10 Booklist February 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
fit the sport into the cultural history of the
times—Progressivism, the automobile, the
airplane, and so on. The Polo Grounds,
home of the Giants, takes a prominent position in the story, as do Hall-of-Famers and
McGraw mainstays Christy Mathewson and
Rube Marquard, along with team owner John
Brush and the era’s great sportswriters. The
vividly portrayed supporting cast includes the
mysterious Charles “Victory” Faust, hanger-on and very effective clown; first baseman
Fred “Bonehead” Merkle, forever known for
his 1908 base-running blunder; and various
other eccentrics and drunks. Unfortunately,
Klein fails to fully make his case for McGraw’s
transformative influence in 1911. Yes, speed
and baseball were becoming synonymous, but
power (Babe Ruth and others) would further
transform the sport, and America, a decade
later. Still, this is a well-written and absorbing
account of an often-overlooked baseball season.
Searching for Sappho: The Lost Songs
and World of the First Woman Poet.
By Philip Freeman.
Feb. 2016. 304p. illus. Norton, $26.95 (9780393242232).
Sappho (c. 620–c. 570 BCE) is considered
the first and, some say, the best woman poet.
Her work survives primarily as a few words each
in contiguous lines, sometimes as complete
lines or stanzas, exceptionally as whole or nearly
whole poems. Hellenic and Roman grammarians preserved about half of what’s extant;
scantier fragments come from papyri unearthed
by archaeological expeditions, such as the one
that found parts of a hitherto unknown poem
in 1896. Shards of another “new” poem about
aging emerged in 1922; much more of it 80
years later. In 2014, two poems about her
brothers were added to the canon. Though they
vitally inform it, such discoveries occupy little
of Freeman’s wonderfully accessible exposition
on what kind of person Sappho was. Hers was a
wealthy and powerful family that endured years
of exile in Sicily while other clans ruled Lesbos;
she had three brothers and a daughter; she was
long lived for her time. Probably not a lesbian
by modern definitions, she indisputably saw
other women erotically. The introduction to a
perennially spellbinding figure. —Ray Olson
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls
By Laura Ingalls Wilder. Ed. by William
Mar. 2016. 416p. Harper, $26.99 (9780062419682).
Anderson, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s biogra-
pher, who sometimes seems to know more
about Wilder than the author did herself,
has done a heroic job of assembling, edit-
ing, and annotating this final collection of
unpublished writing. Arranged chrono-
logically, the more than 400 letters range
from 1894, when Wilder was 27, through
1956. An invaluable contribution to Wilder
scholarship, the letters generally make for
interesting reading, though some dealing
with such quotidian aspects as the weather,
domestic concerns (e.g., a loving description
of new drapes), and some of the many, often
repetitious responses to fan letters (she punc-
tiliously replied, saying she couldn’t bear to
disappoint children) are largely forgettable.
By far the most interesting letters are those
to her daughter, the author Rose Wilder
Lane, that evidence the nature of their col-
laboration on the Little House books, a
collaboration that for years was unknown
(Anderson notes that Lane “adamantly de-
nied such involvement”). Wilder fans will
surely rejoice at this collection, which may
also serve to introduce a new generation of
readers to this important and much-loved
American author. —Michael Cart
YA: Teens who grew up with the Little
House books will find much to pore over
in this comprehensive collection. MC.
Sex with Shakespeare: Here’s Much to
Do with Pain, but More with Love.
By Jillian Keenan.
Apr. 2016. 352p. Morrow, $25.99 (9780062378712).
Don’t be fooled by the title. This memoir
is about the very specific fetish of spanking,
around which Keenan’s sexual identity revolves, and her attempts to understand and
embrace it. Still, there is some Shakespeare.
First infatuated in high school with Caliban
from The Tempest, Keenan devoted much
study to the Bard and examines her fetish
through the lens of his plays. She has a disarming way of imagining Shakespearean
characters as figures she can turn to in a crisis,
which pays tribute to the ways people create
personal meaning for themselves through literature. And she has many opinions to offer
on how sex and sexuality are portrayed by
Shakespeare. But this is still a long way from
literary criticism; it’s an explicit and often
harrowing account of her out-of-the-norm
sexuality. Keenan writes, she says, so others
like her will not have to feel alone. By demonstrating the elasticity with which sexual
undertones in Shakespeare can be read, she
makes a case for a more expansive definition
of sexual identity than society typically offers.
Widening Income Inequality.
By Frederick Seidel.
Feb. 2016. 128p. Farrar, $24 (9780374250843). 811.
Author of over a dozen books of poetry, including Ooga-Booga (2006), Seidel is both a
poet of another era (early in his career, he conferred with T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) and
a relentless contemporary, as likely to write
in rhyming couplets as to pair “MacBook
Air” and “Guillaume Apollinaire.” Called
the “Laureate of the Louche” and “America’s
last decadent,” Seidel writes poems that are
by turns bawdy, pretentious, and satirical as
he pushes the boundaries of vulgarity and
self-awareness. As its title poem suggests, this
collection draws attention to disproportionate
wealth, including the speaker’s own perceived
privilege (“I live a life of appetite and, yes,
that’s right, / I live a life of privilege in New
York”). Seidel ironizes this image of the bourgeois poet through comically over-the-top
encounters, which often occur in the bedroom (“I require prescription tusk-assist, so to
speak”). Yet an “immortal melodious regret”
pierces this sordid façade, reflecting on injustice in “The Ballad of Ferguson, Missouri.” A
provocative volume from an exceptional and
influential poet. —Diego Báez
Window Left Open.
By Jennifer Grotz.
Feb. 2016. 64p. Graywolf, paper, $16 (9781555977306). 811.
In “The Snow Apples,” the third poem in her
latest collection, Grotz asserts, “I myself was / the
hungry lens.” This statement, standing defiantly
amid glimpses of mountaintops, city streets,
paintings, and dragonflies, is not so much figurative as it is fact. Inspired by her stay at the
Monastère de Saorge, a seventeenth-century
Franciscan monastery nestled against an alpine
mountainside, these poems are meditative and
lush. Grotz pores over the microscopic—the
“belly-beautiful” flesh of a cherry—as well as
the grandiose—the landscape, the command of
what we define as permanence. Grotz playfully
varies cadence. The eponymous “Window Left
Open,” for example, is comprised of a series
of triplets, while “Edinburgh Meditation” appears sprawling and startlingly unpredictable.
Though there is an abundance of subjects here,
the collection’s centerpiece—a window left
open—is the most lustrous image, a reminder
to be perceptive, curious, and infinitely vulnerable. And when Grotz writes, “I’m eager to pluck
the stars,” you not only believe her but ache to
do the same. —Briana Shemroske
Geography & Travel
Trespassing across America: One Man’s
Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of
Illegal) Hike across the Heartland.
By Ken Ilgunas.
Apr. 2016. 304p. Penguin/Blue Rider, $26.95
Five months, 1,900 miles, and three pairs of
Engel’s overview of the ongoing battleground should be required reading
for anyone desiring a thorough and informed portrait of what the past
has created and what the future holds for the Middle East and the world.
—Carol Haggas, on Richard Engel’s And Then All Hell Broke Loose