The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan, Edited by Albert J. Devlin with Marlene J. Devlin, Knopf '14, stated First Edition. $40, 650 pages, ASIN #0307267164. Index, key to citations, key to collections, chronology, b&w images sprinkled through text.
If "letters are a pure form of autobiography," as Elia Kazan's editors write, then the nearly 300 missives collected herein should flesh out a life story of the iconic director in great detail. The collection begins with a teenager's complaint about paternal authority in 1925 and ends some 60 years later "with a father's reaffirmation of love for his children"....
In words from the collection's Introduction, Elia Kazan lacked "the rare, extemporaneous gift for language possessed by his friend, collaborator, and freuqent correspondent Tennessee Williams. But as one might expect, Kazan was diligent. Lengthy, detailed business letters were often typed on yellow paper, scrupulously edited, and retyped by a secretary, whose command of spelling and puncutation far exceeded Kazan's."
Among the highlights of Kazan's life, as profiled in his letters, are his co-founding in 1947 of the Actors' Studio, his codirection of the nascent and celebrated work on Broadway, such as All My Sons, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; and his collaboration with such writers and playwrights as Arthur Miller, Clifford Odets, and Thornton Wilder.
Elia Kazan was born in 1909 in Istanbul, graduated from Williams College and Yale School of Drama and won two Academy Awards. He wrote seven novels and an autobiography and died in 2003. Albert J. Devlin is professor emeritus of English at the University of Missouri and has written and edited books on Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams. Marlene J. Devlin graduated from the University of Kansas and taught at the University of Missouri and Columbia Public Schools.
Sod Busting -- How Families Made Farms on the 19th-Century Plains by David B. Danbom, Johns Hopkins UP '14 paperback. $19.95, 129 pages, ASIN #1421414511. Index, selected further reading, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text..
From the back cover:
"Prairie busting is central to the lore of westward expansion, but how was it actually accomplished with little more than animal and human power? In Sod Busting, David B. Danbom tells the story of Great Plains settlement in a way it has seldom been told before.
"Stretching beyond the sweeping accounts typical of standard textbooks, Danbom challenges students to think about the many praticalities of surviving on the Great Plains in the late 19th century by providing a detailed account of how settlers acquired land and made homes, farms, and communities.
"He examines the physical and climatic challenges of the plains -- perhaps America's most inhospitable frontier -- and shows how settlers sheltered themselves, gained access to fuel and water, and broke the land for agriculture."
Author David B. Danbom is a retired professor of history who has written extensively on the northern Great Plains and on American agriculture and rural life.
The Honor Code -- How Moral Revolutions Happen by Kwame Anthony Appiah, Norton '10 paperback. $15.95, 264 pages, ASIN #039334052X. Index, notes, sources, unillustrated.
"What can we learn about morality by exploring moral revolutions?" asks the author in his Preface. "I was led to ask it because historians and philosophers have discovered a great deal about science through the careful study of scientific revolutions.
"Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, for example, drew fascinating conclusions from explorations of the 17th century Scientific Revolution -- which gave us Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton -- and of the more recent revolution that brought us the astonishing theories of quantum physics.
"The growth of scientific knowledge has obviously spurred a massive explosion in technology. But the driving spirit of science is not to change the world but to understand it. Morality, on the other hand, as Immanuel Kant insisted, is ultimately practical: though it matters morally what we think and feel, morality is, at its heart, about what we do."
Author Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of the PEN American Center, is the author of Cosmopolitanism. Raised in Ghana and educated in England, he has taught philosophy on three continents and currently teaches at Princeton University.