Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Art, Literature, Geography, Plane Mechanics, Pop Music, and Cadaver Moving All Covered in This Week's New-and-Noteworthy Roundup from Boswell.

Relatively new on our Boswell's Best is The Museum of Secrets: Art's Best Kept Mysteries, from Elea Baucheron and Diane Routex. Ingram may have it's pub date as earlier in the spring, but Prestel titles tend to roll out slowly and would qualify as a sleeper. Per the publisher, "Art and mystery collide in this fascinating look at the secrets behind some of the world's most important masterpieces and their creators. Traveling across centuries and continents, this collection of 40 enigmatic artworks and artists examines secrets that have confounded experts and amateurs alike."

Selling pretty well is The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, from Marja Mills, the Chicago Tribune reporter who traveled to Lee's hometown after the book was the "One City, One Book" pick. Her time with Nellie (Harper is her middle name) and her older sister is chronicled in a book filled with reminiscences that has already gotten a lot of praise. The author and subject have now parted ways, at least through the interpretation of her attorney. There are at least two signed statements of support from Alice Lee, Harper's older sister, who continued to practice law until past her hundredth birthday. It's all chronicled in this Gawker article.

Continuing on the theme of the little known, another of Jason's Boswell Best picks is Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies (HMH), by Alastair Bonnett. From the publisher: "Bonnett's remarkable tour includes moving villages, secret cities, no man's lands, and floating islands. He explores places as disorienting as Sandy Island, an island included on maps until just two years ago despite the fact that it never existed. Or Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the English coast that a British citizen claimed as his own sovereign nation, issuing passports and crowning his wife as a princess. Or Baarle, a patchwork of Dutch and Flemish enclaves where walking from the grocery store's produce section to the meat counter can involve crossing national borders." Max Winter in The Boston Globe offers that " this book is a comforting read, much like dipping into a highly intelligent travel magazine, a book that teases the imagination while remaining firmly rooted in the factual."

With the terrible crash of the Malaysian Airlines jet, Flight 232 (Norton), from Laurence Gonzalez, has taken on a new timeliness, though it was certainly not shot down by a missle in a war zone. 25 years ago, an explosion destroyed the hydraulic controls and the plane's crew made a valiant attempt to steer the plane to a landing, with more than half of the plane's passengers surviving the ordeal. From his interview in Popular Mechanics, who found the story interesting from not just a human interest perspective, but a mechanical one as well: "The whole story is a story of great human strength--spiritual, ethical, and moral strength. Everybody stepped up to the plate and did what needed to be done. The pilots kept the plane going for all that time. The flight attendants kept people from panicking and helped people out afterwards. And the people on the ground at Sioux City were just amazing..." Read the rest of the interview here.

Several new nonfiction titles have staff recs that were featured in our email newsletter. For those who don't subscribe, I reprint them here. First up is Mel Morrow's take on The Removers (Scribner), by Andrew Meredith. ""For Andrew Meredith, there was a vivid, happy 'before.' The moment bridging this 'before' and the numb void of his 'after' is brought on by his father's betrayal. Andrew goes through the motions of his twenties, sharing a house and silence with his family, flunking out of schools, and walking away from countless jobs. Then he takes the job that no one wants with the man that no one wants to speak to: he becomes a remover (of cadavers for funeral homes) alongside his father. Andrew learns while caring for the dead how to care for the living; in the lonely course of removals and cremations, he begins to recover. This is a melancholy, heartfelt tale that will resonate with all. The Removers: A Memoir provides an honest account of disillusionment, revealing a strange paradox that sometimes for those who feel betrayed by the living, it is the dead who are worth living for."

Another July title in the spotlight was Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce (Norton), by Bob Stanley.Conrad Silverberg writes "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! is a string of pearls: songs, singers, genres, styles, bands and revolutions that stretch from the dawn of rock 'n' roll to the present. It never ceases to entertain, inform and scratch your nostalgic itch. There are plenty of instances of aha moments confirming your deepest suspicions: David Bowie was channeling Anthony Newley (duh.), that is a bolero in "Paint it Black" (duh!), Oasis did shamelessly pillage the Beatles' catalog (double duh!!). But such affirmations are rewarding and there are also many, many, many things in here that you didn't know or suspect. I'll leave you to discover those for yourself." 

No comments: