Arts & Culture

Output: March/April 2024

Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet
Ben Goldfarb ’13MEM
(W. W. Norton, $30) 
“When alien archaeologists exhume the rubble of human civilization, they may conclude that our raison d’être was building roads,” writes Goldfarb in this exploration of the impact of roughly 40 million miles of roadways we’ve created on the Earth. These “asphalt arteries” may be essential for connectivity—goods to markets, and families to each other—but they can be the “routes of all evil” for wildlife. The author shows how a band of road ecologists and engineers are coming up with saner roads that “animals would never meet [and] the land would never notice.”

Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure
Maggie Jackson ’82.
(Prometheus, $27.95)
“Quick, automatic, and assured”: these qualities, Jackson writes, are the cornerstones of what many have long believed are the key components of expertise in everyone from surgeons to executives. Yet that trio, often considered the essential hallmarks of the uber-accomplished, is now being seen as inadequate, even dangerous. Jackson marshals a wealth of research and interviews to suggest that the best thinking requires a healthy dose of not-knowing. “Questioning, open, adaptive” is the new mantra, she writes.

The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy, and the Wild Life of an American Commune
Alexander Stille ’78
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30) 
Pioneering American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan “believed that people grew from their relationship with others—even in adulthood.” In 1957, Sullivan student Jane Pearce and her then-husband Saul Newton put this into practice by founding the Sullivan Institute for Research in Psychoanalysis. Journalist Stille follows the development of the institute, which quickly became an urban commune in New York’s Upper West Side. There, several hundred people embraced “a maverick form of psychotherapy” that jettisoned the supposed soul-sapping strictures of the nuclear family in favor of “fellowship, political commitment, and sex without guilt, jealousy, or possessiveness.” What could possibly go wrong?

Mischievous Creatures: The Forgotten Sisters Who Transformed Early American Science
Catherine McNeur ’12PhD
(Basic Books, $32.50)
Nineteenth-century American women scientists played a fundamental role in developing our country’s fledgling scientific enterprises—yet they were all but erased from the record. Environmental historian McNeur happened to stumble upon the pioneering work of two almost unknown Philadelphia sisters: Margaretta Morris, an entomologist; and her sister Elizabeth Morris, a botanist. McNeur then set about bringing their “silenced voices” and important contributions to light.

Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Time
Samuel Moyn, Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and History
(Yale University Press, $27.50)
After World War II, the political philosophy known as liberalism—with its core Enlightenment principles of human emancipation and reason—morphed. Moyn argues that Cold War liberals could declare that “the desire for more emancipation produced slavery instead.” In a dissection of the movement’s leading thinkers, Moyn writes that this brand of thought has been “catastrophic” for the liberal cause and for the world, and he explores how to revive and reinvent its heart and soul.

Gerald Cohen ’82
(Innova Recordings, $15)
The music in these recordings conveys an almost cosmological spirituality. Cohen, who studied music at Yale, became a cantor and then a faculty member at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. He has worked with the Cassatt String Quartet, clarinetist Narek Arutyunian, and trombonist Colin Williams—all to exquisite effect: shifting clouds of violin, viola, and cello, pierced by the clear tones of the clarinet. Cohen set some odd challenges for his players, with moments that can evoke anyone from Brahms to Weill. The result? A musical mind-meld.

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