Book Notes

October 1, 2010

Beautiful Maria of My Soul
by Oscar Hijuelos.
Hyperion, 2010.
352 pages.$25.99.

Currently teaching at Duke as professor of the practice of English, Hijuelos has written a companion piece to his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Told from the point of view of that book's heroine, Beautiful Maria of My Soul picks up the story with Maria, now in her sixties, living in Miami with her daughter. As she reflects on her days and nights in Havana, an entirely new perspective on the Mambo Kings story unfolds.

40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible
by Robert L. Plummer '93.
Kregel Publications, 2010.
352 pages. $17.99.

In the book's introduction, Plummer, an associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes that he conceived of this publication as a textbook for an introductory Bible course at a college or seminary. But it also serves as a starting point for anyone interested in notions of biblical authorship, intent, and interpretation. Among the questions he explores are whether all the commands in the Bible still apply today, who determines the meaning of a text, and how the Bible has been interpreted throughout church history.

Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir
by Stanley Hauerwas.
William P. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
300 pages. $24.99.

In his latest book, Hauerwas,Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of ethics at Duke, describes his intellectual struggles with faith, how he has dealt with the complex reality of marriage to a mentally ill partner, and the gift of friendships that have influenced his character.

The End of Arrogance: America in the Global Competition of Ideas
by Steven Weber and Bruce W. Jentleson.
Harvard University Press, 2010.
224 pages.$22.95
.

Free-market capitalism, hegemony, Western culture, peace, and democracy—the ideas that shaped world politics in the twentieth century and underpinned American foreign policy—have lost a good deal of their strength. Jentleson, a professor of public policy and political science at Duke, and coauthor Weber, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, argue that the U.S. must use ideas and influence rather than dominance to remain competitive and effective.

Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua‘i: A Scientist’s Adventures in the Dark
by David A. Burney Ph.D. ’86.
Yale University Press, 2010.
216 pages. $28.

On the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i, paleoecologist David Burney has spent two decades excavating Makauwahi Cave. The results of his investigation reveal not only the rich array of plants and animals that inhabited Hawaii throughout its history but also the dramatic ecological changes wrought by the arrival of humans 1,000 years ago. Using the island as an ecological prototype, and drawing on his doctoral work in Madagascar—his thesis adviser was Daniel Livingstone, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of biology and research professor of geology—Burney considerswhat Kaua‘i can teach us about the rest of the planet.


Great Spirits: Portraits of Life-Changing World Music Artists
by Randall Grass ’71.
University Press of Mississippi, 2009.
240 pages. $50 cloth, $25 paper.

Record executive, musician, and freelance writer Grass presents personal encounters with some of the most important musical artists of the past fifty years, including Nadia Gamal, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Bob Marley, the Neville Brothers, Augustus Pablo, Sun Ra, Nina Simone, and Yabby You. Spanning the realms of jazz, blues, reggae, gospel, African, and Middle Eastern music, the artists represent musical creation at a transformative level. Grass has written about music for the Village Voice, Spin Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review.


The Swimming Pool
by Holly LeCraw ’88.
Doubleday, 2010.
320 pages. $25.95.

In her debut novel, LeCraw introduces readers to Marcella Atkinson, who years earlier fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. On the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil’s wife was murdered. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect. Now divorced and estranged from her only daughter, Marcella lives alone on Cape Cod, mired in grief and guilt. Meanwhile, Cecil’s grown son, Jed, returns to the cape for the first time in years. He and Marcella fall into an affair of their own; their passion temporarily masks the pain of the past but also leads to unexpected crises and revelations.