The Week in Books

February 14, 2008

The Second Plane - September 11: 2001-2007 by Martin Amis, professor of creative writing, University of Manchester. Jonathan Cape, £12.99 ISBN 9780224076104

"It was not the slaughter of 11th September that was truly unprecedented: it was the medium of its telling ... Martin Amis saw it ... Yet, lacking a language more carefully able to probe our capacities for faith, violence and wickedness, neither his cleverness nor appalled rage are sufficiently sustaining to be a decisive retort to the horror of a terrorist fantasy."

Tom Chatfield, Prospect

Portrait in Life and Shadow: The Life of Yousuf Karsh by Maria Tippett, former senior research fellow at the University of Cambridge. Yale University Press, £25.00 ISBN 9780300136500

"Portrait in Light and Shadow is a somewhat optimistic title for this biography ... In fact, it appears that even any light-and-shade account of Karsh's life was made pretty well impossible by the way he took ownership of his story, and presented it in the best possible light."

Lynne Truss, The Sunday Times

The Age of Television: Experiences and Theories by Milly Buonanno, professor of television studies at the University of Rome La Sapienza. Intellect Books £19.95, ISBN 9781841501819

"Milly Buonanno exhorts us to ... 'turn around the banal accusation that is so often levelled at television - that it encourages viewers to escape from or avoid real life'. She suggests that we 'acknowledge that it ... (can) satisfy, with the breathtaking resources of the imagination, the ancient and profound human yearning to achieve the Great Flight - not from life, but from death'. This, I would guess, is one of the most stimulating endorsements of Coronation Street and The Sopranos that anyone has ever written."

John Lloyd, Financial Times

Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature edited by Gaetan Brulotte, distinguished university professor of French literature, University of South Florida in Tampa; and John Phillips, professor of French literature and culture, London Metropolitan University. Routledge, £225.00, ISBN 9781579584412

"I finished my reading of these two volumes with the feeling that sex was a lot less fun than I had hitherto supposed."

Robert Irwin, Times Literary Supplement

Structures of Scientific Collaboration by Wesley Shrum, professor of sociology, Louisiana State University; Joel Genuth, former project historian, American Institute of Physics; and Ivan Chompalov assistant professor of sociology, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. The MIT Press, £22.95 ISBN 9780262195591

"Interesting findings included that university-instigated collaborations tend to involve fewer teams than if a non-university agency is the instigator; if the resource base is uncertain, the project is more likely to have a public-relations office; and there is three times the amount of conflict between researchers and management in geophysics than in astronomy or particle physics."

Harry Collins, Physics World.

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