Monthly Archives: September 2007

Review: Rozario, The Culture of Calamity

September 6, 2007
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Review: Rozario, The Culture of Calamity

It is always interesting to see the kind of reception books about America receive overseas, which is why a recent review of Kevin Rozario’s The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America in London’s Daily Telegraph caught our eye. The book is a comprehensive survey of the various ways both natural and manmade disasters have shaped American culture, but reviewer Lucy Moore also devotes much of her article to Rozario’s explanation of how America’s rich and powerful have been able to exploit these disasters to meet their own ideological and economic ends. Moore writes: As Rozario shows, the resilience and optimism with which Americans have traditionally met adversity have become increasingly susceptible throughout the 20th century and into the 21st to manipulation. All too often, disaster mitigation has been subordinate to the demands of development. From 1927 onwards in the Mississippi River basin, government relief acts have funded vast new areas of construction, often on wetlands which used to act as flood barriers. Flooding, when it inevitably reoccurs, is far more severe in areas where artificial defenses have been built. As Rozario observes, “if calamities enable progress, ‘progress’ itself often seems only to increase human vulnerability to . . .

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Review: Kemp, The Human Animal in Western Art and Science

September 5, 2007
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Review: Kemp, The Human Animal in Western Art and Science

Martin Kemp’s soon-to-be-published The Human Animal in Western Art and Science was given a noteworthy review in today’s New York Sun. Praising the book for its exploration of the many fascinating intersections between man and beast in western culture, reviewer Eric Ormsby writes for the Sun: is based on the Louise Smith Bross Lectures that Mr. Kemp gave at the Art Institute of Chicago in April 2000 and that he has revised and expanded, supplementing his witty and erudite text with some 185 marvelous illustrations. His theme is “humanized animals and animalized humans” and he ranges widely to explore it. Beginning with a lucid (and rather gruesomely illustrated) discussion of the four humours, which humans and animals were thought to share, Mr. Kemp moves through the centuries. Dürer, Cranach, Da Vinci, and Rembrandt may occupy pride of place, and rightly so, but many fascinating, lesser known figures appear as well. These include the brilliant Charles Le Brun in 17th-century France, whose drawings of human facial expressions from despair to astonishment are one of the marvels of the volume, as well as the half-mad Viennese sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, whose contorted portraits of . . .

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Ashley Gilbertson in Mother Jones magazine

September 4, 2007
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Ashley Gilbertson in Mother Jones magazine

Ashley Gilbertson’s new book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Iraq War has received some pre-publication praise in an article published in this month’s edition of Mother Jones. Ted Genoways begins his article by arguing that much of the recent war reportage from Iraq has been corrupted by bad reporting and bias, but offers Gilbertson’s forthcoming book as a much needed corrective. Genoways writes: Thankfully, we have writers and photographers like Gilbertson, now working primarily on contract for the New York Times, who have not given up on the idea of real reporting. The photographs in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot convey a clear eyed fidelity to the facts. They include pictures of corpses and bleeding soldiers, pictures of officers practicing golf swings and enjoying saunas, and pictures of incarcerated prisoners and brutal interrogations. The lurid and the ludicrous share equal space often to dizzying effect. The text is refreshingly direct and self deprecating—whether revealing Gilbertson’s embarrassment at wetting his pants under fire or his agony and post-traumatic stress after being splattered by the brains of the man in front of him on patrol. This is the kind of reporting we so desperately need: free of false bravura, free of . . .

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Press Release: Hearne, Tricks of the Light

September 4, 2007
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Press Release: Hearne, Tricks of the Light

Vicki Hearne, best known and celebrated today as a writer of strikingly original poetry and prose, was a skillful dog and horse trainer, and sometimes controversial animal advocate. Before her untimely death in 2001, she entrusted her last manuscript to distinguished poet, scholar, and long-time friend John Hollander. This manuscript became Tricks of the Light, the definitive Vicki Hearne collection that spans the entirety of her illustrious career, from the 1980 publication of her first book to never-before-published poems composed on her deathbed. These poignant meditations on life and death possess a rare combination of philosophical speculation, boundary-shattering lyricism, and an unusually elegant style that became Hearne’s trademark. Tricks of the Light—acute, vibrant, and deeply informed—is a sensuous reckoning of the connection between humans and the natural world. Read the press release. . . .

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