Off the Shelf

Recent books with Harvard connections

<em>Real</em> barbecuing, the old- fashioned way, at Braswell Plantation, 1944

Unpacking the Boxes: Memoir of a Life in Poetry, by Donald Hall ’51, JF ’57 (Houghton Mifflin, $24). The 2006-2007 U.S. poet laureate writes, sparely, of the “stony loneliness” of Exeter, the “thrilling” liberty of his Harvard years—a time of poetic flowering—and, lately, of a bipolar episode after his wife’s death and of the “planet of antiquity.”

 

Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, by John Stauffer, professor of English and of African and African American studies (Twelve, $30). The interacting lives of “the two pre-eminent self-made men in American history.”

 

On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship, by Nancy L. Rosenblum, Clark professor of ethics in politics and government (Princeton, $29.95). You may not want to hear it after a long presidential campaign, but there is justification, in political science and theory, for appreciating parties and partisanship. Rosenblum makes this point, in scholarly fashion, in pursuit of “an ethic of partisanship.”

 

Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, by John Sheldon Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, M.A.T. ’64, with William McKinney (University of North Carolina, $30). Copiously illustrated history and lore cum recipes—Dennis Rogers’s “Holy Grub” Sauce, Robert Stehling’s Buttermilk Pie—by members of the North Carolina Barbecue Society, assisted by the founder of the Carolina Bar-B-Q Society.

 

Shakespeare and Modern Culture, by Marjorie Garber, Kenan professor of English and of visual and environmental studies (Pantheon, $30). An inquiry into Shakespeare and modern understandings of the human condition—and how the two interact—by way of essays on 10 plays, with reference to New Yorker cartoons, George W. Bush’s college courses and presidential reading list, Shakespeare in Love, and more.

 

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney, by Dennis O’Driscoll (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $26). A thematic biographical portrait of the 1995 Nobel laureate in literature and Harvard honorand (1998), professor, and poet-in-residence—conducted, appropriately enough, by a Dublin-based civil servant in Irish Customs. (For a radically shorter approach to the same subject, see Adam Kirsch’s appreciation in this magazine’s November-December 2006 issue.)

 

Sweet Land of Liberty:  The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North, by Thomas J. Sugrue, Ph.D. ’92 (Random House, $35). A professor of history and sociology at Penn, past winner of the Bancroft Prize, and this past fall a visitor at the Graduate School of Design, Sugrue crafts a massive narrative of the battle for racial equality outside the Confederacy.

 

Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master, by Michael Sragow ’73 (Pantheon, $40). The Baltimore Sun film critic has crafted an enormous, illustrated biography of the director who “salvag[ed] The Wizard of Oz for MGM and Gone With the Wind for the producer David O. Selznick”—all in one year.

 

The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler, by Michael A. Wolf, Ph.D. ’91 (University Press of Kansas, $35, $16.95 paper). Zoning to regulate land use dates only to 1922. Wolf, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, tells the tale in lively fashion: not many books about law begin, “James Metzenbaum was desperate.”

 

The Patron’s Payoff: Conspicuous Commissions in Italian Renaissance Art, by Jonathan K. Nelson and Richard J. Zeckhauser, Ramsey professor of political economy (Princeton, $39.50). An analysis from economics (applying the concepts of signaling, signposting, and stretching) of the patron-artist interplay in the commissioning and creation of glorious works of art—and of wealth.

 

On Competition, by Michael E. Porter, Lawrence University Professor (Harvard Business Press, $39.95). An updated, expanded collection of the strategy guru’s essays. Porter’s principles are briskly outlined and then applied to problems ranging from healthcare to philanthropy to the revitalization of inner-city economies.

 

Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame, by T. M. Scanlon, Alford professor of natural religion, moral philosophy, and civil polity (Harvard, $29.95). Proceeding from troubling issues surrounding the “doctrine of double effect,” Scanlon probes “a number of particular moral claims, including claims about which actions are permissible, about when intent matters to permissibility, and about various forms of moral responsibility.”

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