterly biography that both traces O’Neill’s tumultuous life and explains the forceful ideas that form the heart of his unflinching works. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Bevington, This Wide and Universal Theater

May 3, 2007
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Press Release: Bevington, This Wide and Universal Theater

A capstone to the career of a giant in Shakespearean scholarship, This Wide and Universal Theater: Shakespeare in Performance, Then and Now is the first book of its kind: an utterly accessible history of how the works of Shakespeare have been performed, from the Renaissance right up to the present—and even on the silver screen by such directors as Orson Welles, Roman Polanski, and Kenneth Branagh. The world’s leading expert on the subject, Bevington moves from the sparse stage sets of Elizabethan playhouses to the spectacular visual effects of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century productions to the present, which has seen companies employ far more understated approaches, emphasizing character and language in a manner much closer to Shakespeare’s own aims. Bringing a lifetime of study to bear on a remarkably underappreciated aspect of Shakespeare’s art, Bevington has crafted a book that will enthrall newcomers and aficionados alike. Read the press release. . . .

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