Arts & Culture

Output: March/April 2022

Foie Gras: A Global History
Norman Kolpas ’73
(Reaktion Books, $19.95)

Depending on your perspective, says food writer Kolpas, foie gras—French for the “hyper-fattened liver of a duck or goose”—is either a “heavenly hybrid between meat and the richest butter or cream” or, to its many detractors, “the nadir of humankind’s cruelty to animals.” Scenes of force-feeding waterfowl to yield greatly enlarged livers were depicted on ancient Egyptian bas reliefs, and the practice has continued, from medieval Jewish farmers to modern French chefs. It’s all here, gastronomic delights and warts included, with a comprehensive collection of recipes, including one for foie gras ice cream. Bon appétit. Or not.

Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age
Debby Applegate ’98PhD
(Doubleday, $32.50)
“A wise madam took advantage of every opportunity,” observes Applegate, a Pulitzer Prize–winning cultural historian. Beginning in the Roaring Twenties, an impoverished Russian émigré named Pearl Adler turned her street smarts and ambition into entrepreneurship as “proprietress of New York’s most opulent bordello.” Applegate gives us a look behind the elegant curtains at this remarkable woman, her employees, and the gamblers, cops, businessmen, mobsters (Al Capone was a frequent visitor), politicians (maybe even Franklin Roosevelt), and anyone else who wanted to enjoy “a swell party stocked with easy women.”

New York’s Finest: Stories of the NYPD and the Hero Cops Who Saved the City
Michael Daly ’74
(Twelve, $30)

Daly, a veteran New York City crime reporter, brings to life a number of officers he calls “the finest of the Finest.” He has ridden along with them over the years, expanding, he says, “an education left incomplete by Yale.” Among the most memorable is Detective Steven McDonald, who was shot and paralyzed by a 15-year-old bicycle thief in 1986. Miraculously, McDonald went on to become one of the many cops who helped transform “Fear City” into, for a time, “the safest big city in America.”

Now & Then
Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne B. Freeman, Professor of History and American Studies.
(available on Apple Podcasts, free)
Like many historians, Freeman and Richardson (who teaches at Boston College) are “very concerned about the survival of American democracy.” To explore how democracy has and hasn’t worked in the past, the two friends began a weekly podcast last June. Each episode, approximately an hour long, explores a topic such as climate change, abortion, treason, or QAnon from both a current and historical perspective. They also take occasional side treks into holidays, heroes, soul cakes, and Edith Bunker’s feminist inclinations. Together, says Freeman, the two of them seek to “understand the present moment.”

The Lincoln Highway: A Novel
Amor Towles ’87
(Viking, $30)
It was 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson had served his 15-month sentence at a juvenile work farm, and the warden dropped him off at his home in Nebraska. Emmett had a plan and a ’48 Studebaker. He intended to pick up his eight-year-old brother Billy and head for a new life in California, perhaps following a trail of postcards sent by their missing mother along a transcontinental route named after Abraham Lincoln. But two of Emmett’s friends from the work farm had stowed away in the warden’s car, and that sent them in a new direction: toward New York. Their odyssey, told from multiple viewpoints, is a fine modern take on the road-trip tradition. Even Ulysses puts in an appearance.

The Art of Bob Mackie
Frank Vlastnik and Laura Ross ’81MFA
(Simon and Schuster, $50)
Page through these sketches and photos of Hollywood stars decked out in over-the-top creations, and you’ll be left stunned. The towering black-feathered headdress Cher wore to the 1986 Oscars? Designed by Mackie. The curtain-rod “dress” Carol Burnett wore in her Gone With the Wind parody? Designed by Mackie—who created some 17,000 costumes for the 11-year run of the Carol Burnett Show alone. Other clients over the years: Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing, Diana Ross, and Bette Midler.

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