Books for the News

Friday remainders

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First up is Simon Kitson’s new book The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France, which seems to be receiving a bit of attention lately. Along with a piece in the New York Review of Books, the Literary Review also recently published an enthusiastic review of the book. Nigel Jones writes for the Literary Review:

Despite excitable claims on book jackets, the number of original historical discoveries that truly alter our thinking about the past are few and far between. All the more reason to celebrate, therefore, when the genuine article comes along: Simon Kitson’s brief study of a neglected area of the politics of Vichy France is just such a work.…
Our view of Vichy has been a uniformly black and white one—or rather, just black: that the regime presided over by Marshal; Pétain was pro-German, anti-Semitic, reactionary, ultra-Catholic and all in all a thoroughly bad thing. Kitson’s work challenges that view in one important aspect: the policy of Vichy’s military and police intelligence services was, in secret deed contrasting to its leaders’ words, anti-German.

Read an excerpt from the book.
Another revealing new work, David Shulman’s Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine was reviewed this week in the Nation:

Dark Hope is a diary of [Shulman’s] work, from 2002 to 2006, with Ta’ayush, the Palestinian-Israeli group that has taken up the most difficult and dangerous hands-on work of peacemaking: it brings convoys of medicine and food into the West Bank and helps Palestinian farmers harvest their wheat and olives, its members often placing themselves physically between groups of wild-eyed gun-toting settlers and Palestinian peasants simply trying to sow their fields.… Shulman’s book offers the record of a thousand piercing particulars, indignities too “small” to make the headlines but when taken together point directly to a systematic policy of injustice of the largest and most appalling dimensions. It is, indeed, this sense of skewed scale—the activists’ humble gestures pitted against a huge military-ideological machine—that makes the book so wrenching.

Read an excerpt from the book.
Publishers Weekly ran a nice review this Monday of Newton N. Minow and Craig L. LaMay’s Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future, citing the timeliness and relevance of the book as we head closer to the 2008 presidential elections. Scroll about halfway down the on the PW review web page to find the review.
Chicago Life published a review this week of Chicago under Glass: Early Photographs from the Chicago Daily News, calling Mark Jacob and Richard Cahan’s collection of rare photographs from early twentieth-century Chicago “a book made to order for all who love Chicago photography, history, sports, politics—you name it.” Read the review on the Chicago Life website.
Last but not least, the February 20th New York Sun ran an interesting review of Ross Hamilton’s Accident: A Philosophical and Literary History. In the review Simon Blackburn calls Hamilton’s book a “vast and serious canvas” of “accident” as a concept, ranging from the Aristotelian categories of accident and substance, to the modern vernacular understanding—all “brought together by the paradoxical idea that it is the accidents that happen to us that determine our essential nature.” Read the review on the New York Sun website.