Friday, October 22, 2010 2:19 PM
The following are the proposed titles for our January discussion of a work of nonfiction
Please rank in order of preference. Thanks!
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
Startlingly good?the most complexly intelligent and sophisticated study of the life and work taken together that I have ever read. -- Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
This biography enables readers to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life, could have become the world's greatest playwright.
Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy by Joseph Stiglitz
Written by a Nobel Prize recipient, a graduate of President Bill Clinton?s Council of Economic Advisors, and a stout advocate of Keynesian economics, this inquest into the recession of 2007?09 lashes many designated villains, banks above all. Writing in a spirit Andrew Jackson would have loved, Stiglitz assails financial institutions? size, their executive compensation, the complexity of their financial instruments, and the taxpayer money that has been poured into them. But unlike Jackson, who didn?t understand a thing about economics, Stiglitz is a little more analytical. He dwells on incentives?perverse, in his argument?for risky financial legerdemain in housing mortgages. The temptations stemmed from deregulation of the financial industry, a Reaganesque policy Stiglitz rebukes: he favors re-regulation and more government involvement in the economy. In fact, Stiglitz waxes unhappily about the Obama administration?s interventions, which thus far have been inadequate in his view. Zinging the Federal Reserve for good measure, Stiglitz insistently and intelligently presses positions that challenge those of rightward-leaning economists upholding the virtues of markets. Amid animated contemporary economic debate, Stiglitz?s book will attract popular and professional attention.
Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano
The acclaimed Uruguayan writer Galeano offers another striking but hard to classify work. In pithy retellings of creation myths and reflections on history, he uses the past to comment on the present: juxtaposing the origin of the Hindu caste system and the untouchable class, whose members were responsible for cleaning up the wreckage of the 2004 tsunami, revealing how the casualties of the invasion of Iraq were not only human but memory itself, embodied by the destruction of priceless artifacts from the birthplace of writing. These vignettes embrace the exalted and the humble, and consistently privilege the narratives of the dispossessed?indigenous people, women and accounts from the global south. Across disparate civilizations and centuries?but always with an unflinching eye (and irony) trained on the present?Galeano's stories register the imaginations of our mythmaking species, the elaborate gestures of (gendered) forms of power and the spirit of rebellion and resilience that fires the underdog masses.
Mirrors is a sometimes bawdy, sometimes irreverent, sometimes heartbreaking unofficial history of the world seen? and mirrored to us?through the eyes and ears of historys unseen, unheard, and forgotten. Spanning 5,000 years of history, recalling the lives of artists and writers, visionaries from the Garden of Eden to twenty-first century New York and Mumbai, and told in hundreds of kaleidoscopic vignettes that resurrect the lives of our worlds oft-forgotten ?thinkers and feelers.? Mirrors is a mosaic of our humanity.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Mayes's favorite guide to Northern Italy allots seven pages to the town of Cortona, where she owns a house. But here she finds considerably more to say about it than that, all of it so enchanting that an armchair traveler will find it hard to resist jumping out of the chair and following in her footsteps. The recently divorced author is euphoric about the old house in the Tuscan hills that she and her new lover renovated and now live in during summer vacations and on holidays. A poet, food-and-travel writer, Italophile and chair of the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, Mayes is a fine wordsmith and an exemplary companion whose delight in a brick floor she has just waxed is as contagious as her pleasure in the landscape, architecture and life of the village. Not the least of the charms of her book are the recipes for delicious meals she has made. Above all, her observations about being at home in two very different cultures are sharp and wise.