Enduring Courage -- Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F. Ross, St. Martin's Press '14, $27.99, 375 pages, ASIN #1250033772. Index, notes, note to reader, grouping of b&w glossy images.
More than any one invention, what characterized a new America at the outset of the 20th century was what author John F. Ross calls the nation's "love affair with speed," epitomized by two key icons -- the race car driver and the flying ace. Together, they utterly transformed the way Americans thought about time, space, and daring.
"No individual did more to create and intensify these raw new roles," writes Ross, "than the tall, gangly Eddie Rickenbacker, who defied death over and over with such courage and pluck that a generation of Americans came to know his face better than the president's."
Advances in the age of speed came at a cost measured in risk and often in the loss of human life. In the words of Eddie Rickenbacker, "There is no man living who has cheated the Grim Reaper as often as I have." He boasted of surviving eight near-death experiences, including the following:
*"Atlanta Passenger Airplane Crash. While on a business trip in 1941 during his tenure with Eastern Air Lines, Eddie's plane crashed just outside of Atlanta. Only an instinctive dive to the rear of the airliner saved his life in the terrible crash. He spent an evening with his eye hanging from his cheek and multiple broken bones; indeed, he suffered wounds so grave that rescue workers initially left him for dead."
*Wing-Stripping Event. On the Western Front in October 1918, Eddie attacked and shot down a German plane in his Nieuport 28, only to find as he sharply pulled up from his dive that the leading edge of his top wing had pulled away and was flapping like a wing. His enemy left him for dead as he struggled in an uncontrolled spin to regain control, only managing to do so at the very last moment before hitting the ground."
*"Early car race. At the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Race on Long Island, the 15-year-old Eddie rode as a 'mechanician' beside driver Lee Frayer. During qualifying heats, their brakes abruptly stopped working. Speeding around the track at perilous spoeeds, the duo hit a corner too fast, ran into a ditch and then a dune, at which point the car went airborne and rolled. The pair miraculuously survived, only suffering minor bruising."
Author John F. Ross also wrote War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier. He has served as executive editor of American Heritage and on the board of directors of Smithsonian magazine.
China Dolls -- A Novel by Lisa See, Random House '14, $27, 383 pages, ASIN #B00H6JFJKE.
Acclaimed author Lisa See has built a reputation for deconstructing the intimate relationships of women and "the complex meeting of history and fate." In the book's jacket copy, she sets the table for what is to come:
"San Francisco, 1938: A world's fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities. Grace, Helen and Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub.
"Grace Lee, an American-born Chinese girl, has fled the Midwest with nothing but heartaache, talent, and a pair of dancing shoes. Helen Fong lives with her extended family in Chinatown, where her traditional parents insist that she guard her reputation like a piece of jade. The stunning Ruby Tom challenges the boundaries of convention at every turn with her defiant attitude and no-holds-barred ambition.
"The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. When their dark secrets are exposed and the invisible thread of fate binds them even tighter, they find the strength and resilience to reach for their dreams. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives, and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything."
Author Lisa See has reached the New York Times bestseller list for several previous books, including the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her to 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.
Lex Populi -- The Jurisprudence of Popular Culture by William P. MacNeil, Stanford UPress '14, 241 pages, ASIN #0804771715. Index, references, notes, unillustrated.
From the dust jacket:
"This is a book about jurisprudence -- or legal philosophy. The legal philosophical texts under consideration are, to say the least, unorthodox. Tolkien, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Million Dollar Baby, and other cultural products are all referenced as exemplary instances of what the author calls lex populi -- "people's" or "pop law." There, more than anywhere else, will one find the leading issues of legal philosophy.
"These issues, however, are heavily coded, for few of these pop cultural texts announce themselves as expressly legal. nonetheless, Les Populi reads these texts "jurisprudentially," that is, with an eye to their hidden legal philosophical meanings, enabling connections such as: Tolkien's Ring as Kelsen's grundnorm; vampire slaying as legal language's semiosis; Hogwarts as substantively unjust; and a seriously injured young woman as termination's rights-bearers."