Book Notes: March-April 2003

March 31, 2003

 

Yearning For the Land: A Search for the Importance of PlaceYearning For the Land: A Search for the Importance of Place
By John Warfield Simpson M.F. '86.
Pantheon Books, 2002.
281 pages. $24.
John Warfield Simpson is an explorer, although the unknown he searches out is in our minds, below-the-surface thoughts, in the bedrock of our being--the link between person and place. What, he asks, is our connection to the land? And what have we as urban Americans lost in the weakening of that connection, in leaving the Old World for the New? In retracing the immigration journey of the great conservationist John Muir, from his homeland along the North Sea Coast in Scotland to the Wisconsin marshlands, as well as his own, similar journey, Simpson reflects on the meaning of place.
How to Avoid the Mommy TrapHow to Avoid the Mommy Trap:
A Roadmap for Sharing Parenting and Making It Work
By Julie Shields J.D. '90.
Capital Books, Inc. 2002.
288 pages. $26.95.
Shields is a mother. But she is other things, too. She is an attorney and she wrote this book, which means she's found a way to balance her new life. After dozens of interviews with marital counselors, childcare workers, negotiation experts, employers, child-development experts, and lots of parents, Shields discovered that the happiest families are the ones who share parenting responsibilities. Though she acknowledges that, like many new mothers, she initially took on more duties than she ever expected, eventually she took a step back. Her book, endorsed by Susan Estrich, acclaimed author of the Los Angeles Times' bestseller Sex and Power, and former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, explains the process of negotiating, planning, and creating the personalized work and parenting arrangements that allow new mothers a life outside the world of "mommy."
Mavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-GardeMavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde
By Gennifer S. Weisenfeld.
University of California Press, 2002.
368 pages. $55.
On August 28, 1923, forty angry Japanese artists stood outside the Takenodai Exhibition Hall in Tokyo heaving rocks at the glass building. Their unconventional works had been rejected for the Nika Art Association's tenth annual exhibition. The artists rejected the rejection. Mavo, as they called themselves, sought to redefine Japanese art and, in so doing, waged war on the state's traditional notions of what is normal and what is perverse. They sought to reintegrate art into the everyday experience, conveying, through allusions to mechanical environments and abstract imagery, the feelings of crisis, peril, and uncertainty that were beginning to characterize daily life. With acute attention to historical conditions and to the political and social norms of the day, Weisenfeld, a Duke professor of anthropology, captures in sharp relief this iconoclastic fervor and its lasting reverberations in Japanese art and society.
A Companion to the Works of Franz KafkaA Companion to the Works of Franz Kafka
Edited by James Rolleston.
Camden House, 2002.
347 pages. $75.
Franz Kafka was a deep thinker. And his stories can be hard to make sense of. Things are implied, not told. There is much imagery and little dialogue. There are layers of meaning. A story may begin in the middle and end at the beginning--or not all (Kafka never completed a novel). As one critic contends, his protagonists have, in a sense, already died before the story begins. These are the sorts of things that a literary guide lets you in on; in A Companion to the Works of Franz Kafka, Rolleston, Duke professor of German, and thirteen other Kafka scholars, contribute their insights and arguments to exploring who Kafka was, why he wrote, and what it meant. All present a strong point of view while taking into account previous Kafka research.
The Argentina Reader:History, Culture, PoliticsThe Argentina Reader:History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Gabriela Nouzeilles and Graciela Montaldo.
Duke University Press, 2002.
580 pages. $23.95, paper.
Now, as never before, this land of incongruent parts and contradictory images-- incomplete, exceptional, and baffling--invites an exploration of the history, culture, and political landscapes that have forged one of the world's greatest enigmas. With a collection of songs, articles, comic strips, essays, poems, and short stories, The Argentina Reader--the latest in a series published by Duke University Press, along with The Peru Reader, The Brazil Reader, and The Mexico Reader--offers a compass for navigating the complexities of the nation through the voices of its own poets, writers, social figures, and political leaders. Editor Nouzeilles is a Duke professor of Romance studies.