Reviews

Review: Kenney, Jazz on the River

April 26, 2006
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Review: Kenney, Jazz on the River

The Journal of American History recently reviewed William Howland Kenney’s Jazz on the River: "The history of how riverboat entertainment venues shaped the evolution of jazz receives long-overdue analysis in this thorough and sensitive study.… By locating jazz ‘on the river,’ Kenney draws a picture of the Jazz Age that shifts attention from the nightclubs and dance halls of major cities, broadening the social and occupational histories of the first four decades of jazz performance. His portrait of aspiring musicians who used the river to enhance their social mobility also brings a new dimension to our understanding of the Great Migration. For Kenney, the shifting racial and cultural tensions communicated through jazz resound as jazzmen riff on the ever-shifting currents of these great heartland rivers." In Jazz on the River, William Howland Kenney brings to life the vibrant history of this music and its seduction of the men and women along America’s inland waterways. Here for the first time readers can learn about the lives and music of the levee roustabouts promoting riverboat jazz and their relationships with such great early jazz adventurers as Louis Armstrong, Fate Marable, Warren "Baby" Dodds, and Jess Stacy. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Bruegmann, Sprawl

April 26, 2006
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Review: Bruegmann, Sprawl

The London Review of Books recently praised Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History. From the review by Andrew Saint: "To judge whether sprawl is a symptom of global capitalism at its most rampant and wasteful … technical arguments must be addressed. Bruegmann takes us through them lucidly and economically, neither flinching from nor getting mired in detail, and steering deftly between neo-con smugness and liberal anguish. These qualities make Sprawl a textbook for our times." In his incisive history of the expanded city, Bruegmann overturns every assumption we have about sprawl. Taking a long view of urban development, he demonstrates that sprawl is neither recent nor particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, and choice that were once the exclusive prerogatives of the rich and powerful. Read an excerpt. . . .

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

April 25, 2006
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Review: Derluguian, Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus

The New Left Review recently published a lengthy review of Georgi M. Derluguian’s Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus: A World-System Biography. From the review by David Laitin: "Derluguian’s method of elaborating class formations, their reformations and historical alliances through the technique of ethnography is an ingenious juxtaposition, making for a text that is both sociologically revealing and narratively gripping. His is a new form of class analysis, based on observation of the micro-sociological details of everyday life; but it also projects the political implications of those ground-level class alliances, and helps to reveal the processes that turn susceptibility to violent breakdown into actuality…. Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus gives direction to future work on the perils of authoritarian decline." Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is a gripping account of the developmental dynamics involved in the collapse of Soviet socialism. Fusing a narrative of human agency to his critical discussion of structural forces, Georgi M. Derluguian reconstructs from firsthand accounts the life story of Musa Shanib—who from a small town in the Caucasus grew to be a prominent leader in the Chechen revolution. In his examination of Shanib and his keen interest in the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, . . .

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Review: Allen, Talking to Strangers

April 25, 2006
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Review: Allen, Talking to Strangers

The Boston Review recently reviewed Danielle Allen’s Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. From the review by Nick Bromell: "Allen understands that democracy originates in the subjective dimension of everyday life, and she focuses on what she calls our ‘habit of citizenship’—the ways we often unconsciously regard and interact with fellow citizens…. focus on race is entirely appropriate." "Don’t talk to strangers" is the advice long given to children by parents of all classes and races. Today it has blossomed into a fundamental precept of civic education, reflecting interracial distrust, personal and political alienation, and a profound suspicion of others. In Talking to Strangers, a powerful and eloquent essay, Danielle Allen, a 2002 MacArthur Fellow, takes this maxim back to Little Rock, rooting out the seeds of distrust to replace them with "a citizenship of political friendship." Read an excerpt and interview with the author. . . .

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Review: Valelly: The Two Reconstructions

April 17, 2006
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Review: Valelly: The Two Reconstructions

The American Prospect has praised Richard M. Valelly’s The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement. In the review, Robert Kuttner said, "Richard M. Valelly’s magisterial work The Two Reconstructions will stand for a long time as the definitive political analysis of racial suppression and redemption in American democracy." The Reconstruction era marked a huge political leap for African Americans, who rapidly went from the status of slaves to voters and officeholders. Yet this hard-won progress lasted only a few decades. Ultimately a "second reconstruction"—associated with the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act—became necessary. How did the first reconstruction fail so utterly, setting the stage for the complete disenfranchisement of Southern black voters, and why did the second succeed? These are among the questions Richard M. Valelly answers in this fascinating history. Read an op-ed by the author. . . .

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Review: Morus, When Physics Became King

April 14, 2006
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Review: Morus, When Physics Became King

The April issue of Physics Today features a glowing review of Iwan Rhys Morus’s When Physics Became King. Reviewer Robert M. Brain wrote: "Excellent.… A few good histories of physics during that remarkable age exist—but none as readable or comprehensive as Morus’s superb book." When Physics Became King traces the emergence of this revolutionary science, demonstrating how a discipline that barely existed in 1800 came to be regarded a century later as the ultimate key to unlocking nature’s secrets. A cultural history designed to provide a big-picture view, the book ably ties advances in the field to the efforts of physicists who worked to win social acceptance for their research. . . .

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Review: Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

April 13, 2006
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Review: Miller, Reluctant Capitalists

The rise and dominance of superstore chains in the book retail industry is as much a fact of life in the UK as it is here in the States. In the UK, the 140-store Ottakar’s chain is a takeover target currently in the sights of the two largest players in the UK market, Waterstones and WH Smith. In his review in the New Statesman of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller, Nicholas Cree writes, “Waterstone’s, it seems, is scarcely more popular among the bien-pensants than are giant supermarket chains. Why people might feel this antipathy, and how the rise of chain booksellers has affected consumers, are the subjects of Laura J Miller’s study.” Miller’s book charts the evolution of bookselling from independent bookstores through the era of shopping mall stores to the current dominance by superstore chains and online retailing. More than in most industries this transition has generated consumer antipathy, as Cree notes, as well as passionate debate among booksellers, publishers, and the public. Miller uses interviews with bookstore customers and members of the book industry to explain why books evoke such distinct and heated reactions. Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Monmonier, From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow

April 13, 2006
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Review: Monmonier, From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow

Library Journal recently praised Mark Monmonier’s new book From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame: "An amusing, informative, and topical study of the contentious issue of place names, this is recommended for public and academic libraries." Brassiere Hills, Alaska. Mollys Nipple, Utah. Outhouse Draw, Nevada. In the early twentieth century, it was common for towns and geographical features to have salacious, bawdy, and even derogatory names. In the age before political correctness, mapmakers readily accepted any local preference for place names, prizing accurate representation over standards of decorum. From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow probes this little-known chapter in American cartographic history by considering the intersecting efforts to computerize mapmaking, standardize geographic names, and respond to public concern over ethnically offensive appellations. Interweaving cartographic history with tales of politics and power, celebrated geographer Mark Monmonier locates his story within the past and present struggles of mapmakers to create an orderly process for naming that avoids confusion, preserves history, and serves different political aims. . . .

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Review: Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze Diaries

April 12, 2006
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Review: Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze Diaries

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney’s Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers. From the review: "Like Anne Frank’s diary, this collection of kamikaze pilot diaries uses the eyes of those on the cusp of adulthood to bring to life the unfathomable daily realities of war.… The range of views encompassed illustrates these young men’s varying convictions: the latent patriotism in one young idealist, Sasaki Hachiro ("We cannot succumb to the ‘Red Hair and Blue Eyes’"), the influence of Thomas Mann on Hayashi Tadao ("Japan, why don’t I love and respect you?"), the sentimentalism of Matasunaga Shigeo ("Those who, even then, love Japan are fortunate. / But, poor souls; it is the happiness of a wild goose. / It is the fake blue bird whose color fades away under light") and the resignation of Hayashi Ichizo ("I will do a splendid job sinking an enemy aircraft carrier. Do brag about me") together eerily illuminate the tragedy of war in a way no textbook could." Kamikaze Diaries is a moving history that presents diaries and correspondence left by members of the tokkotai and other Japanese student soldiers who perished during the war. Outside of Japan, these kamikaze pilots were considered unbridled . . .

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Review: Stow, Oceans

April 11, 2006
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Review: Stow, Oceans

Library Journal‘s new issue features a nice review of Dorrik Stow’s Oceans: An Illustrated Reference: "This authoritative reference work presents a thorough overview of the physical, geological, chemical, and biological properties of the world’s oceans.… Stow’s up-to-date and well-organized volume would make a valuable introduction to a huge field of knowledge and is therefore recommended for high school, public, and academic libraries." Although the oceans are vast, their resources are finite. Oceans clearly presents the future challenge to us all—that of ensuring that our common ocean heritage is duly respected, wisely managed, and carefully harnessed for the benefit of the whole planet. Lavishly illustrated and filled with current research, Oceans is a step in that direction: a rich, magnificent, and illuminating volume for anyone who has ever heard the siren song of the sea. . . .

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