Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

March 7, 2006
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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

History Today‘s March 2006 issue features a review of Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957, winner of its Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2006 award. Julian Jackson praised the book: "Superb…. This is scholarly history, but it is also the best kind of engaged history. Houlbrook clearly feels something was lost with the ‘respectable’ homosexuality of the 1950s although he is too good a historian to tell any black-and-white story. He sees the evolution he describes as ‘simultaneously liberating and exclusionary.’ If for some men the emergence of more private spaces after 1945 was ‘unequivocally affirmative, offering them opportunities to socialize in a safe, respectable and semi-private place,’ this process made things harder for those who wished—or were forced—to remain more visible. This is a book, finally, as much about London as about sexuality, demonstrating with empathy and subtlety both how sexuality was played out in the city and how it was shaped by it." History Today editor Peter Furtado calls the book " example of modern ‘queer history’ is an account of how gay people lived in London, which everyone, gay or straight, can relate to. Not written (as it might have . . .

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While discussing matters of style

March 6, 2006
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While discussing matters of style

Okay, we admit to occasionally reading the blog of Mimi Smartypants. She works in Chicago, for one thing, and so we are just trying to stay hip to the blogging scene in Chicago. It’s more than that though. As noted by Rebecca J. Roberts in the JournalStar of Lincoln, NE—a town whose hipness is vastly underrated—Ms. Smartypants is “unashamedly articulate and intelligent, with a twisted bent—someone you want to drink yourself silly with on dollar beers while discussing The Chicago Manual of Style and obsessive-compulsive disorder and oral sex, possibly all at the same time.” And you know how we like to talk about The Chicago Manual of Style. . . .

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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

March 6, 2006
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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

The Guardian‘s Steven Poole recently reviewed Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games: "Those who spend their nights pretending to be elves on the internet are, it appears, worthy of more than your bafflement or idle contempt, for this is the future of human society. Already, as the economist author points out, massive multiplayer online roleplaying games such as World of Warcraft host large economies whose apparently fictional currencies are traded against the real-life dollar, and political institutions are just as real in the virtual world as they are when housed in actual buildings.… Castronova’s discussion is detailed and thought-provoking, although … his optimism seems to underplay the fate of the underclass that will inevitably be locked out of these digital utopias: after all, some people will always have to maintain infrastructure and energy and food supplies while the rest sublime happily into cyberspace." Read an interview with Edward Castronova. . . .

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Review: Chiara Frugoni, A Day in a Medieval City

March 4, 2006
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Review: Chiara Frugoni, A Day in a Medieval City

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries recently reviewed Chiara Frugoni’s A Day in a Medieval City: "With its color illustrations of rare paintings and artifacts, this thoughtful and informative, elegantly fashioned excursion into the life of a medieval city is a veritable feast of information and visual delights. Frugoni is a marvelously experienced historical travel guide.… The translation is clear and unobtrusive, every page reflecting the author’s verve and intellectual curiosity.… Highly recommended." An opportunity to experience the daily hustle and bustle of life in the late Middle Ages, A Day in a Medieval City provides a captivating dawn-to-dark account of medieval life. A visual trek through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries—with seasoned historian and expert on medieval iconography Chiara Frugoni as guide—this book offers a vast array of images and vignettes that depicts the everyday hardships and commonplace pleasures for people living in the Middle Ages. . . .

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Review: Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb

March 3, 2006
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Review: Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb

The Gazette (Montreal) recently published a review of Peter De Vries’s novel The Blood of the Lamb: "De Vries was a master of puckish pedantry. His marvelously erudite sentences are often inverted and complex, but they always end up where he wants them.… humour is a welcome gleam of wry rationality shining through the dark clouds. This is a deeply touching book whose sincerity and universality are likely to ensure its future." The most poignant of all De Vries’s novels, The Blood of the Lamb is also the most autobiographical. It follows the life of Don Wanderhop from his childhood in an immigrant Calvinist family living in Chicago in the 1950s through the loss of a brother, his faith, his wife, and finally his daughter—a tragedy drawn directly from De Vries’s own life. Despite its foundation in misfortune, The Blood of the Lamb offers glimpses of the comic sensibility for which De Vries was famous. . . .

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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

March 2, 2006
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Who made this handprint on the cave wall?

In The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Dale Guthrie overturns many of the standard interpretations of the ancient cave paintings of the Paleolithic era. Among other things, Guthrie argues that many of the cave paintings were done by children and have similarities with present-day graffiti. Here is a short excerpt from the book: The Identity of the People Who Made the Handprints: Statistical Results “First, the statistical analyses tell us that the majority of the Paleolithic artists who left these handprint stencils in caves were young people. But they also show a great diversity of ages. As noted by other researchers, some prints were made by very young children (younger even than those in my baseline sample). Two hand images are so small that the toddler/baby had to have been carried back into the cave. These occur in Gargas Cave in southern France, which is unusual in having passageways that are easy to traverse and an easy entrance which remained open during much of the past. That is shown by the protohistoric, Gallo-Roman, and medieval graffiti carved in the cave wall. But this is not typical for Paleolithic caves; there are few deep caves one would try to visit with a . . .

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Review: Laura J. Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

March 2, 2006
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Review: Laura J. Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed Laura J. Miller’s Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption: "Though independent booksellers may believe they already understand all that there is to know about maintaining the delicate balance between economic success and cultural integrity, those who dip into Miller’s impressive examination will find their curiousity well rewarded.… A carefully articulated investigation." Publishers Weekly’s Ron Hogan interviewed Miller about Reluctant Capitalists. Read the interview here. . . .

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Author event: Gail Mazur, Zeppo’s First Wife

March 2, 2006
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Author event: Gail Mazur, Zeppo’s First Wife

Gail Mazur will read from Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems on March 4 at 8 p.m., at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Yesterday, the Provincetown Banner featured an article about Mazur. Sue Harrison asked Mazur if writing poems about her husband was off limits: "I’m unsentimental and I don’t write love poems," she says, adding that if she does there is usually some wry twist. An exception to that is "Air Drawing" from They Can’t Take That Away From Me, which was a National Book Award finalist. In that poem, Mazur takes a roundabout, unsentimental way to deal with love by recalling Mike’s brush with death. In the poem, the narrator is reading a mystery book and watching her husband sleep. I watch his right hand float in our bedroom’s midnight, inscribe forms by instinct on the air, arterial, calligraphic figures I’m too literal to follow… Is this the way it has to be — one of us always vigilant, watching over the unconscious other, the quick elusory tracings on the night’s space. That night two years ago in the hospital, tubes in his pale right hand, in his thigh, I asked myself, . . .

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Press release: Zhang Zhen, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen

March 2, 2006
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Press release: Zhang Zhen, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen

Chinese cinema is now celebrating its centennial at the same time it is garnering increasing exposure around the world. Thus this first history of film’s emergence in China, Zhang Zhen’s Amorous History of the Silver Screen couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Named after a major 1931 feature film on the making of Chinese cinema, only part of which survives today, this sustained historical study covers the full sweep of the country’s early cinematic history—from 1896, when the first film was screened in China; to 1905, when the first film was produced in the country; to 1937, when the Japanese invasion halted the exciting cinematic transformations then in progress.… Read the press release. . . .

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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

March 1, 2006
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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men. History’s fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn’t always been like this, and isn’t likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness. Ang Lee’s magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as . . .

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