Arts & Culture

Output: September/October 2022

Fire and Flood: A People’s History of Climate Change from 1979 to the Present
Eugene Linden ’69
(Penguin Press, $28)
“Climate change has been my companion for more than three decades,” notes environmental journalist Linden, who has written about how industrialized nations chose to sit on their hands instead of addressing the problem of greenhouse gases. He likens the situation to “four clocks running at different speeds”: the real-time danger of climate change itself, and the lag of science, public opinion, and business—the last two of which have closed their eyes to reality for decades. In addition, Linden offers a “narrow path to a livable future,” writing that universal and international tariffs are urgent and essential if we are to right our sinking global ship.

Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall
Alexandra Lange ’94
(Bloomsbury, $28)
Austrian émigré architect “Victor Gruen could control many things, but he could not control the weather”—at least, the outside weather. However, in the 1950s, Gruen conceived of a fully enclosed mall that could both protect shoppers from the elements and “create community through shared experience (Thrills! Tastes! Tunes!),” writes architecture critic Lange. She spins a fascinating history, tracing the development of the American shopping mall, its near demise, and its hopeful future. More than just a climate-controlled place to purchase just about anything, the mall is a “central—and centering—space that had been part of human civilization since its earliest origins.” And that, she says, is “the core of the mall’s strength.”  

College Essay Journal: A Mindful Manual for College Applications
Corinne Smith and Ann Merrell
(River Grove Books, $19.95)
The opening of this unfailingly encouraging book is a lively “Congratulations on applying to college!” Smith is Yale’s associate director of undergraduate admissions. She and Merrell wrote the book to help nervous high schoolers who are “excited and overwhelmed” by the process—particularly the crafting of that infamously alarming make-or-break essay. The book is designed so that, over a period of 30 days for perhaps half an hour every day, students can work on a wealth of brainstorming prompts and writing proposals. The authors hope to draw out each student’s “voice, strength, and personal qualities in a reflective way” that will help to produce the “thoughtful, personal, and compelling story” that every college admissions officer is hoping to read.

Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution
Eric Jay Dolin ’88MEM
(Liveright/W. W. Norton, $32.50)
Military historians have usually given the Continental Navy most of the credit for this country’s against-all-odds high-seas success in the American Revolution. But they have short-shrifted and even denigrated the contribution of privateering, a government-sanctioned practice in which private citizens armed and manned their own ships and captured enemy vessels for profit. In a rollicking but harrowing tale, Dolin shows that the fledgling country’s “cost-free navy” was a nimble fighting force that harassed the Royal Navy effectively throughout almost the entire Atlantic, brought in “much-needed goods and military supplies,” and “bolstered America’s confidence that it might succeed in its seemingly quixotic attempt” to win independence.

Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life
Pamela Erens ’85
(Ig Publishing, $14.95)
“When I felt as if I were coming apart in college, which was much of the time, I turned to George Eliot,” and “above all to her masterpiece, Middlemarch,” writes novelist Erens of the 1871 classic, which dealt with “three marriages and three tangled inheritances, against the backdrop of English politics and medical practice in the 1830s.” In this engaging memoir, Erens recounts returning several times to this “detailed, compassionate exploration of what happens when, bit by bit, life encroaches on a person’s fantasies of fulfillment.” For Erens, Eliot’s brilliant work offered “deep comfort” that “goodness finds its way through the cracks of our trivial, wrongheaded, misfortune-struck world.”

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