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Review: Brown, Richard Hofstadter

August 17, 2006
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Review: Brown, Richard Hofstadter

Adding to the large amount of attention this book has received recently, September’s Washington Monthly features a two page review of David S. Brown’s Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography. According to the reviewer, Jacob Heilbrunn, “Brown has written an account worthy of Hofstadter himself: wry, humane, and illuminating”—a very gracious compliment considering Hofstadter’s extensive corpus of works, many of which, due to their sharp insights and engaging style, are considered classics in their field. Here’s an excerpt from the review: A biography of a historian seems fated, more often than not, to be a rather boring affair. Unless the historian has played a leading role in great events, it’s hard to imagine what even the most diligent biographer can uncover. That his subject read a lot of books, took copious notes, visited libraries and archives, and sat behind a desk, or, these days, computer screen, for a good part of the day? Somehow David S. Brown has surmounted these obstacles to produce a biography of Richard Hofstadter, the historian and author (The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life), that is not only a revelation, but also a fascinating read. Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 16, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

A review of John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool in this month’s issue of The Wire commends the book, calling Gennari’s in-depth look at the history of jazz criticism “superb,” “nuanced,” and “insightful.” The review focuses on Gennari’s penetrating argument that jazz criticism has not only played an essential role in documenting the jazz tradition but, to a large extent, has been responsible for creating that tradition. Yet most interesting about The Wire review is its acknowledgment of Gennari’s work as his own addendum to that tradition— his attempt to “write his academic self” into the “problematic history” of jazz criticism which he describes. If The Wire article is any indication, Gennari’s work will continue to make an impact in circles beyond the walls of the academy. From The Wire: focuses on what he calls jazz’s “superstructure”—its critics essentially, but also some of its businessmen—to analyze what a much related story says, or almost says, about about racial and cultural politics in the American 20th century.… An account of Leonard Feather’s 1935 encounter with John Hammond sets up key themes of distance, engagement, and responsibility. Gennari has the pair at the Savoy in Harlem to hear Teddy Hill, pushing . . .

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Review: Ades, The Dada Reader

August 15, 2006
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Review: Ades, The Dada Reader

In the August 11 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education columnist Richard Byrne takes note of the recent “flurry of scholarly work” that “has opened up new vistas in the history of Dada.” Byrne reviews several new contributions to the subject including The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. An excerpt from Byrne’s review follows: Expanding Dada’s reach and placing it in a wider context is the aim of another new collection, The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. Edited by Dawn Ades, a professor of art history and theory at the University of Essex, The Dada Reader pulls together the key excerpts from the explosion of Dada journals between 1916 and 1924. Not only does the new anthology present dozens of texts that have never been available in English, but it also brings in journals far from Dada’s traditional loci in Switzerland, Germany, France, and the United States—including ones from the Netherlands and Yugoslavia. The revolutionary Dada movement, though short-lived, produced a vast amount of creative work in both art and literature during the years that followed World War I. Rejecting all social and artistic conventions, Dadaists went to the extremes of provocative behavior, creating anti-art pieces that ridiculed and . . .

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Review: Timmermans, Postmortem

August 12, 2006
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Review: Timmermans, Postmortem

Stefan Timmermans’s Postmortem: How Medical Examiners Explain Suspicious Deaths recently underwent something of a medical examination itself. The August 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association features a review commending Timmermans, a professor of sociology, for his “perceptive, insightful, and revealing view of the profession.” A quote follows: Sociologists rigorously scrutinize as outsiders professions that they study and, consequently, are often received as excessively critical and naive. This is certainly true of medical sociologists. I noted that many of my colleagues viewed this work with skepticism and concern. However, Timmermans asks hard and penetrating questions that the forensic pathology community needs to be asking itself and that others are already asking in court and in budget committees. Timmermans speaks to professional and cultural components of a “forensic authority” for investigations of suspicious deaths, which derives from a societal need for “death-brokering,” from a legal mandate to investigate suspicious deaths, and from scientific expertise. In so doing, he does not merely describe the work of forensic pathologists or interesting cases but instead probes the foundations of forensic pathology practices. … Postmortem is a wake-up call to forensic pathology, and every practitioner should read it. The book should be . . .

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Review: Fields, Classic Rough News

August 12, 2006
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Review: Fields, Classic Rough News

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Review: Lewis, Cracking Up

August 9, 2006
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Review: Lewis, Cracking Up

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Review: Brown, Richard Hofstadter

August 7, 2006
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Review: Brown, Richard Hofstadter

Sam Tanenhaus has written a detailed four page review of David S. Brown’s Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography which ran in both the August 4 edition of the International Herald Tribune as well as the New York Times Book Review of August 6. Tanenhuas calls Brown’s work “intelligent and stimulating” citing Brown’s ability to “admirably balance his respect for his subject with a critical distance,” that allows Brown to achieve an unparalleled degree of authenticity in his account of the legacy of one of liberalism’s most celebrated and respected intellectuals. The author of The American Political Tradition and the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, Richard Hofstadter was one of the most important historians of twentieth-century America. His championing of the liberal politics that came out of the New Deal, his fierce opposition to McCarthyism and then the acolytes of Barry Goldwater, and the many ideas that he introduced to our nation’s political conversation shaped not only the way we think of the historian’s role in civic life, but steered the direction of American politics as well. David S. Brown’s Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography explores Hofstadter’s remarkable life story in the context of the rise and fall of American liberalism. . . .

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Review: Schabas, The Natural Origins of Economics

August 4, 2006
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Review: Schabas, The Natural Origins of Economics

The economy is ubiquitous in modern life. From the choice of what type of automobile we drive, to where we live, and which books we read, the economy influences nearly every decision we make. Yet, despite its importance to our daily lives, economists have often struggled to define the organizing principles behind its unpredictable behavior. In a recent review in the Times Literary Supplement David Thorsby praises Margaret Schabas’s The Natural Origins of Economics for its detailed look at the historical struggle to gain an intellectual perspective on the economy. A quote from the review: Although early economic thinkers drew much inspiration from nature…the concept of the economy as an autonomous entity did not start to take shape until the first half of the nineteenth century. The transformation mirrored a transformation that was occuring in the political economy itself, from an intellectual discourse deriving its inspiration from the natural sciences to one oriented towards the behavior of individuals, in which nature was relegated to the sidelines. Margaret Schabas’s fascinating book, The Natural Origins of Economics, charts the progress of this transformation, beginning not with Bacon and Descartes but with the origins of formal economics in the moral philosophy of the . . .

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Review: Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

August 3, 2006
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Review: Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

If you’re reading this then you’re probably already aware of how much digital technology has insinuated itself into our daily routines. But just how much could we, or should we, devote to our online lives? The weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal recently ran a review of two books about the increasing popularity of “virtual realities” including our own Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: Mr. Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds argues that virtual reality is a thriving place with millions of inhabitants world-wide. And it bears close watching… Synthetic Worlds explains the trend, obvious to anyone who has dipped into the online subculture over time, that virtual worlds are populated differently now than they used to be: they began as the province of nerds and outcasts but are now approaching the mainstream—as reflected in recent media reports and the increasing share of quotes in such coverage drawn from the housewife and married-dad demographics. Read an interview with the author, or check out his blog. . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 1, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

The July 28, 2006, issue of Financial Times ran a review of John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics in which resident jazz critic Mike Hobart doesn’t hesitate to rain praise on Gennari’s latest work: This is a book about jazz in which the music is in the background, for John Gennari’s main concern is a critique of jazz criticism from the 1930’s to the present. Densley researched, broadly partisan and compiled with a wry sense of humor, Blowin’ Hot and Cool still manages to reveal much about jazz, and more about the lives of its musicians than many recent hagiographies.… His account opens in the 1930’s, with two patrician figures of great infulence: John Hammond and his English acolyte, Leonard Feather. Negotiating a racially segregated world of thrill seekers, jitterbugs, and the communist party’s popular fronts, they fought for racial integration and jazz as an art, yet fell out over the authenticity of modern jazz. In the process they discovered Count Basie and Billie Holiday, recorded Bessie Smith, and persuaded Benny Goodman to drop schmaltz. Our excerpt from the first chapter talks more about Feather and Hammond. Gennari also outlined a soundtrack for the book. . . .

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