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Winter 2000

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Books


The Walking Tour

by Kathryn Davis, Professor of English
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999

Four Americans–two couples–take a walking tour of Wales at the end of the 20th century. By journey’s end, two of the four disappear in a mist on the Gower peninsula. Years later, when the environment is unraveling, society diminishing, technology collapsing, Susan, the daughter of one of the couples, cobbles their story together from diaries, court documents, and letters. The novel alternates between the Wales of the walking tour and the gray, mysterious, post-apocalyptic world Susan endures. From Kirkus Reviews: "Once again Kathryn Davis draws from a variety of genres (the mystery, the novel of manners, the speculative) to assemble her narrative. In a prose that nicely mingles a cool, ironic tone with exact, perfect descriptions of landscapes and ruins, and of the charged interactions between characters, Davis offers an acidic portrait of the money-mad present, as well as a provocative brief on art’s place and purpose. A complex, tightly packed, ambitious work, by one of the most thoroughly original (and valuable) of contemporary writers."

 

Conversations on Art and Performance

edited by Bonnie Marranca and
Gautam Dasgupta, Professor of Theater
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999

In this collection of more than three dozen conversations addressing issues that have preoccupied arts discussion in the last quarter of the 20th century, the editors bring together performers, video artists, playwrights, filmmakers, composers, and critics. These contributors–artists and thinkers responsible for extending the boundaries of their chosen fields in their search for new artistic and critical languages–include John Cage, Edward Said, Susan Sontag, Umberto Eco, John Ashbery, Philip Glass, Stanley Kauffmann, Trisha Brown, John Guare, and Elizabeth LeCompte ’67. Their topics range from the artistic process and the perception of artworks by audiences to the complex aesthetic, social, and political interrelationships that artworks reflect in the life of a culture. In touchstones that are surprisingly similar, what emerge from these conversations are the high standards and intellectual rigor these artists bring to their work and their commitment to artistic ideals.

 

Ruthless Compassion:
Wrathful Deities in Early
Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Art

by Robert Linrothe, Assistant Professor of Art History
Serindia (London), 1999

Despite an impressive body of distinguished scholarship on the history of esoteric Buddhism in India, it is only sketchily understood. Prior studies have depended primarily on texts to uncover the origin of doctrines that later spread to Tibet and East and Southeast Asia. In Ruthless Compassion, Rob Linrothe harnesses artistic evidence to the reconstructive project. He has assembled hundreds of works of art, analyzing them formally and stylistically to determine the chronology of their iconographic themes. The lavishly illustrated volume includes 221 black-and-white illustrations, most of them Linrothe’s own photography from the "field"–archaeological sites, site museums, and museum storage in eastern India. In addition there are 17 color plates. Ruthless Compassion offers a visual history of esoteric Buddhism centered on the changing representations of wrathful deity.

 

Enchanted Night

by Steven Millhauser, Professor of English
Crown Publishers, 1999

The latest offering from Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Millhauser–"American literature’s mordantly witty and unfailingly elegant bard of the uncanny" (Publisher’s Weekly)–is a fantasy novella about a summer night, an almost full moon, and the dreams and desires of people in a small town in Connecticut. The chapters–sometimes as short as a paragraph or two–recount the night’s magical effect on a teenage girl, a frustrated writer living in his mother’s attic, a lonely old woman, teen boys looking for trouble, a girl gang, and a mannequin whose cold plastic arms begin to come to life. One reviewer called the novella a mesmerizing tone-poem, and another, seeing the vignettes as a reworking of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, wrote, "Filled with mythology and fairy tale happenings, this book is so complete as to be visible. There is not a detail missing. It is concentrated and nostalgic, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon."

 

Poprawka z Natury: Biologia, Kultura, Seks

by Krzysztof Szymborski, Associate Professor, Science Librarian
Proszynski & Company (Warsaw), 1999

Kris Szymborski, born in the medieval trading city known variously over the centuries as Lwów (Poland), Lemberg (Austria), and, since 1945, L’viv or L’vov (Ukraine), says the title of this collection can best be translated as "Nature Revisited: Biology, Culture, Sex." The volume consists of 32 of his essays, sketches, and columns written over a period of several years, some of which were previously published in Polish magazines. Szymborski, who left Poland five weeks before martial law was declared in 1981, says that what connects the pieces is a "scientific" view of human nature. In particular, "many essays present various aspects of human nature and condition–such as happiness, ethics, intelligence, emotional intelligence, disgust, love or humor and laughter–from the perspective of evolutionary psychology." Other essays, he says, "are ‘scientific commentaries’ on important current events, such as the O. J. Simpson trial, President Clinton’s romantic/legal/political ordeal, or the cloning of the sheep Dolly."

 

Shelterwood

by Susan Hand Shetterly ’63 and illustrated by Rebecca Halley McCall
Tilbury House Publishers, 1999

In this book for children and adults, Susan Shetterly’s simple yet eloquent prose tells the story of a Maine woodlot owner introducing his granddaughter to what will one day be hers and teaching her how to harvest it so it will last. "Big trees protect the small ones until the small ones grow up. It’s called a shelterwood," the grandfather tells Sophie, who narrates the story. No particular drama unfolds; and the hauntingly beautiful oil paintings of the forest and its inhabitants complement the book’s meditative pace. The tale, while showing how mankind can nurture nature to benefit all, also depicts an intergenerational relationship that fosters growth and understanding. The author of five books for young readers and a former wildlife rehabilitator, Shetterly found the impetus for this particular book in research she did before the 1996 Maine referendum that pitted a clear-cutting ban against a "compact" of rules drafted by industry and government representatives. For teachers who want to confront the politically charged issue of forest management, the publisher has created a teacher’s guide as a companion to Shelterwood.

 

Educational Foundations: An Anthology

by Roselle Klein Chartock ’66
Prentice Hall, 1999

This anthology–compiled by Roselle Chartock, a professor of education, for use in courses on the foundations of education and introduction to teaching–departs from other texts of its type in its use of excerpts from literature, plays, poetry, and paintings to which readers can link educational theories and their own experiences. In one chapter titled "Teacher Behavior, Teacher Roles," Chartock includes selections from Good-bye, Mr. Chips, Good Morning Miss Dove, and A Chocolate War and a reproduction of Norman Rockwell’s The School Teacher. Other chapters cover school environments and the history, sociology, politics, and philosophy of education. Chartock’s hope is that teachers-in-training will not only benefit from the literary content of the excerpts, but will also learn the value of using primary sources in their own teaching.

 

trip

by Susan Lipper ’75 and Frederick Barthelme
Power House Books, 1999

trip, by award-winning New York photographer Susan Lipper–whose work can be found in collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and London’s National Portrait Gallery–is an assembled narrative of a road trip in America, destination and starting point unknown. The viewer is cast adrift, but as one reviewer observes, it’s a provocative voyage. "Through a maze of back roads, bayous, motels . . . is this work theater, documentary, fantasy, dream, nightmare or some sad reality? Probably a little of each. Susan Lipper has taken a bold step in presenting a body of work which touches on the real, imagined, mundane and the bizarre." Lipper, known for her book Grapevine and its stark and unsettling images of Grapevine Hollow, W.V., told a London interviewer in 1997: "I photograph what attracts and repels me; also things that puzzle me." The book’s narrative by fiction writer Frederick Barthelme is described as "arcanely sophisticated, solipsistically funny, resolutely urbane, and grammatically hokey." Barthelme directs the writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi. –ACH


Alumni authors are urged to send copies of their books, publisher’s notes, or reviews, so that Scope can make note of their work in the "Books" column.
 


© 2000 Skidmore College