Arts & Culture

Output: November/December 2023

I Give These Books: The History of Yale University Library—1656–2022
David Alan Richards ’67, ’72JD
(Oak Knoll Press, $85)
Every Yalie knows the origin story: ten coastal Connecticut ministers pooled their books and founded, in 1701, the Collegiate School and its library—now one of the largest in the world. The tale, published in 1766, was written by Thomas Clap, Yale’s first president. However, says Richards, “unhappily for a university with the motto of ‘Light and Truth,’ the first historian of its library diverted the light and obscured the truth.” He presents the real story, providing a masterful look at the library system’s development, from a handful of leather-bound folios to its embrace of “digital vellum.”

Holler Rat: A Memoir
Anya Liftig ’99
(Abrams Press, $28)
Artists bridge the unbridgeable. In this powerful memoir, Liftig describes her journey from rural poverty in the southeastern Kentucky backwoods to tony, leafy Westport, Connecticut—and to Yale, and a life crafting provocative performance art. Her account begins with the image of her grandfather killed in a construction accident. The tale travels from south to north and back again in a courageous attempt to “make both of us whole [and] stitch together the places where we were split.”

Late Bloomers: A Novel
Deepa Varadarajan ’03JD
(Random House, $18)
“All these internet women lie, I tell you,” moans Suresh Raman, a recently divorced Indian-American pushing 60 and trying to deal with the world of online dating. Suresh, however, is not above what he calls “reasonable deviations from the truth.” Neither, it turns out, is Mallika, a woman he is about to meet and fall for; nor are his ex-wife Lata, his daughter Priya, or his son Nikesh. All of them carry their own “reasonable deviations” that collide in this funny and touching novel.

Less Heat, More Light: A Guided Tour of Weather, Climate, and Climate Change
John D. Aber ’71, ’73MFS, ’76PhD
(Yale University Press, $35)
Climate-change deniers often justify their disbelief by claiming that the science remains unsettled, and therefore, action isn’t yet necessary. Aber, a self-confessed “climate geek” and a distinguished environmental scientist, knows better: “The basics of climate change and the role of greenhouse gases have been known for a long time.” He has written a comprehensive, accessible, and apolitical primer that outlines what researchers know, when they knew it, and what we can do to reverse course.

Fragmented: A Doctor’s Quest to Piece Together American Health Care
Ilana Yurkiewicz ’10
(W. W. Norton, $30)
“It has become a cliché to say that healthcare is broken,” says Yurkiewicz, a veteran oncologist who practices at Stanford Medicine. But the central problem, she argues, is that by perverse design, not enough of the puzzle pieces have been put together. The result is a fragmentation that “blindfolds health care workers to the whole [of] the patient’s story”—and can have fatal consequences. Read the harrowing cases she describes, and you will understand the problem. Still, she notes, although “medical uncertainty” may be inevitable, fragmentation is curable.

This Exquisite Loneliness: What Loners, Outcasts, and the Misunderstood Can Teach Us about Creativity 
Richard Deming, Director of Creative Writing
(Viking, $29) 
“Everyone feels lonely sometimes,” notes Deming, a poet, critic, and Yale writing teacher. These days, however, “this emotional state is becoming a social problem with dire results.” The author would know: when he was a young man jailed for drunk driving, he realized that loneliness “had become, inescapably, my very identity.” To avoid being pulled under by this universal human experience, Deming explored loneliness and how he—and writers Zora Neale Hurston, Rod Serling, and Walter Benjamin, painter Egon Schiele, photographer Walker Evans, and psychoanalyst Melanie Klein—were able to turn their “feelings of intense alienation” into “exquisite, self-conscious” insights and deep human connections.

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