Books, Music & Film

September/October 2016

Reading time min

Books, Music & Film

Art of Darkness

Hellboy’s World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins, Scott Bukatman; University of California Press, $24.95. Readers can savor the same odd passion for this subject matter that the author feels, most notably when he realizes that writing sentences about the Nazis conjuring a “frightened horned creature” is “part of the joy and curse of comics studies.” Bukatman, professor of film and media studies in the department of art and art history, uses Hellboy, the comic book demon-hero creation of artist-writer Mike Mignola, to explore how our imaginations blend words and pictures. His perspective draws on everything from children’s literature to medieval illuminated manuscripts. Even better, he gives himself over to discussions of how “the mise-en-scène is abundant with corpses, cemeteries, and tombs” in tandem with “zombies, vampires, and the resurrected.”

The Only Other Thing to Watch

for June

After trying for your vein five times, the night nurse calls in backup. The specialist, smiling like a waitress, brings a PICC line on a silver tray. You moan. We both knew this was coming. A PICC line means long-term. It means, Unpack your toiletries, Fill out another week of meal requests. She tilts it toward you like a platter of desserts, then rests the edge on your bed. A thin white tube is the one choice left. All eyes on you—like passing an accident. Tony Soprano is the only other thing to watch; he shoves a begging man into a chair. The PICC line means, We’re headed for your heart. Tony cocks an arm. The heart: fist-sized and beating. Our window with its blinds: an eye shut tight. No, please our TV screams; it dilates when I click it off. From here I see you in its black. Just like that you’re trapped.

—JENNIFER RICHTER, Stegner fellow ’94-96, in No Acute Distress; Southern Illinois University Press, $15.95.

Techlandia, BRIDGET QUIGG,’98; shows in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, Sept. 10 to Oct. 22, stand-up comedian’s send-up of the start-up world has earned praise from its audiences and the press. Quigg, who spent 11 years in the industry, examines tech’s quirky characters and ubiquity, inviting techies and non-techies alike to laugh at the mysteries of the decades-young culture.

Homegoing, YAA GYASI, ’11; Knopf, $26.95. In this lyric and moving debut, Gyasi traces the lineage of two half-sisters over 250 years of world history: One marries an English soldier in her native Ghana; the other is shackled and shipped to America. The ensuing chapters are a powerful reckoning with the many arms of the slave trade, its effects on those captured and sold, and the ways global forces can alter the destinies of people and their descendants.

“But their greatest offense may be the most recent. They’re not just adherents of a different faith, not just physically distinct in their own country, and not just associated with a 900-year-old invasion. Now, they’re associated with us.” 

—JEFFREY E. STERN, MA ’12, in The Last Thousand: One School’s Promise in a Nation at War; St. Martin’s Press, $26.99.

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age, DANIEL J. LEVITIN, ’79; Dutton, $28. Misinformation is a curse of the information age, and Levitin offers blow-by-blow demonstrations of how words, numbers and graphics can be manipulated to distort truth. “Correlation does not imply causation” has become a fairly well-known watchword against overblown interpretations of various studies, but Levitin delves deeper, revealing in witty, easy-to-grasp examples, how, for example, “Infographics are often used by lying weasels to shape public opinion.”

Genesis Girl, JENNIFER BARDSLEY, ’99; Month9Books, $15. Blanca was raised as a Vestal, secluded from the world, malleable and with no digital presence, so that she could be auctioned off to a corporation to serve as a representative that consumers would trust. But when Blanca’s purchaser turns out to be a private citizen with a personal agenda, she must learn to think for herself—which means venturing into risky worlds, even online, that she knows nothing about.

Chancers: Addiction, Prison, Recovery, Love: One Couple’s Memoir, SUSAN STELLIN, ’90, and Graham MacIndoe; Ballantine Books, $27. Few drug addicts’ life stories take the upward trajectory that this one eventually does. Writing in separate chapters, photographer MacIndoe and journalist Stellin lay bare a harrowing, decade-long journey—both together and estranged—through his heroin/crack addiction and resultant incarceration to reconciliation. MacIndoe, a Scottish national, was also detained in federal prison facing deportation, but he found personal freedom in that very prison’s drug program, as Stellin fought to secure his legal victory.

The Story of a Brief Marriage, ANUK ARUDPRAGASAM, ’10; Flatiron Books, $24.99. In Arudpragasam’s debut novel, set in his native Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war, Dinesh works at a makeshift hospital for evacuated civilians wounded in the conflict. Between Dinesh’s assisting with amputations and digging graves, another man in the refugee camp asks the young man to marry his daughter, Ganga. The proposal, and the ensuing few hours the couple spends together, reinvigorates his sense of humanity and the possibility of love in the face of death and disaster.

Deceit and Other Possibilities, VANESSA HUA, ’97, MA ’97; Willow Books, $18.95. Hua’s debut short story collection gazes through the lens of recent immigrants to examine family relationships in all their beauty and complexity, the weight of expectation, and the struggle between ancient tradition and assimilation. Each vignette takes place in the blink of an eye; together they show the everlasting struggle to secure our own footing while holding on, however tenuously, to one another. These are pointed, memorable tales.

The Secrets We Keep

Enchanted Islands, Allison Amend, ’96; Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26.95. 
Amend’s inspiration, Frances Conway, was a real woman who moved to the Galápagos Islands on the eve of WWII. From there, Amend’s imagination takes over, concocting a dark underbelly to Frances’s odd tale: an escape from her Minnesota hometown, a catastrophic betrayal by her best friend, and, in her 50s, an improbable undercover post on a sparsely inhabited archipelago and a marriage to handsome, secretive Ainslie as a cover. In the guise of a spy thriller, the novel shines most in its luminous description of the islands and honest, resonant depiction of friendship and love in all its forms.

The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.

The Land Remembers: An Introduction to Terroir and Its Expression at MacLeod Family Vineyard, GEORGE M. MACLEOD, ’43, MS ’48, and ARTHUR DAWSON; self-published, $20. 
Grower and winemaker MacLeod shares his years of wisdom about how the elements of any given grape-growing location—including the soil, sun and breezes but also much more—are revealed in the resulting wines. A thought-provoking guide to a complex subject, with contributions from MacLeod’s son and daughter as well as experts Jim Shere and Jeff McBride.

Legacy of the Lone Sentinel: An Autobiography, SHERMAN GEE, PhD ’66; Andrew Benzie Books, $8.99. A fourth-generation Chinese-American man traces his life and career path and talks about how “serendipitous events” led to much unexpected success. The melding of immigrant Chinese and early California cultures is also discussed.

Tensile Trading: The 10 Essential Stages of Stock Market Mastery, Gatis N. Roze, MBA ’81, Grayson D. Roze; Wiley, $75. Father and son investors share practical advice for building a plan for profitable investing based on organizational routines, discipline and self-control. Following a trading plan can help investors conquer common, and often costly, psychological struggles and educational gaps regarding buying and selling.

The Worst Generation: A Myopic Prosperity, DAN P. GREANEY, ’79; Roundfire Books, $19.95. Written as a fictitious woman’s memoir—part letter to her father, part recounting of her life—The Worst Generation sweeps through decades of semi-fictionalized history, showing how small ignorances of issues like the environment snowballed into an all-too-recognizable dystopian world.

Flair, JIM POAGE, ’65, MS ’66, and JENNIFER POAGE; Maven House Press, $24.95. The father-daughter duo unite their respective expertise in organizational productivity and art/design to show how a little flair thoughtfully incorporated in products, services and daily work can help a person take his or her company or career to a whole new level.

The Book of Forbidden Wisdom, GILLIAN MURRAY KENDALL, ’79, MA ’79; Harper Voyager Impulse, $6.99. Angel wakes up on her wedding day feeling like she wants to get it over with more than anything. But when her long-lost brother shows up during the ceremony, it propels her on a journey for a book containing untold secrets of the world.

Epistles: A Friendship, TERRY TERHUNE, MA ’65; self-published, $29.99. A compilation of letters and photos tell the story of Peggy Newman and her years of battling multiple recurrences of breast cancer; the author’s reflections and prayers contemplate how her friend faced them with such grace and courage.

Exiled Home, SUSAN BIBLER COUTIN, MA ’85, PhD ’90; Duke University Press, $24.95. The Salvadoran civil war displaced many refugees who sought asylum in the U.S., families and children among them. Coutin’s extensive interviews and analysis reveal how they struggled to make sense of themselves and their migration to a place they didn’t understand—and for some, deportation to a place they could scarcely remember.

Human Resources in the Family Business, DAVID RANSBURG, ’88, WENDY SAGE-HAYWARD and AMY M. SCHUMAN; Palgrave Macmillan, $40. Many businesses claim to be as close as family—but when some staff members actually are family, standard HR questions take on a new level of complexity. The authors offer practical advice for handling everything from the hiring process to dealing with underperforming employees, while preserving the integrity of both the family and the company.

Healthy Bytes, TAREK K.A. HAMID, MS ’99; self-published, $34.50. Relying on his background in system dynamics and human metabolism, Hamid breaks down some of the issues of obesity and offers unique solutions and tools for losing weight.

The Portable Veblen, ELIZABETH MCKENZIE, MA ’87; Penguin Press, $25.95. Set in the midst of her engagement to Paul, Veblen must navigate the complicated tangle of two uniquely dysfunctional families, the allure of her future husband’s potential future wealth, and the pangs of her heart as she feels pulled in a different direction.

Mastering Coaching, MAX LANDSBERG, MBA ’82; Profile Books, £9.99. Even the best coaches can use a little coaching. So goes the theory behind coaching expert Landsberg, who leads the reader through theories and models of effective leadership drawn from everything from neuroscience to sports psychology.

Organized Violence After Civil War, SARAH ZUKERMAN DALY, ’03; Cambridge University Press, $99.99. In the aftermath of a civil war, such as Nicaragua’s or the Philippines’, why do some militant groups stick to the peace treaties, while others re-arm? Daly looks to these militias’ recruitment for answers about why some never put their guns down.

Cult of Ku, BILL FERNANDEZ, ’53, JD ’55; self-published, $29.99. Hawaiian native history and the long-lasting effects of imperialism simmer beneath the surface in this Pacific murder mystery, with war hero Grant Kingsley racing to identify who’s behind the ritualistic killings and the Cult of Ku.

Hawai’i in War and Peace, BILL FERNANDEZ, ’53, JD ’55; self-published, $22.95. As World War II was winding to a close, the author found himself in a strict military boarding school in Honolulu, the idyllic Hawaii of his childhood gone. Read along as he faces the changing world and discovers who he is.

Kaua’i Kids in Peace and War, BILL FERNANDEZ, ’53, JD ’55; self-published, $19.95. When he was still a boy, Fernandez’s native Kaua’i was effectively isolated, offering him a fantasy-like childhood. Pearl Harbor changed all of that, bringing not only the outside world but American GIs, military law and the ever-present threat of internment.

Athletes, Celebrities, Personal Moments, WALT BROWN, ’57; self-published, $13.99. Drawing on a long career in radio and TV broadcasting, Brown leads readers through many of the highlights of 20th-century American history, sharing his personal memories of celebrities as various as Muhammad Ali and Stan “the Man” Musial.

The Kolob Tragedy, NOEL DE NEVERS, ’54; CanyoneeringUSA Press, $24.95. In the summer of 1993, a Mormon youth group’s trip to Zion National Park turned deadly—two of the chaperones drowned, leaving the rest stranded for five days until they could be rescued by park rangers. De Nevers tells the story of their harrowing trip and the ensuing battle in the courts.

The Dusky Afternoon, SARA JEANNE DUNCAN WIDNESS, ’64; self-published, $11.95. Electricity arrived in rural Oregon at nearly the same time as the author’s family, when she was just a girl. The story that ensues follows the many rapid changes to both the landscape and her life.

Court Trouble, MIKE BEFELER, ’66; Five Star Publishing, $25.95. The latest in Befeler’s ongoing “geezer-lit” mystery series follows Mark Yeager, whose friend Manny Grimes is bludgeoned to death on a darkened platform tennis court. Mark takes up the case, trying not to meet the same fate as his friend while he tracks down the killer.

Your Body and the Stars, STEPHANIE MARANGO, ’98, and REBECCA GORDON; Beyond Words, $16.99. What if the key to physical and mental well-being lay among the stars? Marango and Gordon bridge their knowledge of the human body and astrology to offer exercises and lessons tailored to each sign of the zodiac.

Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen, NANCY SINGLETON HACHISU, ’78; Andrews McMeel Publishing, $40. Having lived in rural Japan for more than 25 years, Hachisu has accumulated a vast knowledge of traditional cooking methods, which she presents in clear recipes amid a patchwork of photos and stories.

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