Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Book Roundup

This week in The New Rambler, Cass Sunstein reviews Chris Taylor's How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise (Head of Zeus) in a piece titled "How Star Wars Illuminates Constitutional Law (and Authorship)." 
"My major theme shall be the immense role of serendipity and happenstance in the creative imagination, certainly in single-authored works, but even more in multi-authored ones extending over time. Serendipity imposes serious demands on the search for coherence in both literature and law (and history and life as well). That search leads some people (like Lucas) to become “originalists” of one or another kind, pointing to some sort of Journal of the Whills and suppressing the nature of their own creativity and authorship. The suppression appears to respond to a serious human need, even craving (in both literature and law), but it is a significant obstacle to understanding and critical reflection.
To readers who are not interested in Star Wars, a cautionary note: Some of the following is going to seem (let’s say) a bit obscure; you might want to do some serious skimming. We’ll get to the larger themes before long."
Michael Schulson interviews Kevin Kruse regarding his One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic) for Salon.

Jilly Leovy's Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America (Speigel & Grau) is reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Also in the Los Angeles Review of Books there is a review Gordon Park's photoessay, Gordon Parks: Segregation Story (Steidl).

History Today has a review of Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism (Allen Lane).

H-Net has review Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada edited by Liat Ben-Moshe, Chris Chapman, Allison C. Carey (Palsgrave Macmillan).
"Rooted primarily in Foucauldian methodologies, the various contributions offer historically focused accounts of incarceration and disability, which set out to speak to present-day concerns in American and Canadian societies. The sociological methodologies are pronounced but not overwhelming. All of the essays are well written and insightful and force us to reconsider key themes in the history of disability and medicine, including the social dynamism of prisons and asylums, the racing and gendering of "imprisoned" subjects, the uses of biopower in regulating society and managing those who fail to conform, and the historical roots of present-day social elimination."

There's also a review of David William's I Freed Myself: African American Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era (Cambridge University Press), as well as a review of Emily Blanck's Tyrannicide: Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts (University of Georgia Press).
"Emily Blanck argues that the fugitive slave clause of the United States Constitution (Article IV, Section 2) had its roots in a 1783 ruling by Justice William Cushing of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to grant a writ of habeas corpus freeing eight South Carolina slaves being detained in jail in order to be returned to their masters. This decision, Blanck contends, led South Carolina’s delegates at the Constitutional Convention to insist on the inclusion of a fugitive slave clause in the newly drafted frame of government and Massachusetts’s delegates shaping that clause to reflect the growing antislavery sentiment in that state. In the process, Blanck reveals, the divisions between northern and southern states, free and slave, usually associated with the antebellum period, began in the earliest days of the Republic. She does so by highlighting the divergent local histories of slavery in Massachusetts and South Carolina, the national history of compromise on the issue between political elites, and the role that African Americans played in shaping those local and national discussions."
Michael J. Kramer's The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (Oxford University Press) is reviewed on H-Net.
"Specifically, Kramer “argues that rock most of all inspired a counterculture defined by issues of citizenship.... I call this polity of sound the republic of rock” (p. 9). Kramer goes on to explain that for many young rebellious Americans vested in the counterculture project, whether they lived in San Francisco or found themselves fighting in Vietnam, rock became a form through which they could interrogate and resist the assimilatory power of “hip capitalism” and “hip militarism” and by so doing create and maintain their own “counterpublic sphere” (pp. 13, 20). In this sphere, men and women used rock to imagine and act out new forms of community and liberatory individual freedom."
Yet another up on H-Net is a review of Peter Baldwin's The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle (Princeton University Press).