Off the Shelf

Recent books with a Harvard accent

Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America, by John F. Kasson '66 (Hill and Wang, $26). Professor of history and American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kasson wittily reveals that, starting in the late nineteenth century, American men did a lot of thinking about their bodies as the nation struggled to get a grip on manliness.

 

Andy Warhol: A Penguin Life, by Wayne Koestenbaum '80 (Viking Penguin, $21.95). Warhol was Pop--Campbell's Soup cans--but culture critic Koestenbaum finds in him interesting complexities and makes a persuasive case that he was a serious artist of lasting importance.

 

Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Discovery, Chaos, and Wealth, by Debora L. Spar, Ph.D. '90, PMD '91, professor of business administration (Harcourt, $27). Spar moves engagingly from buccaneers to Bill Gates, from Samuel Morse and Rupert Murdoch to rapper Chuck D, while showing that life at the technological frontier moves inevitably through four phases: innovation, commercialization, creative anarchy, and rules. The remarkable thing about cyberspace, she writes, may be just how unremarkable it is.

 

Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads, by Clea Simon '83 (Wiley, $24.95). In this mix of reportage and memoir, writer Simon shows the many ways women change-- often for the better--after the loss of their first "significant other."

 

Making Faces, Playing God: Identity and the Art of Transformational Makeup, by Thomas Morawetz '63 (University of Texas Press; $50, cloth; $24.95, paper). The author is Reeve professor of law and ethics at the University of Connecticut School of Law, but writes avocationally on movies and other matters. Here he argues that the sort of makeup Mark Metcalf dons to become the Master on Buffy the Vampire Slayer fulfills a fundamental human fantasy of self-transformation. His book is arrestingly illustrated.

 

Not in Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth, by Marjorie Heins, J.D. '78 (Hill and Wang, $30). Heins is director of the Free Expression Policy Project at the National Coalition Against Censorship, and she wants to encourage a dispassionate debate about the free-expression rights of youngsters and the assumption that we need to shield the kiddies from "indecent" information that might harm them. Her citations run from Plato to Jesse Helms.

 

A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics, by Nicholas Wright Gillham '54, Ph.D. '62 (Oxford, $30). Galton was a Victorian polymath and a cousin of Charles Darwin, by whom he was much influenced. Galton concluded that mankind might be improved by selective breeding and became the father of eugenics, a term he coined. Gillham is Duke professor of biology emeritus at Duke.

 

Common Prayers: Faith, Family, and a Christian's Journey through the Jewish Year, by Harvey Cox, Ph.D. '63, Thomas professor of divinity (Houghton Mifflin, $24). Cox's wife is Jewish, and their life together has given him many occasions to reflect on the essence of Judaism and its relationship to Christianity.

 

Before You Forget: The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children, by Kelly DuMar, Ed.M. '84 (Red Pail Press, $14.95, paper). DuMar keeps a personal diary for herself and has no idea whether anyone else will ever care to read it. She also keeps diaries for her children. One day, how will they be able to resist accounts of their own lives from birth? The writing makes her a better parent, she believes.

 

A Doryman's Day, by R. Barry Fisher '57, M.A.T. '61 (Tilbury House, $15, paper). He grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, began fishing commercially at 14, served two tours in Korea, got wounded, hit the books while recuperating, came to Harvard, taught, then returned to fishing. Fisher's book, which appears just after his death, is illustrated with period photographs and offers three salty and stylish tales of his early days dory-fishing from a schooner.

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