The Week in Books

May 15, 2008

Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples by Michael Robertson, professor of English, College of New Jersey. Princeton University Press, £16.95, ISBN 9780691128085.

"Robertson's collection of reflective biographies brilliantly illuminates Whitman's life and the wider life of his poetry. It is a book of physical, intellectual and spiritual adventures, and the author's own adventures with Whitman are not the least of its pleasures." Michael Schmidt, Financial Times

Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms edited and translated by Matvei Yankelevich, PhD student in comparative literature, City University of New York. Overlook Duckworth, £20.00, ISBN 9781585677436

"In an attempt to convey the colloquial, informal flavour of Kharms's prose, Yankelevich has made some poor decisions that place us rather too squarely in the present-day US: at one point we are told to 'check out this scene' ... it's unlikely Kharms would have said 'gnawing on the goddamn dark' and unclear who might actually use the expression 'make my eyes with surprise'." Tony Wood, London Review of Books

Out of Eden: Adam and Eve and the Problem of Evil by Paul W. Kahn, Robert W. Winner professor of law and the humanities, Yale University. Princeton University Press, £18.95, ISBN 9780691126937

"(Out of Eden's) meditative tone tends to lapse occasionally in sententiousness; the following utterance is fairly typical: "Every symbolic order, I suspect, has a rhythm which moves between transubstantiation and labour". I am shamefully unclear as to what that sentence actually means." John Habgood, Times Literary Supplement

iD: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century by Susan Greenfield, director, Royal Institution of Great Britain and Fullerian professor of psychology, University of Oxford. Hodder and Stoughton, £16.99, ISBN 9780340936009

"Blurring the boundaries between the actual, the probable and the merely conceivable, (Greenfield) bombards us with all sorts of alarming suggestions; claiming ... that the monitoring and profiling to which we are today subjected is putting our mental inner sanctum under threat and taking us back to the world of our infancy where Mummy knows everything about us." Raymond Tallis, The Sunday Times

Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture edited by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, professor of music mediated art, European Graduate School. MIT Press, £17.95, ISBN 9780262633635

"Clearly applying his DJ skills to editing, Spooky layers seemingly incongruous material and lets the sympathetic overtones register with the reader. As a bricoleur, he is a little light on the mortar that bonds the book ... An interview with electronic musician Moby has nothing to distinguish it from his countless other interviews ... And Jaron Lanier, in the book's cranky closing rant ... suggests that the record industry's decline is caused by today's music being 'crummy'." Marc Weidenbaum, Nature.

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