Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Browsing New Boswell's Best Nonfiction--Terry Eagleton, Paul Theroux, Jeremy Scahill, Thomas Fleming, and Robert Edsel,

I've been running around a bit this week, what with two events a day, and a chase around town to find a missing title at area retailers for one of our events, but I've calmed down enough to look at the Boswell's Best case and explore some of our new nonfiction releases. All books are 20% off at least through next Monday.

Thomas Fleming's new book, A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War (Da Capo) ponders why the United States was the only nation in the world to fight a war to end slavery. He claims a hatred by the northerners of southerners predated the their objections to slavery, feeling usurped in the running of the United States. J. W. Nicklaus in The New York Journal of Books writes "A Disease in the Public Mind is not simply a thoughtful read, it is another call never to forget our sordid past, to face and conquer our fears—for if we can’t see past our fears then we can no longer move forward. Moving forward lets us more closely inspect each dot in the painting." While I know Mr. Fleming has been writing history books for many years, I always immediately think of the piles of mass markets I had of The Officer's Wives when I first started my job at Warner.  PS--I don't think that author photo on the book jacket looks like someone who is 85 years old.

Terry Eagleton has only written forty books to Fleming's fifty, but I think comparing the two is a bit unfair, especially because most of us are currently at zero. His new How to Read Literature (Yale) is a primer for anyone interested in "deepening and enriching their reading experience," analyzing "tone, rhythm, texture, syntax, allusion, ambiguity and other formal aspects of of literary works." Because I quoted from the jacket copy, I left off the series comma in that list; I think the result makes the sentence look a bit naked, but that is just the English style. So far I have learned that many words beginning with the letter V have negative connotations. This is simply an unfair burden that the Victorias and Vincents of the world must bear. I like the jacket, don't you?  And I should note that we actually have a better price on this book than The website suggests I can also pick up the book in West Milwaukee, though I suspect they do not have it in stock at the moment.

Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater, has a new book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield (Nation Books). Scahill was recently on Kathleen Dunn's show on Wisconsin Public Radio, and the tie-in documentary is opening at the Downer Theatre soon. Scahill's book looks at the new covert wars, run by special forces who have "orders from the White House to hunt down, capture, or kill individuals designated by the president as enemies." Scahill's book has more than 100 pages of notes and indexes and is a very good value for the price. He is the national security correspondent for The Nation and has been twice awarded the George Polk Award. As you all know, he grew up in the Milwaukee area.

Another author with documentary ties is Robert M. Edsel, who was co-producer of the award-winning film, "The Rape of Europea" and he is also author of The Monuments Men. In the somewhat-recently-released Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis (W.W. Norton), he looks at the Nazi occupation of Italy and the race to save millions of dollars of art that were being shipped back to Germany, including the collections of the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace. The two folks running the "save the art" initiative were artist Deane Keller and scholar Fred Hartt. The author calls this "the treasure hunt of a lifetime." Edsel's story is rather interesting--he sold his Texas oil and gas exploration business for $37 million and moved his family to Florence where he became an art historian. I think I now know who funded the documentary. More in USA Today.

From Italy to Africa, we take to the road with Paul Theroux with The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). By ultimate, I think Mr. Theroux means "last", as he relives his first journey at 22 as a Peace Corps volunteer. This trip takes hime through South Africa, Namibia, and into Angola. Marie Arana in The Washington Post calls the new book "thoroughly engrossing" The Africa he once knew has been transformed, sometimes for better, others for worse. But Arana notes that Theroux's distinctive "inimitable, delightfully grouchy and incisive" voice still shines. Read the rest of her review here. I should note I'm a little puzzled by the new HMH colophon. Can anyone tell me what it means?

Today's selections are all from boys. I'm not going to run around looking for a female author to diversify the post, but I do want you to know that I'm well aware of it. If it makes any difference, 11 of our 12 participants in our best of the undergraduate writers series are women. Part one was a great program and part two (Friday, May 10, 7 pm) with students from UWM, Carroll, and Mount Mary, should be equally inspiring.

No comments: