Reviews

Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

February 8, 2006
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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

Tim Harford reviewed nine popular economics books in the Chronicle of Higher Education, including Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games. Harford says that "Synthetic Worlds is a surprisingly profound book about the social, political, and economic issues arising from the emergence of vast multiplayer games on the Internet. What Castronova has realized is that these games, where players contribute considerable labor in exchange for things they value, are not merely like real economies, they are real economies, displaying inflation, fraud, Chinese sweatshops, and some surprising in-game innovations." Harford also wrote a longer review of the book last month for the Financial Times; that review is available on his website. You can also read our interview with Castronova. . . .

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Review: Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cézanne and Provence

February 7, 2006
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Review: Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cézanne and Provence

Aruna D’Souza reviewed four new books on Cézanne in the new issue of Bookforum, including Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture: "Cézanne and Provence manages definitively to rewrite this canonical artistic biography, in part through Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s close interrogation of the particular valence of Cézanne’s embrace of a Provençal regionalism in the last decades of his life, and through her examination of his ties to the culture of his birth throughout his career. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s thesis is simple and elegant: that Cézanne, far from being disengaged from the world in a hermitlike search for optical truth, was part of a group of intellectuals that included his closest childhood friends (such as, most familiarly, the poet and nationalist Joachim Gasquet) and whose Provençal patriotism was not at all out of step with a general regionalist impulse that took hold outside Paris in the mid-1880s. Thus, this group’s desire to preserve traditional Provençal culture, language, customs, and artifacts—all of which were being threatened by the homogenizing forces of modernization, industrialization, political centralization, and urban mass culture—was not part of a reactionary conservatism, argues Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, but (at least in those early years, before 1900) was perfectly in concert with leftist . . .

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Review: Martin J. S. Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

February 3, 2006
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Review: Martin J. S. Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

The latest issue of the London Review of Books features a nice review of Martin J. S. Rudwick’s Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. Here is an excerpt from the review, written by Richard Fortey: "To describe Rudwick as scholarly is rather like describing Mozart as musically talented. He is omniscient, and it’s greatly to be wished that this book becomes known beyond the ranks of historians of the recondite. His story stops just as Charles Lyell appears, to become one of the major players in geology, and he promises us a subsequent volume on the development of the ideas of this pivotal figure. In Lyell, we have a British scientist who genuinely earned his place in the pantheon." . . .

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Review: Michele de La Pradelle, Market Day in Provence

February 3, 2006
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Review: Michele de La Pradelle, Market Day in Provence

William Grimes reviews a half-dozen books about France in today’s New York Times, including Michèle de La Pradelle’s Market Day in Provence. “Ms. de La Pradelle,” says Grimes, “an ethnologist who was sent by the French government to analyze public markets, spent years scrutinizing the goods and the behavior and the underlying rules governing the market in Carpentras. Her findings amount to a cold shower for anyone, like myself, who has constructed a rich fantasy life around such places. All those farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, those delectable cheeses, those mouth-watering pâtés, come from the same wholesalers who supply the stores. The region switched over to large-scale industrial farming way back in the 1920’s. ‘A market is a collectively produced anachronism, and in this it responds to deeply contemporary logic,’ she says.” The point is well made in our excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Georgi M. Derluguian, Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus

February 2, 2006
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Review: Georgi M. Derluguian, Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus

The Times Literary Supplement just published this favorable review by Charles King: "Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is, without a doubt, the most engaging and deeply analytical guide to this knotty region to have been produced in the past decade.… Georgi Derluguian tells how much of Eurasia, in only a decade and a half, traded the promise of liberty and democracy for a political and moral captivity that will be difficult to escape. Clever, original and at times downright funny, Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is both an intimate biography of an unusual Circassian sociologist and an epic account of an entire generation’s trek through modernity. It uncovers the hidden logic behind the tragedies and horrors of the Caucasus—indeed, of the entire late twentieth-century world—and shows how seemingly senseless acts of violence have discernible, and often rather pedestrian, causes." . . .

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Review: Louise W. Knight, Citizen

January 31, 2006
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Review: Louise W. Knight, Citizen

Alan Wolfe recently reviewed Louise W. Knight’s Citizen in the New York Times: "Knight’s book is what the Germans call a bildung, an account of how a person’s character is formed. As it happens, Knight’s decision to focus on Addam’s early years is a stroke of genius. We know a great deal about Jane Addams the public figure. We know relatively little about how she made the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. In Knight’s book, Jane Addams comes to life.… Knight’s book is filled with fascinating detail about everyday life at Hull House, from the way residents were selected, to the fundraising difficulties that emerged as Addams exhausted her personal wealth, to an absorbing account of Addam’s life as a Chicago garbage inspector. Knight’s extensive research and straightforward narrative allow readers to watch Addams gain self-confidence, survive a breakup with Starr and the formation of a new relationship with Mary Rozet Smith, wrestle with her desire to help immigrants even as she disdains much about their way of life, and try to establish democracy at Hull House while remaining reluctant to cede control of its destiny.… Knight, an independent scholar, has something in common with . . .

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Review: Sylvia Lovegren, Fashionable Food

January 25, 2006
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Review: Sylvia Lovegren, Fashionable Food

The Guardian (UK) recently praised Sylvia Lovegren’s Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. From the review: "The lowdown on every fad imaginable is here, within two covers. That they are mostly American is not a problem. What was good for the US was invariably a showstopper here too. Great recipes (if you can stomach them), grand stories. Amusing." Read an excerpt featuring eight recipes. . . .

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Review: Carlo Rotella, Cut Time

January 25, 2006
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Review: Carlo Rotella, Cut Time

The sports section of the Daily Telegraph featured a review of Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, Carlo Rotella’s acclaimed book on boxing. From the review by Andrew Baker: “Rotella’s guiding philosophy is honesty, both with the fighters he encounters and with his own reactions to what he sees. And, unusually among American academics, he practises a beautifully pared-down prose style, with little pretention and none of the hyperbole that afflicts so many boxing writers. He may lack the wit of A J Liebling, say, but his insight more than makes up for it.” You can judge Rotella’s prose style and wit in this excerpt. . . .

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Review: William Howland Kenney, Jazz on the River

January 23, 2006
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Review: William Howland Kenney, Jazz on the River

"The romance, the misery and the music of migration are all captured in William Howland Kenney’s Jazz on the River, a book that narrates a history that couldn’t be captured merely by doting on scratchy records, tattered scores and old reviews. It was commonly known that jazz was born in New Orleans and made its way up the Mississippi, but until Kenney no one had investigated the makers of the boats and the conditions of the musicians who worked on them. And no study before this one ever charted that northern migration so that we can appreciate the artists and how their musical communities were formed, giving us new ways to appreciate the Pittsburgh of Billy Strayhorn, Art Blakey, and Mary Lou Williams, the St. Louis of Miles Davis…. ntil Kenney’s book we never got to feel what…the riverboat gig was actually like. What we get in this book, with lucid prose and meticulous research, is a geographical and cultural context for the figures who would eventually become canonical, providing a vital new backdrop for music and anecdotes that had seemed well trodden…. As for actually placing jazz in its historical and cultural context in America, Kenney is among the . . .

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