War Machine: The Rationalization of Slaughter in the Modern Age

Daniel Pick

“Examines Western perceptions of war in and beyond the 19th century, surveying the writings of novelists, anthropologists, psychiatrists, poets, natural scientists and journalists to trace the origins of modern philosophies about the nature of war and conflict.” Einstein to Freud, 1933: “Why war?” Freud to Einstein: “Paradoxical as it may sound, it must be admitted that war might be a far-from-inappropriate means of establishing the eagerly desired reign of ‘everlasting’ peace, since it is in a position to create the larger units within which a powerful central government makes further wars impossible.” GR

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 292 pages

Cosmos, Chaos, and the World To Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith

Norman Cohn

The author has done an admirable job of thoroughly researching his subject. Weaving a virtual tapestry of apocalyptic exegesis, the author transports the reader through the various stages of mankind’s apocalyptic visions, from Egypt to Persia, ancient Mesopotamia, India and, of course, Judaic and Christian revelations. JB

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 271 pages

The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity

Jon D. Levenson

A Jewish theologian and expert in ancient Near Eastern languages at Harvard University demonstrates how the shared historic basis of Judaism and Christianity is in child sacrifice—the “offering of the first-born son.” Through cross-cultural comparisons to Canaanite and Phoenician religious practices and contemporary interpretations of the original Hebrew and Aramaic Bible verses, Levenson explores how the practice of ritually sacrificing the first-born son was once a demonstration of extreme piety in ancient Israel—substitution of an animal like a ram was an option for the less devout petitioners to Yahweh. Establishes parallels between Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac (substituted for by a lamb) and God’s sacrifice of his own beloved first son, Jesus (also known as the Lamb). SS

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 257 pages

Icons of American Protestantism: The Art of Warner Sallman

Edited by David Morgan

“From earliest childhood I have loved Jesus Christ and wanted to serve him,” said Warner Sallman, and serve him he did—to over 500 million mostly Protestant consumers between 1940 and 1984. The Head of Christ is perhaps the world’s most popular image, bringing wallet-size comfort and protection to millions of U.S. soldiers in World War II courtesy of the Salvation Army and the YMCA, inspiring countless conversions and reportedly weeping tears of blood in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1979. It has been admired as “a true portrait of Christ,” a perception verified by devotees in actual visions of the savior. Most importantly, it has provided solace when the going gets tough and paved the way for millions of worshipers to a greater intimacy and communion with the Lord.
The six essays that make up this book address different questions raised by Sallmania, exploring the whys and hows of his oeuvre’s astounding success. Sallman seems uniquely chosen to have served Christ as an artist: The son of devout Swedish immigrants, young Warner was tutored in painting by his carpenter father. He studied commercial art at the Art Institute of Chicago, then went on to work for some of Chicago’s top advertising agencies. There he mastered that most American of skills: the creation of images which can be all things to all people. Mimicking Hollywood glamor shots of the time and creating a feeling of immediacy by following the conventions of contemporary portrait photography, Sallman conjured a Christ which could express whatever an individual’s needs dictated. Sallman, though seemingly very sincere, knew not to change the formula when classic Coke was what people wanted: Most of his other famous images feature an identical head of Christ atop a differently postured body in a different setting.
While legions flocked to Sallman’s Jesus, various Protestant factions wrung their hands. Liberal Protestants were embarrassed by it, preferring abstraction, the alienated, revelatory “thinking-man’s art.” African-Americans and others were angered by its ethnocentrism. Intellectuals saw it as a debased and dangerous product of the proto-fascist culture industry. Alfred Barr, founder of MOMA and son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers, in a buried chapter of his life issued a report from a commission he founded under the auspices of the National Council of Churches’ Department of Worship and the Arts. The proclamation called popular images of Jesus “art on the level of cosmetic and tonic advertisements,” adding, “They call for iconoclasm.” With 14 color and dozens of black-and-white reproductions, this book is a delight for anyone interested in religious iconography, Caucasian culture or popular art. MH

Publisher: Yale University
Hardback: 247 pages

Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality

Paul Barber

Impales, garlics, beheads and buries the Dracula myth. “Surveys centuries of folklore about vampires and offers the first scientific explanation for the vampire legends. From the shoemaker from Breslau whose ghost terrorized everyone in the city, to the testimony of a doctor who presided over the exhumation and dissection of a graveyard full of Serbian vampires.” Chapters include: “How Revenants Come Into Existence,” “The Appearance of the Vampire,” “Search and Destroy,” “Some Theories of the Vampire,” and “The Body After Death.” GR

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 236 pages

Kava: The Pacific Drug

Vincent Lebot, Mark Merlin, and Lamont Lindstrom

Order a Kava Bowl at Trader Vic's and you get a frothy concoction of rum and fruit juices. Order one on Vanuatu and you get a sticky porridge of chewed-up plant roots and human saliva. But before you decline, know that the roots are from the Piper methysticum, or kava plant, a powerful narcotic that makes the world go ‘round in many South Pacific cultures. Kava also has numerous medicinal properties, and elaborate social rituals attend its consumption on the islands of Melanesia. All of these are documented in Kava: The Pacific Drug, co-written by horticulturist Vincent Lebot, anthropologist Lamont Lindstrom and scientist Mark Merlin.
While chapters detailing the medical and economic potential of the plant are not without interest, the cultural significance of kava consumption makes for the most compelling reading. The islands of Tonga, Samoa, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea each have their own version of kava’s origin myth. “The broad leaf that extinguishes chiefs” has sprouted variously from a vagina, the skin of a foot, or the hair of an armpit.”
Preparation of the communal kava bowl hasn't changed much since 1773, when a naturalist on Captain Cook's second Pacific voyage observed Tahitian youths making a batch “in the most disgustful manner that can be imagined,” chewing pieces of the root, spitting the mass into a bowl, and mixing it with coconut milk, whereupon “they swallow this nauseous stuff as fast as possible.” JAB

Publisher: Yale University
Hardback: 256 pages

Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961

Robin W. Winks

Few institutions demonstrate America’s changing role in world affairs as vividly as the Central Intelligence Agency. In the 1930s, America did not even have an organized intelligence network. The Office of Strategic Services was mobilized as America prepared for war, eventually including separate branches for Research and Analysis, Secret Intelligence, and Counter-Intelligence (with the cool moniker “X-2”). After World War II, the OSS was disbanded for fear that in peace-time it would create an American Gestapo. R and A was reassigned to the State Department, SI and X-2 were re-assigned to the military and later spun off into the Central Intelligence Agency. Given this precarious start, it is surprising that the CIA is the Cold War institution to out-live and prosper beyond the Soviet threat, while nuclear arsenals and military bases choke on their own moth-balls.
Winks’ history of “scholars in the secret war” is in unique contrast to the monolithic inevitability of the CIA today. He presents an almost anecdotal account of Yale’s involvement in the OSS, in the process showing how this involvement and the resulting intelligence agencies were shaped by the specifics of Ivy League academia. His first chapter, “The University: Recruiting Ground,” provides a sympathetic, yet still critical, insider’s description of the privileged mores of Ivy League campus life. Most significantly, Winks describes how the English-style “college” system, by which Yale organizes students into schools overseen by a headmaster, facilitated professors’ channeling of promising students to the OSS Likewise, Yale alum and University Press editor Wilmarth Sheldon “Lefty” Lewis, developed the Central Information Division’s data-card filing system, using minutiae-honed skills from editing the complete correspondence of Horace Walpole, originator of the Gothic novel (a 42-year project not completed until 1983, four years after Lewis’ death). The resulting system was unmatched in its detail and complexity, serving as the basis of intelligence analysis for decades to come.
Unfortunately, Winks does not print a sample of this information-science marvel, which is less to the point of his book than the fact that Lewis got the assignment “because he was having lunch with the Librarian of Congress one August day in 1941 at the MacLeish home in Conway, Massachusetts.” Such observations are not entirely flippant, but demonstrate the casual way the modern CIA came into being. Winks’ wanderings through social clubs, campus fraternities and faculty luncheons are perhaps his book’s greatest assest, the means by which he secularizes the CIA’s pre-history, removing it from the mythical realms of conspiracy cabals and returning it to the world of real human actions. RP

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 607 pages

Ecology in the 20th Century: A History

Anna Bramwell

Documents the ideas and formulations between of the ideology of the ecology starting with the “blood and soil “ mysticism in both Britain and Germany in the late 19th century to the Third Reich’s “hidden agenda” of ecology. Using the literary background to scientific ecology, the author profiles such authors as Knut Hamsun and Henry Wiliamsom and the German biological ecologist Ernst Heckle. SC

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 292 pages

Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956

David Holloway

Using recently declassified Soviet documents and interviews with many of the Soviet scientists who participated in the USSR’s nuclear program, the author presents a behind-the-scenes account of Soviet nuclear policy from 1939-1956. Professional hand-wringers wonder if the arms race could have been avoided had Stalin been informed about the U.S. atomic bomb before it was dropped on Hiroshima, so that he would not take its existence as a threat to the Soviet Union. Others fantasize that the escalation of the arms race to thermonuclear levels could have been avoided if the United States did not proceed to develop the hydrogen bomb.
The author doubts if such changes in American policy would have resulted in reciprocal changes, given Stalin’s “malevolent and suspicious personality.” Stalin did not expect a major war in the short term, nor did he fear an imminent atomic attack on the Soviet Union by the U.S. In the long term, Stalin wanted nuclear (and later thermonuclear) weapons to fight an anticipated crusade against the west. In the short term, he wanted nuclear weapons to resist political pressure from the United States and its allies in shaping the post-World War II peace settlements.
As early as 1955, Soviet leaders understood that a Soviet-American nuclear war was suicidal, and realized that Western leaders knew this too. Nevertheless, Stalin’s command economy diverted resources away from rebuilding the war-torn USSR and into a “catch up and overtake” arms race with the U.S. Stalin’s decision was doomed, as this grueling war of attrition could only be won by the far more wealthy U.S., which had enough dough to build a nation-wide suburban culture and still spend circles around Stalin. RP

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 464 pages

White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture

Jan Nederveen Pieterse

Collectors of negrobilia (hello, Whoopi Goldberg), take note. This compelling visual history charts the development of Western stereotypes of black people over the last 200 years and examines how caricature, humor and parody are used as insidious instruments of oppression in commerce and advertising. Read it, then throw out that box of Darkie toothpaste! MG

Publisher: Yale University
Hardback: 260 pages