New Publications

George M. Eberhart

This is my last column for C&RL News. After 32 years, I feel that it’s time to call it quits. It’s been a pleasure writing these mini-reviews, and I hope that they have aided your collection development efforts over the years.—George M. Eberhart

America’s Other Audubon, by Joy M. Kiser (192 pages, May 2012), consists of commentary and a reprint of the plates from the extremely rare Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio by Genevieve Jones and her family and privately published in Circleville, Ohio, in 1886. Jones was inspired to write this book when she saw John James Audubon’s paintings for Birds of America at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and noted that he had left out many bird nests and eggs, items that she had collected since childhood. Unfortunately, she died of typhoid fever after completing only five illustrations. Her parents Virginia and Nelson and her brother Howard decided to complete the work in her memory. Kiser has updated the scientific and common names for the birds in the plates and in Howard’s “key to the eggs,” a tabular description of the eggs and nests for each species. $45.00. Princeton Architectural Press. 978-1-61689-059-9.

The Battle for the Arab Spring, by Lin Noueihed and Alex Warren (350 pages, May 2012), is a superb analysis of the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, and Syria, and the economic and political conditions that led to popular discontent and open revolt. But the democratic outbursts that looked so promising at first have resulted in few improvements for most people in the region, and Islamist groups have been the primary beneficiaries of the Arab Spring, at least in the short run, as secular parties failed to meet populist aspirations. The authors predict an era of greater instability in the region as power struggles continue and monarchs, political parties, and religionists recalibrate their tactics. $28.00. Yale University. 978-0-300-18086-2.

Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces, by Cory MacLauchlin (319 pages, March 2012), is based on extensive interviews with Ken Toole’s friends and family, as well as the Toole papers at Tulane University. Although the story of Toole’s posthumous success with his novel about the eccentric New Orleans character Ignatius J. Reilly is well-known, MacLauchlin provides extensive detail about Toole’s life, corrects much of the misinformation in a previous biography, and argues that the novel’s tragicomic durability ensures Toole’s place in the American literary canon. $26.00. Da Capo. 978-0-306-82040-3.

Fighting the Current: The Rise of American Women’s Swimming, 1870–1926, by Lisa Bier (214 pages, August 2011), uncovers the forgotten history of women’s swimming, from the earliest racing competitions in the 1870s to Gertrude Ederle’s successful English Channel swim in 1926. Many swimmers got their start at water carnivals held by the Volunteer Life Saving Corps or New York’s National Women’s Life Saving League. In 1914, the Amateur Athletic Union finally voted to allow women to participate in its swim meets, which led to the first U.S. women’s swim team to compete in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. Bier’s excellent narrative covers an important gap in the history of women’s athletics. $40.00. McFarland. 978-0-7864-4028-3.

A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa, by Steve Kemper (415 pages, June 2012), tells the story of Prussian scholar Heinrich Barth’s journey in 1850–1855 from Tripoli to Timbuktu and back on an expedition financed by the British government to open trade in North and Central Africa and explore and survey Lake Chad. When Barth’s two European colleagues, James Richardson and Adolf Overweg, died en route, Barth continued alone, aided by a handful of African servants and guides. Barth’s five-volume account of his expedition has been a treasure trove of information on ethnology and geography, but he is not as recognized as other African explorers. Kemper followed part of Barth’s route in Nigeria and Mali to research this book. $28.95. W. W. Norton. 978-0-393-07966-1.

The Laughing Librarian: A History of American Library Humor, by Jeanette C. Smith (231 pages, May 2012), charts the largely unexplored territory of library wit and satire, both inside and outside the profession. Smith, who received the first Moles-worth Institute Library Humor Award in 1999, looks at anecdotal blunders by patrons and library staff, library superheroes (Rex Libris, Batgirl), librarian stereotypes, and parodies (“I am the very model of a Bibli-Specialographer”). She devotes entire chapters to shushing, library technology, and legendary library humorists Edmund Lester Pearson, Norman D. Stevens, and Will Manley. Although this is a straightforward history and not an anthology, there are plenty of library jokes scattered throughout, from the ALA Cognotes swimsuit issue to “For SEX—See the librarian.” As Smith writes in her introduction, “In this book I present the truths of my profession as they were told to me in jest.” $49.95. McFarland. 978-0-7864-6452-4.

Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe, by George Dyson (401 pages, March 2012), examines the protohistory of computing, especially the pioneering work of John von Neumann, Oswald Veblen, Julian Bigelow, Stanislaw Ulam, and Nils Barricelli in bringing Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Computing machine one step closer to reality in the 1950s. An essential choice for computer history collections, but not the easiest of reads. $29.95. Pantheon. 978-0-375-42277-5.

Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King, by Joyce Tyldesley (316 pages, March 2012), reviews what is both known and unknown about the young pharaoh Tutankamen and his ten-year reign. Tyldesley recounts the 1922 discovery of Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, its subsequent excavation, and inventory of its artifacts. Because of the intense media coverage of the find, much speculation and misinformation began to circulate—not the least of which was the supposed curse that led to the premature deaths of many who were present at the opening of the tomb, a myth that the author carefully deconstructs. Of greater interest is a chapter that explores the identities of Tut’s father, mother, and children, a genealogy that DNA analysis has not helped to clarify. $29.99. Basic Books. 978-0-465-02020-1.

The Wizard of Oz As American Myth, by Alissa Burger (230 pages, March 2012), looks at six different expressions of L. Frank Baum’s uniquely American fairy tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: the original novel (1900), the MGM classic movie (1939), Sidney Lumet’s film musical The Wiz (1978), Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995), Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s Broadway hit Wicked: A New Musical (2003), and the SyFy Channel miniseries Tin Man (2007). From Baum’s original conception of Oz as the American frontier, Burger follows the transformations of the myth into shifting representations of gender, metaphors of race and otherness, concepts of domestic space (“there’s no place like home”), and portrayals of magic and witchcraft as either destructive or empowering. $35.00. McFarland. 978-0-7864-6643-6.

Copyright 2012© American Library Association

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