Monday January 10th, 2011

The Beat

A weekly roundup of noteworthy reviews from other sources.

lomazRichard Williams admires a biography of the great music archivist Alan Lomax: “The result is an extensive portrait of a brilliant and difficult man who, astonishing as it may now seem, spent most of his career battling the indifference of those in a position to help him preserve the irreplaceable.” . . . Gordon S. Wood writes about Jill Lepore’s most recent book, and about the differing values of symbols and scholarship when it comes to history: “The Tea Partiers are certainly not scholars, but their emotional instincts about the Revolution they are trying to remember on behalf of their cause may be more accurate than Lepore is willing to grant. Popular memory is not history, and that important distinction seems to be the source of the problem with Lepore’s book.” . . . Second Pass contributor Alexander Nazaryan reviews Molotov’s Magic Lantern, Rachel Polonsky’s book about literature and history in Russia: “It is, at heart, a book about books — and, more specifically, about the Russian books that Polonsky so obviously loves and knows so much about, and the fecund Russian soil that the authors of those books mostly loved but sometimes loathed, and, lastly, the blood that has been spilled on that earth by men for whom the power of ideas triumphed over the impermanent domain of flesh.” . . . Adam Kirsch reviews a book about novels based on a series of lectures delivered by Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk in 2009: “the power of Pamuk’s short book lies less in his theorizing about the novel than in his professions of faith in it.” . . . Gary Rosen reviews James Miller’s Examined Lives, an “earnest, wistful collection of biographical sketches of a dozen pre-eminent ‘lovers of wisdom,’ from Socrates to Nietzsche.” . . . Scott McLemee reviews historian Eric Foner’s “straightforward and painstaking” new book about Abraham Lincoln and slavery.