Journalism & Publishing
Reporting Always: Writings from
the New Yorker.
By Lillian Ross.
Oct. 2015. 352p. Scribner, $27 (9781501116001); e-book
One result of the dearth of men available to
work in the U.S. during WWII was the hiring,
for the first time, of women reporters at the
New Yorker. One of these was
Lillian Ross, hired in 1945
to write for the “Talk of the
Town” section. Ross went
on, of course, to write longer pieces, especially profiles,
over the next 60 years. This
invaluable collection brings
together 32 of those pieces,
“Writers,” “Youngsters,” “New Yorkers,” and
“Big Cheeses.” We go along with Ross as she
follows Hemingway in 1950 through a string
of encounters in New York in her famous profile, “How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?”;
as she accompanies a young Julie Andrews to
see her name in lights for the first time; as she
makes fun of the Red Scare in Hollywood in
“Come In, Lassie!”; as she interviews wealthy
Republicans at the National Convention in
2004 in “The Money Honeys.” Reading Ross
is enlivened by Ross’ own description, in her
introduction, of her goal: to write each piece
“as if it were a miniature movie.” Ross is credited with inventing “fly on the wall” journalism
and with being one of the earliest practitioners
of what came to be called narrative nonfiction.
This isn’t the first collection of Ross’ work,
but its time span makes it an invaluable one.
Foreword by current New Yorker editor David
Remnick. —Connie Fletcher
Philosophy & Psychology
Body Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s
Energies for Your Best Life.
By Joseph Cardillo.
Nov. 2015. 256p. Atria, $24 (9781582705187). 158.1.
According to Cardillo, a holistic psychologist, the body and everything around it is
composed of energy. Controlling this energy
by building it up, stopping energy drains,
and balancing its yin and yang enables us
to increase strength, creativity, alertness, and
memory. The key is being aware and mindful.
In each chapter, Cardillo explains how to use
The Witch of Lime Street: Séance,
this energy to reverse forces, including harm-
ful moods, conflict, detrimental aggression,
and obsession. He draws from science, tech-
nology, psychology, and holistic medicine to
explain energy flow. Scattered frequently amid
the explanations are “Try This!” sections that
helpfully describe a specific visualization or
meditation geared at combating these harm-
ful feelings. Cardillo urges readers to use these
techniques as well as music, art, literature, and
nature to replenish energies that are spent on
tasks and commitments. At the end of each
chapter, there are further suggestions called
“Exercises and Practices.” Although Cardillo’s
reasoning can be complex, his practical sug-
gestions will be useful for all those wanting to
tap into surrounding energy forces to correct
their emotional and physical balance and fine-
tune their minds. —Candace Smith
Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit
By David Jaher.
Oct. 2015. 448p. illus. Crown, $28 (9780307451064).
After the Great War, with the question,
“Where are our boys?,” ringing in the minds of
grieving parents, Arthur Conan Doyle, whose
son had died, had the answer: spiritualism,
supposed contact with the dead through automatic writing, séances, and spiritualists; and
he proclaimed that it “was the only religion
validated by science.” Hence, he supported Sir
Oliver Lodge’s trip to America to convince its
citizens of the validity of spiritualism. Jaher
focuses not only on proponents (halfhearted
ones, sometimes) and skeptics, such as the great
Houdini, but on spiritualists on both sides of
the pond and their vase movings, table-liftings,
ghost-writings, and ectoplasm-producing. The
titular witch, young, newly psychic Bostonian Mina Crandon, entered a contest—held,
somewhat improbably, by Scientific American
magazine—seeking proof of a bona fide medium and almost won, after interviews and
demonstrations, despite, as Jaher notes, the
“problem with mental phenomena—it was
not suited to empirical proof.” A colorful, fascinating depiction of a response to a time of
great losses and the human need to reconnect,
however dubiously, with departed loved ones.
Augustine: Conversions to
By Robin Lane Fox.
Nov. 2015. 672p. Basic, $35 (9780465022274); e-book
Perhaps only Newton’s apple tree has attracted more attention than the fig tree that
shaded Augustine when he
heard a child’s voice prompting him to read the scriptural
passage summoning him to a
new life as a Christian saint.
By transporting readers to
that tree, Fox places them in
that pivotal moment when a
rhetorician decisively repudiates the worldly
ambitions and carnal lusts that have long de-
layed his baptism into Christianity. The richly
detailed narrative indeed guides readers beyond
this decisive moment through 11 years of fur-
ther transformations before Augustine records
his life in his inimitable Confessions. Carefully
unfolding the structure and themes of this
masterpiece, Fox establishes its character as
an extended prayer often misread as a proto-
modern autobiography. To clarify the origins
of this singular prayer, Fox contrasts the life of
its author with the lives of two prominent con-
temporaries—the gifted pagan orator Libanius
and the devout Christian bishop Synesius—
men whose life trajectories provide illuminat-
ing context for Augustine’s account of his life’s
pilgrimage. Readers who—unlike Fox—share
Augustine’s faith may resist the psychologizing
glosses for key spiritual experiences. But read-
ers pious and skeptical alike will recognize Fox
as an exceptionally insightful and probing bi-
ographer. —Bryce Christensen
Abraham: The World’s First (but
Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer.
By Alan M. Dershowitz.
Oct. 2015. 208p. Schocken/Nextbook, $26
(9780805242935); e-book (9780805243314). 340.092.
Dershowitz is a divisive figure. On that score,
his latest book doesn’t disappoint. It begins
with a retelling of the life of Abraham, patriarch of the ancient Israelites. In this version,
Abraham is the first Jewish lawyer, an advocate
who willingly goes toe to toe with no less an
opponent than God. His performance in that
highest of courts, which set the standard for
millennia of Jewish lawyers to come, left big
sandals to fill, as Dershowitz humorously observes. This intriguing premise is followed by
various stories of persecuted Jews and noteworthy Jewish lawyers and jurists who pursued
justice and zealously represented the downtrodden. In the book’s final chapter, Dershowitz
worries that demographics do not favor Jews
and that fewer Jews will result in a less creative
and compassionate America and American
legal profession. A bit of awkwardness in this
otherwise engaging mix of legal and Jewish history is Dershowitz’s backhanded compliment
at WASPs when he notes that “hard as it is to
imagine,” America would be a less interesting
place without them. —Christopher McConnell
African Americans at Risk: Issues in
Education, Health, Community, and
By Glenn L. Starks.
2v. 2015. 832p. Greenwood, $189 (9781440800757).
African Americans in the U.S. have had
a long history of oppression and resilience.
One has only to look at current newspaper
headlines to see that African Americans still
face discrimination, economic inequality, and
challenges to their health and communities.