Off the Shelf

    On the Rez, by Ian Frazier ’73 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25). “This book is about Indians, particularly the Oglala...

   

On the Rez, by Ian Frazier ’73 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25). “This book is about Indians, particularly the Oglala Sioux who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Da­­kota,” Frazier writes. “There are wind-blown fig­ures crossing the road in the distance who might be drunk, and a scattering of window-glass fragments in the weeds that might be from a car accident, and a baby naked except for a disposable diaper playing in a bare-dirt yard, and an acrid smell of burning trash—all the elements that usually evoke the description ‘bleak.’ But there is greatness here, too, and an ancient glory endures in the dust and the weeds.”

 

Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison, by David Chandler ’54 (University of California Press; $48, cloth; $17.95, paper). A horrific book about the torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge. Chandler, who is professor emeritus of history at Monash University in Australia, both chronicles the violence and tries to explain how human beings can be led into barbarism.

 

Sidewinder: Creative Missile Development at China Lake, by Ron Westrum ’67 (Naval Institute Press, $32.95). A history of a revolutionary guided missile and the creative gadgeteer behind it, William McLean. Westrum is professor of sociology and interdisciplinary technology at Eastern Michigan University.

 

America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century, by Philip F. Gura ’72, Ph.D. ’77, and James F. Bollman (Uni­versity of North Carolina Press, $45). This is a richly detailed and illustrated history of the five-string banjo as it moved, via commerce, from its origins as a gourd instrument handmade by black slaves into the parlors of the middle class. Gura is professor of English and American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bollman is co-owner and manager of the Music Emporium in Lexington, Massachusetts. Both of them, of course, play the banjo.

 

Coming of Age in Academe: Rekindling Women’s Hopes and Reforming the Academy, by Jane Roland Martin ’51, Ed.M. ’56, Ph.D. ’61, BI ’81 (Routledge; $80, cloth; $18.99, paper). Martin is a professor emerita of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. She writes to hasten the day when “the very idea of an academy that welcomes feminist scholarship, a genuine co-professoriate, a true cocurriculum, and women-friendly classrooms will be taken for granted and the scorn and derision these now occasion will finally be laid to rest.”

 

The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture, by Rebecca L. Spang ’83, G ’92 (Harvard University Press, $35). In the last 20 years of the Old Regime in Paris a restaurant was not a place to eat but a thing to eat—a restorative bouillon. “The first restaurateurs sold little solid food and advertised their establishments as especially suited to all those too frail to eat an evening meal,” writes Spang. “By the 1820s, however, the restaurants of the French capital—with their four-column menus, confused eaters, and waiters of variable politeness—closely resembled those with which we are familiar today. The restaurant had become a true cultural institution, among the most familiar and distinctive of Parisian landmarks.” Oysters and champagne were center stage. Spang chronicles these developments in a tasty work, which is about far more than food.

 

Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, by Steven M. Wise, lecturer on law (Perseus Books, $25). Wise has practiced animal-protection law for 20 years and teaches about animal rights at Harvard Law School and elsewhere. “This is one of those rare books that are deeply troubling in the best sense of the word, intellectually and ethically,” writes Pellegrino University Research Professor Edward O. Wilson. “It puts on trial a part of our human self-image that has made us less noble than we wish to be.”

 

Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya  Stark, by Jane Fletcher Geniesse ’58 (Random House, $27.95). Stark (1893-1993) has been characterized as a female Lawrence of Arabia, the equal of Indiana Jones, an intrepid, complex, often exasperating woman full of tenacity and derring-do, and the century’s greatest travel writer. This is her life, vividly told by a former New York Times reporter.

 

Cuba—Going Back, by Tony Mendoza, M.Arch. ’68 (University of Texas Press; $50, cloth; $22.95, paper). Cuban expatriate Mendoza, who teaches photography at Ohio State and who recently visited his native country, combines 80 of his black-and-white images with an evocative text to portray a resilient people awaiting change.

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