Amherst Magazine

Amherst Authors

Books Reviewed:

What They Are Reading
Martha Saxton, assistant professor of history and women's and gender studies, suggests reading in Women's history

Amherst College Books
Quick takes on books by Amherst faculty and alumni


Books Reviewed

Black Women of Amherst College
By MAVIS C. CAMPBELL, professor of history.
Amherst, Mass.: Amherst College Press, 1999. 303 pp. $20 cloth.

This heartening, enlightening book really needs no review. Anyone interested in the life of the college will know at a glance that annals of the last quarter century, told by black alumnae under the guidance of a black professor of history, must be of unusual, if not urgent, import.

Here is one distinctive, graphicyes, beautifulaspect of the "place," as John William Ward liked to call it. (I like to call it a "college" of persons.) Not Johnson Chapel, this time, not Memorial Hill, not even the Octagon, but some vivid memoranda by 56 graduates and their chronicler about how it actually was to live here for four years and what life after Amherst has turned out to be like. (Not every one of the 256 black alumnae from the classes of '80 through '97 who was invited to respond did so.) How oftenAmherst magazine notwithstandingis the college pre sented with a collective, historically responsible, minority report from any of its own students? There is a whole shelf, a subgenre of multivarious, treasurable books about aspects of Amherst, but this scholarly album takes a very special position among themright next to Black Men of Amherst by Harold Wade, Jr. '68. Having, of necessity, less scope than he had (a black man first graduated from the college in 1826), Professor Campbell both complements Wade and proceeds quite differently from him. Since his book appeared in 1976, things at Amherst have changed considerably; and anyway, as subjects and as authors, women and men do have their differences. Her handsome, well-illustrated book comes with most of the blessings of succession and of hindsight: a perceptive, shrewd Foreword by President Tom Gerety, and a magisterial, inquisitive Preface by Theodore Greene '43, the Winthrop H. Smith Professor of History, Emeritus. This Preface, I should say, and not my review, is what you would do well to be reading at this moment. It steals any rainbow that I, merely a curious English pro fessor, could hope to cast here: "[T]he women's movement of the '60s and '70s . . . opened the way for major changes in the lives of American women. How can we understand more accurately what those changes have been in the career lives and the family lives of American women and especially American black women over the last two decades? How have they responded to the educational opportunities opened to them? What kinds of careers have appealed to them? How frequently have they chosen to provide services to the larger black community and to the nation? Have they been willing and able to try to carry out Amherst's missionary motto, Terras Irradient, by making some impact on the world beyond our borders? Our present need is for some more precise answers to these questions, for an understanding of how an Amherst education may have helped or hindered them in reshaping the world they have inherited." Answers to these questions are what Professor Campbell so tellingly gives in Black Women of Amherst College. I was curious to read her, not least because I have known a few of these women as students, and liked them, and think of them now as friends.

Professor Campbell herself provides a long essay of wide-ranging, fluent, often personal introduction: all about her many contributors from the black alumnae, the faculty, and the administrative staff, and about
her historical context: black men at Amherst, slavery in the town, women's entry into New England higher education, and the first black women to graduate from Amherst, in the Class of 1980. As a reader not very well-informed about such matters, I enjoy her knowledgeable, racy, often humorous style. Here she is on Edward Jones, Class of 1826, not an "indigent pious youth," but a free black man from Charleston, S.C., whose "heftily increased bills" in his senior year were paid for by well-off parents:

[He] went against the grain of popular notions today regarding affirmative actions, financial aid, equal opportunity and all that. And it was just as well for the likes of Jones that the first president of the institution had asked what could be called the first affirmative action/tuition question raised at Amherst College. Noting that admission to the college was for the "indigent," before assuming the presidency, the Rev. Zephaniah Swift Moore, in his acceptance letter of June 12, 1821, wanted assurance from the Trustees that non-indigent students would also be eligible for admission. He received it, and the likes
of Jones was spared this type of discrimination! The irony is stark.

However, perhaps not all of Professor Campbell's readers will be amused by her humor, especially not by her running routine in the biographical sketches (the heart of the book) on lateness and procrastination among her respondents.

Having asked in her introduction why the college took so long to admit women (not until 1976), Professor Campbell answers that "close institutional and other ties to neighboring women's colleges" were seemingly the reason, together with a "profound sense of confraternity . . . that [in Harold Wade's case, for example] transcended race lines [and] would be adversely affected by the presence of women." Apropos of the first of these two reasons, I distinctly remember ca. 1975 outside Converse seeing a picket of Smith women with a huge placard inscribed "Now Amherst Can Fuck Itself." Ah, the late '60s and early '70s in this happy valley.

Professor Campbell is, as a stylist, admirable, brisk and substantive, a quick study. But I should like her to have reflected a little further on some of the contingencies of 1975: for instance, that by then in the nation at large coeducation was long since the accepted order of things, and that the few remaining elite colleges for men only in New England were economically very well-advised to be doubling their applicant pools by admitting the brightest women. It was not as if the nation was waiting for Amherst, or even Princeton, to lead the way to coeducation. On the contrary, I remember in the '50s, as an immigrant, noting that coeducation was as American as apple pie and armed robbery. In the '70s, as a tenured professor (now an emigré?), I thought that the only cogent reason for making Amherst conform and admit women had to be fairness in the job market, the perceived power of an Amherst degree to command the better job. It could not be that the education provided at sister colleges was somehow inferior. Interestingly, the salient reason given black Amherst alumnae of the '80s and '90s for choosing to attend the college is the power of the degree to command the better job. Virtual reality.

But this is all hindsight. The history I prefer and that, for me, distinguishes Professor Campbell's book is eyewitness, the voices of individuals who were actually there in the trenches and are now willing to talk about it. Transcribed passages of self-expression, together with editorial context, make up the most of itmuch too much to sample fairly here: the testimony of young women now employed in Business, Medicine, Law, Psychology and Psychiatry, Public Service, Policy Analysis, Health Care Management, Urban Planning, Actuarial Calculation, Veterinary Medicine, Real Estate, TV/Film Production, Editorial Work, Fine Art and Design, Ecology, Dance, and, of course, Teaching (English in Japan, Biology in Hawaii, Science in Massachusetts, Art in Newark), Counseling in Schools, and Graduate Study (in Ancient Civilization, Education, Philosophy, Political Science, Linguistics, Biochemistry, and Art History). The details are enough to induce delirium. Amherst, it emerges, has its own black diaspora. I am not going to try to name names, having myself known too few of these distinguished young women. But here are just a few echoes of their voices:

I monitor school districts under desegregation orders . . . our office litigates on behalf of students alleging discrimination based on gender and disability . . . I am proud of this . . . because it has brought my life to full circle, and back to Amherst.

. . . struggles in the classrooms to educate classmates and professors . . . struggles in the dining hall for understanding . . . struggles among ourselves as black students . . . There were far more casualties . . . than I think the College will ever recognize. My Amherst experience as a lesson in choosing battles . . . that continues to serve me well . . . .

Yes, Amherst changed me. It made me believe that I was Ivy League material and that there were a few things I could do to contribute to society. The classes were always about give and take.

. . . black women can claim Amherst as their own because of what we have 'brought to the table' academically, athletically, culturally, and socially. We should be proud of our tenacity, our ability to excel in an environent that has not always been welcoming or comfortable.

Then there are the rich, various, private, family, and community lives of each of these 56 young women to be unfolded. But the soul of it is something yet more remarkable and rarely encountered in an Amherst book: the registering of student voices like these together in counterpoint with the voices of professors who taught them at Amherst. The effect is often striking, and one which gives extraordinary life to the text. Once again, I am not going to presume to name any names, but these professors are not the more famous, visible, and vocal ones, speaking of their prize students and pet causes. This counterpoint of student and teacher signals that it is the sound, not often recorded, of the college at work, doing its true, daily, missionary thing in class and in conference.

Professor Campbell has put everyone curious about ordinary life at Amherst in her debt by this long and, as she confesses, sometimes frustrating "labor of love." Such a book is all about saying "Thank you," or rather "Thank goodness." Its author herself, first of all, proves more than generous in acknowledging by name contributors from all corners of the college on whom she could depend.

—Richard J. Cody
Eliza J. Clark Folger Professor of English

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Trans-Sister Radio

By CHRIS BOHJALIAN '82.
New York: Harmony Books, 2000. 344 pp. $24 cloth.

 

When a writer is blessed by Oprah Winfrey, it's a mixed blessing. The good part is heavily increased book sales, and when Chris Bohjalian's novel Midwives (1998) was picked by La Winfrey's book club, his next one (The Law of Similars, l999), had a first printing of 50,000, which is getting up there. The bad part and maybe it's not so bad for someone laughing all the way to the bankis that Serious Literary Critics like yours truly will turn off instantly, assuming that anything Oprah likes must exist at a level of easy-access vulgarity that should be condescended to. So it is important to say that Mr. Bohjalian, on the verge of turning age 40, has produced over the last few years four books that constitute a solid, intelligent, and extremely entertaining fictional achievement. His latest novel, Trans-Sister Radio, published last spring, is in fact Bohjalian's seventh, and though his first two novels are forgettable, he began in Past the Bleachers (1992) to establish a place Vermont and a tone sympathetic/cool/"human" that he has resourcefully mined in exploring original themes with public resonances.

Past the Bleachers is about a Little League coach whose son died of leukemia and who is now witness to the extraordinary baseball skills of a mysterious young man who joins the team. It's about fathers and sons and it's full of lore (here mostly baseball), as will be the novels to come. You never read a book of Bohjalian's without finding out about some area of human experience you'd previously neglected. So in Water Witches, l995, (in which "Christopher A. Bohjalian" becomes the more approachable "Chris Bohjalian") the point of thematic focus is the activity of dowsing, something at which a number of figures in the book, mainly women, are adept. They do not include the first person narrator, Scottie McClure, who is a lobbyist caught between the demands of corporate "progress" (a ski resort wants to expand its facilities) and the environmentalists who resist. But Scottie's fortunes, and indeed the whole plot of Water Witches, are subsidiary to the unaffected, direct way in which, page after page, he speaks to us. His wife, daughter and especially his sister-in-law are all dowsers, of various degrees of seriousness and capability; his own interests lie elsewhere:

"After work I change in my office from gray flannel to gray fleece, and try to find meaning in the world with a divining rod of my own. A Hillerich & Bradsby softball bat, wooden and chipped and old. It is a piece of wood with which I will never find water, although I do now and then find a hole in the infield or a gap in the outfield."

One can't overestimate the comfortable grip in which Bohjalian's narrative voice invariably holds its readers, carrying us along through good times and adverse ones. This voice underlies and gives value to the experience set down, and it is the voice of what, for lack of a better word, we may call realism.

Having established himself, and vocally so, in the fictional small rural town of Bartlett, Vermont, with Montpelier and Burlington on the horizon, Bohjalian extended his thematic reach into more problematic public issues: the practice and legal responsibility of home birth (in Midwives) and of homeopathy (in The Law of Similars, my favorite of his novels). Trans-Sister Radio, about the phenomenon of transexuality (call it "gender dysphoria" if that's more comfortable) is continuous with its predecessors, and a risky venture inasmuch as it explores a potentially sensationalistic and jokey territory. But the novel capitulates neither to sensationalism nor jokiness, although there is a fair amount of humor in it, more I think than in previous Bohjalians. Like its last two predecessors, Trans-Sister Radio contains a couple of concluding pages of acknowledgments in which the novelist thanks various "authorities," especially medical and legal ones, whom he has consulted. This research aspect of Bohjalian's fictional enterprise should be emphasized, since a good deal of what makes these books interesting is their factual repleteness. The uninformed reader like myself finds his curiosity stimulated and gratified by the solidity of specification with which the writer has performed his task.

Trans-Sister Radio has perhaps more fancy narrative stuff going on than usual, in that its story is shared among a quartet of principals. These include Allison Banks, a divorced, sixth-grade teacher in the Middlebury public schools, who falls in love with Dana Stevens, an instructor at the college, who then reveals himself as a gender dysphoric preparing for a sex-change operation. The other members of the quartet are Will Banks, Allison's former husband and the manager of a public radio station, and the Banks's daughter Carly, off to college at Bennington, who registers and eventually writes up the story for presentation on NPR's All Things Considered. Bohjalian is skillful at passing the narrative from one character to the next, though none of them sounds distinctly different. I avoid rehearsing the book's plot, especially since all his recent novels have affinities with traditional "puzzle" novels or thrillers, much of whose attraction involves carrying the reader along toward solution, resolutionalthough each of them ends like Samuel Johnson's Rasselas with a "Conclusion: in which Nothing is Concluded." The point is rather to make matters like midwifery, homeopathy, transexuality even more complicated than they had previously seemed. In this respect the novelist does a first-rate job.

Is a statement of limitation necessary at this point by way of concludng these remarks about the work of an interesting novelist? Be it said then that Bohjalian's art is not to be confused with Dickens's or Henry James's or with that of contemporaries such as Roth or Updike. He writes graceful and transparent prose in which a reader will encounter very little resistance, nor be forced to engage with sentences of high density, with metaphorical and rhetorical rhythms that complicate what's being expressed. It was no mistake, then, that Oprah was so satisfied, as she might not have been with Middlemarch, or The Golden Bowl or the Rabbit novels. T.S. Eliot once memorably wrote that any artist "must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past," then immediately added, "I say judged, not amputated, by them." By these standards, Chris Bohjalian's work may be judged an honorable, never less than entertaining and effective presentation of some aspects of contemporary experience through the book of life that is fiction.

—William H. Pritchard
Henry Clay Folger Professor of English

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Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano
by JAMES PARAKILAS '70 and others,
New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000. 461 pp. $39.95 cloth.

 

Among the happier memories of my boyhood is one of slipping off to sleep while listening to my step-father play Mendelssohn's "On Wings of Song" on the violin (or another of the 100 Melodies All the World Loves), accompanied by my mother on the piano. My parents were not professional musicians: they played for their own enjoyment, and, incidentally, mine. But, although we were very poor (my stepfather made less than 1,000 dollars a year), we owned a piano: a Knabe "baby grand," no less. There were times when we could not afford to pay the rent, but there was never a time when we could not afford to pay the installment on that piano. That piano did not put food in our mouths or keep a roof over our heads, but it helped keep our spirits alive throughout the Great Depression.

That we had a piano in our living room, and not, say, a glass harmonica or a xylophone; that my mother played it, not my stepfather; that it was important to us, even in hard timesthese and many other such facts are fascinatingly accounted for in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano, by James Parakilas '70 and 14 other hands. In the first place, over 350 years ago nobody could have played or listened to the piano, for the simple reason that it did not exist. It was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1700, which makes the year 2000 its tercentenary year. At first it had no name, simply a descripion: un arpicembalo che fa' il piano, e il forte, a harpsichord that plays soft (piano) and loud (forte); and these adjectives came to be treated as nouns: "fortepiano," "pianoforte," or simply "piano." The volume of sound produced by a harpsichord, except under conditions not altogether easy to attain, is quite uniform: one presses a key which causes a quill to pluck a string, ping!, and that's it. No matter how hard you strike the key, you get the same ping. But the piano works quite differently: you press a key which causes a hammer (at first covered with leather, later with felt) to strike a string; and how hard you strike the key will affect the volume of the sound you produce. This gives the piano a much greater dynamic range than that of other keyboard instruments, and hence quite a different range of expressive possiblilites.

The piano did not "catch on" overnight. The first music played on it was written for harpsichord, the first music written expressly for piano being 12 solo sonatas by Ludovico Giustini in 1732. It did not take long, however, for composers of genius to become aware of the piano's distinctive possibilities; and one of the finest sections of this book is an excellent essay by Gretchen Wheelock on the gradual realization of those possibilities by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Nor, for about a century, were pianos manufactured (by hand, of course) in large numbers. The first ones were owned by crowned headsthe Grand Duke of Tuscany, the King of Portugaland were gradually acquired later by lesser princes and other very affluent patrons of music. The idea that a poor payroll clerk for a utilities company (which is what my stepfather was) could have one in his parlor was unthought of. How this could happen is a long and fascinating story, well told here, about not only the increased production of music, high and low, for the piano and the development of players of that music, but of changes in the design of the instrument itself (notably the introduction by Alpheus Babcock in 1825 of the one-piece metal frame), of its increasingly mechanized manufacture, and especially of its aggessive promotion by composers, performers, journalists, and manufacturers to the point where not only middle class people, and later even working class people, could not only afford a piano but wanted to own one. The public was "sold" on the piano to the point where the ownership of a piano (box, upright, spinet, player, or grand) and piano lessons, especially for young women, became de rigeur in certain strata of society; not only in Europe and the United States, but in such countries as India and Japan. (There is a very good section on the introduction of the piano to Japan, where nowadays, of course, one of the principal manufacturers of pianos, Yamaha, is located.)

The very ubiquity of the piano is something we take for granted. It appears not only in concert halls and private homes, but in bars, saloons, cocktail lounges, dance halls, class rooms, places of worship, cabarets, insane asylums, prisons, summer camps, on yachts and ocean liners and large airplanes, in restaurants, theaters, dance studios, on floats in paradesyou name it. But the world has been piano saturated like this for about only a century, at most a century and a half. How did it get this way? If you are interested, you will find a persuasive answer here.

Here too you will find excellent discussions of the appearance of the piano in literature (especailly in Jane Austen), in painting (especially in French Impressionist painting), and in the movies (is Casablanca imaginable without a piano?); of the place of the piano in jazz (an outstanding essay by Mark Tucker!); of the rise and demise of the player piano; of the recent revival of the harpsichord, which the piano displaced around 1800, and of early pianosthe sort Mozart and Beethoven actually played and wrote music for; of the rise of the piano virtuoso and the solo piano recital (effectively instituted by Liszt); of the way we expect virtuoso pianists to behave while they play; of the design and construction of concert halls and of the format of the concert program; of the way we are expected to behave in a concert hall (people didn't always or by nature just sit there quietly listening or pretending to listen); of the institution of the piano lesson; of the social cachet attaching to the ownership of a piano; of the technical workings of the instrument; and of the relationship of the piano to new electronic ways of producing soundsamong them, piano-like sounds. All of this, and more, is covered in readily readable prose and is amply illustrated both in color and in black and white.

Although the book has 15 contributing authors, it holds together stylistically rather well. Which is not to say that it is a seamless garment. I for one could have done without the breathless effusions of Marina Tsvetaeva (does she know that there are punctuation marks other than the dash?), and I find the section on Franz Liszt overheated: people who should have known better may once have been impressed by talk about hermeneutics, semiotics, castrating looks, an ethic of silence, the decentering of the self, phallocentrism, and the like; but by now it has become just a big bore. Nor is the book altogether free from error. On page 334 we have Myra Hess being "knighted for her morale-inspiring concerts through the Blitz." (What? Sir Myra Hess?) On page 325 we have the Ennis system of Vitagraph Music Cues for pianists accompanying silent movies perpetrating an authorized classification of music. Well, a person can perpetrate a felony, but how a system of music cues can perpetrate a classification is beyond me. And on page 257 we are told that in Joseph Danhauser's painting Liszt at the Piano Marie d'Agoult's hat has a "fulsome black veil." The author seems to think that "fulsome" means rather full or large. It doesn't. Flattery can be fulsome but not a woman's veil. (A literate copy editor could have corrected all of these mistakes, but where can you find a literate copy editor nowadays?) Don't get me wrong: Piano Roles is a very "good read." It does present some problems for those who like to read in bed, in a hammock, or in an easy chairI had to read it opened flat on my desk; for it is a clumsy book to hold. Its 461 pages weigh over three and a half pounds and it's 8" x 10" in size. Compare the first volume of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (a large book): 1,040 pages, just under two and a half pounds, and 5" x 8". Still, reading it is worth any minor gymnastics you may have to employ to do so. The book also has excellent notes and a good list of recommended readings for those who wish to pursue the subject further.

—W. E. Kennick
G. Henry Whitcomb Professor of Philosophy

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What They Are Reading

Martha Saxton, assistant professor of history and women's and gender studies, teaches several courses in those fieldsincluding "Feminist Moral Theory," American women's history, and "Women and Politics in Twentieth-Century America." Below she offers suggestions for reading in women's history.

 

Women's history has been characterized by lively debates since its beginnings in Second Wave Feminism. It started out focused on the white middle class and almost immediately came under attack for its exclusivity and inability to represent all women. Historians responded with a wealth of books on the experiences of women who were neither white nor middle class. Another divisive issue for feminists and women's historians has concerned "essentialism" or the degree to which women's biology may influence their behavior. Historians by and large reject arguments from nature about femininity, concentrating on culturally created aspects of womanhood, since they have seen how conservatives have used traditional notions about womanhood to keep women housebound. Much new women's history attempts to uncover ways in which the United States economy and culture have helped to create similarities among women through reinforcing certain class and ethnic experiences as well as making traditional gender roles seem natural. The books that follow step into these debates--but, more important, open windows on people no one ever bothered to study until now:

 

Glenda Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920 (University of North Carolina Press, 1996). Gilmore studies black women who had benefitted from Reconstruction and were mobilized to defensive activism in the violent years when whites retook political control of the South and instituted apartheid. Gilmore shows how southern black women covertly engaged in progressive politics in the place of disenfranchised black men, working for their communities and woman suffrage despite the racism of the white Progressive movement. If the picture is perhaps too uncritical, it is, nevertheless, a genuinely inspiring one.

 

Linda Kerber, Alice Kessler-Harris and Nell Painter, U.S. History as Women's History, New Feminist Essays (University of North Carolina Press, 1995). Three of the most distinguished historians of women collaborated on this collection of essays, and their contributions are particularly valuable. They range from an essay about the devastating psychological legacy for both whites and blacks of family violence in the Old South to the ways in which Social Security was designed to perpetuate stereotypes about gender and facilitate ongoing inequality.

 

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale (Knopf, 1990). This is an intimate and moving study of the life and community of an 18th-century midwife living in Maine. Ulrich uses a very spare diary as the entry way to her recreation of the arduous life of a healer and housewife who confronts decades of village and family crises with fortitude and ingenuity.

 

Theda Perdue, Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835 (University of Nebraska Press, 1999). Perdue's history of women and their roles in 18th- and 19th-century Cherokee society is intrinsically fascinating and also provides a way to look at the surrounding culture's efforts (mainly failed) to bring Native American gender practices in line with their own. The narrative traces conflict between these societies igniting from wildly divergent ideas about agricultural practices, property rights, the obligations of marriage, and the definition of the sacred.

Joan Cashin, A Family Venture: Men & Women on the Southern Frontier (Oxford, 1991). This concise book follows planter families and their slaves migrating to the lands of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, newly taken from the Choctaw, Cherokee and Chickasaw. Cashin makes a compelling case that planter wivesand of course slaveswere not consulted about migrating, went unwillingly, and that their lives usually became lonelier and even less under their control than they had been on the eastern seaboard.

 

Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relation & Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country (Oxford, 1995). This is a beautifully researched investigation of the culture of pre-Civil War southern whites who did not own slaves and yet whose political loyalty was to wealthy slave-owning planters. McCurry explores how ideas and practices involving gender helped solidify the two groups.

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Amherst College Books

 


Guns in America: A Reader.

Edited by JAN E. DIZARD, Charles Hamilton Houston Professor in American Culture (Sociology), Robert Merrill Muth, and Stephen P. Andrews, Jr. New York, N.Y.: New York University Press, 1999. 517 pp. $65 cloth, $24.95 paper.

Guns in America documents and analyzes the history of firearms in America--their manufacture, ownership and use--as well as the conflicting cultural and political implications symbolized by the gun. Writings reflecting many ideological viewpoints, from Puritan sermons to contemporary NRA documents, illustrate the controversies over gun control, crime, hunting and modern-day militias. The editors feel that until people explore conflicting cultural values--conceptions of community, the relationship between the individual and the state, the responsibility for maintaining order, competing national identities--we stand little chance of arriving at rational solutions to the "gun problem."

 

Nikita Khrushchev.
Edited by WILLIAM TAUBMAN, Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science, Sergei Khrushchev and Abbott Gleason. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000. 392 pp. $45 cloth.

Drawing on newly released documents from Soviet archives and memoirs of the premier himself and other witnesses, as well as the views of Russian, Ukrainian, American and British scholars, the editors (one is Khrushchev's son) present an analysis of Russia during the Khrushchev years. Included is new information on Khrushchev's struggle for power, public attitudes toward him, and his role in agricultural reform, cultural politics and foreign policy issues. Khrushchev's life is chronicled from his boyhood in the Ukraine to destalinization in the 1950s and 1960s, and the regimes of Khrushchev and Gorbachev are compared.

 

Mayflies: New Poems and Translations.
By RICHARD WILBUR '42. New York, N.Y.: Harcourt, Inc., 2000. 96 pp. $22 cloth.

In this new volume of poetry, Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Wilbur includes 22 new poems, six renderings of French, Romanian and Bulgarian lyric poems, and two longer verse translations from Moliere's Amphitryon and Dante's Inferno. Written in the New England pastoral tradition, his poems view nature as a creative force and as a source of values and reassurance. --A Wall in the Woods: Cummington and A Barred Owl--and as a glimpse of mortalityMayflies and Zea (Indian corn). His translations are written in an elegant and formal style.

 

Political Contention in Lesotho, 1952-1965.
By RICHARD F. WEISFELDER '60. Roma, Lesotho: Institute of Southern African Studies, 1999. 181 pp.

Using data drawn from personal observation and interviews, the author traces the evolution of political parties in Lesotho. He examines Lesotho's political dynamicsthe conflict among rival groups of militants and conservatives, which prevented economic growth, and the relationships between major political parties with prominent elements in Basotho society and with the apartheid regime of South Africa. Particular attention is devoted to the election of 1965, which shaped Lesotho's tumultuous post-independence era.

 

Raven's Eye.
By PHILIP THATCHER '61. North Vancouver, B.C.: Corona Press, 2000. 400 pp. $24 CDN.

This is the story of Nathan Solomon Jacob, whose travels, both physical and spiritual, lead him from his Indian heritage on the coast of British Columbia through the Canadian Rockies to Wales and Ireland and, in time, from the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to the closing decade of the 20th century. Thatcher recounts legends taken from both Indian and Celtic traditions as Nathan searches for the meaning of his name, Raven's Eye, and for answers to the riddle of the light and darkness of modern consciousness.

 

Jumper.
By RICHARD BARTH '64. New York, N.Y.: Thomas Dunne Books for St. Martin's Minotaur, 2000. 224 pp. $22.95 cloth.

In his latest mystery, Barth depicts a new kind of serial killer. As Dr. Samuel Garvey, a leader in the design of roller coasters, is working on his masterpiece, "Jumper," which will jump from one track to another, he receives a call from the National Transportation Safety Board asking him to investigate a fatal accident at the Cyclone at Coney Island and several other recent roller coaster accidents.

 

Embryogenesis: Species, Gender and Identity.
By RICHARD GROSSINGER '66. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 2000. 976 pp. $75 cloth.

In describing the genesis of life, Grossinger introduces the lay reader to the complex process of embryogenesis and delves into the mysterious region between science and theology. He combines cell biology, cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, history of science, and philosophy with a wide range of psychological, cultural, epistemological and spiritual issues. Although evolution may provide an explanation of appearances, Grossinger feels that it is an oversimplification to believe that evolution has taken something as complex as the universe and stuffed it into something as tiny as the nucleus of a cell. He says it defies common sense to believe that a spheroid of molten stellar material could develop philosophies, laws and religions out of raw atoms simply by trial, error and accident. This is the final book of a trilogy begun in 1977, which includes revised versions of Planet Medicine: From Stone-Age Shamanism to Post-Industrial Healing and The Night Sky: The Science and Anthropology of the Stars and Planets.

 

Cold War Constructions: The Political Culture of United States Imperialism, 1945-1966.
By CHRISTIAN G. APPY '77. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000. 328 pp. $60 cloth. $18.95 paper.

In the wave of scholarship that has followed the end of the Cold War, historians investigate the crucial role that political culture has played in shaping global conflicts and illuminate the political and cultural assumptions underlying U.S. policies from the end of World War II to the mid-1960s. Each essay in the latest volume of the "Culture, Politics and the Cold War Series" focuses on a specific site of Cold War conflict--Southeast Asia, India, Europe, Africa, Iran, Guatemala and Cuba.

 

Darkest Fear.
By HARLAN COBEN '84. New York, N.Y.: Dell Publishing, 2000. 304 pp. $23.95 cloth.

In the seventh in his mystery series, Coben explores the darker side of fatherly love. Myron Bolitar tries to transform his lagging sports agency into a major league contender, while at the same time confronting the unsettling news that not only is he the father of a 13-year-old son, but that the son is dying and needs a bone marrow transplant from a donor who has disappeared.

 

The White Death: Tragedy and Heroism in an Avalanche Zone.
By McKAY JENKINS '85. New York, N.Y.: Random House, 2000. 256 pp. $23.95 cloth.

Jenkins has reconstructed the story of five young climbers who died in an avalanche on a mountain slope in Montana in 1969. It is also the story of how an avalanche can form, what happens when one hits, what happens when someone is caught in one, what an individual can do to try to survive and how rescue parties search for victims. The book chronicles avalanches from Hannibal's encounters with them in 218 B.C. as he marched on Rome over the Alps, to the 96 deaths along a rail track being built in the Cascades in 1910, to the modern skier who hopes a satellite positioning device will save him.

 

The Politics of Judgment: Aesthetics, Identity and Political Theory.
By KENNAN FERGUSON '90. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 1999. 176 pp. $40 cloth.

The Politics of Judgment investigates how aesthetic judgment forms the groundwork for understanding political identities. Ferguson discusses how people view themselves in terms of the aesthetic relationship between themselves and larger communities, the foundations of political aesthetics, the aesthetics of foreign policy, sex as an aesthetic marker, and contemporary political aesthetics.

 

Because of the Baby.
By Anne Haven (JOSEPH B. THORON '93 and ANNE HA '93). New York, N.Y.: Harlequin, 2000. 298 pp. $4.50 paper.

When the meeting of two friends results in a pregnancy, what is best for the baby? Should they marry? Can they find true happiness and commitment for the sake of the baby? The latest of many a "Harlequin Superromance" by this Amherst duo.

 

 

Compiled by Elizabeth J. Rolander

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