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A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred

George F. Will. Crown Archetype, $25 (216p) ISBN 978-0-385-34931-4

More than just about a ball park with a powerful mystique, Will’s (Men at Work) book on Wrigley Field offers a rich history of the city of Chicago through its hapless baseball team. In celebration of the ballpark’s 100th year, Will compiles a random batch of anecdotes and history about the franchise that inhabits this much loved though antiquated structure with its famous ivy-covered walls. (“It is not a good sign for fans when their team’s venue is better known for the attractiveness of its flora than for the excellence of the athletes who have played there,” Will quips.) Broad-ranging topics include beer and its legendary importance in baseball, the long-standing resistance to installing lights for night games, personality quirks of the father-son owners, chewing gum kings William and P.K. Wrigley, and colorful takes on famed Cub Ernie Banks and (mostly) beloved sportscaster Harry Caray. The reader will learn about numbers––attendance, beer prices, stadium stats, monies paid for the team—and enjoy reflections by the author, who understands firsthand the trials and tribulations of being a Cubs fan. Rooting for the Cubs, he writes, is “a lifelong tutorial in delay gratification.” As Will illustrates in his book, there’s plenty for Cubs fans to celebrate from the past 100 years, even if a world series isn’t one of them. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?

Dave Eggers. Knopf/McSweeney's, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-101-87419-6

Composed entirely of dialogue, the latest from Eggers (The Circle) is more tedious deposition than gripping drama. The novel is set on an abandoned military base along the Pacific coast, where Thomas, a troubled man, is interrogating a diverse group of chained captives. Frustrated by his lack of purpose and in search of answers about injustices large and small, Thomas kidnaps Kev, a driven astronaut who represents "the one fulfilled promise" he's ever known. This first interview inspires Thomas to seek out further captives: an ex-congressman, a policeman, a disgraced schoolteacher, his own mother and others. Depending on the prisoner, Thomas is respectful or abusive, solicitous or prosecutorial, but he never wavers in his view of himself as a "moral" and "principled man." He is outraged at the abuses, shortsightedness, and skewed priorities of the government and its institutions, yet yearns for that government to provide him with some defining role or plan: "Don't we deserve grand human projects that give us meaning?" As for the captives, they generally respond to their unhinged interrogator with sententious or stilted speechifying: "Thomas, you want to attribute your behavior to a set of external factors." There are flashes of sardonic humor and revelations about the triggering event behind the kidnappings, but by then readers will feel as if they themselves have been detained far too long. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Jun.)

Reviewed on 04/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Gluten-Free Pasta: More than 100 Fast and Flavorful Recipes with Low- and No-Carb Options

Robin Asbell. Running Press, $20 (216p) ISBN 978-0-7624-4967-5

Gluten-free eaters mourn the loss of many favorite foods, but this instructive cookbook aims to reassure diners that they never truly have to go without noodles. Running the gamut from naturally wheat-free Asian rice vermicelli and "conceptual" noodles of raw or lightly cooked veggies to homemade cut and shaped pasta to the boxed brands found in most markets, Asbell (The New Whole Grains Cookbook, Big Vegan) covers the wide array of options available to cooks of all levels. The guide aspect of the book includes principles for making pasta without wheat flour, a pantry of essentials (such as texture-providing starches and gums), lists of store brands and serving sizes and equivalents. Recipes start with basic fresh pasta made from rice and millet flours and build out to spaetzel, gnocchi, and filled shapes. A few handy sauces are followed by more intensive, internationally (and sometimes intra-nationally) inflected recipes, such as Curry Noodle and Paneer Cakes with Mango Raita, Cabbage Soba with Carrots and Truffled Pecorino and Corn Chowder with Smoked Salmon over Macaroni. The flavors are rarely subtle and sometimes a bit random, but Asbell's emphasis on other dietary concerns such as dairy avoidance and her appreciation for pasta's versatility make this an asset for the sensitive diner with a sense of adventure. Photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal

Peter Miller. Abrams, $24.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1065-0

Lucky is the lady who can stop midday to have a proper meal. Employees at Miller's Seattle bookshop do exactly that. For years, they have sat down and eaten lunch together, "in every season, in all weather, no matter the work that needs to be done that day." In this concise and quaint volume, Miller celebrates all that is good about lunch with colleagues. He encourages readers to "simply [take] part of the day back into [their] own hands, making it personal and a pleasure." These workplace lunches steer clear of take-out options, opting instead for fresh premade foods that can be finished on-site. The author aims for healthful and tasty items. He and his co-workers are privy to tartines, for example, an open-faced sandwich, which is easily embellished with top-notch bread and a range of ingredients: "Fool with it." Miller suggests, "Sweeten it with a little fig spread, loosen it with salsa, sharpen it with a cheese or a mustard, smooth it with butter." Other dishes include a variety of salads, paired with different vinaigrettes, and ever-so-comforting soups. The book serves as a charming reminder that no matter how hectic the day or week, we still need the occasional respite. With practical ideas and promising recipes, Miller gives us the tools to achieve that. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Winning Power: Canadian Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century

Tom Flanagan. McGill-Queen's Univ. (CUP Services, U.S. dist.; Georgetown Terminal Warehouses, Canadian dist.), $34.95 (248p) ISBN 978-0-7735-4331-7

Political campaigns have existed for centuries, but it is the recent changes in campaigning that take center stage in this fascinating study. As a Distinguished Fellow in the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and a former campaign manager for Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Flanagan (Harper's Team) is well qualified to dissect this topic. Drawing on both his own experiences and his analysis of other campaigns, Flanagan notes that although certain aspects of campaigning have remained constant since antiquity, there have been four significant recent developments: new technology, new means of raising money, the establishment of a permanent campaign, and a new focus on negative campaigning. All of these themes are well represented in Alberta's Wildrose Party's provincial campaign in 2012, which Flanagan managed and which serves as an important case study. Although he includes perspectives from ancient Roman writers and theories of political positioning, Flanagan never allows his writing to become overly academic. Consequently, his work will appeal to both those who are already well versed in politics and casual readers who are seeking to understand the complex process of campaigning. Flanagan's insider perspective lends his book allure and authenticity as he sheds light on a key part of politics. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Train: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World%E2%80%94from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief

Tom Zoellner. Viking, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-670-02528-2

Author and educator Zoellner may love trains more than any man alive. In his traveler's guide and history of railroading, Zoellner journeys to the world's forgotten locomotive landmarks, riding the rails as much as humanly possible "to see the flickering landscape through their eyes" and brings the reader a unique perspective on the past, present, and future of locomotion. He begins with the earliest European railroads and details the effects trains have had on countries like India—spurred to international prominence through British-built tracks—and the jolting manner in which high-speed trains have evolved in the twenty-first century—applauded in Spain and Japan, hotly debated in the United States. Zoellner's pro-train bias is never unclear as he often launches into rhapsodic prose; passages like "the softest glow in the world…making the horizon smudgy with obscure whites and grays" are common, and the author recounts many experiences with fellow passengers that support his portrayal of trains as a bastion of whirlwind socialization. Perhaps too much attention is paid to this romantic depiction at the expense of solid answers about the usefulness of trains today, but Zoellner still constructs an absorbing history lesson that allows readers to draw their own conclusions. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Jackson Pollock's Mural: The Transitional Moment

Yvonne Szafran, Laura Rivers, Alan Phenix, Tom Learner, Ellen G. Landau, and Steve Martin. J. Paul Getty Trust, $29.95 (124p) ISBN 978-1-60606-323-1

Using the recent conservation effort as jumping off point, this book serves to deconstruct Jackson Pollock's renowned Mural, which was the abstract expressionist artist's first major commission. The authors situate this wall-size painting as a formative work for the then relatively-unknown painter and proceed to analyze it using a combination of anecdote, art historical analysis, scientific imaging. There's a familiar discussion of possible artistic influences, including German artist Paul Klee and British printmaker Stanley William Hayter; however, this speculation pales in comparison to the new information provided by scans and sample analysis. Analytical imaging reveals 25 separate paint applications in a 356 square-inch section of the nearly 20 foot long canvas, while hyperspectral imaging shows the area and shape in which Pollock inscribed distinct colors. Several cross-sections of paint layers are printed in the book, providing intimate topographical views of the painting. The probing investigation into Mural sheds new light on Pollock's work process and approach to paint, and offers a rare close-up look at an influential work. Color photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Cindy Sherman

Paul Moorhouse. Phaidon, $22.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-7148-6155-5

The latest volume in the Phaidon Focus series aims to be the authoritative guide to Cindy Sherman, a photographer known for her provocative take on self-portraiture. Sherman dons a variety of costumes, using prosthetics, apparel, and setting to evoke historical portraits, headshots, and a variety of characters both human and monstrous. This book situates Sherman's early career path, mentioning her move to New York with then-boyfriend and fellow-artist Robert Longo in 1977 as well as commissions by Vogue and Artforum. Art critic Moorhouse (Gerhard Richter: Painting Appearances) illuminates Sherman's career with biographical tidbits like her adolescent interest in documentation, explicates distinct series of photographs, and eloquently describes the most enduring analyses of her work; however, he exhibits a tendency to give these analyses totemic weight, rather than allowing for multiple interpretations to work that defies any single meaning. Moorhouse also dramatizes Sherman's own aging as an integral aspect of her later work which adds a strange subtext to a body of work that seems to blast media portrayals and targeting of women. Overall, this book provides an illuminating take on Sherman's career that firmly grounds this artist in the contemporary canon. Color photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Boxing: A Concise History of the Sweet Science

Gerald R. Gems. Rowman & Littlefield, $40 (328p) ISBN 978-1-4422-2990-7

Gems (The Athletic Crusade) presents a dynamic history of boxing from the death fights in ancient Greece to the hyped bouts of today, with a lens towards the sport's evolution and cultural impact. Attempting neither to glorify nor vilify the sport, the author's goal rather is to flush out boxing's place in context of human history. The best parts of the book focus on when the sport has been used for political and social means. Communist countries have used female boxers to proclaim the might of their people. Nations staged fights for regional power. The section on gender in sports is particularly strong as well. Women were boxing in modern times as early as the 1700s, though have always been looked at lesser than male counterparts. The discussion of class and race is also refreshing in a sports history and emblematic of Gem's ability to be thorough in both scope and specificity. This minutia will delight boxing fanatics well but may slow the reading experience for those with only a casual interest. Gem's meticulously researched book serves as an exemplar cultural overview of a sport in its full view. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Passions of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux

James David Draper and Edouard Papet. Metropolitan Museum of Art (Yale Univ., dist.), $65 (376p) ISBN 978-0-300-20431-5

This excellent monograph, a companion to the spring exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, features a comprehensive series of astute essays on Second Empire French sculptor Carpeaux (1827-1875), a naturalist who renounced "the dead grammar of antiquity," and embraced Michelangelo's sculptural language, leaving behind a triumphant oeuvre before his death at age 48. "He would leave a void not filled until [Auguste] Rodin," writes Met curator Draper, writing here with Musee d'Orsay curator Papet, with contributions by Elena Carrara, Nadege Horner, Laure de Margerie, Jean-Claude Poinsignon, and Philip Ward-Jackson. The authors and contributors address an impressive range of topics, such as the difficult seven-year genesis of "Ugolino and His Sons" (the sculpture inspired by Dante's Inferno), and "the first milestone in the emancipation of modern sculpture"; also discussed is how Carpeaux refreshed bust portraiture. Carpeaux's paintings are also discussed. Generous with details, while also calling attention to overlooked aspects of the artist's career, the text provides an essential overview of Carpeaux's work. Thanks to the stunning photographs, the artist's sculptures—terracotta, marble, or bronze—all have an exhilarating presence on the page. 350 color illus. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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