Tag Archives: history

Emma Bull’s Territory: A Unique Retelling of An American Legend

The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one of those seminal historical events that every American knows about — or at least thinks they know. In the materials accompanying the ARC for Territory Emma Bull comments that there are many … Continue reading

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William E. Deal’s Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan

If the title sounds daunting, don’t be worried. William E. Diehl’s Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan is a well-organized and eminently usable reference to the history, arts, and customs of Japan from 1185, the beginning of … Continue reading

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Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The Ancient Americas

When I offered to take my cousin to the Field Museum, showing off my new membership, and suggested that we see the permanent exhibition “The Ancient Americas,” she said, “What’s that?” “Indians,” I said, “from Day One.” She said later … Continue reading

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Justin Hall, ed., No Straight Lines

It’s tempting to say that comics underwent a radical transformation in the 1960s and ’70s. They didn’t. What did happen was that comics as a medium, with the rise of underground comics through the agency of R. Crumb and his … Continue reading

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Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: Evolving Planet

The Field Museum of Natural History was founded in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago; the building was part of the 1893 Columbian Exposition (read “World’s Fair”). It is devoted to just about everything that has to do with … Continue reading

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Joseph Campbell’s The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension

The Flight of the Wild Gander is a series of essays produced betwen 1944 and 1968 in which Campbell was, he says, “circling, and from many quarters striving to interpret, the mystery of mythology.” The “mystery,” as comes clear as … Continue reading

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Garth Dahl’s Masks from Around the World: A Personal Collection

Masks occur in every human culture I’ve ever run across, and their purpose is always the same: disguise. In the theater of ancient Greece, the disguise served to submerge the actor in the persona of the god or hero he … Continue reading

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Avram Davidson’s Adventures in Unhistory: Conjectures on the Factual Foundations of Several Ancient Legends

I have had the distinct pleasure through the years of being in line for a number of reissues and new editions of works by some of the great writers of the Golden Age of science fiction and fantasy. Maybe it’s … Continue reading

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Toby Faber’s Stradivari’s Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection

One of the most shamefully puzzling phenomena in the history of our continual technological “progress” is the simple fact that a violin maker of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries manufactured instruments that no one has since been able … Continue reading

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Colin Symes’ Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Classical Recording

One of the fundamental concepts of contemporary critical theory, whether it be post-modern, feminist, post-colonial, queer theory, or whatever subset one has chosen, is “discourse.” Discourse in this sense is not to be taken as mere converse employing words as … Continue reading

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Robert Sandall’s The Penguin Café Orchestra: A History

The Penguin Café Orchestra: A History is just that (although arguably it is as much a history of Simon Jeffes, but Jeffes and the Orchestra are so inextricably intertwined that I’m not prepared to argue the matter). The meat of … Continue reading

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Piers Vitebsky’s The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia

Siberia, that vast tract that covers the Russian North from the Urals to the Pacific, is one of the most inhospitable places that humanity has found to live, equaled only by its American counterpart (although Siberia does hold the record … Continue reading

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Richard A. Straw and H. Tyler Blethen, eds., High Mountains Rising: Appalachia in Time and Place

“Perhaps all the stereotypes of Appalachian folklife ought to be discarded. The culture of Appalachia is neither unqiue nor monolithic.” Thus Michael Ann Williams summarizes her chapter on Appalachian folklore in High Mountains Rising, a broad, even panoramic study of … Continue reading

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Jean-Marie Déguignet’s Memoirs of a Breton Peasant [ed. Bernez Rouz; English trans. Linda Asher]

It is not often that one gets to read the memoirs of a peasant, because it’s not often that a peasant writes a memoir. This particular peasant was Breton, which is, for those fascinated by a part of the world … Continue reading

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Suraiya Faroqhi: Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire

We tend to think of the Ottoman Empire as monolithic: a unitary state ruled from Istanbul and subject to a uniform system of laws. A moment’s reflection will lead to the inescapable conclusion that this couldn’t possibly be true: at … Continue reading

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Suraiya Faroqhi: The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It; Handan Nezir Akmeşe: The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to World War I

The Ottoman Empire and its successor, modern Turkey, have time and again played an important role in European politics, and yet there are vanishingly few sources in English to bring us the viewpoint of the Turks themselves, or, indeed, to … Continue reading

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