New Publications

George M. Eberhart

Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles, by Beth Gates Warren (382 pages, November 2011), is a meticulously insightful account of the decade of collaboration between southern California photographers Edward Weston (1886–1958) and Margrethe Mather (1886–1952), an interval little examined by art historians because Weston—in an attempt to reinvent himself—destroyed his early journals and belittled his own work from 1913 to 1923, “a period in which I was trying to be artistic.” But photographic historian Warren spent ten years of her own life scrutinizing every scrap of documentation for these lost years, a period in which photography evolved from mere portraiture into a new aesthetic. Mather is revealed as Weston’s model, lover, and studio partner, as well as a creative artist in her own right whose concepts Weston readily adopted as his own. The backdrop for this tale is equally fascinating, as Mather and Weston’s circle of friends included many artists, poets, silent film stars, anarchists, pacifists, and eccentrics who either lived in or passed through early 20th-century Los Angeles, among them Charlie Chaplin, Max Eastman, Florence Deshon, Emma Goldman, Carl Sandburg, Johan Hagemeyer, and Tina Modotti. $39.95. J. Paul Getty Museum. 978-1-60606-070-4.

Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination, by Paul A. Trout (325 pages, November 2011), argues that human imagination, language, storytelling, and religion developed in the Pleistocene as fear-reduction responses to the constant threats posed by numerous large animals (cave bears, saber-toothed cats, short-faced hyenas, crocodilians) that fed on them. Animal predators, Trout writes, were anthropomorphized and mythologized at the dawn of human consciousness into monsters, gods, benefactors, and role models, a system of control and acculturation that transformed fearful, helpless primates into the “alpha predator of the planet.” Narratives about dangerous animals and monsters gave early civilizations a cohesive set of rules for survival and methods for controlling fear that persist in contemporary horror films about rampaging monsters (Jaws, Alien) and human predators (Manhunter, Wolf Creek). Trout’s logical, well-referenced thesis turns upside-down Joseph Campbell’s conjecture that myth developed from the psychological tensions of the hunt. $26.00. Prometheus. 978-1-61614-501-9.

John Milton’s Paradise Lost: A Reading Guide, by Noam Reisner (165 pages, August 2011), offers students a conceptual outline and structural overview of Milton’s epic poem that will make it a more rewarding and less intimidating read. An annotated bibliography and helpful suggestions for teaching the poem follow Reisner’s critical commentary and analysis of the major passages with substantial extracts from the text. $30.00. Edinburgh University. 978-0-7486-4000-3.

The Martians Have Landed!, by Robert E. Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford (248 pages, October 2011), surveys the numerous media-induced panics and hoaxes that are sprinkled throughout history, from the New York Sun’s infamous Moon Hoax of 1835 to recent organ-theft panics and killer-vaccine scares. Although the authors provide little analysis of why these outbreaks occur (other than a combination of bad journalism, vested interests, and the lack of critical thinking), the cumulative effect is a cautionary tale for information consumers. Many more examples are found in Bartholomew’s Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior, coauthored with Hilary Evans (Anomalist Books, 2009). $40.00. McFarland. 978-0-7864-6498-2.

The Tell-Tale Art: Poe in Modern Popular Culture, by Christine A. Jackson (202 pages, October 2011), examines the enduring legacy of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective and horror fiction in current novels, movies, television, and video games, often in unexpected venues. Though it’s easy to grasp that the dire, haunted prison setting of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (2010) has motifs traceable to Poe, Jackson also shows that the imagery and obsession in “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839) are reflected in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychodrama Vertigo (1959) and that the elements of suspense and story structure in “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1842) are mirrored in the Food Network’s culinary reality show Chopped (2009– ). Even the current wave of zombie and vampire films have precursors in “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842) and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” (1845). $40.00. McFarland. 978-0-7864-6318-3.

Travel and Trade in the Middle Ages, by Paul B. Newman (241 pages, April 2011), looks closely at the motives and methods of the medieval traveler. Newman describes every conceivable detail of traveling by land or sea, including horses, wheeled vehicles, roads, fords and bridges, food and shelter, hazards, guidebooks and maps, disease, watercraft, canals, navigation tools, tolls, harbors, and ports. Two chapters are devoted to the transportation of trade goods, as this was one of the primary reasons for traveling in the Middle Ages. Vacations in the modern sense were nonexistent, but in addition to pilgrims, warring knights and men-at-arms, and missionaries, the era also featured traveling doctors, couriers, itinerant poets and minstrels, beggars, and lepers who took to the roads. $39.95. McFarland. 978-0-7864-4535-6.

The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec, by Ian Mount (350 pages, December 2011), tells the story of the Argentine wine industry and the world’s rediscovery of an often underrated, dark-purple variety of grape known as Malbec. Although Malbec cuttings were brought to the Andean province of Mendoza in 1853, it wasn’t until the early years of the 21st century that Argentine vintners recognized the grape’s potential, especially in wines exported to the expanding U.S. market. The book focuses largely on the pioneering work of Nicolás Catena, hailed by many as the Robert Mondavi of Argentina, whose modernization of winemaking techniques in the 1980s brought Argentine Chardonnays and Cabernets to international prominence but who was a latecomer to Malbec. Mount writes with clarity, passion, and a thorough knowledge of his subject, gleaned from many hours of interviews with Catena and dozens of other winemakers, viticulturists, distributors, and oenologists. $26.95. W. W. Norton. 978-0-393-08019-3.

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