Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Book Roundup

In The Guardian this week there is a review of Sarah Wise's Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England (Bodley Head/Random House).
"By painstakingly documenting each individual's story, Wise reveals how existing lunacy laws were interpreted and used (well, abused, actually) at the time to control moneyed individuals who also happened to be nonconformists -- those with strange behavioural quirks, unconventional religious beliefs, who dared marry "beneath their station" (or refused to marry at all), or women who bore illegitimate children -- anyone who inconveniently stood in the way of a relative's financial ambitions. In short, lunacy laws were often exploited to satisfy personal greed."
The Washington Post reviews Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics by Terry Golway (Liveright).

There are two reviews of Mary Louise Roberts's What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France (University of Chicago Press). History Today calls the book fascinating, and the H-Net review concludes that the book "is a valuable contribution to World War II historiography and should open new avenues of historical research into the cultural engagement that accompanies America’s overseas military campaigns. Most important, it serves to showcase the possibilities for incorporating more cultural and gender analysis into military history. It may be controversial, but it deserves a wide audience." There is also a piece on the book and author in The New York Times, "The Dark Side of Liberation."

Two books on protest have been reviewed this week. The first is Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power by Sherry L. Smith (Oxford University Press) here on HNN. Also on HNN is a review of the memoir, Resister: A Story of Protest and Prison during the Vietnam War by Bruce Dancis (Cornell University Press).

Michael Waldman's The Second Amendment: A Biography (Simon & Schuster) is reviewed in the Los Angeles Times.
"What he's addressing is the Constitution as a living document, which we interpret not according to the intent of the Framers — he's no fan of originalism — but rather through the filter of the present day. "We would be uncomfortable," Waldman writes, "with the idea that states could fight wars against the U.S. Army," which was, of course, an early draw of the militias, that they might serve as a potential check on federal power. "We would recognize that the Founders expected people to have military weapons in their homes." And yet, this is the conundrum, isn't it, since "an assault weapon is precisely the kind of armament a modern-day Minute Man might want to use.""
And for those who are enjoying barbecue and beer this Memorial Day weekend, there is a review of Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C. by Garrett Peck (History Press). Here's a taste of the review,
"But Prohibition, fruit of the long-running temperance movement, brought everything to a halt in 1916 (when Virginia went dry) and 1917 (when the District followed). Some breweries tried to make ends meet by shifting to sodas and beers with negligible alcohol, but for most, those ventures failed. Over 250 licensed bars and saloons closed in D.C., and although as many as three thousand speakeasies opened in their place, bootleggers made more money with whiskey and gin. Washingtonian tastes shifted towards cocktails. 
That change in drinking fashion outlasted Prohibition, even though beer was the first alcoholic beverage legalized, following a campaign promise from Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. Only two of Washington’s six pre-Prohibition breweries reopened, including Heurich’s massive facility in Foggy Bottom. (The man was, by that point, 91 years old, and he would live for more than another decade.) Over the coming years, local beer gave way to the massive national beer brands selling mass-produced light lager, and Heurich’s brewery was demolished in 1962 to make way for what would become the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts."