Books for the News

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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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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Chicago Manual of Style Q&A

March 1, 2006
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Chicago Manual of Style Q&A

Clear, concise, and replete with commonsense advice, the fifteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition offers the wisdom of a hundred years of editorial practice while including a wealth of new topics and updated perspectives. For anyone who works with words, in any medium, this continues to be the one reference book you simply must have. However, even at nearly 1,000 pages, The Chicago Manual of Style can’t cover every detail. The Chicago Manual of Style Web site features a Q&A page, where the University of Chicago Press’s manuscript editing department interprets the Manual‘s recommendations and uncoils its intricacies. Anyone can submit a question to the Q&A. Every month new questions are featured—and answered—on the site. Here are some recent Q&As: Q. A colleague insists that this sentence is both ungrammatical and misuses a metaphor: "One of the major benefits of cloned stem cells could be as a more accurate window on diseases." While I think the sentence is clumsy, I don’t see the mistake in grammar. And, while "accurate window" also isn’t elegant, a quick search on the Web turned up plenty of uses of "accurate window" on reputable academic and government agency sites. Who’s right? . . .

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Paleolithic handprints

February 27, 2006
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Paleolithic handprints

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 an illustration and short excerpt from the book: Missing Fingers in Art: Ritual, Disease, Frostbite, or Kids Playing? “Many hand images in the French Gargas-Tibran cave complex and Cosquer and in Maltravieso Cave in Spain appear to have missing fingers or other malformations. These “disfigured” hands have fueled discussions for the last 100 years. Groenen (1987) has provided a review of this debate. The central issue, of course, is that virtually all apparent mutilations are also replicable by simply contorting fingers in the stenciled hand (as one does in shadow art). But many people still insist that these represent real ritual amputations. “More recent speculation on possible causes of these disfigured hands has focused on Raynaud’s disease, in which capillaries fail to respond normally by flushing with warm blood when hands or feet get cold. I find this explanation unconvincing, because Raynaud’s disease is seldom expressed in young men (Larson 1996), and the hands . . .

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John Yoo interviewed on NPR

February 23, 2006
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John Yoo interviewed on NPR

John Yoo, author of The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11, was interviewed by Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning. Yoo explained his view of the president’s expansive power in times of war, and the role of Congressional review and oversight. He also said that it’s “an exaggeration” that his views give the President “unlimited power.” We also have an interview with Yoo on our website. . . .

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Forbes interview with Peter Bearman

February 22, 2006
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Forbes interview with Peter Bearman

Last week, Forbes interviewed Peter Bearman, author of Doormen. Combining observation, interviews, and survey information, Doormen provides a deep and enduring ethnography of the occupational role of doormen, the dynamics of the residential lobby, and the mundane features of highly consequential social exchanges between doormen and tenants. From the Forbes interview: To me, money is…Because I am a sociologist, I conducted a survey to get the answer to this question. Twenty-three percent of my respondents said that money was a "mixed blessing." Eleven percent thought that money was "potent." The rest of the people I talked to—pretty much everyone in New York City—thought that money is always a better choice than cookies for their doorman’s holiday bonus. Read more about the Christmas Bonus in an excerpt from Doormen. Read the New Yorker feature on Bearman and Kieran Healy’s review of Doormen. . . .

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"Acting white"

February 21, 2006
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"Acting white"

"Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." —Barack Obama, Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention, 2004 Ron Netsky, a writer for City (Rochester, NY), observed that the term "acting white" has been appearing in the media a lot lately (most recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times) . Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu popularized the term in a study published in Urban Review in 1986. Fordham is also the author of Blacked Out: Dilemmas of Race, Identity, and Success at Capital High, a book which explores academic achievement within the Black community and the price students pay for attaining it. Earlier this month, Netsky interviewed Fordham about Black education issues and what it means to "act white." City: In Blacked Out, you write that one of the things that seems to make the education process difficult is generational. Fordham: After the Brown decision and the Civil Rights act—in the 1960s . . .

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Cowboys and Presidents

February 20, 2006
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Cowboys and Presidents

What did Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon have in common? They both loved the Wild West. Roosevelt, a native New Yorker, molded himself into a cowboy. In his twenties, he worked as a cattle rancher in the Dakotas. He spent thirteen-hour days in the saddle, breaking in wild cow ponies, and fighting off cattle thieves and roaming gangs. Why did he do this? According to Sarah Watts, author of Rough Rider in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Desire, sensed that ordinary men needed a clearly recognizable and easily appropriated hero who enacted themes about the body; the need for extremity, pain, and sacrifice; and the desire to exclude some men and bond with others. In one seamless cowboy-soldier-statesman-hero life, Roosevelt crafted the cowboy ethos consciously and lived it zealously, providing men an image and a fantasy enlisted in service to the race-nation. Nixon, it turns out, was the type of man who believed in such heroes. Mark Feeney, author of Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief, writes that Nixon screened fifty-six Westerns during his five year tenure in office. Twenty of these Westerns were directed by John Ford. In an interview on . . .

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James Frey and Norman Maclean

February 20, 2006
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James Frey and Norman Maclean

A passage about the truth-telling power of fiction, from the closing paragraphs of Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It, is being cited in commentary about James Frey and his apparently fictionalized memoir A Million Little Pieces. (For example, this piece by John MacDonald in the Arizona Republic.) Near the end of the story, Norman’s father speaks to him: “You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” he asked, and I answered, “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.” Then he asked, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it? “Only then will you understand what happened and why.” We have an excerpt from the opening pages of the novella. . . .

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Ancient Graffiti

February 15, 2006
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Ancient Graffiti

Contrary to popular belief, not all ancient cave art was created by senior male shamans. R. Dale Guthrie, author of The Nature of Paleolithic Art, reveals that many graphic scenes of sex and hunting were drawn by teenage male "graffiti artists." In an interview with LiveScience, Guthrie said, "Lots of the wild animals in the caves have spears in them and blood coming out of their mouths and everything that a hunter would be familiar with. These were the Ferraris and football games of their time. They painted what was on their minds." The LiveScience feature on Guthrie, which is accompanied by four cave images, can be read . . .

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