What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 1, 2009

John Benson, professor of history, University of Wolverhampton, is rereading Coal Is Our Life: An Analysis of a Yorkshire Mining Community, by Norman Dennis, Fernando Henriques and Clifford Slaughter (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1956). "I first read this as a postgraduate student. For 50 years and more this pioneering study has provided the model of a homogeneous, class-conscious coal-mining community upon which, and against which, much subsequent research (including my own) has been based."

Richard Hand, professor of theatre and media drama, Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of Glamorgan, is reading Stealing Lincoln's Body, by Thomas J. Craughwell (Belknap Harvard, 2007). "By turns macabre and gruesome, dumbfounding and farcical, the extraordinary true story of the Chicago gang who attempted to kidnap Lincoln's corpse is a fascinating episode in 19th-century crime. Craughwell constructs a sweeping picture of the characters from every walk of life who were embroiled in this bizarre 'horrible history'."

Barbara Jacobs is a professional writer, journalist and broadcaster, currently completing a late-life PhD on autistic intelligence at the University of Leicester, where she is a part-time tutor and research associate. "I am rereading Alfred Schutz's essay 'The Stranger', from his Collected Papers Vol II: Studies in Social Theory (Martinus Nijhoff, 1964) and yet again am amazed not only by the insights of this intent watchman, his careful examination of personal experience as an immigrant and his ability to construct general social rules from this phenomenological perspective, but also by his astounding command of English. This sentence is one of my favourites: 'In order to command a language freely as a scheme of expression, one must have written love letters in it.' That has such extraordinary resonance."

Nigel Rodenhurst, lecturer in the department of English, University of Wales, Lampeter, is reading Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography, by James Park Sloan (Dutton, 1996). "A truly fascinating story of the novelist who escaped the Holocaust by using a false identity, and became addicted to acting out bizarre fantasies for the rest of a life that ended with his suicide in 1991. Like many great literary biographies, Park Sloan's book combines painstaking investigation of the life with prudent analysis of the texts."

Paul Sutton is principal lecturer in film at Roehampton University. He is reading Philip Roth's Indignation (Vintage, 2008). "An incredible novel that belies the incomparable Roth's age and longevity as the chronicler of 20th-century American masculinity. It is an angry, powerful and poignant novel that is, as always with Roth, beautifully written."

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