The week in books

February 26, 2009

The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning by James Lovelock, honorary visiting fellow, Green College, Oxford. Allen Lane, £20.00. ISBN 9781846141850

"James Lovelock is the closest thing we have to an Old Testament prophet, though his deity is not Jehovah but Gaia, his concept of planet Earth. In his latest book, he warns, as he has before, that global warming is probably irreversible, and that once a tipping point is reached change to a new climate may be rapid. The Earth's land masses will be largely destroyed by flood and drought, and most of the world's 7 billion inhabitants will not survive. All this should make for a bleak read, yet Lovelock writes with such challenge that the effect is strangely exhilarating."

John Carey, The Sunday Times

Is Milton Better Than Shakespeare? by Nigel Smith, professor of English, Princeton University. Harvard University Press, £16.95 ISBN 9780674028326

"The title is silly but it is fair to say the book is not. Smith contributes seven essays on Milton in which Shakespeare briefly appears to answer charges that he couldn't equal Milton's 'riveting' interrogations of free will and liberty and has to manage instead with 'staggering performances of his plays'. After that everything improves ... it often seems that he shoots wildly and would rather hear the report than consider whether he has missed."

Frank Kermode, The New York Review of Books

Hollywood Heroines: Women in Film Noir and the Female Gothic Film by Helen Hanson, lecturer in film, University of Exeter. I.B. Tauris, £15.99 ISBN 9781845115616

"Hollywood Heroines shifts somewhat awkwardly to the genres of neo-noir and neo-gothic films from the 1980s to the present day. Hanson attempts to bridge these two periods by examining key feminist and post-feminist debates about the complex status of the liberated, professional woman in the 1970s, but this feels like a move to prime the reader for theoretical readings of neo-noir films ... Perhaps the prime difference between these later Hollywood heroines and their counterparts of the 1940s is that many of the former pull the trigger on their oppressors"

Max Fincher, The Times Literary Supplement

Moose by Kevin Jackson, visiting professor in the department of English, University College London. Reaktion Books, £9.99 ISBN 9781861893963

"The moose can boast an impressive array of accomplishments. In this entertaining survey of the animal's place in history and culture, we learn that it provided Chipewyan tribes with 'parchment, leather, lines and cords ... thread and glue ... handles ... spoons ... tools ... gowns, firebags, mittens, moccasins and trousers'. All this and food ... The thought that there is a charitable institution called 'Women of the Moose' will keep me happy through many a rainy day."

Murrough O'Brien, The Independent on Sunday

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