Being American in Europe 1750-1860 by Daniel Kilbride, Johns Hopkins UPress '13, $34.95, 230 pages, ASIN #1421408996. Index, essay on sources, notes, map but no other illustrations.
A year ago, in these pages, we reviewed historian David McCullough's latest effort, entitled The Greater Journey, about the cultural and technological cross-fertilization between the French and the Americans between 1830--1900, largely on the Parisian stage. In historian Daniel Kilbride's latest, he "tracks the adventures of American travelers (from 1750 to 1860) while exploring large questions about how these experiences affected national identity."
While the two time periods overlap somewhat, many of the adventures undertaken in both books are similar, in social background of the travelers, modes of travel, and purpose of the voyages. But McCullough's take on the whole seems more positive than Kilbride's, "whose sources are written by people who, while prominent in their own time, are mostly obscure today, making this account fresh and unusual."
Although McCullough's take appears somewhat rosier, it would be wrong to portray Kilbride's sources as sour on the opposing country. In his words, "Travelers often had diverse perspectives because of their region of origin, race, gender, and class....Kilbride describes how these travelers defined themselves while they observed the politics, economy, morals, manners, and customs of Europeans. He locates an increasingly articulate and refined sense of simplicity and virtue among the visitors and a gradual disappearace of their feelings of awe and inferiority."
Daniel Kilbride is an associate professor of history at John Carroll University in Ohio.
I Do and I Don't -- A History of Marriage in the Movies by Jeanine Basinger, Knopf '12, $30, 395 pages, ASIN #0307269167. Index, bibliography, footnotes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Scholars of the American film genres are familiar with Wesleyan scholar Jeanine Basinger, who has written many accounts of the silver screen, including its techology, directors, producers, and actors. In her latest, she tackles the subject of marriage in the movies and the reasons why that institution has largely not been examined per se on the screen.
In commenting on I Do and I Don't, Kirkus Reviews writes:
"Marriage was a problem for Hollywood and its main business of putting people in theater seats. True, it was familiar to the audience, but famliiarity is not entertainment and escape. So Hollywood had the task of making the mundane exotic while still reassuring the audience that marriage was a good thing. The marriage film 'had to become negative about itself in a positive way,'.....Sin and tragedy might occur, but in the end, marriage would endure."
In Basinger's lively domestic survey, she traces "the many ways Hollywood has tussled with this tricky subject, explicating the relationship of countless marriages from Blondie and Dagwood to the heartrending couple in the Iranian A Separation, from Tracy and Hepburn to Laurel and Hardy (a marriage if there ever was one) to Coach and his wife in Friday Night Lights."
Jeanine Basinger is the chair of film studies at Wesleyan University and the curator of the cinema archives there. She has written nine other books on film.
Cut These Words into My Stone -- Ancient Greek Epitaphs, translated by Michael Wolfe, foreword by Richard P. Martin. Johns Hopkins UPress '13 paperback, $24.95, 178 pages, ASIN #0307269167. Biography of the Poets, Bibliography, notes, unillustrated.
It is a familiar custom in New England, where I live, to roam country graveyards in search of unusual epitaphs carved into gravestones by families of the dead, often referring to the decedent's contributions to mankind, the tragic manner of his death, or the love his family continues to have for him.
But while the colonial era began less than four centuries ago, the epitaphs discussed in this book trace their roots to Ancient Greece. They have been divided into five sections: 1) Anonymous Epitaphs of No Known Date, 2) Late Archaic and Classical Periods (600-350 BCE), 3) Hellenistic Period (Age of Alexander, c. 323-100 BCE, 4) The Millenium (Pagan Roman Empire, 100 BCE-99 CE), and 5) Late Antiquity (Christian Roman Empire, 200--599 CE).
I especially like the anonymous epitaphs, since they allow one to envision a life for the subject of the writing. Here are a couple as samples:
"My name is Dionysius of Tarsus.
I was sixty when I died. I never married.
I wish my father hadn't married either."
"After many high times with friends my age.
"I am back in the earth I sprang from:
"Aristocles. Menon's son. From Piraeus."
Translator Michael Wolfe is a poet, author, documentary film producer and president of Unity Productions Foundation, a nonprofit media organization.
The Wanting -- A Novel by Michael Lavigne, Schocken '13, $25.95, 322 pages, ASIN #0805212558.
From the dust jacket:
"From the author of Not Me, this powerful novel about an Israeli father and his daughter brings to life a rich canvas of events and unexpected change in the aftermath of a suicide bombing.
"In the galvanizing opening of The Wanting, the celebrated Russian-born postmodern architect Roman Guttman is injured in a bus bombing, causing his life to swerve into instability and his perceptions to become heightened and disturbed as he embarks on an ill-advised journey into Palestinian territory. The account of Roman's desert odyssey alternates with the vivacious, bittersweet diary of his 13 year old daughter, Anyusha (who is on her own perilous path, of which Roman is ignorant), and the startingly alive witnessings of Amir, the young Palestinian who pushed the button and is now damned to observe the havoc he has wrought from a shaky beyond.
"Enriched by flashbacks to the alluringly sad tale of Anyusha's mother, a famous Russian refusenik who died for her beliefs, The Wanting is a poignant study of the costs of extremism, but it is most satisfying as a story of characters enmeshed in their imperfect love for one another and for the heartbreakingly complex world in which that love is wrought."
Michael Lavigne, who was born in Newark and now lives in San Francisco, was educated at Millersville State College and the University of Chicago. He has written one previous book and has worked extensively in advertising.