Arts & Culture


An Enlarged Heart: A Personal History
Cynthia Zarin, Senior Lecturer in English, Creative Writing

Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95

As these exquisitely crafted scenes from her life prove, Zarin’s students are very lucky people. From the gripping title story about her three-year-old daughter’s bout with a potentially fatal illness to a meditation prompted by finding a file chest, redolent of “verbena or old paper,” that once belonged to New Yorker writer Mary McCarthy, this is a book every memoirist will want to study and every reader savor.


George Keats of Kentucky: A Life
Lawrence M. Crutcher ’64

University Press of Kentucky, $40

The Romantic poet John Keats had a younger brother who left England and settled in 1819 in a frontier town called Louisville. Traditionally portrayed as a miscreant who absconded with more than his share of an inheritance, “George Keats deserves better” treatment, writes Crutcher, George’s great-great-great-grandson. Crutcher dismisses the inheritance allegation as a fiction, and gives George his due—including how he learned to chop wood with Audubon, launched a highly successful sawmill and real-estate business, and endured disastrous financial ups and downs.


Ginkgo: The Tree that Time Forgot
Peter Crane, the Carl W. Knobloch Jr. Dean and Professor, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Yale University Press, $40

Ginkgo, that common, stately urban tree best known for its smelly fruits and its supposed ability to enhance human memory, is “one of the world’s most distinctive plants and has one of the longest botanical pedigrees,” writes Crane. The botanist offers a 200-million-year-long saga of ginkgo’s “origin, proliferation, and eventual decline,” along with its surprising “resurgence through its association with people.”


Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story
Rebecca Dana ’04

Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $25.95

This book opens with a bang: “It’s ten o’clock on a Tuesday night,… and I’m in my living room, strangling a rabbi.” The writer is a lapsed Jew who’d been pursuing the glamorous life as a fashion and culture journalist in New York, until disaster struck. Her memoir explains how she came to be throttling her ultra-Orthodox roommate, an aspiring martial arts master who was “rapidly losing his interest in God”; along the way, she tells what they learned from each other about faith during their unlikely friendship.


Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans
Emily Epstein Landau ’05PhD

Louisiana State University Press, $39.95

As a history grad student, Landau, who now teaches at the University of Maryland, discovered the “Blue Books” in the Beinecke. These were not old Yale course catalogs but rather guides to “the most spectacular, notorious, shameful, flamboyant, and controversial commercial sex mart in American history.” In chronicling Storyville from its 1898 birth to its 1917 closure, she explores the “workings of race and sexuality,” the “social history of prostitution,” and the “shifting construction of desire” in this country.


Why Priests? A Failed Tradition
Garry Wills ’61PhD

Viking/Penguin, $27.95

“I have nothing against priests. In fact, I tried for a time to be one,” writes historian Wills, a practicing Catholic. But in this look at the lives of Jesus and the disciples, and the eventual development of a group of men given, through consecration, the “unique power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ,” Wills argues, on historical and theological grounds, that Christianity “stood without the priesthood at the outset, and it can stand stronger without it now.”

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