The week in books

May 22, 2008

Truth and Ontology by Trenton Merricks, professor of philosophy, University of Virginia. Clarendon Press, £.50, ISBN 9780199205233

"Throughout the book Merricks considers various propositions that seem problematic ... and, rather than finding this a reason to worry about these truths, he finds it a reason to reject the truthmaker principle. He concludes that there is no deeper story to tell about truth's dependence on reality than is given by platitudes such as 'It is true that there are no hobbits, because there are no hobbits.'"

Philip Goff, Times Literary Supplement

Naval Wives and Mistresses by Margarette Lincoln, deputy director, National Maritime Museum. National Maritime Museum Press, £20.00, ISBN 97809480659

"Lincoln's technique is to set out her theses - strain of separation, fears of shipwreck - then add a sample human example to substantiate them ... Lincoln must do what she can with legal records of women executed for fraudulent claims for navy pay or the murder of a bastard before its non-dad came ashore. The poor whores leave hardly a mark behind, except in songs and prints."

Veronica Horwell, The Guardian

1789: The Threshold of the Modern Age by David Andress, reader in modern European history, University of Portsmouth. Little, Brown, £14.99, ISBN 9780316731973

"Andress writes with verve, never allowing the pace to slacken, moving swiftly from one character or episode to another. The result is exciting, exhilarating even. Not one chapter fails to deliver sharp insights, illuminating details and entertaining anecdotes. What is not supplied is coherence ... So, after more than 400 pages of scintillating images, one is left asking: 'Where is the big picture?'"

Tim Blanning, The Sunday Telegraph

The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky by Mark Scroggins, associate professor of English, Florida Atlantic University. Shoemaker and Hoard, £17.99, ISBN 9781593761585

"One catches glimpses throughout the book of mildly unbecoming aspects of Zukofsky's character, as one might of anyone's character over 500 pages, but these remain only glimpses. And there are egregious omissions in a book that is clotted with detail and the dreariest sorts of coming and going."

August Kleinzahler, London Review of Books

The Baby in the Mirror: A Child's World from Birth to Three by Charles Fernyhough, part-time lecturer in psychology, Durham University. Granta, £12.99, ISBN 9781847080073

"Fernyhough tackles the big questions, but at a level that a lay reader can follow. It works because Fernyhough is a passionate individual who is comfortable sharing his private life. He admits to bouts of melancholy, self-doubt and self-analysis, and takes pains to convey the meaning and emotional timbre that his daughter brings to his life."

Bruce M. Hood, Nature.

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