Off the Shelf

A sampling of current books received at this magazine

Franz Betz as top god Wotan. Costumes for Rheingold were based on "the latest discoveries of prehistoric times."
From the book

First Nights at the Opera, by Thomas Forrest Kelly, Ph.D. '73, Harvard College Professor and Knafel professor of music (Yale University Press, $35). The author of the acclaimed First Nights: Five Musical Premieres (and creator of the continuing course it sprang from) now invites readers to the glittering opening nights of five operas: Handel's Giulio Cesare, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, Wagner's Das Rheingold, and Verdi's Otello. This is instructive cultural history — and wonderful fun.

 

This Room Is Yours, by Michael Stein '81 (Permanent Press, $24). A son moves his deteriorating, estranged mother into an assisted-living facility, becomes wretchedly, bafflingly, captive to her day-to-day life, and gradually, over the course of this novel, as she falls into the arms of Alzheimer's, forgives her and loves her as he has not for years. A powerful narrative.

 

Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming and How to Prevent Them, by Max H. Bazerman, Straus professor of business administration, and Michael D. Watkins, Ph.D. '92 (Harvard Business School Press, $27.50). Negotiation experts Bazerman and Watkins illustrate their guide for the vigilant with examples of failed leadership such as 9/11 and the fall of Enron.

 

Why Deliberative Democracy? by Amy Gutmann '71, Ph.D. '76, and Dennis Thompson, Ph.D. '68 (Princeton University Press, $55, cloth; $16.95, paper). Deliberative democracy requires that citizens and their representatives give reasons to each other to justify their decisions. Two scholars here illuminate the theory and practice of deliberative democracy as they discuss bioethics, healthcare, truth commissions, educational policy, and decisions to go to war. Gutmann is president of the University of Pennsylvania and professor of political science there; Thompson is Whitehead professor of political philosophy at Harvard and director of the University Center for Ethics and the Professions.

 

The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest, by David Roberts '65 (Simon & Schuster, $25). The conquistadors came north from Mexico into the Southwest and by 1600 had overwhelmed and then decimated the Pueblo people. In 1680 a shaman from San Juan Pueblo secretly brought the traditionally autonomous pueblos into a coalition and drove the Spaniards out. Subsequent Indian disunity let the enemy back in, but still, Roberts tells, the Pueblo Revolt stands as the only successful Native American rebellion against European colonizers in what is today the United States.

 

Disappeared: A Journalist Silenced; The Irma Flaquer Story, by June Carolyn Erlick, publications director of the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and editor-in-chief of ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America (Seal Press, $15.95, paper). Writing for Guatemalan newspapers for more than 20 years, Flaquer attacked corruption and repression, courageously criticizing presidents and heads of the Roman Catholic church. In 1980 she was disappeared and presumably killed. This book is a profile of both a passionate, complicated woman and an emerging nation in tumultuous times.

 

So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life, by Jacob Slichter '83 (Broadway Books, $21.95). An often witty inside look at the popular-music business, and one's moments of celebrity, by Semisonic's drummer.

 

Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life, by Stanley Cavell, Ph.D. '61, Jf '56, Cabot professor of aesthetics and the general theory of value emeritus (Harvard University Press, $29.95). This book follows the course of the philosopher's Core curriculum course, "Moral Perfectionism," in which he provided "the philosophical background against which the moral encounters depicted in certain classical Hollywood films may be understood to work themselves out...." Remarriage comedies from the 1930s and 1940s — The Philadelphia Story, for instance — can help us learn how to live our lives better.

 

Meritocracy: A Love Story, by Jeffrey Lewis, J.D. '70 (Other Press, $18). A gripping novel about six young Yale graduates in the summer of 1966, the best and brightest of baby boomers, and their early fall from grace — the first of a quartet planned to bring the story to the present.

 

The Makers of Trinity Church in the City of Boston, edited by James F. O'Gorman, Ph.D. '66 (University of Massachusetts Press, $39.95). A handsome study of an iconic building designed by H.H. Richardson, A.B. 1859, A.M. '72, that has many subsequent Harvard connections.

     

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