Review: “Justifiable Conduct: Self-Vindication in Memoir” by Erich Goode

Discussed in this review: Justifiable Conduct: Self-Vindication in Memoir by Erich Goode. Temple University Press, May 2013, 224 pages. Buy at Temple UP or Amazon.

Done something most people would consider deplorable or contemptible? No problem: write a memoir.  “That some – or many – members of the society violate one or more of its norms, or those of its constituent collectivities, is hardly news. That people who do so blab at length about their transgressions, and on the scale that currently prevails, is a fairly recent development.” This blabbing is an understudied phenomenon, according to the sociologist Erich Goode. He examines the transgressive memoir in his new book, Justifiable Conduct: Self-Vindication in Memoir.

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Review: “Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age” by Judith K. Major

Discussed in this review: Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age by Judith K. Major; University of Virginia Press, 2013, 304 pages. Buy at Amazon or U of Virginia P.

Art forms and genres have to be invented by somebody. As a culture, we need a) artists who create new art forms and b) critics who develop new genres of criticism about these new art forms. And we need biographies of these pathbreakers. Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age by Judith K. Major is such a book.

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The Gospel (of Making) According to Mark

3D printing

Discussed in this review: The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers by Mark Hatch. McGraw-Hill, 2013, 256 pages. Buy at Amazon.

What’s a maker? Chris Anderson puts it this way in his book Makers: “We are born Makers (just watch a child’s fascination with drawings, blocks, Legos, or crafts), and many of us retain that love in our hobbies and passions. It’s not just about workshops, garages, and man caves.”

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Review: Serial Fu Manchu by Ruth Mayer

Fu Manchu

Discussed in this review: Serial Fu Manchu: The Chinese Supervillain and the Spread of Yellow Peril Ideology by Ruth Mayer. Temple University Press, 2013, 216 pages. Buy at Temple UP or Amazon.

Downton Abbey. Sherlock. Who would have thought that in the 21st century we would still be living our lives waiting for the next episode or installment of something? It is a wonder PBS’s influence on our cultural lives hasn’t been dubbed “Nouveau Seriality.”

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Review of Traveling in Place by Bernd Stiegler

Armchairs Out for a Stroll

Discussed in this review: Traveling in Place: A History of Armchair Travel by Bernd Stiegler. University of Chicago Press, 2013, 264 pages. Buy at U of Chicago P or Amazon.

This is a curious, charming little book about a genre of literature I had never heard of: room travel. It is an English translation of a study written in German by Bernd Stiegler, a professor of twentieth-century German literature and of literature and media at the University of Konstanz in Germany. Not being a reader of German, I am going to assume it is an excellent translation and say thank you to the translator, Peter Filkins, a poet and teacher of literature. On to the book.

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Review: Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser

the pale king

Discussed in this review: Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014, 240 pages. Buy at FSG Books and Amazon.

Literary criticism is nothing new, although there’s been a rise in popular nonfiction books that defend why reading literature matters. It’s as if publishers and critics are afraid they’ve lost relevance in recent decades and need to reclaim a stake in the cultural conversation. As an avid reader, I love to read one person’s smart perspective on a book. It’s why I read book reviews, litblogs, and magazine critics, and it’s why I write.

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Review: Slow Reading in a Hurried Age by David Mikics

Discussed in this review: Slow Reading in a Hurried Age by David Mikics. Harvard University Press, 2013, 336 pages. Buy at Harvard UP and Amazon.

We buy ‘em fast, but then we should read ‘em slow. The first part of that statement is a reflection of living in the age of Amazon. The second part is the advice of the English professor, David Mikics. Like many professors, Mikics tells us we have a problem: we are losing the capacity to read attentively and grapple with ideas in texts. He then devises rules – 14 of them – to address the problem.

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Review: Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age by Brooke Erin Duffy

Women's Magazines

Discussed in this review: Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age by Brooke Erin Duffy; Duke University Press, 2013, 168 pages. Buy at U of Illinois P and Amazon.

Do you read women’s magazines? What exactly are they, anyway? I encounter them mainly at supermarket checkouts. The subject matter is often weight control (maybe I should not buy the chips, after all), hair, sex, or recipes. Celebrity interviews are big in women’s magazines. Not my cup of tea. But women’s magazines exist and people read them. Therefore, we should take an interest in them and learn how they are adapting in an era in which magazines in general are struggling. If you are interested in the magazine industry and women’s issues, read Brooke Erin Duffy’s book. Continue reading →