What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 26, 2012

Mark Berry, lecturer in music at Royal Holloway, University of London, has been rereading Wilhelm Furtwängler's Notebooks 1924-54 (Quartet Books, 1989). "As in his incendiary wartime Beethoven performances, the greatest 20th-century conductor both lays bare the emptiness of Arturo Toscanini's disingenuous claims to act as 'servant of the work' and defiantly opposes National Socialist tyranny. Aesthetically conservative, Furtwängler struggles and fails to come to terms with the musical Modernism of Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Bartók. Michael Tanner's model introduction sets the scene."

Richard Hand, professor of theatre and media drama, University of Glamorgan, is reading Mark Kidwell, Nat Jones and Jay Fotos' '68 - Volume 1: Better Run through the Jungle (Image Comics, 2012). "George Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead is a watershed of horror, and this cult comic series (collected here in one volume) draws on that savage spirit in envisioning a zombie pandemic at the height of the Vietnam War. Its shifting point of view on cruelty, misinformation and guilt conjures a fantasy hell in one of history's bleakest infernos. Most potent of all are the collected covers that 'zombify' iconic images of President Nixon, Jimi Hendrix and 'Nam."

Susan Hogan, professor in cultural studies, University of Derby, is reading Alan Rice's Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool University Press, 2010). "I found the installation art of Sue Flowers, featured here, particularly poignant. One piece is a jumble of 550 sugar cubes, each inscribed with a number in black ink and representing a person made human cargo on one voyage, the ephemeral and fragile medium connoting the forgotten history and forgotten lives dissolved into a void. It reminds us that we should eschew an economics devoid of compassion."

Shelley King, professor of English, Queen's University, Canada, is reading Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Pan Macmillan, 2010). "Every now and then, the airport bookshop yields something interesting: returning from a conference, I picked up this story of the woman whose virulent cervical cancer gave rise to HeLa cells, the oldest sustainable human cell line used in scientific research. A fascinating exploration of the collision of medical interests and ethical concerns over the commercialisation of human tissue, and a strange and compelling narrative!"

Tony Mann is principal lecturer in mathematics and director of resources, School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Greenwich. "Having enjoyed his Gresham College lectures on the subject, I am reading John D. Barrow's 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know about Sport (Bodley Head, 2012), which (although this is not clear from the title) is about the mathematics of sport. It contains many entertaining examples that I can use to enliven my teaching, and lots of ideas for potential student projects."

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