October 1, 2015 Booklist 11 www.booklistonline.com
sha. Stephen believed in truthful writing; so
did Natasha, if it was confined to a diary. Matthew continues the legacy of written truth by
offering a sugar-free version of his own engaging life story while he unpacks the complicated
tale of his parents’ difficult and fascinating
lives. —Janet St. John
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway,
By Ernest Hemingway. Ed. by Rena
Sanderson and others.
Oct. 2015. 800p. illus. Cambridge, $40 (9780521897358).
This monumental publishing project—
6,000 letters, carefully annotated, in a
planned 17 volumes—has reached the pivotal
chronological moment in the late 1920s when
Hemingway emerges as an astounding new
voice in American literature. Hemingway’s
human contradictions, brutal honesty, playful
sparring, self-deprecations, bullfight fandom,
emotional intensity, seething defensiveness,
and impulse to garrulously define himself are
on full display. After retyping the 330 manuscript pages of The Sun Also Rises, he dutifully
reports to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: “
Reading it over it seems quite exciting.” After the
novel appears to critical acclaim, he tells a
friend that he only likes its Spanish parts. An
aggressively frank rebuttal to his disapproving
mother is revealing, too. There’s gossip about
fellow writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos
Passos, Ezra Pound, and Sherwood Anderson.
There are the painful divorce, the second marriage, the birth of second son Patrick, and his
father’s suicide (“I was very fond of him and
feel like hell about it”). Most of the letters are
published for the first time. Scholars will be
deeply absorbed; general readers will find enjoyment and enlightenment. —Steve Paul
Bastards of the Reagan Era.
By Reginald Dwayne Betts.
Oct. 2015. 72p. Four Way, paper, $15.95
Betts, whose memoir, A Question of Freedom
(2009), won the NAACP Image Award, begins
his second poetry collection, a poetic eviscera-
tion of societal race norms, with a powerfully
stirring love poem for his sons, Miles and Mi-
cah. His children’s presence is on display early
to foreshadow a world that takes shape accord-
ing to “the business of human tragedy” and the
need for us to become more fully human. The
timing for this demanding, candid, resound-
ing, and hopeful volume is perfect, as Betts
takes the media to task for its failings, exposes
manipulative politics, and turns criminal law
upside down. With his own children always at
the forefront of his critique, protest, and call
for truth and justice, Betts uses heightened
language and concentrated rhythms to look
back over his own road from prison to writing,
activism, and Yale Law School. An inspiring
collection: “Talk about them dudes on the
roof / talking about the Library of Congress. /
Talk about never owning a damn thing, / &
then talk about us.” —Mark Eleveld
Dead Man’s Float.
By Jim Harrison.
Oct. 2015. 156p. Copper Canyon, $23 (9781556594458).
Harrison pours himself into everything he
writes, whether it’s his latest novel (The Big
Seven, 2015) or this, his fourteenth poetry col-
lection, but in poems, you do meet Harrison
head-on. As he navigates his seventies, he con-
tinues to marvel with succinct awe and earthy
lyricism over the wonders of birds, dogs, and
stars as he pays haunting homage to his dead
and contends with age’s assaults. The sagely
mischievous poet of the North Woods and the
Arizona desert laughs at himself as he tries to re-
lax by imagining that he’s doing the dead man’s
float only to sink into troubling memories. But
he also recalls his father, a hymn about “unseen
things above,” and homemade maple syrup.
He tells us that “we humans are vile machines
of attrition.” And that “it’s up to poets to revive
the gods.” Bracingly candid, gracefully elegiac,
tough, and passionate, Harrison travels the deep
river of the spirit, from the wailing precincts of
a hospital to a “green glade of soft marsh grass
near a pool in a creek” to the moon-bright sea.
By Kay Ryan.
Oct. 2015. 128p. Grove, $24 (9780802124050); e-book
It is revitalizing to read Ryan’s succinct
poems—word columns build like cairns
on the otherwise blank and silent wilderness of the page—and experience the
precisely walloping impact of her uncommon
observations, philosophical realizations, and
850 Intriguing Questions about
Judaism: True, False, or in Between.
By Ronald L. Eisenberg.
2015. 322p. Rowman & Littlefield, $75
(9781442239463); e-book, $74.99 (9781442239470).
This is an engaging compendium designed to appeal to general readers seeking
to learn more about the diversity of Jewish
thought and practice. A dozen information-packed chapters cover literature, ethical
living, food, folkways, theology, and other
areas of Jewish life. Each chapter contains
more than 100 questions and their corresponding concise answers, all coded to
indicate whether the author considers the
answer to be true (T), false (F), or nuanced
(N). For example, a question in the ethics
chapter asks, “Does Judaism have a holistic view toward health?” The answer, coded
T, explains: “In Jewish thought, the concept of ‘health’ entails physical, emotional,
and spiritual well-being, health of both the
body and the soul.” Recommended for the
religion collections of most public libraries.
—Art A. Lichtenstein
American Economic History: A
Dictionary and Chronology.
By James S. Olson and Abraham O.
2015. 695p. Greenwood, $89 (9781610696975).
This comprehensive reference aims to
fully cover a variety of topics in American
economic history in more than 1,000
articles. This unique focus will attract researchers and educators, since standard
separate topics in economics and history,
such as Supply-side economics or American
Civil War are treated here with less of a
focus on explaining the event or the theory,
putting the topic into its relevant American
historical context with an emphasis on the
economic aspects. Most articles conclude
with a list of references. The short, clear articles make this an attractive addition to most
libraries with a focus on social science, history, or economics. —Robert Robinson
Real People and the Rise of Reality
By Michael McKenna.
2015. 240p. Rowman & Littlefield, $38
(9781442250536); e-book, $37.99 (9781442250543).
American reality television, which rose
to prominence in the late 1990s to the
early 2000s thanks to competition shows
such as Survivor and American Idol, actually has roots in the game shows and
celebrity programming of the 1970s. Author McKenna highlights Real People—a
show that premiered in 1979 and featured,
well, real people who had a unique occupation or hobby—as the prime precursor
to today’s reality shows. The narrative runs
through the mid-’80s, referencing such
shows as The People’s Court, A Current
Affair, and That’s Incredible! Appendixes
include a Real People episode guide and
a list of reality-televisions shows from
1979 to ’92. This title would be useful for
academic collections that support media
studies, and larger public libraries might
consider this an interesting selection for
the circulating shelves. —Rebecca Vnuk
REFERENCE BOOKS IN BRIEF