This week has been a tragic one in the world of cinema. Both Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, and his colleague Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni passed away within hours of one another this Monday, July 30th 2007; a coincidence that is perhaps indicative of the creative and intellectual space shared by the two masters of modern moviemaking. Both filmmakers became well known for their radically innovative visual styles and insightful explorations of modern society, and both have left behind a legacy of filmmakers and fans heavily influenced by their works, evidenced by the many articles published recently to mark their passing.
The New York Times has published several fascinating retrospectives on the two directors, and Roger Ebert, who discusses Bergman’s films in Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert has also posted an article on Bergman to his website. But for those interested in more in-depth study, the press has two new books: the forthcoming The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema—a collection of essays, theory, and autobiographical sketches of Michelangelo Antonioni’s life and work, and the recently published The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography—a fascinating portrait of the life of the late Ingmar Bergman. One of . . .
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Pulitzer prize winning writer Russell Baker recently published an interesting review of several new books about the tenuous state of American journalism focusing on topics like Rupert Murdoch’s recent takeover of the Wall Street Journal, and the growing scarcity of substantive news coverage. In the review written for the August 16 New York Review of Books, Baker cites Lance W. Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston’s When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina to argue that many modern news sources have already shown alarming signs of failure in their obligation to keep the public informed in a fair and unbiased way, especially as evidenced by the media’s dealings with the current Bush administration. Baker writes:
Assignment to Washington is one of the highest prizes a newspaper has to offer, and not surprisingly the Washington press is an elite group: well-educated, well-paid, talented, at ease among the mighty, a bit smug perhaps about knowing secrets others don’t, but for the most part sensitive to an obligation to keep the public informed without fear or prejudice. Yet they failed this obligation during the Bush years, the authors of When The Press Fails contend, . . .
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As creatures of finite lifespan, capable of both learning about the past and imagining the future, humans are naturally fascinated with the concept of time. Questions of the origins of the earth, the universe, and humanity have been perpetual preoccupations, eliciting some of humanity’s most trenchant thought—and most heated debates. With A Natural History of Time, Pascal Richet tells the fascinating story of attempts over centuries to determine the age of the earth. Featuring such luminaries as Hesiod, Leonardo, Descartes, and Newton, A Natural History of Time marries the pleasures of history to the drama of scientific discovery, giving readers a chance to marvel at just how far our knowledge—and our planet—have come.
Read the press release.
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The front page of the Sunday, July 29th edition of the New York Times book review is running an article by Harvard professor Samantha Power about several new books offering alternatives to the current combat strategies employed in Iraq. Posing the question of what can be done now that we have positioned ourselves in the middle of a difficult and prolonged conflict, Powers begins her article with a review of The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual—a book that she argues might hold the key to reversing the American military’s dwindling returns in Iraq. Powers writes:
Criticizing the calamities of the last six years of American foreign policy has become all too easy. And it does not itself improve our approach to combating terrorist threats that do in fact loom large—larger, in fact, because of Bush’s mistakes.… Several new books take up this challenge, each addressing a different piece of the national security predicament. Together, they allow one to begin to define a new approach to counterterrorism.…
The book to begin with in looking for a revised 21st-century strategy is, unexpectedly, the landmark The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. It was released as a government document in December . . .
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We came across several new reviews of Angus McLaren’s Impotence: A Cultural History floating around the ether recently, one of them on Nerve.com, a site Wikipedia describes as an “American online hipster magazine dedicated to sex, relationships and culture.” The review, written by Nerve’s Craig Davidson, begins with his own personal story about this dreaded affliction, and then segues into a more substantive review of the book. We figured we had to mention it here as it definitely qualifies as one of the more unconventional reviews any of our books has received lately.
Impotence was also reviewed in Canada’s Edmonton Journal by freelancer Karen Virag. Her piece, though a little more conventional, delivers a favorable review of McLaren’s new book:
Volumes have been published about the suppression of female sexuality. Now Angus McLaren, a University of Victoria historian, provides an extraordinarily detailed, readable, fascinating and, if you will pardon me, penetrating counterpoint on male sexuality and how it has been manipulated and exploited over the centuries by constantly morphing models of masculinity.…
McLaren set himself a delicate and difficult task—writing a scholarly yet accessible work that can be read both by the general reader and a specialist in this . . .
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The Los Angeles Times ran an article in Sunday’s paper that briefly reviews two new books, Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during World War II and The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, each of which offers similar insights on the current situation in Iraq, though from two very different perspectives. Pairing the knowledge of today’s military experts with the suggestions issued by the U.S. War Department to soldiers posted in Iraq during WWII, the L. A. Times David Ulin writes:
Just in time for the renewal of the war debate in Congress, the University of Chicago Press has released The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, a thick guide to strategy—military and otherwise—with forewords by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. James F. Amos.…Especially interesting is a section called “Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency Operations,” which tells us: “Sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction” and “Sometimes, the more force is used, the less effective it is.”
In conjunction with the Field Manual, the University of Chicago Press has also put out Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq During World War II—a historical oddity that sheds a certain unintended light upon our current woes. Among its suggestions? . . .
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Last Saturday’s Chicago Tribune ran a great piece on David Grene’s recently published memoir Of Farming and Classics—a wonderfully original account of the author’s double life as a preeminent professor of classics at the University of Chicago and hard-working, old-fashioned farmer in rural Illinois and Ireland. Staff reporter Ron Grossman writes for the Tribune’s Books section:
David Grene could easily be described with the cliché “last of a breed,” but he was also the first of his kind. Or, at least, the first in a long time.
In 1937 he came to the University of Chicago to teach classics and, a few years later, bought a farm near Lemont. It wasn’t a hobby farm. Working the land himself, Grene disdained tractors in favor of horses, often coming to class with manure-caked boots. He later farmed in his native Ireland.
His personal style reincarnated that of the Roman aristocrats, with their love of the soil and taste for good books. Greek literature traces to Hesiod’s Works and Days, with its anticipation of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a poetic tour of the agricultural year. Plantation owners in the antebellum South could often conjugate Latin verbs, but in the 20th Century, the . . .
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Last Tuesday Under the Blue Light, the official blog for the Indiana Review, published a positive review of The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing Since 1880—D. G. Myers’s recent book exploring more than a century of debate over how writing should be taught and whether it can or should be taught in the classroom.
The August 2007 issue of the Scientific American contains a brief review of Dorothy Cheney and Richard Seyfarth’s new book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. The review takes note of the author’s unique project to go beyond a study of these primate’s complicated social organization to document and explore the intelligence that underlies it.
PopMatters, an energetic webzine for everything in the zeitgeist, features a nice piece on their books blog Re: Print about Angus McLaren’s new book Impotence: A Cultural History. Blog contributor Jason B. Jones gives a short overview of the book followed up by an interview with the author.
Finally, John Ibson, author of Picturing Men, recently wrote an article about the taboos surrounding American male intimacy and its cultural and social norms. First published in American Sexuality magazine, it was picked up by online alternative news source AlterNet where . . .
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The July 5 London Review of Books contains a great review of Angus McLaren’s Impotence: A Cultural History penned by celebrity shrink Adam Phillips. Noting the significant cultural implications of McLaren’s historical study of male sexual impotence Phillips writes:
Like most of the cures for impotence that Angus McLaren describes in his panoramic study, there was very little ‘evidence’ that they worked. And yet it was, and still is, difficult to staunch the flow of more or less magical solutions for the perennial problem. ‘The market is flooded with various appliances which are guaranteed to be sure cures,’ a progressive physician grumbled in 1912. ‘It goes without saying that most of them are worthless frauds.’ What has also gone without saying, McLaren shows, is that the untold history of impotence is a history of many things, most obviously of gender relations, but less obviously— and this is implicit in his book, rather than spelled out—of our will to believe. Impotence raises the question of what wanting to believe something is a solution to, as well as making us wonder what counts as a solution. Erection on demand is a strange cultural ideal but a persistent one, and it tells . . .
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