Nonfiction, August 10, 2018 | Xpress Reviews

The author’s love and respect for his community come through; worth reading for fans of 1960s football; Knausgaard’s fans will appreciate this monumental series wrap-up; primarily of interest to Clemson fans; this will appeal to Shakespeare enthusiasts; for fans of Tolkien and the fantasy genre

Gengler, Michael T. We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation. Rosetta. Sept. 2018. 384p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781948122146. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781948122177. ED

The landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) paved the way for the desegregation of U.S. public schools. Lower court opinions in the South, however, allowed dual school systems to exist as long as black students had the option of attending predominantly white schools. This ended in 1968, when the Supreme Court sided with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Gengler, who was a student at Gainesville High School just before full desegregation was instituted, describes the abolition of dual school systems in Alachua County, FL. An attorney and advocate for public school education, he takes a legal perspective but also examines the stories of those who experienced the school closings and upheavals, demonstrating how through sheer will and collaboration the community avoided some of the pitfalls that occurred elsewhere.

VERDICT The author’s love and respect for his community come through in this well-researched work. For readers of books on education, social or oral history, or the South, as well as those who enjoyed J. Anthony Lukas’s Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families .—Jacqueline Snider, Toronto

 

Gilden, Jack. Collision of Wills: Johnny Unitas, Don Shula, and the Rise of the Modern NFL. Univ. of Nebraska. Sept. 2018. 352p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781496206916. $29.95. SPORTS

Journalist Gilden explores the explosive dynamic between two of the most determined Hall of Famers in National Football League history: coach Don Shula and quarterback John Unitas. The two spent most the 1960s together with the Baltimore Colts, butting heads while winning many games but no championships. Unitas won his titles under more agreeable coaches Weeb Ewbank and Don McCafferty, whereas Shula won his Super Bowl trophies with more pliable quarterback Bob Griese in Miami. The author does a fine job of re-creating the Colts’ fierce rivalry with Vince Lombardi’s Packers and presents well-rounded portraits of Shula, Unitas, and other principals such as owner Carroll Rosenbloom and players Tom Matte and Raymond Berry. He attempts to place this story fully in the context of the 1960s, which works up to a point. However, Gilden goes a bit over the top on peripheral tangents, for instance devoting an entire chapter to journalist David Halberstam and the Vietnam War.

VERDICT Flawed but very much worth reading for fans of 1960s football when the sport took its leading role in American culture.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ.–Camden Lib., NJ

 

Jones, Darryl. Sleeping with the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror. Oxford Univ. Oct. 2018. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9780198826484. $16.95. LIT

Jones (English, dean of arts, humanities, & social sciences, Trinity Coll. Dublin; Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film) presents a wide selection of horror criticism and examples from the genre, leaving room for further analysis. Of particular interest are his breakdown of the category into more palatable subgenres and the addition of unhorror to the literature’s critical language. This term can be used loosely to describe works that elicit thrills from loud noises or shocks rather than any thematic or emotional resonance. While more scholarly than casual text, Jones’s work will help readers wade through what is a complex and often underappreciated genre.

VERDICT Primarily for students and academics looking to expand their understanding of horror or better illustrate their own theories of the genre.—Matthew Gallagher, Victoria, BC

 

Knausgaard, Karl Ove. Summer. Penguin. Aug. 2018. 416p. tr. from Norwegian by Ingvild Burkey. illus. by Anselm Kiefer. ISBN 9780399563393. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780399563409. LIT

Following the success of My Struggle, his excruciatingly candid six-volume autobiographical novel, Knausgaard now completes his fourth and final book in a mostly autobiographical series centered on the seasons. As with the preceding titles (Autumn; Winter; and Spring, the only work billed as fiction), each month (here June–August) consists of a collection of essays followed by diary entries. Most of the writings are ruminative and informative observations on nature’s tapestry (e.g., “Chestnut Trees,” “Foam,” “Slugs,” “Wasps,” “Butterflies”), affirming that humans are indivisible from the natural world. Others exemplify summer motifs (e.g., “Barbecue,” “Ice Cream,” “Campsites,” “Lawn Sprinklers”), evoking the author’s remembrance of childhood activities and events. The diary is directed to his youngest daughter, Ann, who is two-and-a-half, and although Knausgaard predictably records his angst and obsessions, the journal essentially shows a father devoted to his son and three daughters. Dutiful and caring, he’s attentive to their moods and feelings and is anxious about their futures.

VERDICT With no central story to whet readers’ expectations, Knausgaard’s narratives prove pedantic at times. Still, his fans will appreciate this wrap-up to a monumental series. [See Prepub Alert, 2/26/18.]—Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal

 

Robinson, Manie. Top of the Hill: Dabo Swinney and Clemson’s Rise to College Football Greatness. Triumph. Oct. 2018. 256p. illus. ISBN 9781629376257. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781641250979. SPORTS

Dabo Swinney is one of the most unlikely people to thrive as a college football coach. A former walk-on player at Alabama who worked as an unheralded position coach at Clemson University, SC, until he was promoted as the school’s interim coach during a down season, Swinney took that opportunity to demonstrate how hard he was willing to work. Made the Tigers’ permanent coach in 2009, he rebuilt the program and has led Clemson to three consecutive College Football Playoff tournaments and won one national championship. This book tells the story of the team over the last decade, the greatest period in the school’s history. The focus is on Swinney, his staff, and such star players as C.J. Spiller, Tajh Boyd, and DeShaun Watson.

VERDICT College football history that will primarily be of interest to Clemson fans.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ.–Camden Lib., NJ

 

Scheil, Katherine West. Imagining Shakespeare’s Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway. Cambridge Univ. Jun. 2018. 320p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781108416696. $89.99; pap. ISBN 9781108404068. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781108265676. LIT

Anne Hathaway (1556–1623): muse or millstone, loving wife and mother or shrewish adulteress? From the 18th century to modern times, historians, biographers, novelists, and playwrights have speculated about William Shakespeare’s enigmatic wife, perhaps because so little information exists about her and their marriage. Now Shakespeare scholar Scheil (English, Univ. of Minnesota; She Hath Been Reading: Women and Shakespeare Clubs in America) compiles a study that analyzes representations of Hathaway in their historical context. Contradictory portrayals, based on imagination and biases, often blending fact with fiction, including depictions of Shakespeare’s female characters, range from James Joyce’s hot-blooded “ugly doxie” to Germaine Greer’s vision of an independent, hardworking homemaker. As well, contrary to what readers may think, Hathaway’s image did not improve with advances in women’s rights. For instance, the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love ignores the Bard’s adultery and presents Anne as an impediment to true love and the creative process.

VERDICT While Scheil spends more time than necessary stating her intentions for each chapter, this thoroughly researched and approachable cultural history will appeal to scholars and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike.—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo

 

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. Bodleian Library: Univ. of Oxford. Jul. 2018. 416p. ed. by Catherine McIlwaine. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781851244850. $52. LIT

McIlwaine (Tolkien archivist, Bodleian Libs., Oxford;Tolkien Treasures) argues that the publication of The Hobbit (1937) by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892–1973) is “perhaps more significant” than the author’s “seminal essay on the Old English poem Beowulf,” which appeared the same year. This makes the novel seem like an afterthought and reflects what Tolkien fans have long known: the invented languages and mythology of the fictional Middle-earth were Tolkien’s primary passion and that he intended The Silmarillion to be his masterwork. This collection of photographs, letters, drawings, maps, notes, and newspaper doodles bears witness to that project’s labor while also revealing Tolkien’s influence as an Oxford lecturer and advisor, husband and father. We further glimpse his investment in the literary group the Inklings and similar clubs as well as correspondence and friendships with other writers. Regardless of any regrets the author himself may have had about failing to complete The Silmarillion, this volume leaves one both cheered by the sense of a life well lived and awed by the technical brilliance of his innovation and painstaking detail of his worldbuilding.

VERDICT Recommended for fans of Tolkien and the fantasy genre.—Jenny Brewer, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

 

Turner, Robert, II. Not for Long: The Life and Career of the NFL Athlete. Oxford Univ. Aug. 2018. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780199892907. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780190872854. SPORTS

Turner’s (clinical research and leadership, George Washington Univ.) preface offers an accurate summary of its contents: “In this book, I explore how the sports-industrial complex in its operation as a totalizing institution contributes to athletes’ socialization and to black male marginalization by presenting collected data from ongoing, situated, micro-level interactions with current and former players.” It’s not so much data as it is anecdotal instances from Turner’s discussions with former players and those who aspire to the dream of rising socioeconomically via playing pro football. That aspiration requires running a tough gauntlet both on the field and through the institutional structure. According to the author, even the few who make it often observe the situation with dissatisfaction and frustration.

VERDICT Here, the experience is viewed through the lenses of class, race, and gender, making it more of interest to academic sociologists than sports devotees.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ.–Camden Lib., NJ

 

Wilkerson, W.R. Hollywood Godfather: The Life and Crimes of Billy Wilkerson. Chicago Review. Sept. 2018. 384p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613736609. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781613736630. BIOG

Hollywood powerbroker William R. “Billy” Wilkerson (1890–1962) led a life that reads like a blockbuster movie script, full of cutthroat competition, glitz, glamour, and stars, not only of Hollywood but also of the underworld. The owner and publisher of the Hollywood Reporter during the 1930s through the 1950s, he also built the Café Trocadero and other L.A. hot spots and was known as “the mentor of Sunset Strip.” He worked closely with mob figures, building the Flamingo Hotel in Vegas and bringing the Mafia to Hollywood. For the first time, his life is chronicled here—by his son. Author Wilkerson (The Man Who Invented Las Vegas) tells an intriguing tale of a dual-natured figure: a driven, organized businessman who lost vast sums of money to gambling addiction; a patron of the church involved with the mob; a club owner who imported fine European dining to a burgeoning Hollywood who drank only Coca Cola. Billy Wilkerson was a man who had the golden touch for creating success but never seemed capable of holding interest once he’d achieved it. The writing style is dramatic at turns but not at odds with the scale of this Hollywood personality.

VERDICT

An interesting read for those who are looking to learn about the underbelly of golden-age Hollywood.—Jennifer Thompson, Richland Lib., Columbia, SC

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