The Revival Styles in American Memorial Art

Peggy McDowell and Richard Meyer

From the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, the Revival Style dominated American memorial art. Harkening back to cultures of yore, Americans channeled their funereal energies into the creation of spectacular edifices and memorials to prominent citizens. Often designed by the leading sculptors and architects of their time, the great majority of these striking artifacts exist to this day for future generations and will provide a chronicle of our nation’s formative years. JAT

Publisher: Bowling Green
Paperback: 206 pages

A Field Guide to Germs

Wayne Biddle

From adenovirus to Ziti fever, A Field Guide to Germs presents “the top-ranked terms and germs (in prevalence, or power, or worry factor, or even literary interest)… not with the quack promise of self-diagnosis, but with the absolute certainty that a little knowledge is always better than zip.” Written with a light touch and with the intelligent layperson in mind, A Field Guide to Germs details the significant symptoms, historical significance and social impact of some 70-plus viruses, bacterium or other sources of contagion. While handy as a reference book, this also offers many wonderful factoids, such as: measles is not carried by any other animal and it needs a human population of over 300,000 to provide a sustaining supply of virgin bodies so that it will not die out. Or, doctors in the time of plague wore beaked masks filled with pleasant-smelling whatnot to mask the stench of decay. Or, the French term for gonorrhea as far back as the 12th century was chaude pisse, which translates literally as “hot piss.” Complete with period illustrations, A Field Guide to Germs offers hours of entertainment. JAT

Publisher: Anchor
Paperback: 196 pages

The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France

Robert Darnton

What causes revolutions? Is it a significant corpus of classic philosophical texts held in reverence centuries later? Apparently such texts barely caused a ripple in the book trade in pre-revolutionary France. Employing careful methodology, Darnton discovers that the French reading class of this period were more often than not reading books which fell under the broad categories of either philosophical pornography, utopian fantasy, or political slander. In discussing his reasons for what some may consider “sheer antiquarianism,” Darnton explains “[T]hat the history of books as a new discipline within the ‘human sciences’ makes it possible to gain a broader view of literature and of cultural history in general. By discovering what books reached readers throughout an entire society and (at least to a certain extent) how readers made sense of them, one can study literature as part of a general cultural system.” Detailed tables and maps detailing the book trade and communication networks in pre-revolutionary France, as well as reproductions of illustrations from representative texts and substantial extracts from three such works are presented. JAT

Publisher: Norton
Paperback: 440 pages

Benjamin Britten: A Biography

Humphrey Carpenter

Throughout his life, Benjamin Britten met with applause to his face and whispers from behind his back. Arguably England’s greatest composer since Purcell, Britten created modern classics such as Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Death in Venice, many of which contained the theme of the corruption of innocence which was central to his work. As Britten is one of a select few modern composers who have maintained a wide audience, the Metropolitan Opera mounted productions of two of his operas during the 1996 season alone. Britten was a child prodigy who some say never grew up. He maintained a lifelong personal and creative relationship with the great tenor Peter Pears. He rather much enjoyed the company of young boys and was known for unceremoniously severing ties with collaborators and friends once they had served their usefulness to him. British bass Robert Tear once commented: “There was a great, huge abyss in his soul. That’s my explanation of why the music becomes thinner and thinner as time passed. He got into the valley of the shadow of death and couldn’t get out.” Considered by Anthony Burgess to be “one of the best biographies of a musician that I have read; accurate, humane, moving,” Benjamin Britten: A Biography is an important addition to the literature of music. JAT

Publisher: Scribner's
Hardback: 677 pages

The Days Grow Short: The Life and Music of Kurt Weill

Ronald Sanders

Kurt Weill’s music enjoys a timeless popularity; however, it was firmly rooted in the shifting social, political, and artistic climates in which he worked. Born a cantor’s son in Dessau, a town known as Bayreuth North, Weill showed early musical promise. He was drawn to the Berlin of the 1920s, where he studied under the great Busoni before linking up with Bertold Brecht and his own life-mate and greatest interpreter, Lotte Lenya. Creating such landmarks of Weimar theater as Mahagonny, Happy End, and The Threepenny Opera, the trio were to define a time and place. Fleeing the Third Reich, Weill emigrated to America and reinvented himself as the ultimate Broadway composer. He worked with Ira Gershwin, Maxwell Anderson, Langston Hughes and Ogden Nash, conquering the Broadway vernacular before his early death at age 50.
Extensively researched, The Days Grow Short charts Weill’s personal and career journey. Focusing on the development of Weill the composer and the creation of each work, this text evokes the theater worlds of both Berlin and New York when they were arguably at their peak. JAT

Publisher: Silman-James
Paperback: 469 pages

Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?

Fred Rogers

Possibly the most underrated thinker of the 20th century, Fred Rogers has been a fixture of children’s television for over 25 years. Dear Mr. Rogers collects the letters from children and their parents along with Mr. Rogers’ responses to the questions and concerns of his television friends. Sincerely believing that every child’s questions are important since they help to form their understanding of the world and prepare them for adulthood, Mr. Rogers never dismisses a question as silly. He answers each question with the simplicity and elegance typically found only in mathematical proofs, Mr. Rogers deals with weighty topics such as death, disease and divorce, as well as lighter topics including “In your younger years did you get a lot of chicks because you were Mister Rogers?” or does Mr. Rogers “poop.” Dear Mr. Rogers also features preaddressed stationery so young readers will better able to write this sage of Pittsburgh. With warmth and inspiration for parents and children, Dear Mr. Rogers offers a thoughtful perspective of childhood, parenting, and life in general. JAT

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 185 pages

The Queen’s Throat: Opera and Homosexuality

Wayne Koestenbaum

Addressing the long-observed affinity between homosexual men and opera, this book combines the many colored threads of this complex and frequently intense codependency. Organized into seven chapters, the broad topic headings include the major theme “Opera Queens,” as well as “The Shut-In Fan: Opera at Home,” “The Unspeakable Marriage of Words and Music,” and “A Pocket Guide to Queer Moments in Opera.” Meditations include the transcendent imagery of opera LP labels—”The two central images adorning the labels of opera records have been the dog and the angel. Bestial. Celestial. When you listen to opera, are your desires doggy or divine?”; and the complex relationship between divas and self-mutilation—”Diva self-mutilation helps the show go on: before a performance, Maria Malibran took a pair of scissors and cut away the blisters around her mouth; Geraldine Farrar told Carl Van Vechten that ‘at every performance she cut herself open with a knife and gave herself to the audience.’” The author also notes that “there’s a bizarre affinity between divas and dismembered anatomies: diva Brigitta Banti died in 1806 and left her larynx, preserved in alcohol, to the city of Bologna; Olive Fremstad’s piano was graced by a pickled human head sliced in half so she could show her students the vocal and breathing apparatus.” While the author has produced a work of both scholarly research and deep introspection, he never forgets to leaven the mix with keen wit. A compelling work of cultural history and literature, this book will appeal to everyone, regardless of sexual persuasion, interested in the meaning attributed to one’s erotic and aesthetic experiences. JAT

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 271 pages


Nancy McMichael

Offering encapsulated enchantment, snowdomes have provided a microcosm of the world as we knew it, or as we dreamed it could be. Snowdomes provides a charmed overview of the history and art, be it high or low, of this cultural fixture. Virtually anything can be depicted, celebrated or denigrated within the tidy confines of the snowdome. The introduction provides a brief, fact-filled history of snowdomes, from their first sightings in Paris in the 1870s to the German masters to their entry into the North American market.
Interesting facts revealed within this text are that some manufacturers use bone chips as snow and that many domes add antifreeze to the water to prevent freezing during shipping. Also noted is an episode in which the U.S. government imposed an embargo on snowdomes imported from Hong Kong during the 1960s when it was discovered that untreated and highly-polluted water directly from Hong Kong’s harbor was used to fill these domes.
In 95 full-color pages, Snowdomes depicts approximately 400 different snowdomes in all their glory. The domes are organized thematically: famous sights, advertising, special events, Christmas, the world at war, animals, childhood themes and more. An especially fine section is devoted to religious-themed snowdomes, which provide a virtual Bible under glass. Especially notable are a Dadaesque eye snowdome and one featuring a rooster atop a base which reads: “Nicarbazin Can Cut Mortality to Zero.” JAT

Publisher: Abbeville
Paperback: 96 pages

Tainted Goddesses: Female Film Stars of the Third Reich

Edited by Lys Symonette and Kim H. Kowalke

“Today I give you a present: me. You take this present without qualms; it will bring you only good things. Let me be your ‘pleasure boy’ [Lustknabe), more than a friend but less than a husband. I’m in the world for you—that is self-evident, and you don’t need to feel obligated. You’ll now sense it. Give me just a small sign that you accept the present. Please.”
They were an unlikely couple. He was a short, prematurely balding, German cantor’s son with thick glasses that she thought made him look like a mathematics professor, and she was an Austrian Catholic coachman’s daughter, two years older and poorly educated. Escaping from an abusive father, she became a prostitute and then a would-be dancer turned actress in Zurich. Weill and Lenya needed one another on a “creative” level which defied ordinary emotional, erotic, or professional bounds. Their relationship always remained both tenacious and tumultuous, open to and always surviving many secondary sexual and romantic relationships.
Speak Low compiles the 375 letters, 18 postcards and 17 telegrams that survive; 296 from Weill to Lenya and 114 from Lenya to Weill. This deluxe edition also includes an autobiographical fragment of Lenya’s pre-Weill years and a postscript which focuses on her years as the Widow Weill, when she established herself as his leading interpreter and guaranteed the preservation of his memory. Also included is a listing of their pet names for each other, a biographical glossary, an index of names, an index of works by Weill and an index of works by others. JAT

Publisher: Sarpedon
Hardback: 615 pages

Total Television

Alexander McNeil

Total Television is perhaps the most complete guide available on American television. Offering listings on over 5,400 series from 1948 through 1995, this resource provides a treasure trove of fascinating lore and minutiae about TV and, in the process, about American popular culture. Each series listing reports the air dates, the network affiliation, and a summary of the show’s premise and significant cast members. The level of detail is admirable. For instance, it notes that Don Hornsby, the original host of Broadway Open House, died of polio within two weeks of its original airing in 1950; that Barbara Colby of Phyllis was found murdered after three episodes of her show; and that Pick and Pat, which aired briefly in 1949, was the only variety show that regularly featured minstrel acts.
Of added interest is a listing of noteworthy specials, detailed charts showing the prime-time schedules for the networks by season, a summary of Peabody and Emmy award winners, a recap of the highest rated programs from 1949 through 1995, and an index of 19,000 personalities, which will allow the reader to check out the credits of their favorite TV entertainers. JAT

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 1251 pages