12 Booklist July2016 www.booklistreader.com
Once Michael Piller took the reins in season
three, however, the show stabilized, and its
success paved the way for Deep Space Nine,
which pushed the limits of the franchise by
focusing on complex, serialized stories and
nuanced interpersonal conflict among its
characters; Voyager, which ventured into a
heretofore unexplored area of the galaxy;
and Enterprise, the prequel, which struggled
to find its footing. J. J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot
movie breathed new life into the franchise,
proving Trek still had plenty of life in it.
A must-read for fans, this lively oral history offers a plethora of insight into the
making of the enduring popular franchise.
YA: The many teen fans of the various
Star Trek shows and movies will find this
an engrossing behind-the-scenes look. KH.
Focus: The Secret, Sexy, Sometimes
Sordid World of Fashion Photographers.
By Michael Gross.
July 2016. 400p. Atria, $28 (9781476763460). 770.92.
Gross (House of Outrageous Fortune, 2014)
delivers a juicy history of the scandalous
lives of fashion photographers. He is nearly
encyclopedic in his approach, covering a
dizzying number of photographers, including the pioneering Richard Avedon, top dog
at Harper’s Bazaar; Bert Stern, who shot a
steamy session with Marilyn Monroe for
Vogue; and Terry Richardson, whose overexposed, edgy style made him famous, but
whose sordid relationship with models
made him unsavory. Gross travels more or
less chronologically through the industry’s
transformations, from fashion trends like
the emergence of androgyny and cross-dressing to the shift of creative control from
the photographer to the designer, employing quotes from his own interviews to dish
on the enormous egos, volatile relationships
with models and editors, and emotional turbulence that seem to be nearly ubiquitous
among the industry’s professionals. Gross’
focus on minutiae and “he said, she said”
tales detract at times from a larger perspective, but anyone interested in fashion and/or
photography will find Gross’ full immersion
fascinating. —Sarah Grant
The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists
and the Last Age of the Exotic.
By Jamie James.
Aug. 2016. 368p. illus. Farrar, $27 (9780374163358).
James’ seductive title refers to the fascination that inspired artists to travel far from
their birthplaces to find a land that truly felt
like home. An art critic,
travel writer, and author
( The Snake Charmer, 2008)
from Texas and long based
in New York, James came
under the spell of the exotic and moved to Bali in
1999, an experience that
infuses his zestful inquiry
in earlier “transcultural” adventures with
simpatico perceptions. After a fresh look
at Gauguin in Tahiti, James turns to lesser-
known, more alluring seekers. Raden Saleh
was a Javanese painter who, at 18 in 1829,
left Indonesia for Holland with a Dutch
colonial official and launched a triumphant
European career as a flamboyantly attired
high-society painter. A century later, Walter
Spies, an openly (at great risk) gay German
painter and musician, found his paradise in
Bali. The French naval doctor and writer
Victor Segalen flourished in early twentieth-
century China. The marvelously audacious
Swiss writer Isabelle Eberhardt roamed late
nineteenth-century North Africa dressed
as a man. And the avant-garde American
filmmaker Maya Deren discovered her spiri-
tual wellspring in Haiti. James is merrily
entertaining in his exceptional erudition and
nimble eloquence, and fluently and mov-
ingly insightful in his psychological, sexual,
social, and aesthetic interpretations as he
tells these astonishing, often tragic tales of
intrepid self-creation and ardently chosen
homelands. —Donna Seaman
Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos
to Plastic Chair: A Natural History.
By Witold Rybczynski.
Aug. 2016. 256p. illus. Farrar, $25 (9780374223212). 749.
A common, quotidian object, the chair
becomes anything but everyday in Rybczynski’s discerning history. Both furniture and
a vessel of personal and period tastes, it has
a traceable lineage from ancient times to the present,
and its many forms, evolved
or designed, represent varied solutions to a “rather
unsolvable problem,” as an
industrial architect puts it.
Namely, providing comfort in the sitting position,
a subtle ergonomic challenge considering
the range of people’s physiology, the variety
of their sitting postures, and their movement while sitting. Some forms that have
become classics, such as the rocker, succeed
by furnishing the chair’s essential service as
well as asserting aesthetically pleasing visual and tactile values. Populating his text
with drawings and descriptions of chairs
that meet these criteria, Rybczynski (
Mysteries of the Mall and Other Essays, 2015)
covers the materials and structure of their
construction, phasing the latter theme from
individual craftsmanship (declaring its apex
to have been eighteenth-century French
chair making) to industrial-scale manufacturing. In addition to the material aspect of
chairs, Rybczynski highlights the attraction
of the chair to modernist designers whose
eye-catching creations, alas, rarely deliver
comfort. A worthy addition to Rybczynski’s
well-regarded oeuvre, this cultured examination should be read in one’s favorite reading
chair, be it a Windsor or today’s ubiquitous
molded plastic seat. —Gilbert Taylor
Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of
Dr. Dre, Easy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur,
and the Birth of West Coast Rap.
By Ben Westhoff.
Sept. 2016. 352p. illus. Hachette, $27 (9780316383899);
e-book, $13.99 (9780316344869). 782.42.
L.A. gangsta rap doesn’t get the same respect as its East Coast counterpart. Journalist
Westhoff sets out to change that in this insightful and quite hefty history of West
Coast rap. He concentrates on the leading
figures of the movement, including Eazy-E
(Eric Wright), Dr. Dre (Andre Young), Ice
Cube (O’Shea Jackson), Ice-T (Tracy Marrow), Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus), Biggie
Smalls, also known as the Notorious B.I.G.
(Christopher Wallace), and Tupac Shakur.
He writes about the rivalries among hip-hop
record labels such as Eazy’s Ruthless Records
and Suge Knight’s Death Row, and the often
dysfunctional backgrounds of many of the
rappers. He discusses now-iconic hip-hop albums and controversial singles, addresses the
genre’s misogynistic lyrics and its struggles
with the establishment, and acknowledges
the music’s vast cultural impact. The sections on the murders of Shakur and Smalls
are sensitively handled (both crimes remain
unsolved). Today, hip-hop has fully entered
the mainstream, and hard-edged hip-hop,
in particular, he insists, has become “the defining musical movement of a generation.”
Westhoff’s history is especially relevant amid
the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.
YA: Serious rap and hip-hop fans will
appreciate the depth of this overview. JS.
Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race,
Music, and Family.
By Daniel Bergner.
Sept. 2016. 320p. Little, Brown/Lee Boudreaux, $28
(9780316300674); e-book, $14.99 (9780316300650).
One doesn’t usually think of opera as the
profession that lifts a struggling black teenager out of poverty—that journey is more
often aligned with football or hip-hop—but
such was the case for Ryan Green. Growing
up, Green had a violent relationship with his
mother that created a hostile home life, but
his quiet charisma drew a number of mentors to him. Bergner ( What Do Women Want,
2013) brings Green and those mentors to
vivid, heroic life as he follows the singer as
he auditions for the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan
Opera. Though Green becomes an apprentice, there are still more obstacles: a career in
opera is exceedingly difficult for singers of color, since in both the casting room and in the
audience, opera is too often seen as a “white
thing.” Bergner’s “in-the-room” perspective is
occasionally confusing, as he re-creates conversations from various points in Green’s life,
yet is only apparently present for parts; finally,
though, this is a small thing. Bergner’s inspirational biography has instant appeal, and,
with the added attention to vocal techniques