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21. Women, Autobiography, Theory:
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22. The Syntax of Class : Writing
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23. Playing In The Dark : Whiteness
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24. The Jack Ryan Agenda : Policy
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25. Like a Complete Unknown: The Poetry
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26. African American Literary Theory:
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27. Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted
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28. The Great Game : The Myth and
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29. American Palestine
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30. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance
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31. Just Listen To This Song I'M S
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32. American Sensations: Class, Empire,
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33. Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance
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34. The Big Book of Noir
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35. The Black Arts Movement : Literary
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36. The Life You Save May Be Your
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37. Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers!
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38. Democracy, Culture and the Voice
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39. The Writer on Her Work, Volume
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40. The Truth of Ecology: Nature,

21. Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader (Wisconsin Studies in American Autobiography (Paper))
by Sidonie Smith, Julia Watson
list price: $29.95
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Asin: 0299158446
Catlog: Book (1998-07-01)
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Sales Rank: 461624
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Book Description

Women, Autobiography, Theory is the first comprehensive guide tothe burgeoning field of womens autobiography, drawing into one volumethe most significant theoretical discussions on womens life writing ofthe last two decades. The authoritative introduction by Sidonie Smithand Julia Watson surveys writing about womens lives from the womensmovement of the late 1960s to the present. It also relates theoreticalpositions in womens autobiography studies to postmodern,poststructuralist, postcolonial, and feminist analyses.The essaysfrom thirty-nine prominent critics and writers include many consideredclassics in this field. They explore narratives across the centuriesand from around the globe, including testimonios, diaries, memoirs,letters, trauma accounts, prison narratives, coming-out stories,coming-of-age stories, and spiritual autobiographies. A list of morethan two hundred womens autobiographies and a comprehensivebibliography of critical scholarship in womens autobiography provideinvaluable information for scholars, teachers, and readers.

Thereis no other reader like this one on theories of womens autobiography,despite the now wide-ranging approaches to this field. . . . It has themerit of combining within the genre of autobiography criticism many ofthe critical issues that have been paramount during the past twodecades, incorporating and going beyond what both feminism and culturalstudies have attempted. Important and timely.Franoise Lionnet,Northwestern University ... Read more


22. The Syntax of Class : Writing Inequality in Nineteenth-Century America
by Amy Schrager Lang
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Asin: 0691113890
Catlog: Book (2003-01-06)
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Sales Rank: 864803
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Book Description

The Syntax of Class explores the literary expression of the crisis of social classification that occupied U.S. public discourse in the wake of the European revolutions of 1848. Lacking a native language for expressing class differences, American writers struggled to find social taxonomies able to capture--and manage--increasingly apparent inequalities of wealth and power.

As new social types emerged at midcentury and, with them, new narratives of success and failure, police and reformers alarmed the public with stories of the rise and proliferation of the "dangerous classes." At the same time, novelists as different as Maria Cummins, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frank Webb, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Horatio Alger Jr. focused their attention on dense engagements across the lines of class. Turning to the middle-class idea of "home" as a figure for social harmony and to the lexicons of race and gender in their effort to devise a syntax for the representation of class, these writers worked to solve the puzzle of inequity in their putatively classless nation. This study charts the kaleidoscopic substitution of terms through which they rendered class distinctions and follows these renderings as they circulated in and through a wider cultural discourse about the dangers of class conflict.

This welcome book is a finely achieved study of the operation of class in nineteenth-century American fiction--and of its entanglements with the languages of race and gender. ... Read more


23. Playing In The Dark : Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
by TONI MORRISON
list price: $11.00
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Asin: 0679745424
Catlog: Book (1993-07-27)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 66642
Average Customer Review: 4.56 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beloved and Jazz now gives us a learned, stylish, and immensely persuasive work of literary criticism that promises to change the way we read American literature even as it opens a new chapter in the American dialogue on race.

Toni Morrison's brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree--and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires.

Written with the artistic vision that has earned Toni Morrison a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature.

"By going for the American literary jugular...she places her arguments...at the very heart of contemporary public conversation about what it is to be authentically and originally American. [She] boldly...reimagines and remaps the possibility of America."
--Chicago Tribune

"Toni Morrison is the closest thing the country has to a national writer."
The New York Times Book Review
... Read more

Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Leave the reducing for the experts
If Morrison is playing in the dark, then indeed there are those who are angry in the light, so to give a negative reduction of what morrison was clearly stating about how blacks are viewed speaks in high volume, besides i dont know of many japanese who pinpointed out black ppl to enslave them............. even if they did have three eyes, two mouths, or whatever else. lol Another prime example that denial always ends with a bad term......... More emotional baggage disguised as constructive critism..........yawn....................

2-0 out of 5 stars More Heat than Light
Playing in the Dark is a revelation, but not the one intended by its author. What is revealed mainly is just how close to hopeless race relations in this country have come to be. Here we have a writer of nearly undisputed stature, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, who yet cannot summon objectivity on the subject of race, and who offers what seems essentially a bit of personal venting disguised as a serious academic proposal. Not that there isn't an interesting idea at the core of the book, but it's offered up as far more grand than it is, and with such thorough disingenuousness that the reader's main focus is changed very early on from an evaluation of her idea to a voyeuristic obsessing about Ms. Morrison's indecent exposure. Why would she let this book be printed?

The author's claimed intention is stated relatively plainly: "...to examine the impact of notions of racial hierarchy, racial exclusion, and racial vulnerability and availability on nonblacks who held, resisted, explored, or altered those notions." (Page 11.) But much of the book reads for all the world like the work of a sophomore who has learned that her instructor fancies Martin Heidegger and who has checked out a translation of Being and Time to serve as a model for her first essay. Here's a fairly typical example: "For excellent reasons of state - because European sources of cultural hegemony were dispersed but not yet valorized in the new country - the process of organizing American coherence through a distancing Africanism became the operative mode of a new cultural hegemony." (Page 8.) This is the writing of a Nobel laureate? Heidegger's writing was required, it seems to me, by his inaccessible subject; by comparison, Ms. Morrison's subject is elementary.

This is not to say that the author doesn't occasionally reach the levels of creative expression for which she is justly so well known, it's just that in this work her gift seems impotent against her anger. Try though she does to disguise her feelings ("My project rises from delight, not disappointment." Page 4.), it doesn't work, and its failure manifests itself in the oddest ways ("It was not simply that this slave population had a distinctive color; it was that this color "meant" something.... One supposes that if Africans all had three eyes or one ear, the significance of that difference from the smaller but conquering European invaders would also have been found to have meaning." Page 49. Presumably the Japanese would have been, racially, even less appropriate as slave owners).

It seems, finally, that it is Ms. Morrison who is playing in the dark. She senses it, but she can't find the words to say it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Morrison offers "food" for the thought processes!
I always felt that to truly say that one is literate is to be able to state equivocally that one has read a book by Toni Morrison or Stephen Hawking. Sure, Aristotle and Shakespeare are giants, but they were from ages ago. Morrison and Hawking are contemporary thinkers.

Instead of dealing with Morrison the storyteller, I chose to read Morrison the academic analyst in the form of "Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination". And, boy, could I not have chosen a more challenging book.

Morrison skillfully directs the reader's attention to how American literature abounds with overt and/or covert attempts to perpetuate the white male's superiority and the black man's inferiority. She shows how the "Africanist" influence can be found in the respective characters, their dialogues, and their interaction with their white counterparts. By citing examples from Hemingway, Poe, and Cather, the author makes a reader contemplate the author's symbolism and intent. I know that I will look at "great" American works with increased scrutiny.

I wish that she had tackled Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind".

As one of America's most respected writers and a proponent of civil and women's rights, Miss Morrison uses her talent wisely here in this riveting exposé.

Mind you, there are a few words that not even the context will reveal their meanings; therefore, a dictionary would be handy to have around. But, the "research" is well worth it for the book is a feast for the mind.

Bring on Stephen now!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Importance of Seeing in the Dark
When I first read this amazing criticism on American literary history, I finally got it. A huge cloud of misunderstanding and empty justifications lifted from above my head, and I, for the first time, learned how to critically analyze a text. Much more, I learned how to engage with a history of texts. Playing in the Dark effectively chronicles the absence or misconstruction of African-Americans in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemmingway. Morrison's illuminations on how the presence of black is often conflated with evil and lurking metaphores, while white is typically reduced to all that is pure is truly brought to life through the literary examples she utilizes. Further, her argument concerning how Africanism was/is used as a distancing mechanism to ensure hegemony retains its power is most likely the most well developed argument of its kind.

All of Morrison's thoughts are hopefully (and I stress hopefully with utopian blinders on) already flying through the psyches of Americans, but Playing in the Dark gives concrete words to abstract thoughts. This book is an absolute must read for anyone who plans to critically engage in literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening
Playing in the Dark is without a doubt, the most informative critique of the use of the African American presence in American literature. Morrison critiques the work of some of the most famous American novelist and points out how their work is influenced by blackness. Her critique is sharp and forthright. She challenges writers and critics alike to reevaluate their use of language, coding, and imagery as it relates to characters or situations of an "Africanist" nature. The critique identifies specific instances where negative imagery and characterizations are used by writers to help solidify whatever point being made, or image being created. Playing in the Dark should be required reading for any literature curriculum and any critic or writer who dare place pen to paper in an effort to inform or enlighten the reading public. ... Read more


24. The Jack Ryan Agenda : Policy & Politics in the Novels of Tom Clancy: An Unauthorized Analysis (Forge Book)
by William Terdoslavich
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
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Asin: 0765312476
Catlog: Book (2005-05-01)
Publisher: Forge Books
Sales Rank: 211359
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Book Description

Who is Jack Ryan?
Lowly analyst, James Bondian secret agent, President of the United States?
All of the above?
Or is he just Tom Clancy's mouthpiece for what is right and wrong with politics and policy today?

What impact did Red Storm Rising have on Ronald Reagan's policy for dealing with the Soviet Union?Was A Clear and Present Danger a trial balloon for the administration's international war on drugs?Did the climax of Debt of Honorforeshadow the actualterrorist plans for9/11?... And how did Jack Ryan, a lowly analyst, wind up becoming the President of the United States? Was it wishful thinking or a choreographed roadmap for the time when the defense of America was placed firmly in the hands of backroom strategists?
The Jack Ryan Agendaplaces each of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels ( from his bestselling debute of The Hunt for the Red October to his latest The Teeth of the Tiger) within the historical context of the U.S./International situation at the time each book was published.
The Clinton years are examined as well; during this time, Clancy occasionally embraced a "by any means necessary" modus operandi that included Special Forces assassins taking on rogue environmentalists.
Turning to film, The Jack Ryan Agenda explores how the movie versions differ from the Clancy's canon-and notes the author's displeasure with the way Hollywood liberals took liberties with his story lines.
In the bestselling tradition of The Magic of Harry Potter, The Biology of Star Trek, and The Science of Superman, The Jack Ryan Agenda explores this brand name dynamo's work in the context of the real world where patriot games are a clear and present danger and the sum of all fears are executive orders without remorse.
... Read more

25. Like a Complete Unknown: The Poetry of Bob Dylan's Songs, 1961-1969
by John Hinchey
list price: $15.00
our price: $12.75
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Asin: 0972359206
Catlog: Book (2002-10-23)
Publisher: Stealing Home Pr
Sales Rank: 13489
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This study explores the poetry of Dylan’s songs from his first album, Bob Dylan (1962), through Nashville Skyline (1969). It covers all the officially released albums of new material from that period. Some attention is given to almost every original song on those albums, and to some songs--singles, outtakes, demos, and other stray songs--not included on the albums.

The first chapter treats only a single song, "Like a Rolling Stone," and the second covers Dylan’s first two albums, both of which are miscellanies. After that, each chapter treats a single album (though the discussion of Blonde on Blonde takes up two chapters), and in these chapters, some attention is given both to the individual songs and to their place in the context of the album. Decisions about what to emphasize and what to gloss over are based partly on Hinchey’s judgments about the relative worth of each song or album and partly on his instinct for what is interesting or undiscovered about them.

Given Dylan’s history of perpetual self-transformation as an artist, the critical approach is necessarily flexible, varying from album to album and even song to song. But there is a recurrent theme. The most distinctive feature of Dylan’s poetry, Hinchey argues, is the way it is implicitly shaped by the changes (as Dylan imagines them) that are induced in his listener in response to the song as it unfolds. As the lyric unfolds, "you," the listener, are changed by what "you" hear, and anticipating these changes in the "you" he is addressing, Dylan’s perception of and attitude toward "you" changes correspondingly. Moreover, these changes in his perception of "you" provoke in turn adjustments in his perception of and attitude toward himself. Dylan’s characteristic song is seen as a duet for solo voice. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Tells You How It Feels
A fine addition to your Dylan library. One of the few books to deal with Dylan's output with the respect and insight it deserves. Thankfully the book is on the songs rather than the life of Bob Dylan.

With the insight of an academic yet using fully accessible, virtually jargon free, prose Mr. Hinchey's takes us on a journey through Bob Dylan's 1960's work answering the question "How Does It Feel".

A convincing thesis is laid out in the introduction and expounded in the following chapters. You don't have to agree with all the interpretations to still get a lot out of them. Having said which I have rarely agreed with as many.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superbly illuminating!
It's great to finally read a serious, subtle reading of Dylan's evocative but often mysterious lyrics. Hinchey regards Dylan as a major poet, and his book provides powerful support for that view. Classics heard many times like "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" take on richer, brighter colors after reading "Like a Complete Unknown." ... Read more


26. African American Literary Theory: A Reader
by Winston Napier
list price: $30.00
our price: $30.00
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Asin: 081475810X
Catlog: Book (2000-06-30)
Publisher: New York University Press
Sales Rank: 219771
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Book Description

"African American Literary Theory is an extraordinary gift to literary studies. It is necessary, authoritative and thorough. The timing of this book is superb!"

--Karla F.C. Holloway, Duke University

"The influence of African American literature can be attributed, in no small part, to the literary theorists gathered in this collection. This is a superb anthology that represents a diversity of voices and points of view, and a much needed historical retrospective of how African American literary theory has developed."

--Marlon B. Ross, University of Michigan

"A volume of great conceptual significance and originality in its focus on the development of African American literary theory."

--Farah Jasmine Griffin, University of Pennsylvania

African American Literary Theory: A Reader is the first volume to document the central texts and arguments in African American literary theory from the 1920s through the present. As the volume progresses chronologically from the rise of a black aesthetic criticism, through the Blacks Arts Movement, feminism, structuralism and poststructuralism, and the rise of queer theory, it focuses on the key arguments, themes, and debates in each period.

By constantly bringing attention to the larger political and cultural issues at stake in the interpretation of literary texts, the critics gathered here have contributed mightily to the prominence and popularity of African American literature in this country and abroad. African American Literary Theory provides a unique historical analysis of how these thinkers have shaped literary theory, and literature at large, and will be a indispensable text for the study of African American intellectual culture.

Contributors include Sandra Adell, Michael Awkward, Houston A. Baker, Jr., Hazel V. Carby, Barbara Christian, W.E.B. DuBois, Ann duCille, Ralph Ellison, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Addison Gayle Jr., Carolyn F. Gerald, Evelynn Hammonds, Phillip Brian Harper, Mae Gwendolyn Henderson, Stephen E. Henderson, Karla F.C. Holloway, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Joyce A. Joyce, Alain Locke, Wahneema Lubiano, Deborah E. McDowell, Harryette Mullen, Larry Neal, Charles I. Nero, Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Marlon B. Ross, George S. Schuyler, Barbara Smith, Valerie Smith, Hortense J. Spillers, Sherley Anne Williams, and Richard Wright.

... Read more


27. Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
by Ralph C. Wood
list price: $22.00
our price: $14.96
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Asin: 0802821170
Catlog: Book (2004-03-01)
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Sales Rank: 31826
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28. The Great Game : The Myth and Reality of Espionage
by FREDERICK P. HITZ
list price: $22.00
our price: $15.40
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Asin: 0375412107
Catlog: Book (2004-04-20)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 25707
Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Fun Read
The Great Game is a great starting point, or ending point, for any reader interested in spy fiction. It's not a tell all account of Professor Hitz's years in the CIA, it's a topical approach to espionage writ large. Read that way it's both informative and fun. I enjoyed reading the different chapters as distinct units when I had the time. I recommend the book, just don't make the mistake of some other reviewers and assume it is something it doesn't purport to be. I found it informative and quick.

4-0 out of 5 stars A pretty good book
I enjoyed this book, though it has several frustrations. It is a relatively small book, and a relatively quick read. Overall, the text is very approachable and the subject matter broad but not deep. Each chapter is for a particular aspect of spying such as: sex, tradecraft, gadgets, recruitment, betrayal, retirement, etc. Each chapter is presented in an artificially independent manner; rarely does one chapter refer back to a reference in another chapter. I suppose this can help keep things straight, but it makes it more difficult to create a continuous thread of understanding through the whole book.

Throughout the book, Hitz compares his experiences (rarely explicitely said or rarely a specific incident cited) to about 10 fictional accounts and about 5 true-life books previously written. There are many extended quotes followed by a short interpertation by Hitz. Most of the book focuses on what the author deems an accurate (versus inaccurate) portrayal. If you are not familiar with most of the sources he uses then you may have a difficult time keeping keeping the references straight throughout the book (as I did).

I had a difficult time deciding whether to give three or four stars. The book is a nice read, but not to deep. I felt myself constantly looking for more; wondering what Hitz was leaving out, what he couldn't say and what is still classified "secret" by the government. In the end, I am not a spook so I have to give Hitz the benefit of the doubt and assume he is relatively thorough and honest.

2-0 out of 5 stars Hitz may understand spying-he doesn't understand fiction.
The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage by Frederick P. Hitz is, essentially, a comparative analysis. Hitz, a longtime actual spook at the CIA compares and contrasts various actual spies (Aldrich Ames, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, etc.) life and professional histories with the writings and characters of highly regarded and well known fictional stories and spies-( John Le Carre, Tom Clancy).

Overall, the book is a great disappointment. While there is the occasional nugget of info that piques ones interest, on the whole the exercise generates conclusions that dash between the obvious to the trite.

That in itself would be disappointing enough. The real problem here is that Hitz demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the nature of spy fiction. None of the books he analyzes are written to be a primer of the spy profession. These are not procedurals, they bare novels. As such, they are written to be, more than anything else, morality plays. The issues at hand may vary between the morality of grand policies of nations or movement, the morality of spying itself, the interplay between good and evil-whatever. They are written to tell a story and express a viewpoint, not to provide ideal textbook descriptions of the art of spying. That's the role of non-fiction.

Hitz marvels that the "real world" is so much more complex, untidy, clear cut and, indeed, in some ways, far more chaotic than is portrayed in spy novels. He would have done well to remember Tom Clancy's famous quote about the difference between fiction and real life: "Fiction has to make sense."

His lack of understanding of that premise sinks this effort from the beginning.

1-0 out of 5 stars Don't belive the hype
It is truly a shame. I approached the Frederick Hitz book "The Great Game" with great enthusiasm and anticipation. As a reader of a wide number of fiction authors from the espionage genre I found the idea that an author with solid credentials in the intelligence community reviewing and commenting on these fictional exercises positively exciting. Thus, my disappointment at finding Mr. Hitz had little to nothing to say of interest.

The chapters, treating with Betrayal, Tradecraft, Assassination and similar topics, certainly address the proper subject matter. However, the chapters contents, on occasion numbering as few as four pages in length, were uniformly superficial and, worse still, occasionally repetitive. In the attempt to contrast fictional works with real life Hitz makes reference frequently to cases such as those of Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and the British intelligence officer Kim Philby and his contemporaries. In not a single case, however, is an operation conducted by these men discussed, analyzed or even referenced in any depth that would illustrate the espionage activities of the actors. Discussion of these agents is limited primarily to establishing the personal and historical context in which their actions take place.

Likewise, and seemingly much worse, is the treatment given those fiction authors whose works Hitz comments upon. Lengthy quotes from the works of Le Carre, William Hood, Erskine Childers, Graham Greene, and others well known to readers of the espionage genre receive only the most cursory comments, seemingly devoid of more than "Introductory Psychology" levels of insight.

In sum, this book proves disappointing on numerous levels conceivably of obvious interest to the more than casual reader of espionage fiction to which audience the book must necessarily be intended for. The jacket blurb from Zbigniew Brzezinski promises "an illuminating perspective, based on personal experience and sharp intellect." It instead is a limited discourse, in both depth and scope, and devoid of evidence of experience. The reader must decide for themself whether the intellect is sharp or, as would be my opinion, dumbed down.

For interested readers, I would recommend instead Robert Baer's SEE NO EVIL. The reader can then use their own insight and by reading somewhat between the lines appreciate a chronicle of the strengths and weaknesses to be found in espionage, and by extension, in the fictionalized accounts of espionage to be found in English language literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Spy Fact, Spy Fiction
If you are a fan of spy films and fiction, you will appreciate the countless times double agents are integral to their plots, and how often the Americans, say, would dangle rewards to recruit Soviet spies to come over to the other side. It worked in fiction; it never worked, not once, in any significant way, in actual spying. Frederick P. Hitz, who has a long history of service with the CIA, knows this and says it is confirmed by former CIA director Robert M. Gates and case officer Dwight Clarridge. In _The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage_ (Knopf), Hitz gives an overview of 20th century spying, comparing fiction to the real thing. It will be a book best appreciated by those who are familiar with the work of such authors as le Carré and Graham Greene, but it can be appreciated not just for the comparisons between fact and fiction, but for the many observations of fact about the spying game.

Rather than recruitments, there were walk-ins by Soviets; a spy (or potential spy) literally walked in to an embassy and offered his services. Changing sides comes from diverse motivations. Some Soviet walk-ins disliked the repression of the Soviet state. Others needed money. Aldrich Ames walked into the Washington Soviet embassy in 1985 with what he estimated was $150,000 in CIA and FBI secrets, ready to sell because he had a lot of bills for his extravagant way of living. Frequently spies have resentment towards their own bureaucracies and failures to rise in them. Sometimes people are tricked into spying. Even the James Bond novels describe a specific sort of "honey pot" entrapment, whereby the sexual liaison would be filmed and the victim forced to spy if he wanted to avoid exposure. The Soviets could apparently insist to attractive female workers that their bodies belonged to the state and had duties as lures, not the sort of order that western countries could make to their female employees. It is interesting that honey pots did not work in the opposite direction for another reason. Entrapped westerners would fret about exposure, but when such entrapment was tried on Soviets, they "...would invariably laugh off the threat of exposure as not very compelling in their country." Gadgets so beloved by the movies are downplayed here. There have been, for example, extraordinary advances in miniaturization of microphones and transmitters, but a cat equipped with a microphone makes too many sounds of its own; thus the "Acoustic Kitty" of the Technical Support Division "died a deserved death as technically infeasible."

Spy reality has affected spy fiction. Where the heroes used to be unsung good guys doing their patriotic duties, after Vietnam and Watergate, novelists like le Carré and Clancy wrote about obsessives, misfits, and power freaks who were interested in playing the spy game for itself rather than for national interest. The end of the Cold War and the effect of terrorism have potential for bringing back the hero spy. Perhaps we have hero spies now and Hitz simply is not able to sing their praises because they are still spying. His book is good at giving details of such things as the treasons of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, and also the contributions of Soviet double agents to the information Kennedy needed to decide on the Cuban blockade. It is in giving these inside stories that Hitz succeeds in conveying his thesis: leaving aside the more fantastic Bondian conceits, "...real espionage cases are often more bizarre, more deserving of a place in Ripley's than the fictional accounts." ... Read more


29. American Palestine
by Hilton Obenzinger
list price: $22.95
our price: $22.95
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Asin: 0691009732
Catlog: Book (1999-10-25)
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Sales Rank: 638256
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In the nineteenth century, American tourists, scholars, evangelists, writers, and artists flocked to Palestine as part of a "Holy Land mania." Many saw America as a New Israel, a modern nation chosen to do God's work on Earth, and produced a rich variety of inspirational art and literature about their travels in the original promised land, which was then part of Ottoman-controlled Palestine. In American Palestine, Hilton Obenzinger explores two "infidel texts" in this tradition: Herman Melville's Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1876) and Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad: or, The New Pilgrims' Progress (1869). As he shows, these works undermined in very different ways conventional assumptions about America's divine mission.

In the darkly philosophical Clarel, Melville found echoes of Palestine's apparent desolation and ruin in his own spiritual doubts and in America's materialism and corruption. Twain's satiric travelogue, by contrast, mocked the romantic naiveté of Americans abroad, noting the incongruity of a "fantastic mob" of "Yanks" in the Holy Land and contrasting their exalted notions of Palestine with its prosaic reality. Obenzinger demonstrates, however, that Melville and Twain nevertheless shared many colonialist and orientalist assumptions of the day, revealed most clearly in their ideas about Arabs, Jews, and Native Americans.

Combining keen literary and historical insights and careful attention to the context of other American writings about Palestine, this book throws new light on the construction of American identity in the nineteenth century. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars National Mania
American Palestine: Melville, Twain, and the Holy Land Mania is a strong and insightful study that sheds light on an important geographic-cultural landscape that shapes American culture. By focusing on the ideological construction of late Nineteenth-century Palestine in the American imagination, Obenzinger shows that this imagination contains much more than meets the eye of those who only look at the domestic spaces of Melville and Twain. Both writers traveled to Palestine, and the texts they produced about these experiences have been deeply and intimately related to their perceptions of, and contributions to, U.S. national culture, which has been obsessed, as the book so persuasively shows, with images and beliefs about "the Holy Land." Obenzinger writes beautifully about Melville's melancholic and Twain's humorous treatment of Palestine and its significance for U.S. culture. ... Read more


30. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance
by Jr., Houston A. Baker
list price: $13.00
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Asin: 0226035255
Catlog: Book (1989-01-15)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 542589
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Book Description

"Mr. Baker perceives the Harlem Renaissance as a crucial moment in a movement, predating the 1920's, when Afro-Americans embraced the task of self-determination and in so doing gave forth a distinctive form of expression that still echoes in a broad spectrum of 20th-century Afro-American arts. . . . Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance may well become Afro-America's 'studying manual.'"--Tonya Bolden, New York Times Book Review

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31. Just Listen To This Song I'M S
by Jerry Silverman
list price: $32.40
our price: $32.40
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Asin: 1562946730
Catlog: Book (1996-03-01)
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Sales Rank: 464376
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32. American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture (American Crossroads, 9)
by Shelley Streeby
list price: $24.95
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Asin: 0520229452
Catlog: Book (2002-04-01)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 518509
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

16 illustrations This innovative cultural history investigates an intriguing, thrilling, and often lurid assortment of sensational literature that was extremely popular in the United States in 1848--including dime novels, cheap story paper literature, and journalism for working-class Americans. Shelley Streeby uncovers themes and images in this "literature of sensation" that reveal the profound influence that the U.S.-Mexican War and other nineteenth-century imperial ventures throughout the Americas had on U.S. politics and culture. Streeby's analysis of this fascinating body of popular literature and mass culture broadens into a sweeping demonstration of the importance of the concept of empire for understanding U.S. history and literature.This accessible, interdisciplinary book brilliantly analyzes the sensational literature of George Lippard, A.J.H Duganne, Ned Buntline, Metta Victor, Mary Denison, John Rollin Ridge, Louisa May Alcott, and many other writers. Streeby also discusses antiwar articles in the labor and land reform press; ideas about Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua in popular culture; and much more. Although the Civil War has traditionally been a major period marker in U.S. history and literature, Streeby proposes a major paradigm shift by using mass culture to show that the U.S.-Mexican War and other conflicts with Mexicans and Native Americans in the borderlands were fundamental in forming the complex nexus of race, gender, and class in the United States. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars ground breaking
American Sensations is a brilliant book, useful to students, professors and other readers interested in the history of popular culture and US imperialism. Well written and researched, Streeby's analysis of popular culture regarding the US/Mexican War--a conflict often overlooked in accounts of US cultural history--is stunning. This is a real classic destined to be read for years to come by students and scholars in American Studies, Latin American Studies, and Chicana/o Studies. And given current debates over US imperialism in the Middle East, American Sensations should be required reading for anyone interested in how the past continues to shape our present moment. ... Read more


33. Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance
by Cary D. Wintz, Texas A&m University Press
list price: $21.95
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Asin: 089096761X
Catlog: Book (1997-02-01)
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Sales Rank: 877373
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars AN EXCEPTIONAL PORTRAYAL OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
From the close of the 19th century, when the first pre-Renaissance writers began to be published for the dominating white readers, to the Depression era that marked the demise of the movement, Cary D. Wintz analyzes the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance as the attempt of black writers to come to terms with the social issues of the 1920s-1930s through their writing.

Being his approach both literary and social, he does not neglect the different positions of politics and philosophers, highlighting the non-unanimity of views on the goals the participants should aim at and the ensuing strains arising from within the movement.

Wintz sublty depicts an intertwining net of relationships: black community and its literature, black artists and their target, black protégés and white patrons, black authors and white publishing houses, emphasising that it was this sheer interplay between the black intelligentsia and the white community that kept alive the vitality of the movement, despite the inevitable disagreements among the participants. Notwithstanding the fact that the Harlem Renaissance was led by a "loose coalition" of intellectuals, Wintz detects its "uniqueness" and bound in the "shared undertaking" of those same intellectuals who became aware of creating a "revolution in American literature".

Wintz's particular ability is of investigating the Harlem Renaissance in all its nuances, including in his portrayal both the remote rise of the movement, with the analysis of the impact on the white-dominated scene of major black writers such as Chestnutt and Dunbar, the reasons of its fall and its effects on the following generations of writers, besides the accurate report of the hey-day of the movement.

Special attention must be drawn on the sources consulted by the critic. As a matter of fact, most of the correspondence exchanged among the participants is scattered all over the United States, kept in several Libraries, Centers and Collections. Therefore, the consultations of such sources underline a work of precision and refinement and an attempt of restoring the live voices of the Renaissance makers.

As a student and researcher on the topic of the Harlem Renaissance, I found this book exceptionally useful, detailed and clear. The author's style is straight-to-the-point and pragmatic. He wisely avoids any overlapping digression to the main subject matter and makes the reader understand his outlooks with clear images. I warmly recommend this text to any reader who feels like enriching his / her knowledge about this enlighting phase of American literature! ... Read more


34. The Big Book of Noir
by Lee Server, Martin H. Greenberg, Ed Gorman
list price: $19.95
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Asin: 0786705744
Catlog: Book (1998-10-01)
Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub
Sales Rank: 566002
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Penzler Pick, December 1999: It took the French, with their word for "dark," to give an identity to an important mystery sub-genre. Something more than hard-boiled, noir--whether in film, book, or television--must also speak to a sense of existential nihilism, where betrayal is how romance best expresses itself and fear is only another name for foreplay. But while we all now know what noir is, when it was starting to coalesce as a coherent style back in the 1940s and early 1950s, it was more spontaneous, less self-conscious. It was wholly representative of a world then at war, not just with visible enemies, but with unseen ones as well.

Editors Gorman, Server, and Greenberg have brought together a fine galaxy of contributors (among them, William F. Nolan, James Sallis, Mike Ripley, Bill Pronzini, Gary Lovisi, Max Allan Collins, and many more) to cover the waterfront in all areas of noir artistry. Even Stephen King weighs in with a tribute to Jim Thompson, wonderfully titled "Warning! Warning! Hitchhikers May Be Escaped Lunatics!" (Thompson fans will get the joke.) Charles Willeford, Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Orson Welles, John D. MacDonald, Leigh Brackett, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Gunn, Joe Friday, Lew Archer, and Lawrence Block--they're all here, and more, of course. It's 386 pages deep in noir references, lore, and opinions. But of special interest to book collectors are the chapters on the old publishers and imprints: Lion Books, Gold Medal, and others. There are conversations too, among them a rare chat with cult favorite Peter Rabe (who died in 1990), an interview with the always lively and urbane Donald E. Westlake, and a talk with Abraham Polonsky (screenplay writer, director, and blacklistee). Even kid stuff is not exempt from the bleak world of noir. Ron Goulart explores comic book noir, and, as a well-respected expert in the field of comics and cartoon strips, leads us back to such forgotten figures as "Steel Sterling," "Madam Satan," and "Johnny Dynamite."

If you've ever enjoyed a book by James Ellroy, Jim Thompson, or Richard Stark, or any movie with Veronica Lake or Lizabeth Scott, this book is not to be missed. --Otto Penzler ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars A great reference
If you're looking for an intriguing, informative, and overall enjoyable reference work on both noir fiction and film, look no further. The Big Book of Noir, co-edited by Lee Server and Ed Gorman, is chock full of terrific pieces on great directors and writers including Cornell Woolrich, A.I. Bezzerides (writer of the classics Kiss Me Deadly, On Dangerous Ground, and Thieves' Highway), Harry Whittington, Peter Rabe, Fritz Lang, Leigh Brackett, Gil Brewer, Mickey Spillane, and many more.

One of the best things about the book is that several of the above-mentioned pieces are actually interviews; Lang and Bezzerides fall into this category, as do Daniel Mainwaring (writer of Out of the Past), Abraham Polonsky (writer of Force of Evil), Peter Rabe, Charles Willeford, and Donald Westlake.

Several of the non-interview pieces are written by some of the best known writers in suspense fiction around including Stephen King (on Jim Thompson), William Nolan, Ed Gorman, Barry Malzberg, Bill Pronzini, and Max Allan Collins. Other pieces are firsthand accounts--by Leigh Brackett and Malvin Wald (writer of Naked City).

There's an interesting checklist of 100 favorite noir films (including a few by Jean-Pierre Melville, one of the all-time great French directors--a powerful inspiration for Tarantino), another checklist of 100 noir novels, and even a section on noir comics!

The Radio and TV section goes into Peter Gunn, of course, but also mentions the lesser-known (and by all accounts, far more interesting) Johnny Staccato which starred John Cassevetes who was infinitely edgier than Craig Stevens' Gunn character.

These guys have done their homework and more, and it definitely shows. It's a shame this book is out of print; it's terrific!

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential
A wonderful collection featuring some of the world's best noir scholars and historians. There's a wealth of information between these covers, but the book is worth its weight in platinum for the magnificent, definative essay on Gil Brewer written by Bill Pronzini.

5-0 out of 5 stars This one walks the walk, not just talks the talk.
As the lowly web guy behind The Thrilling Detective Web Site, I'm always looking for good reference books, and this one's a keeper! It collects some of the very best articles, essays and critiques in one handy volume, covering everything from film and fiction to radio, television and comics. Passionate, diverse, opinionated, cranky, illuminating and enlightening, it's like a Greatest Hits of Noir Criticism. ... Read more


35. The Black Arts Movement : Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture)
by James Edward Smethurst
list price: $59.95
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Asin: 080782934X
Catlog: Book (2005-04-18)
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Sales Rank: 380356
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Book Description

Emerging from a matrix of Old Left, black nationalist, and bohemian ideologies and institutions, African American artists and intellectuals in the 1960s coalesced to form the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement. In this comprehensive analysis, James Smethurst examines the formation of the Black Arts Movement and demonstrates how it deeply influenced the production and reception of literature and art in the United States through its negotiations of the ideological climate of the Cold War, decolonization, and the civil rights movement.

Taking a regional approach, Smethurst examines variations in the character of the local expressions of the nascent Black Arts Movement, a movement distinctive in its geographical reach and diversity, while always keeping the frame of the larger movement in view. The Black Arts Movement, he argues, fundamentally changed American attitudes about the relationship between popular culture and "high" art and dramatically transformed the landscape of public funding for the arts. ... Read more


36. The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
by Paul Elie
list price: $27.00
our price: $17.01
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Asin: 0374256802
Catlog: Book (2003-04-05)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 10271
Average Customer Review: 4.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The story of four modern American Catholics who made literature out of their search for God

In the mid–twentieth century four American Catholics came to believe that the best way to explore the questions of religious faith was to write about them—in works that readers of all kinds could admire. The Life You Save May Be Your Own is their story—a vivid and enthralling account of great writers and their power over us.

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk in Kentucky; Dorothy Day the founder of the Catholic Worker in New York; Flannery O’Connor a “Christ-haunted” literary prodigy in Georgia; Walker Percy a doctor in New Orleans who quit medicine to write fiction and philosophy. A friend came up with a name for them—the School of the Holy Ghost—and for three decades they exchanged letters, ardently read one another’s books, and grappled with what one of them called a “predicament shared in common.”

A pilgrimage is a journey taken in light of a story; and in The Life You Save May Be Your Own Paul Elie tells these writers’ story as a pilgrimage from the God-obsessed literary past of Dante and Dostoevsky out into the thrilling chaos of postwar American life. It is a story of how the Catholic faith, in their vision of things, took on forms the faithful could not have anticipated. And it is a story about the ways we look to great books and writers to help us make sense of our experience, about the power of literature to change—to save—our lives.
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Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars Literature as Spiritual Direction
I had read a lot of Flannery O'Connor, but didn't know as much about Merton, Dorothy Day, or Walker Percy. Elie's assessment of O'Connor's writing is not only accurate, but insightful. He is a very gifted theologian, literary critic, and biographer.

In reading him, I gained several new insights into O'Connor's stories and how her life and Catholicism influenced them. Some of his images (for instance, describing Mrs. Turpin in "Revelation" as a "hillbilly Thomist") were absolutely delightful and right on target. Through Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor, he also paints a wonderful picture of the strange and wonderful world of Southern Catholics.

What is most impressive about this book, however, is how he weaves the lives, writing and faith journeys of four very different persons together, showing that indeed, grace perfects nature, even when the "nature" is quite different from one personality to another. They were all clearly influenced by the same threads of Catholic theology and spirituality, but reflected it back to us in very different ways.

This book was interesting to me because of its literary and theological themes. But even more, it was spiritual reading. Again and again I stoped reading and compared their spiritual journeys to my own. Reading Elie's book has deepened my faith and given me hope that despite my own doubts and the "bumps in the road" on my spiritual journey, I might still one day hope to achieve some measure of holiness. What's more, I highlighted many passages which will surely be fodder for some future preaching!

Fr. Charles Bouchard, OP

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Gem in Catholic Literary Scholarship
The title of Paul Elie's book THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN is borrowed from a short story title of Flannery O'Connor, one of the four writers discussed in his book. The other three are Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy. The focus of Elie's work is not as much biographical as it is literary. He looks at the two things that connect these four great people: faith and writing, and shows how both work together to produce the great literary output of each author. Elie sees these four people as being part of an informal "Catholic" school of writers. Elie looks at an analyzes many of the writings of each author, and presents it in a manner that will appeal to the scholar and lay reader as well. Though the book has biographical information, and is arranged in a chronological manner, biographical and historical details are only provided where absolutely necessary to discuss the literary works of Day, Merton, O'Connor, and Percy.

There has been a temptation to see Merton and Day as larger than life, almost saintly figures, Percy and O'Connor as eccentric southerners who happen to be Catholic, and in the case of O'Connor, a Catholic writer trying to impose blatant symbols of faith in all of her writings. Elie certainly admires all four, but shows them from a human point of view. In doing so, he debunks many of the myths surrounding these four figures. From a spiritual point of view, they are just as human as we are, and it is because of their very human struggles that their literary output is possible.

Elie breaks important ground by looking at these four great Catholic figures as writers, and his work will undoubtedly set the stage for further study of the literary connections of Merton, Day, O'Connor, and Percy. His book includes copious endnotes that will enable a person to easily find works by and about these four authors. In most chapters Elie discusses each of the four, but he uses breaks after sections about each author which makes reading easier. Elie himself is a book editor and he uses his skills as an editor to write a concise work. The length of the book demonstrates this alone. The text without endnotes is approximately 475 pages. There are certainly individual works about Merton, O'Connor, and Day equal or greater in length than Elie's work, but hardly say as much. I cannot say for certain about Percy since I am not familiar with scholarly or biographical works about him.

This book will more than likely be of interest to Catholic readers, but anyone who wishes to study the role of faith in Day, Merton, O'Connor, and Percy, will find this book a great read an a valuable resource.

2-0 out of 5 stars Why was this book written?
I don't believe I have ever read a book in which the author worked so hard to distance himself from his subject matter. Based on his writing, I picture Mr. Elie as exactly the sort of secularized "Big Intellectual" that all four of the people he writes about would have regarded with pity. Why would someone so convinced that Catholic orthodoxy is dead, and that no modern person takes the teachings of the Baltimore Catechism seriously, write about these four people, of ALL the people in the world to write about? I never cease to marvel at how crabbed and parochial the world of the east coast writer really is. Was there no one involved in the editorial process who might have pointed out to Mr. Elie that the Baltimore Catechism is alive and well, and that the Catholic faith remains as credible for millions today as it was to Merton, O'Connor et al.? All I can figure is that Elie is trying to exorcize the ghost of a parochial school education. In that case, methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Flawed but Good Read
Paul Elie's combined biographies of Merton, Day, Percy, and O'Connor has many virtues, which other reviewers have mentioned and elaborated upon. No doubt the convergence of the lives of these four gifted writers is a fascinating story, and Elie's footnotes in the back are very detailed and helpful. The main problem I have with this book is that Elie's Catholicism is so attenuated that it can hardly grasp much of what these writers were trying to do with their lives and with their work. On the last page of his book, Elie states plainly his position that "there is no one true faith", true for all people, all times. That's a proposition that I think his four subjects would take issue with, and sharply. As O'Connor famously said of the Blessed Sacrament, "If it's a symbol, well the hell with it." Elie also has a fairly superficial understanding of what a pilgrimage is in traditional Catholic culture and theology. He reduces it to a journey undertaken to see something with one's own eyes, something akin to a story lived out. Well, sure, but of the deeper sense of that word--one central certainly to Percy--Elie has no idea. The "homo viator" is essentially a pilgrim, a wayfarer, and is central to Percy's idea of the self, and thus to all his work. Alas, Elie's faith--at least as expressed in this book--is nothing like the faith of the writers he finds so fascinating. Merton, Day, Percy, and O'Connor knew their faith allowed them to assent to something that transcended their reason, that allowed them to partake of mysteries that are not "projected" by their desires, but are the source and goal of all natural human desires in the first place. Elie's interesting but flawed work shows that heterodox Catholicism is hardly up to the task of really appreciating these gifted writers. Unfortunately, that is the least of its problems.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mind Moving
In The Life You Save May Be Your Own : An American Pilgrimage, Paul Elie skillfully integrates the lives and works of Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, and Percy Walker. The spiritual and artistic struggles of each author are unforgetable. A read that can alter one's life. ... Read more


37. Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers! : Writers on Comics
list price: $24.95
our price: $15.72
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Asin: 0375422560
Catlog: Book (2004-06-29)
Publisher: Pantheon
Sales Rank: 45374
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In Give Our Regards to the Atom-smashers!, some of our most intriguing and creative contemporary writers weigh in on the world of comics: the ones they love versus the ones they hate, the comics they devoured as kids and still can't live without, and the comics that have influenced them in their work and their lives.

Here is Jonathan Lethem on childhood friendships, comic books, and the genius of artist Jack Kirby . . . Brad Meltzer on spending a summer vacation with the New Teen Titans. . . Glen David Gold on the obsessive nature of collecting . . . Myla Goldberg writing about the disturbed visions of Chris Ware and Renee French . . . Steve Erickson riffing on the perverse patriotism of American Flagg. Here, too, are Luc Sante on Tintin, Aimee Bender on Yummy Fur, Greil Marcus on Uncle Sam, Lydia Millet on Little Nemo in Slumberland, and many others. Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers! is a quirky, thrilling, and compulsively readable celebration of the unique alchemy of words and drawings that forms the language of comic books. It is a book that will delight the seasoned comics reader and invite everyone else into a whole new world. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic Variety
Sean Howe has done an exemplary job of collecting together a varied and interesting set of essays. Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers includes many different writers examining their passion, both past and/or present, for comics, whether of the superhero or alternative variety, ranging from discussions of Chris Ware to Jack Kirby to Tintin. The most obvious joy for the reader will be in reading an essay in which a writer finds joy in the same memories you yourself possess but the slyer pleasure comes in reading an essay that will lead you into a new discovery, and, for me, there were many of these essays. Virtually every piece is touching as each one leads a writer to reveal something personal and, for many, so private a thing; a love of comics. It is a wonderful collection. ... Read more


38. Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry (University Center for Human Values)
by Robert Pinsky
list price: $16.95
our price: $11.53
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Asin: 0691096171
Catlog: Book (2002-09-03)
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Sales Rank: 522566
Average Customer Review: 3 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The place of poetry in modern democracy is no place, according to conventional wisdom. The poet, we hear, is a casualty of mass entertainment and prosaic public culture, banished to the artistic sidelines to compose variations on insipid themes for a dwindling audience. Robert Pinsky, however, argues that this gloomy diagnosis is as wrongheaded as it is familiar. Pinsky, whose remarkable career as a poet itself undermines the view, writes that to portray poetry and democracy as enemies is to radically misconstrue both. The voice of poetry, he shows, resonates with profound themes at the very heart of democratic culture.

There is no one in America better to write on this topic. One of the country's most accomplished poets, Robert Pinsky served an unprecedented two terms as America's Poet Laureate (1997-2000) and led the immensely popular multimedia Favorite Poem Project, which invited Americans to submit and read aloud their favorite poems. Pinsky draws on his experiences and on characteristically sharp and elegant observations of individual poems to argue that expecting poetry to compete with show business is to mistake its greatest democratic strength--its intimate, human scale--as a weakness.

As an expression of individual voice, a poem implicitly allies itself with ideas about individual dignity that are democracy's bedrock, far more than is mass participation. Yet poems also summon up communal life.. Even the most inward-looking work imagines a reader. And in their rhythms and cadences poems carry in their very bones the illusion and dynamic of call and response. Poetry, Pinsky writes, cannot help but mediate between the inner consciousness of the individual reader and the outer world of other people. As part of the entertainment industry, he concludes, poetry will always be small and overlooked. As an art--and one that is inescapably democratic--it is massive and fundamental.

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Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars A middle-ground defense of poetry
As a poet, critic, and as Poet Laureate, a literary activist, Pinsky has been a significant force in recent efforts to comprehend relationships between American poetry and culture. This volume summarizes his efforts to "consider the voice of poetry [...] within the culture of American democracy, amid the tensions of pluralism." Although Marxists and Post-structuralists will likely find the unquestioned humanism implicit in Pinsky's argument suspect, he nevertheless offers pragmatic arguments for situating poetry's cultural and political role in American society and for understanding the social value of private art. He emphasizes how the diverse character of America has led to a "fantastic" experience of memory that "exaggerates the anxieties of uniformity and memory" in a nevertheless positive role of resistance to the "apparently total successes" of colonization. Poetry's function in the process of cultural memory lends a bodily quality to the "solitary voice" and defends human-scale perceptions and judgments from the leveling effects of mass-scale culture. For Pinsky, the "solitude of lyric [...] invokes a social presence." Integral, is poetry's intrinsic vocality, creating a force that "originates within the reader" but "gestures outward" to "alert us to the presence of another or others." Thus poetry, though inherently personal, is nevertheless "far from solipsistic" in its invocation of audience. Pinsky distinguishes this outward-reaching interiority from more performative arts such as drama, music, and slam, and stresses it as poetry's source of enduring strength. Efforts to transform poetry into performance, from this view, doom it to irrelevance because of its inability to compete with the influence of the entertainment industry. As an essentially socially-based convention, poetry's formal qualities also play an outward-reaching role in its social praxis, but unlike the more apocalyptic proclamations of formalists like Dana Gioia, Pinsky's calm advancement of a theory of form's function avoids reductively polarized (form versus free verse) polemics and thus supports a broader endorsement of the genre's social efficacy. Although far from comprehensive, Pinsky offers a teachable counterpoint to more dire political assessments from both the right and left wings of the poetry wars.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Heat of Middle Water
Sober, judicious, temperate, suave, Pinsky considers poetry's place in our high-tech democracy with all the passion of a required civics course. Nary an insight will trouble anyone's sleep in NPR, MacNeill/Lehrer America, and that's a shame, because poetry at its best is a whole lot hotter than that. Pinsky's a deft explainer and he keeps his good-natured balance in the midst of a very acrimonious and fragmented field. But I think those qualities mitigate against the kind of fire we need to shake poetry loose from the warm academic middle, whose virtues and limitations Pinksy embodies in every line of his prose.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great short read
Short, punchy, and nicely designed. Pinsky doesn't waste words. If you want to read a modern manifesto in defence of poetry, this is it. It's easy to dump on Pinsky because he's in the public eye so much, but this at least shows he's there because he has a brain. And who can complain about a poet being a star?

1-0 out of 5 stars Too Big a Picture of "Him"
Pinsky should take some time out to rest his ego and perhaps he will get back to thinking seriously about poetry rather than himself. "Jersey Rain" was bad, but this very small book with very big type is worse. The Narcissist is definitely in. ... Read more


39. The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
by Janet Sternberg
list price: $13.95
our price: $13.95
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Asin: 0393320553
Catlog: Book (2000-06)
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 359833
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Published to high praise--"groundbreaking . . . a landmark" (Poets and Writers)--this was the first anthology to celebrate the diversity of women who write. Seventeen novelists, poets, and writers of nonfiction explore how they have become writers, why they write, and what it means to be a woman and a writer. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Collection
As a young writer, Janet Sternburg searched for a book about woman writers: how they came to be, how they viewed their lives, how they treated their work. It was the seventies and none existed, so she put together The Writer on Her Work and it was published in 1981 - a book featuring women writing about writing. This year marks its anniversary (thus, the new edition) with a touching preface by Julia Alvarez, plus an updated introduction and bios of the 17 women who contributed to the landmark collection. Established, unknown and up-and-coming writers of the time - including Maxine Hong Kingston, Joan Didion and Alice Walker - reflect on writing and lives as writers, through heartfelt and sometimes hilarious commentary. The value of this book is reading how these women, writing in different genres, pursued their passion in the face of opposition. Whether that opposition took on the form of household responsibilities, writer's block, dissenting peers or a male-dominated marketplace, it's interesting tackling the dilemma through their eyes and in that time; making a place for themselves, and their work, discovering in that world, she dominates. This speaks to the heart of the book, a community of women's voices, whether alive or deceased, writing because they had to, sharing profound experiences and reflections on being a woman creating. The Writer on Her Work offers diverse personalities expressing their romance with words, also acknowledging the ups and downs that come with that relationship. Each essay is an inspiring testament to the continuing struggle and undeniable beauty of the female spirit in print.

5-0 out of 5 stars Important Essays, Important Themes
I've loved this book since 1980, when I bought a copy and read it and lent it and recommended it many times over since then. This new edition is even better. The pieces, personal and trenchant, ingeniously selected by Sternburg over twenty years ago, have withstood the test of time.

There is deep feeling, variety, astonishing articulation of complex things, and warmth and humor in these essays. Many of the writers fight to write, and show us their battle plans. It's inspiring and encouraging, and sometimes it's sad. Some - I am thinking of young writer Michele Murray, who struggled against terrible odds - are heartbreaking. Anne Tyler's darkly humorous recitation of her typical working day, "Still Just Writing," is a classic. Alice Walker's essay, "One Child of One's Own" speaks to motherhood, and its fragile but undeniable relationship to a writing life.

The new Preface, by Dominican-born Vermonter Julia Alvarez, is touching and insightful and very personal - in keeping with the rest of the book - and speaks to the concerns of the essays. Sternberg has also edited her orignal Introduction, and updated the contributors' notes at the book's end.

Without question I'd recommend this wonderful book to anyone interested in reading women on the process of writing, the art of memoir, and the considered and considerably interesting opinions of a group of very wonderful writers. ... Read more


40. The Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America
by Dana Phillips
list price: $26.00
our price: $26.00
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Asin: 0195137698
Catlog: Book (2003-03-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 209456
Average Customer Review: 3.67 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Truth of Ecology is a wide-ranging, polemical appraisal of contemporary environmental thought. Focusing on the new field of ecocriticism from a thoroughly interdisciplinary perspective, this book explores topics as diverse as the history of ecology in the United States; the distortions of popular environmental thought; the influence of Critical Theory on radical science studies and radical ecology; the need for greater theoretical sophistication in ecocriticism; the contradictions of contemporary American nature writing; and the possibilities for a less devotional, ""wilder"" approach to ecocritical and environmental thinking. Taking his cues from Thoreau, Stevens, and Ammons, from Wittgenstein, Barthes and Eco, from Bruno Latour and Michel Serres, from the philosophers Rorty, Hacking, and Dennett, and from the biologists Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould, author Dana Phillips emphasizes an eclectic but pragmatic approach to a variety of topics. His subject matter includes the doctrine of social construction; the question of what it means to be interdisciplinary; the disparity between scientific and literary versions of realism; the difficulty of resolving the tension between facts and values, or more broadly, between nature and culture; the American obsession with personal experience; and the intellectual challenges posed by natural history. Those challenges range from the near-impossibility of defining ecological concepts with precision to the complications that arise when a birder tries to identify chickadees in poor light on a winter's afternoon in the Poconos. ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, tough, unsentimental: all good for ecocriticism
Phillips has made an outstanding contribution to ecocriticism, and I see it as positive. He makes thoughtful connections to contemporary theory but obliterates cultural studies and the school of social construction, which have denigrated natural science for too long and discouraged humanists from absorbing the realities of biome and genome. Yes, his tone is brusque but not dismissive; he echoes the kind of discussion familiar to philosophers, where logic and reason prevail over sentiment. The claim that he has nothing new to offer is wrong: in the late chapters he calls for a "wild" ecocriticism that is diverse, eclectic, and pragmatic. I see this approach as far more constructive, and instructive, than the dewy-eyed reverence that preoccupies too many nature writers and their critics to date. Fifty years ago, Leslie Fiedler performed the same service for New Criticism, when he called Huck back to the raft. Instead of reacting defensively, I hope ecocritics will realize that a good mind and wit has taken up their cause and urged them to get serious and active: a languid pastoralism will not win attention in the academy or clean house at the Department of Interior.

4-0 out of 5 stars irreverent but informed
The previous review is a bit unfair and so I am moved to add a few words. Yes, if you are drawn to an environmentalism that is underwritten by spiritual or mystical motivations, then you probably will be irritated by Phillips' irreverence. However, there is much to be said for this literate and well-researched book. Phillips has astoundingly wide interests, which include contemporary environmental thought, environmental history, environmental literature, and the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. His book does contain some positive suggestions about how the environmental movement might take a more pragmatic approach and so become more successful. Also, there is some pleasure, and perhaps glory, to be found in the witty and withering barbs that Phillips hurls at his objects of study. The environmental movement is too important to recoil from criticism like this. It can only be strengthened by the intelligent, informed and, sometimes, acerbic voice of Dana Phillips.

2-0 out of 5 stars Unfair and irresponsible
Phillips book is flawed on a fundamental level. As he works through his arugement he not only essentializes and trivializes the work of ecologists and ecocritics alike, he goes at them from a perspective wholly foregin to their own. Phillips seems to be trying to play the role of the disillusioned environmentalist, yearning for a better, more equitable ecocritical paradigm, but in his self professed attempt to "philosophize with a hammer," he comes off instead as trying to completely undercut the ecological values and aesthetics of the Green Left. He takes pot shots at everyone from Muir and Thoreau to Lopez, Dillard and Ammons. Constantly crying foul at their lack of objectivity, Phillips argues that ecocritics should take on more of a scientific approach, and abandon the world of the spiritual, aesthetic and mystical. His attack at, what he considers to be, the cliche of the "ecological epiphany" is particularly barbed, as is his attack of Dillard's sense of the mystery and awe she feels when confronted with the Blue Ridge Mountains (he does quite a number on her "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"). In the process of dismantaling the ecocritical aesthetic Phillips aligns himself with Joyce Carol Oates in trivializing the "REVERENCE, AWE, PIETY, MYSTICAL ONENESS" that characterize ecocritical responses. In one of his attacks Phillips questions whether "any sense can be made out of" Andrew Pickering's assertion that "the claims that the Earth circles the Sun and that it rests on a stack of turtles were of equal validity." At this point I should have stopped reading, because it should have become clear that Phillips is someone who just doesn't get it. Clearly he is confusing facts with truth, mysticism with positivism, and in asserting that there is some fundemental problem with this statement he is revealing himself is an enemy of the ecocritical project. Clearly ecocriticism, being a young field, is in need of maturing, and admittedly Phillips points out some real problems in its application, but he falls into trap of cutting down the field without sewing new seeds or seeing to the fertility of the ground. Clearly the values that Phillips has brought to the table are so fundamentally different from the ecocritics that he deems to speak of that they can never be reconciled. I will however throw Phillips a bone and point out that he does admit to being unapologetically argumentative, though I'd say dismissive would be more accurate. ... Read more


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