Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday Books

Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) was one of the world’s most distinguished and dedicated photojournalists, whose career was tragically cut short when he died in a mortar blast while covering the Libyan Civil War. Tim won many awards for his war reporting, and was nominated for an Academy Award for the critically acclaimed documentary, Restrepo. Hetherington’s dedication to his career led him time after time into war zones, and unlike some other journalists, he did not pack up after the story had broken.

In Here I Am, journalist and freelance writer Alan Huffman tells Hetherington’s life story, and through it analyzes what it means to be a war reporter in the twenty-first century. Huffman recounts Hetherington’s life from his first interests in photography, through his critical role in reporting the Liberian Civil War, to his tragic death in Libya. Huffman also traces Hetherington’s photographic milestones, from his iconic and prize-winning photographs of Liberian children, to the celebrated portraits of sleeping U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Here I Am explores the risks, challenges, and thrills of war reporting, and is a testament to the unique work of people like Hetherington, who risk their lives to give a voice to people ravaged by war.

For the last twenty years, John Corvino — widely known as the author of the weekly column "The Gay Moralist" — has traversed the country responding to moral and religious arguments against same-sex relationships. In this timely book, he shares that experience — addressing the standard objections to homosexuality and offering insight into the culture wars more generally.

Is homosexuality unnatural? Does the Bible condemn it? Are people born gay (and should it matter either way)? Corvino approaches such questions with precision, sensitivity, and good humor. In the process, he makes a fresh case for moral engagement, forcefully rejecting the idea that morality is a "private matter." This book appears at a time when same-sex marriage is being hotly debated across the U.S. Many people object to such marriage on the grounds that same-sex relationships are immoral, or at least, that they do not deserve the same social recognition as heterosexual relationships. Unfortunately, the traditional rhetoric of gay-rights advocates — which emphasizes privacy and tolerance — fails to meet this objection. Legally speaking, when it comes to marriage, "tolerance" might be enough, Corvino concedes, but socially speaking, marriage requires more. Marriage is more than just a relationship between two individuals, recognized by the state. It is also a relationship between those individuals and a larger community. The fight for same-sex marriage, ultimately, is a fight for full inclusion in the moral fabric. What is needed is a positive case for moral approval — which is what Corvino unabashedly offers here.

Corvino blends a philosopher's precision with a light touch that is full of humanity and wit. This volume captures the voice of one of the most rational participants in a national debate noted for generating more heat than light.

The first book to celebrate the irreverent and original style of Katharine Hepburn — icon of stage and screen. Glamorous when she wanted to be and tomboyish when she didn’t, Katharine Hepburn developed her personal style and public image as a style rebel. Whether on stage, on screen, or in private life, Hepburn had a firm grasp on the power of her appearance. Rather than submit to studio image makers, she controlled her image and drew on her own proclivities to create a distinct antifashion persona. This book presents the famously headstrong star in a new light: as a style icon. Through images of Hepburn’s on-screen and off-screen wardrobes and essays by top fashion historians, this book reveals how modern Hepburn’s insouciance and idiosyncratic manner of dressing really was and shows her as an inspirational, self-styled counterpoint to the over-managed looks of celebrities today. Full of never-before-published images of Hepburn’s costumes and personal wardrobe, Katharine Hepburn is a refreshing look at a true fashion original.

If you really want to know a people, start by looking inside their bedrooms.

As political change sweeps the streets and squares, the parliaments and presidential palaces of the Arab world, Shereen El Feki has been looking at an upheaval a little closer to home — in the sexual lives of men and women in Egypt and across the region. The result is an informative, insightful, and engaging account of a highly sensitive and still largely secret aspect of Arab society.

Sex is entwined in religion, tradition, politics, economics, and culture, so it is the perfect lens through which to examine the complex social landscape of the Arab world. From pregnant virgins to desperate housewives, from fearless activists to religious firebrands, from sex work to same-sex relations, Sex and the Citadel takes a fresh look at the sexual history of the region and brings new voices to the debate over its future.

This is no peep show or academic treatise but a highly personal and often humorous account of one woman’s journey to better understand Arab society at its most intimate and, in the process, to better understand her own origins. Rich with five years of groundbreaking research, Sex and the Citadel gives us a unique and timely understanding of everyday lives in a part of the world that is changing before our eyes.

Mary Beth Keane, named one of the 5 Under 35 by the National Book Foundation, has written a spectacularly bold and intriguing novel about the woman known as “Typhoid Mary,” the first person in America identified as a healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever.

On the eve of the twentieth century, Mary Mallon emigrated from Ireland at age fifteen to make her way in New York City. Brave, headstrong, and dreaming of being a cook, she fought to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic-service ladder. Canny and enterprising, she worked her way to the kitchen, and discovered in herself the true talent of a chef. Sought after by New York aristocracy, and with an independence rare for a woman of the time, she seemed to have achieved the life she’d aimed for when she arrived in Castle Garden. Then one determined “medical engineer” noticed that she left a trail of disease wherever she cooked, and identified her as an “asymptomatic carrier” of Typhoid Fever. With this seemingly preposterous theory, he made Mallon a hunted woman.

The Department of Health sent Mallon to North Brother Island, where she was kept in isolation from 1907 to 1910, then released under the condition that she never work as a cook again. Yet for Mary — proud of her former status and passionate about cooking — the alternatives were abhorrent. She defied the edict.

Bringing early-twentieth-century New York alive — the neighborhoods, the bars, the park carved out of upper Manhattan, the boat traffic, the mansions and sweatshops and emerging skyscrapers — Fever is an ambitious retelling of a forgotten life. In the imagination of Mary Beth Keane, Mary Mallon becomes a fiercely compelling, dramatic, vexing, sympathetic, uncompromising, and unforgettable heroine.

The Silence and the Roar takes place in an unnamed Middle Eastern country resembling Syria. The story follows a day in the life of Fathi Chin, an author banned from publishing because he refuses to write propaganda for the ruling government.

On this day, the entire country has mobilized to celebrate the twenty year anniversary of the reigning despot. The heat is oppressive and loudspeakers blare as an endless, unbearably loud parade takes over the streets. Desperate to get away from the noise and the zombie-like masses, Fathi leaves his house to visit his mother, but en route stops to help a student who is being beaten by the police. Fathi's ID papers are confiscated and he is forced to return home and told to report to the police station before night falls.

When Fathi turns himself in, he is led from one department to another in an ever-widening bureaucratic labyrinth. His only weapon against the irrationality of the government employees is his sense of irony. The Silence and the Roar is a funny, sexy, scathing novel about the struggle of an individual over tyranny. Tinged with a Kafkaesque sense of the absurd, it explores what it means to be truly free in mind and body, despite the worst efforts of the state to impose its will on its citizens.

A literary event — the long-awaited novel, almost two decades in work, by the acclaimed author of The Tunnel (“The most beautiful, most complex, most disturbing novel to be published in my lifetime.” — Michael Silverblatt, Los Angeles Times; “An extraordinary achievement” — Michael Dirda, The Washington Post); Omensetter’s Luck (“The most important work of fiction by an American in this literary generation” — Richard Gilman, The New Republic); Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife; and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (“These stories scrape the nerve and pierce the heart. They also replenish the language.” — Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times).

Gass’s new novel moves from World War II Europe to a small town in postwar Ohio. In a series of variations, Gass gives us a mosaic of a life — futile, comic, anarchic — arranged in an array of vocabularies, altered rhythms, forms and tones, and broken pieces with music as both theme and structure, set in the key of middle C.

It begins in Graz, Austria, 1938. Joseph Skizzen's father, pretending to be Jewish, leaves his country for England with his wife and two children to avoid any connection with the Nazis, who he foresees will soon take over his homeland. In London with his family for the duration of the war, he disappears under mysterious circumstances. The family is relocated to a small town in Ohio, where Joseph Skizzen grows up, becomes a decent amateur piano player, in part to cope with the abandonment of his father, and creates as well a fantasy self — a professor with a fantasy goal: to establish the Inhumanity Museum...as Skizzen alternately feels wrongly accused (of what?) and is transported by his music. Skizzen is able to accept guilt for crimes against humanity and is protected by a secret self that remains sinless.

Middle C tells the story of this journey, an investigation into the nature of human identity and the ways in which each of us is several selves, and whether any one self is more genuine than another.

William Gass set out to write a novel that breaks traditional rules and denies itself easy solutions, cliff-edge suspense, and conventional surprises...Middle C is that book; a masterpiece by a beloved master.

"Sarduy is the master of wordscapes that dip, shake, and explode." — The New York Times Book Review

For the first time in English, Severo Sarduy's most autobiographical work, centered on two transvestites who undergo oppositional sexual surgeries (one is castrated, the other is given a new member). This convention-defying, scatological, and very funny novel is a paradise of words, "paradisic by plenitude" (Roland Barthes).

Severo Sarduy (1937-–1993) was a Cuban poet, author, playwright, and literary critic, as well as a leading intellectual in the Cuban Revolution. His novel Cobra was awarded the Prix Médicis.

For the first time in English, Vladimir Nabokov’s earliest major work, written when he was only twenty-four: his only full-length play, introduced by Thomas Karshan and beautifully translated by Karshan and Anastasia Tolstoy.

The Tragedy of Mister Morn was written in the winter of 1923­­–1924, when Nabokov was completely unknown. The five-act play — the story of an incognito king whose love for the wife of a banished revolutionary brings on the chaos the king has fought to prevent — was never published in Nabokov’s lifetime and lay in manuscript until it appeared in a Russian literary journal in 1997. It is an astonishingly precocious work, in exquisite verse, touching for the first time on what would become this great writer’s major themes: intense sexual desire and jealousy, the elusiveness of happiness, the power of the imagination, and the eternal battle between truth and fantasy. The play is Nabokov’s major response to the Russian Revolution, which he had lived through, but it approaches the events of 1917 above all through the prism of Shakespearean tragedy.

Combining the stories of the real hero and his Disney-enhanced afterlife, Born on a Mountaintop delves deep into our love for an American icon.

Pioneer. Congressman. Martyr of the Alamo. King of the Wild Frontier. As with all great legends, Davy Crockett's has been retold many times. Over the years, he has been repeatedly reinvented by historians and popular storytellers. In fact, one could argue that there are three distinct Crocketts: the real David as he was before he became famous; the celebrity politician whose backwoods image Crockett himself created, then lost control of; and the mythic Davy we know today.

In the road-trip tradition of Sarah Vowell and Tony Horwitz, Bob Thompson follows Crockett's footsteps from the Tennessee river valley where he was born, to Washington, where he served three terms in Congress, and on to Texas and the gates of the Alamo, seeking out those who know, love and are still willing to fight over Davy's life and legacy.

Born on a Mountaintop will be more than just a bold new biography of one of the great American heroes. Thompson's rich mix of scholarship, reportage, humor, and exploration of modern Crockett landscapes will bring Davy Crockett's impact on the American imagination vividly to life.

Revisiting L. Frank Baum’s Oz with all-new stories, this anthology showcases up-and-coming talents as well as acclaimed writers such as Jane Yolen and Tad Williams. Gems include “Beyond the Naked Eye” by Rachel Swirsky, about revolution in the heart of the Emerald City; Seanan McGuire’s “Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust,” in which adult Dorothy is the new Witch of the West, trying to help Oz’s less fortunate; Ken Liu’s “The Veiled Shanghai,” contrasting pre-Communist Shanghai with an Oz-like mirror city; and Jonathan Maberry’s touching “The Cobbler of Oz,” starring a brave young flying monkey. Others are less successful, notably Simon Green’s “Dorothy Dreams,” about Dorothy ailing in a nursing home, and Jeffrey Ford’s “A Meeting in Oz,” in which Dorothy becomes a murderer. Less comforting than Baum’s original stories, this anthology will appeal to Oz lovers looking for new perspectives.

2 comments:

Mitchell is Moving said...

Wow. Thanks for all these. Now I have to figure out where to begin!

Writer said...

You're welcome. And thanks for visiting, Mitchell. Don't stress too much over it. I barely am able to read a fraction of what I want to read. LOL