Clandestine Marriage -- Botany & Romantic Culture by 'Theresa M. Kelley, Johns Hopkins UPress '12, $55, 342 pages, ASIN #1421405172. Index, bibliography, notes, two groupings of color glossy images.
"I argue in this book," writes the author, "that (botanist James) Wallace's official report to the Royal Society on the strange species he encountered in the New World belongs to an extended counternarrative that within a century made romantic era thinking about plants and nature anything but a settled project."
In her new book, English professor Theresa M. Kelley deconstructs Romanticism as "a cultural and intellectual movement characterized by discovery, revolution, and the poetic as well as by the philosophical relationship between people and nature. Botany sits at the intersection where Romantic scientific and literary discourses meet.
Lest the reader think she's about to read a juicy, sex-laden saga after scanning the book's title, Kelley explains that she means simply to explore "the meaning and methods of how plants were represented and reproduced in scientific, literary, artistic, and material cultures of the (Romantic) period. In so doing, she examines writings by such authors as Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Letitia Barbauld and spends space on German philosophical traditions of Kant, Hegel, and Goethe and to Charles Darwin's reflections on orchids and plant pollination.
Theresa M. Kelley teaches English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is the author of Reinventing Allegory.
After the Music Stopped -- The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead by Alan S. Blinder, Penguin '13, $29.95, 476 pages, ASIN #1594205302. Index, sources, notes, unillustrated.
From 2008 to 2010, literally dozens of books crossed the threshold of History Wire, deconstructing the Wall Street implosion and analyzing its causes and effects. But just as the daily newspaper has been called "the first draft of history," books that seek to tell the whole saga first often get things wrong.
So now, nearly five years after the event, Alan Blinder, former vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board and a Clinton economic adviser, feels that with the passage of five years, he can bring some perspective to the situation. What he attempts in his new book is to create "a truly comprehensive and coherent narrative of how the worst economic crisis in postwar American history happened, what the government did to fight it, and what we must do from here -- mired as we still are in its wreckage."
"Things started unraveling when the much-chronicled housing bubble burst," Blinder argues, "but the ensuing implosion of what Blinder calls the bond bubble was larger and more devastating." He writes that "finance is more like the circulatory system of the economic body: If the body stops flowing, the body goes into cardiac arrest."
Alan S. Blinder teaches economics and public affairs at Princeton University and is the vice chairman of the Promontory Interfinancial Network, a financial service firm based in Arlington, VA.
Creamy & Crunchy -- An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food by Jon Krampner, Columbia UP '13, 298 pages, ASIN #0231162324. Index, no bibliography, notes, two appendices, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Seldom is a book about the development of a revolutionary product both informative and entertaining. Writer Jon Krampner's new work is such a volume. The author is obviously a peanut butter afficionado, claiming that even more than apple pie, peanut butter deserves the label of "the all-American food." Every year, Americans eat more than (are you ready?) a billion pounds a year, enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon.
Krampner obviously is no amateur at all this, as he discusses classic uses for peanut butter, such as with celery and raisins ("ants on a log") to a grilled sandwich with bacon and bananas (the classic "Elvis"). He lists the five ways today's product is different from the original, discusses the evolution of industry leaders Jif, Skippy, and Peter Pan, and describes the role of peanut butter in fighting Third World hunger.
And now the moment you've been waiting for: Which is the best? The author says the "best-tasting overall" peanut butter is from "Arrowhead Mills Creamy Organic." Best crunchy, from "Krema Nut Company Natural Crunchy of Columbus, OH," and best discount peanut butter, "Kirkland Natural Creamy (Costco house brand)." Krampner also includes a helpful time line, from peanut butter's first manufacture in 1894 through the 2011 Southern American drought, which caused peanuts to dry up and prices to soar.
Jon Krampner, educated at Occidental College and the University of Wisconsin, is the author of two other books.