The week in books

January 17, 2008

John Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer and Patriot by Anna Beer, Bloomsbury, £20.00, ISBN 9780747584254.
"Anna Beer's (lecturer in literature and a fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford) biography is scholarly, serious and endlessly fascinating ... This is not just a biography of Milton, but also an account of the tumultuous years through which he lived."
Diane Purkiss, The Daily Telegraph

The Monopoly of Violence: Why Europeans Hate Going to War by James J. Sheehan, Faber, £25.00, ISBN 9780571220854
"When I began James Sheehan's (Dickason professor in the humanities and professor of modern European history, emeritus, Stanford University) essay, I thought his case overstated. European states, he said, 'have retained the capacity to make war but lost all interest in doing so', thus creating 'a revolution as dramatic as any other in (their) history'. Over the past century they had tested war to literal destruction, and reached the exhausted and bloody conclusion that it did not work ... I confess myself persuaded."
Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times

The Cinema of Werner Herzog: Aesthetic Ecstasy and Truth by Brad Prager, Wallflower, £16.99 and £45.00, ISBN 9781905674176 and 4183
"Keeping pace with Werner Herzog must be harrowing enough on the typically inhospitable locations of many of his films. Writing a book encapsulating the work of this prolific filmmaker, writer, opera director and all-round athletic intellectual before he does something new and different seems downright impossible. But Brad Prager (associate professor of film studies and German studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia) has made a valiant effort."
Leo A. Lensing, Times Literary Supplement

The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 by Jay Winik, HarperCollins, $29.95. ISBN 9780060083137
"Jay Winik's (senior scholar of history and public policy at the University of Maryland) The Great Upheaval is a wild ride through the final decade of the 18th century. It makes the era come alive in an opera of sex, violence and great ideas."
Tom Reiss, Financial Times Magazine

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, Atlantic Books, £25.00. ISBN 9781843547044
"The authors (Kai Bird, professor of history, Tufts University, and Martin Sherwin, professor of history, George Mason University) are thorough, competent and slightly uninspiring guides. Their Pulitzer Prize-winning biography is heavy on facts but rather short on dash, plodding through every detail of Oppenheimer's life without quite conveying the intellectual excitement of the interwar years. Still, they do an excellent job of resolving the various mysteries that surround Oppenheimer's controversial public career."
Dominic Sandbrook, The Daily Telegraph.

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