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An American Idealist
This first-ever biography of John William Ward, the fourteenth president of Amherst College, explores the roots of his idealism and covers his presidency, his later success in Massachusetts politics, and the events leading up to his eventual suicide.
President from 1971 to 1979, Ward served during a tumultuous period in the history of the elite liberal arts college, and in the history of the nation. He presided over the once all-male college’s transition to coeducation, worked to support African-American students in their fight for equality and justice, and was arrested for civil disobedience in protest against the Vietnam War. Ward was emblematic of his time. Idealist that he was, he tried to make Amherst College a model of a democratic society.
Defeated in ugly battles with the faculty, Ward resigned as president but went on to great success in the rougher world of Massachusetts politics. He made headlines for his leadership of a state commission that spent more than two years investigating corruption in the awarding of building contracts, resulting in the passage of laws that guaranteed reforms.
This long-overdue volume is the first complete study of Ward—a self-made man, proof that the American Dream could come true, but who ultimately saw his personal and professional life collapse. It sheds light on Amherst College, on higher education more broadly, on suicide, and on the United States in the 1960s and ’70s.
The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert
The definitive book on The Station nightclub fire on the 10th anniversary of the disaster On February 20, 2003, the deadliest rock concert in U.S. history took place at a roadhouse called The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island. That night, in the few minutes it takes to play a hard-rock standard, the fate of many of the unsuspecting nightclub patrons was determined with awful certainty. The blaze was ignited when pyrotechnics set off by Great White, a 1980s heavy-metal band, lit flammable polyurethane “egg crate” foam sound insulation on the club’s walls. In less than 10 minutes, 96 people were dead and 200 more were injured, many catastrophically. The final death toll topped out, three months later, at the eerily unlikely round number of 100. The story of the fire, its causes, and its legal and human aftermath is one of lives put at risk by petty economic decisions—by a band, club owners, promoters, building inspectors, and product manufacturers. Any one of those decisions, made differently, might have averted the tragedy. Together, however, they reached a fatal critical mass. Killer Show is the first comprehensive exploration of the chain of events leading up to the fire, the conflagration itself, and the painstaking search for evidence to hold the guilty to account and obtain justice for the victims. Anyone who has entered an entertainment venue and wondered, “Could I get out of here in a hurry?” will identify with concertgoers at The Station. Fans of disaster nonfiction and forensic thrillers will find ample elements of both genres in Killer Show.
Resurrecting the Past
Fort William Henry, America’s early frontier fort at the southern end of Lake George, New York, was a flashpoint for conflict between the British and French empires in America. The fort is perhaps best known as the site of a massacre of British soldiers by Native Americans allied with the French that took place in 1757. Over the past decade, new and exciting archeological findings, in tandem with modern forensic methods, have changed our view of life at the fort prior to the massacre, by providing physical evidence of the role that Native Americans played on both sides of the conflict.
Intertwining recent revelations with those of the past, Starbuck creates a lively narrative beginning with the earliest Native American settlement on Lake George. He pays special attention to the fort itself: its reconstruction in the 1950s, the major discoveries of the 1990s, and the archeological disclosures of the past few years. He further discusses the importance of forensic anthropology in uncovering the secrets of the past, reviews key artifacts discovered at the fort, and considers the relevance of Fort William Henry and its history in the twenty-first century. Three appendixes treat exhibits since the 1950s; foodways; and General Daniel Webb’s surrender letter of August 17, 1757.
Initially appearing in Hebert’s first Darby Chronicles novel, The Dogs of March, Ollie Jordan and his clan live in shacks behind a huge billboard advertising a Vermont business. Although he’s a brooding character with an inquiring, philosophical turn of mind, Ollie has grown up with no education, no mentors, and a serious Freudian hang-up. A family history of poverty, stubborn pride, and a culture that runs contrary to mainstream society have robbed Ollie and his people of opportunity, even hope. They live by a culture of “succor and ascendancy.”
When Ollie is evicted from his shacks, he breaks his drinking rules and heads out into the wilderness with his disabled son, Willow, literally chained to him. Father and son are doomed. How that doom plays itself out, as experienced by the disturbed but insightful Ollie Jordan, is what makes A Little More Than Kin unique in contemporary American literature. Hebert gives his rural underclass protagonist the depths of a tragic hero.
Though A Little More Than Kin is action-packed and its prose is clean, hard, lyrical, and sometimes very funny, the book is at its heart an exploration into a brilliant mind that has laid waste to itself. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy prose that explores the human psyche at its most perverse.
Two Years in a Tiny House
In this second book in his Scratch Flat Chronicles, John Hanson Mitchell tells how he set out to recreate Henry David Thoreau’s two years at Walden Pond in a replica of Thoreau’s cabin. Mitchell lived off the grid, without running water or electricity, in a tiny house not half a mile from a major highway and in the shadow of a massive new computer company. Nevertheless, his contact with wildlife, the changing seasons, and the natural world equaled and even surpassed Thoreau’s.
Hugely popular with the international community of Thoreau followers when it was first published, this book will now be essential reading for the growing community of people who are interested in living in a tiny house, fully experiencing the natural world, or finding self-sufficiency in an increasingly plugged-in society.
James Acheson's detailed account of lobstering in Maine quickly dispels notions that the lobstermen is the eastern version of the cowboy, struggling alone for survival against the elements. In reality, he writes, "the lobster fisherman is caught up in a thick and complex web of social relationships. Survival in the industry depends as much on the ability to manipulate social relationships as on technical skills." Acheson replaces our romantic image of the lobsterman with descriptions of the highly territorial and hierarchical "harbor gangs," daily and annual cycles of lobstering, intricacies of marketing the catch, and the challenge of managing a communal resource.
Charles Ives, the Nostalgic Rebel
Mad Music is the story of Charles Edward Ives (1874-1954), the innovative American composer who achieved international recognition, but only after he'd stopped making music. While many of his best works received little attention in his lifetime, Ives is now appreciated as perhaps the most important American composer of the twentieth century and father of the diverse lines of Aaron Copland and John Cage. Ives was also a famously wealthy crank who made millions in the insurance business and tried hard to establish a reputation as a crusty New Englander. To Stephen Budiansky, Ives's life story is a personification of America emerging as a world power: confident and successful, yet unsure of the role of art and culture in a modernizing nation. Though Ives steadfastly remained an outsider in many ways, his life and times inform us of subjects beyond music, including the mystic movement, progressive anticapitalism, and the initial hesitancy of turn-of-the-century-America modernist intellectuals. Deeply researched and elegantly written, this accessible biography tells a uniquely American story of a hidden genius, disparaged as a dilettante, who would shape the history of music in a profound way.
Making use of newly published letters--and previously undiscovered archival sources bearing on the longstanding mystery of Ives's health and creative decline--this absorbing volume provides a definitive look at the life and times of a true American original.
Why Women Like Us Like to Drink (Or Not)
Make Mine a Double pours together a collection of witty, intelligent, and provocative pieces about women and their beverages of choice. Edited by humorist and academic mahatma Gina Barreca, the twenty-eight original essays here come from a diverse community of voices from ages twenty-one to seventy-nine, including such luminaries as Fay Weldon, Wendy Liebman, Amy Bloom, Liza Donnelly, Nicole Hollander, Beth Jones, Dawn Lundy Martin, and many others.
Equal parts paean to spirits, an open discussion of drinking (or not drinking), and a call to feminists everywhere to say "salut," Make Mine a Double shimmers with thoughtfulness, humor, and self-examination. These tales of women's complex relationships with alcohol are the story of every woman's effort to find her independence and sense of belonging, be it at a college party, a high-powered cocktail party, or on a stool at the neighborhood watering hole.
Barreca and the writers have agreed that all their profits from the book will be donated to Windham Hospital's "Gina's Friends" fund, which aids women in need.
Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars
It was an enigma of the Vietnam War: American troops kept killing the Viet Cong--and being killed in the process--and yet their ranks continued to grow. When CIA analyst Sam Adams uncovered documents suggesting a Viet Cong army more than twice as large as previously reckoned, another war erupted, this time within the ranks of America's intelligence community. Although originally clandestine, this conflict involving the highest levels of the U.S. government burst into public view during the acrimonious lawsuit Westmoreland v. CBS. The central issue in the suit, as in the war itself, was the calamitous failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to ascertain the strength of the Viet Cong and get that information to troops in a timely fashion. The legacy of this failure--whether caused by institutional inertia, misguided politics, or individual hubris--haunts our nation. In the era of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden, Sam Adams' tireless crusade for "honest intelligence" resonates strongly today.