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Summer 2009 Table of Contents

Book Reviews

Book Reviews for Summer 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
By Katherine Howe (GRS’05,’10) Fiction (Hyperion/Voice)

Connie Goodwin, a Harvard graduate student, has passed her qualifying exam and is about to begin writing her dissertation. But first, she must clean out her late grandmother’s abandoned home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. On her first night in the decrepit house, Connie finds a small piece of paper with the words “Deliverance Dane” tucked into the hollow shaft of an old key. The discovery sets the course of her summer, as she pores over archives, probate records, and other historical documents in search of answers: about Deliverance Dane, an accused witch in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, about the “receipt booke” — or is it a book of spells? — listed in an inventory of her belong­ings after she died, and about Connie’s own connection to that chapter in American history.

Howe’s debut novel is a page-turner made all the more compelling by the revelation, in the postscript, that the author’s family tree includes two accused witches: Elizabeth Proctor, who survived the trials in 1692, and Elizabeth Howe, who was executed. “The narrative,” she writes, “offered a unique opportunity to restore individuality, albeit fictional, to some of these distant people.” — Cynthia K. Buccini

The Annotated Wind and the Willows
By Kenneth Grahame, edited by Annie Gauger (GRS’01) Fiction (W. W. Norton & Co.)

In 1903, Kenneth Grahame, writing in the “baby talk” dialect he used with his family, sent a note to his wife, Elspeth, recounting his three-year-old son’s demand: “Now tell me about the mole!” In the letter, now in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Grahame writes, “He missus nuffin — there was atory in which a mole, a beever a badjer & a water rat was characters & I got them terribly mixed up as I went along but ee always stratened em out & remembered wich was wich.”

That mole, of course, became Mole — the hero, with brave Rat, gruff Badger, and feckless Toad, of the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows. The new annotated edition edited by Gauger, a grad­uate of BU’s Editorial Institute, offers a revealing look at a happy period in the family’s life: when Grahame spun the tales that would become the book for his young son, Alistair, nicknamed Mouse. Gauger’s detailed edition includes the entire series of Grahame’s letters to his son and numerous illustrations from many earlier volumes. She also provides a personal and cultural framework that lends a new richness to the tale: Grahame’s curious creation of a seeing mole, for example, takes on new meaning in the context of Alistair’s blindness. — Jessica Ullian

Night and Day
By Robert B. Parker (GRS’57,’71) Fiction (Putnam)

Voyeurism is alive in the small, sleepy town of Paradise, Massachusetts, where police chief Jesse Stone must investigate two cases involving the private lives of some of the town’s most prominent residents. One focuses on the local junior high school principal, who insists on examining her female students’ undergarments to determine their appropriateness (“Proper attire includes what shows and what doesn’t,” she informs a student). But the investigation is put on hold with the second case — someone begins terrorizing women, stalking them, breaking into their homes, and forcing them to undress as he takes photographs. “Night Hawk” must be stopped before he becomes more than a spectator. Throughout it all, Stone manages to play it cool, whether he’s questioning middle-school girls or the disgraced principal, who reports that Night Hawk is after her. This is the eighth in Parker’s Jesse Stone series and delivers the author’s trademark gritty feel. — Amy Laskowski

Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy
By Robert P. Smith (LAW’65) with Peter Zheutlin Nonfiction (AMACOM)

The list of places where Smith has done business reads like a State Department travel advisory: Saigon in 1968, San Salvador in 1985, Baghdad in 2004. But the daunting — and at times dangerous — voyages made him millions as a middleman trading government debts in emerging (and often rocky) financial markets. In this memoir, Smith recounts his life as an “economic mercenary” in the days before Internet access and Bloomberg terminals: nicotine-fueled deals negotiated in three currencies and Spanish schmoozing sessions with bank presidents’ bored assistants. At a high point, he walked the streets of San Salvador with $3 million in cash-equivalent bonds in his briefcase; at a low point, he lost $15 million in one day when Russia devalued the ruble.

With the wild ride ended, Smith has taken the time to reminisce and reflect, but also to turn his finely honed observation skills to the economic climate of his home country. His outlook? While the United States is far from a third-world country, it’s starting to share a number of “symptoms” with developing debtor nations. “I always used to describe a country’s economic condition in medical terms,” he writes. “Today, I would describe the United States as ailing and on the verge of hospitalization. If we continue to pile up debt . . . this country could become seriously and even chronically ill.” — JU

Take Me Out to the Ball Game: The Story of the Sensa­tional Baseball Song
By Amy Whorf McGuiggan (COM’94) Nonfiction (University of Nebraska Press)

Baseball fans waiting for the home team to bat in the seventh inning have participated in a tradition for decades: they stand and sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” In this examination of the origins of baseball and the famous tune (penned by Jack Norworth in 1908), McGuiggan describes the vaudeville culture of the early 1900s that helped broaden the song’s popularity. The ditty didn’t die with vaudeville: in 1976, Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck heard announcer Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during a commercial break and convinced him to lead the crowd in a sing-along. Caray started, and the crowd immediately joined in what has become baseball’s anthem. — Brittany Rehmer (COM’11)

The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Publishers, Their Editors, and Authors
By Al Silverman (COM’49) Nonfiction (St. Martin’s Press)

Wherever serious readers gather, we enjoy bemoaning the present state of publishing, with manuscripts passing from their authors’ e-mailed attachments to bound books apparently untouched by editorial hands. Editors and authors worked together, says Silverman (a former editor and executive with Book of the Month Club and Viking/Penguin), in the Golden Age, from the end of World War II until the early seventies, when “ossification had fully set in . . . the great old-line book people . . . replaced by bottom-line businessmen.”

Silverman interviewed 120 of his publishing forebears and colleagues to produce this large, fiction-centered, affectionate, martini-scented, publishing house-by-publishing-house compendium of facts, stories, and personalities. If you don’t recognize many editors, you will countless authors in what he calls “a sort of love song to the editors of the era.” — Natalie Jacobson McCracken

The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live
By Robert Tuchman (CGS’91, COM’93) Nonfiction (Benbella Books)

Tuchman, founder of TSE Sports & Entertainment, encourages readers to go “beyond the living room” and “be a part of history.” His book describes each sporting event and includes every detail a first-timer needs to know to plan a trip, from dates and locations to tickets and accommodations. BU alums won’t need these tips for some of the events; number 55 on the list is a baseball game at Fenway Park, number 77 is the Boston Marathon, and number 97 is the Beanpot hockey tournament.

Also just out, Tuchman’s Young Guns: The Fearless Entrepreneur’s Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own (AMACOM). — BR

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