April 15, 2016 Booklist 5 www.booklistonline.com
compelled to respond to this clear, thorough
book. Corporate lawyer and conservationist
Rich offers too much strong
analysis to let anyone shrug
this off, especially the Far
Right market fundamental-
ists whom Rich refutes the
most. His concise review
of core conservative prin-
ciples, particularly those of
Edmund Burke, fillets the
hypocrisy of those who offer antipathy to the
environment, while he criticizes liberal pro-
motion of politically doomed goals that have
resulted in a woeful track record: no major
environmental laws since the Clean Air Act
of 1990. Rich also writes that arguments
to save nature for its intrinsic value rather
than human welfare mainly fuel the opposi-
tion. To engender debate, he suggests taking
a small first step, rejecting the notion that
such an incremental approach is merely an
empty symbol or moral posturing. Rich pro-
motes the view that conservation connects
to traditional virtues and to good character.
Regardless of scientific findings, for example, most people know it’s imprudent to
spew the sky with greenhouse gases. This informative, fair, probing, and heartfelt book
should enliven all environmental debates.
A Good Month for Murder: The
Inside Story of a Homicide Squad.
By Del Quentin Wilber.
June 2016. 320p. Holt, $30 (9780805098815). 363.25.
Journalist Wilber, crime reporter and author of Rawhide Down (2011), about the
assassination attempt against President Reagan, gives readers a close-up view of how the
detectives on a homicide
squad work in this disquieting, fascinating book.
Wilber states that a major
influence on his book was
David Simon’s acclaimed
Homicide (1992), about
a year in Baltimore’s homicide unit. In a kind of
updating of that work, Wilber chronicles
the nearby and very busy homicide squad in
Prince George’s County, Maryland, which
abuts Washington, D.C. With the police
chief granting almost unprecedented access,
Wilber was able to produce a rare snapshot of
homicide investigation in action, from crime
scenes through families’ homes, interrogation rooms, and squad rooms. Wilber gives
the kind of detail that can only be acquired
through intensive interviewing and observation. For example, cops put on a “case face,”
looking serious at crime scenes, lest a photographer catch them smiling. The text pares
down Wilber’s findings from one year of reporting to one month of activity, February
2013, which was loaded with 12 homicides
and one continuing, shocking case. A fascinating report written in a relentless, real-life
noir tone. —Connie Fletcher
The Great Acceleration: How the
World Is Getting Faster, Faster.
By Robert Colville.
May 2016. 400p. Bloomsbury, $28 (9781632864550).
In the way that almost $1 trillion of stock
value disappeared in five minutes during the
Flash Crash of 2010, Colville
finds a compelling illustration of the perils we face in a
world where everything runs
at dizzying speed. Those perils extend well beyond Wall
Street. Readers see incautious
adolescents ruin their reputations in minutes through
cyberdistribution of nude photos, movie-in-dustry executives sucked into the sterility of
comic-book blockbusters churned out hurriedly, journalists sliding into sensationalism
and inaccuracy to meet tight deadlines, and
politicians addicted to hyperspeed technologies powerful in campaigning but useless in
governing. Perhaps most worrisome are the
descriptions of Third World cities rapidly
filling with displaced villagers, cities whose
demands are swiftly depleting the planet’s
natural resources. Yet with surprising optimism, Colville affirms his belief that wise
use of initially disruptive technologies can
protect—and actually improve—social and
political relationships, cultural creativity, and
even the environment. Looking to a glowing
future, Colville even anticipates a time when
the rapidity of artificial intelligence will endow the human species with astonishing new
powers. Traditionalists aligned with Jacques
Ellul or Josef Pieper may find Colville implausibly cheery-minded, even utopian.
But anyone worried about our increasingly
frenetic lives will find food for thought.
Grunt: The Curious Science of
Humans at War.
By Mary Roach.
June 2016. 288p. illus. Norton, $26.95 (9780393245448).
Roach is a rare literary bird, a best-selling
science writer, and her irresistible if often
unnerving subject is the human body and
how it reacts to all that we
put it through, from eating
(Gulp, 2013) to sex (Bonk,
2008), space travel (Packing
for Mars, 2010), and, in her
latest, war. Roach avidly
and impishly infiltrates the
world of military science to
discover what measures are
taken to protect combatants against perils
ranging from bomb blasts to food poison-
ing to sleep deprivation. Roach’s unerring
instinct for astounding stories and her de-
light in sketching quick and vivid portraits
enliven every page as she delves into military
history, presents eye-popping facts, conducts
interviews under chaotic circumstances, and
offers herself up as a participant in medical
studies involving the military’s attempts to
minimize the threats of noise, heat, germs,
and panic. Roach gamely participates in
a combat trauma-management course for
future medics in a former movie studio, wit-
nesses penile reconstructive surgery, talks to
special operators in Camp Lemmonnier in
Djibouti about the hazards of diarrhea, learns
about maggot therapy and stink bombs, and
spends a night in a nuclear submarine. As in
her previous adventurous inquiries, Roach is
exuberantly and imaginatively informative
and irreverently funny, but she is also in awe
of the accomplished and committed military
people she meets, a feeling readers will share.
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Roach’s
renown and readership grows with each
book, and her newest will be promoted via
early outreach, lots of media, and a national
Homintern: How Gay Culture Liberated
the Modern World.
By Gregory Woods.
May 2016. 432p. Yale, $35 (9780300218039). 306.
In this marvelous mess of a book, which
British poet and academic Woods (A History of Gay Literature, 1999) describes as a
magical mystery tour, the author examines
European and American gay and lesbian
networks in the twentieth century and
their impact on the arts. “Homintern” was
a funny play on Comintern (Communist
International, an international organization
advocating communism), likely created in
Auden’s circle to describe their sprawling
network of friendships. By Joseph McCarthy’s era, it took on a sinister, conspiratorial
meaning. Woods begins with the enormously
influential trial of Oscar Wilde, then moves
around the continent and century from Russia and Diaghilev to Paris and Stein, from
Berlin and Isherwood to Naples after WWII,
finally landing in Harlem and Hollywood,
all the while tapping letters, diaries, and novels to illustrate the vitality of queer artistic
communities. But this is no academic text.
Woods regales the reader with an avalanche
of stories, ribald gossip, and lengthy asides
that collectively confirm the book’s central
thesis: gay culture, or at least gays and lesbians, did indeed liberate the modern world.
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