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How George W. Bush and Barack Obama Managed a Transfer of Power
It’s one of the hallmarks of American democracy: on inauguration day, the departing president heeds the will of the people and hands the keys to power to a successor. The transition from one administration to the next sounds simple, even ceremonial. But in 2009, as President George W. Bush briefed President-elect Barack Obama about the ongoing wars and plummeting economy he’d soon inherit, the Bush team revealed that they were grappling with a late-breaking threat to the presidency: U.S. intelligence sources believed that a terror group with links to Al Qaeda planned to attack the National Mall during the inaugural festivities. Although this violence never materialized, its possibility made it clear that well-laid contingency plans were essential. Political scientist Martha Joynt Kumar uncovered this secret peril while interviewing senior Bush and Obama advisers for her latest book. In Before the Oath, Kumar documents how two presidential teams—one outgoing, the other incoming—must forge trusting alliances in order to help the new president succeed in his or her first term. Kumar enjoyed unprecedented access to several incumbent and candidate transition team members, and she combines in-depth scholarship with one-on-one interviews to put readers squarely behind the scenes. Using the Bush-Obama handoff as a lens through which to examine the presidential transition process, Kumar interweaves examples from previous administrations as far back as Truman-Eisenhower. Her subjects describe in vivid detail the challenges of sowing campaign ideals across a sprawling executive branch as Congress, the media, and external events press in. Kumar’s lively account of lessons learned and pitfalls encountered during past presidential transitions provides an essential road map for presidential aspirants and their advisers, as well as campaign workers, federal employees, and political appointees.
While visiting Europe In 1844, Harry McCall of Philadelphia wrote to his cousin back home of his disappointment. He didn’t mind Paris, but he preferred the company of Americans to Parisians. Furthermore, he vowed to be “an American, heart and soul” wherever he traveled, but “particularly in England.” Why was he in Europe if he found it so distasteful? After all, travel in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was expensive, time consuming, and frequently uncomfortable. Being American in Europe, 1750–1860 tracks the adventures of American travelers while exploring large questions about how these experiences affected national identity. Daniel Kilbride searched the diaries, letters, published accounts, and guidebooks written between the late colonial period and the Civil War. His sources are written by people who, while prominent in their own time, are largely obscure today, making this account fresh and unusual. Exposure to the Old World generated varied and contradictory concepts of American nationality. Travelers often had diverse perspectives because of their region of origin, race, gender, and class. Americans in Europe struggled with the tension between defining the United States as a distinct civilization and situating it within a wider world. Kilbride describes how these travelers defined themselves while they observed the politics, economy, morals, manners, and customs of Europeans. He locates an increasingly articulate and refined sense of simplicity and virtue among these visitors and a gradual disappearance of their feelings of awe and inferiority.
The Work of Elmore Leonard
Widely known as the crime fiction writer whose work led to the movies Get Shorty and Out of Sight, Elmore Leonard has a special knack for creating cool characters, which for him means characters who are good at what they do. The dope dealers, bookies, grifters, financial advisers, talent agents, shady attorneys, hookers, models, and crooked cops of Leonard's world may be nefarious, but they are generally confident, skilled, and composed, and they cope without effort or thought. In Being Cool, Charles Rzepka draws on more than twelve hours of personal interviews with Leonard and applies what he learned to his close analysis of Leonard's long life and prodigious output: 45 published novels, 39 published and unpublished short stories, and numerous essays written over the course of six decades. Leonard's writing methods and style epitomize how he conceives "being cool." Rzepka delineates the stages and patterns that characterize the author's creative evolution. Like jazz greats, Leonard forged an individual style immediately recognizable for its voice and rhythm, including his characters' rat-a-tat recitations, curt backhands, and ragged trains of thought. Taking being cool as the highway through Leonard's life and works, Rzepka finds plenty of byways to explore along the way.
Guillaume Apollinaire’s first book of poems has charmed readers with its brief celebrations of animals, birds, fish, insects, and the mythical poet Orpheus since it was first published in 1911. Though Apollinaire would go on to longer and more ambitious work, his Bestiary reveals key elements of his later poetry, among them surprising images, wit, formal mastery, and wry irony. X. J. Kennedy’s fresh translation follows Apollinaire in casting the poems into rhymed stanzas, suggesting music and sudden closures while remaining faithful to their sense. Kennedy provides the English alongside the original French, inviting readers to compare the two and appreciate the fidelity of the former to the latter. He includes a critical and historical essay that relates the Bestiary to its sources in medieval “creature books,” provides a brief biography and summation of the troubled circumstances surrounding the book’s initial publication, and places the poems in the context of Apollinaire’s work as a poet and as a champion of avant garde art. This short introduction to the work of an essentially modern writer includes four curious poems apparently suppressed from the first edition and reprints of the Raoul Dufy woodcuts published in the 1911 edition.
Mental Health Policy in the United States since 1950
The past half-century has been marked by major changes in the treatment of mental illness: important advances in understanding mental illnesses, increases in spending on mental health care and support of people with mental illnesses, and the availability of new medications that are easier for the patient to tolerate. Although these changes have made things better for those who have mental illness, they are not quite enough. In Better But Not Well, Richard G. Frank and Sherry A. Glied examine the well-being of people with mental illness in the United States over the past fifty years, addressing issues such as economics, treatment, standards of living, rights, and stigma. Marshaling a range of new empirical evidence, they first argue that people with mental illness—severe and persistent disorders as well as less serious mental health conditions—are faring better today than in the past. Improvements have come about for unheralded and unexpected reasons. Rather than being a result of more effective mental health treatments, progress has come from the growth of private health insurance and of mainstream social programs—such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, housing vouchers, and food stamps—and the development of new treatments that are easier for patients to tolerate and for physicians to manage. The authors remind us that, despite the progress that has been made, this disadvantaged group remains worse off than most others in society. The "mainstreaming" of persons with mental illness has left a policy void, where governmental institutions responsible for meeting the needs of mental health patients lack resources and programmatic authority. To fill this void, Frank and Glied suggest that institutional resources be applied systematically and routinely to examine and address how federal and state programs affect the well-being of people with mental illness.
Juan de Ribera and Religious Reform in Valencia, 1568–1614
In early modern Spain the monarchy's universal policy to convert all of its subjects to Christianity did not end distinctions among ethnic religious groups, but rather made relations between them more contentious. Old Christians, those whose families had always been Christian, defined themselves in opposition to forcibly baptized Muslims (moriscos) and Jews (conversos). Here historian Benjamin Ehlers studies the relations between Christians and moriscos in Valencia by analyzing the ideas and policies of archbishop Juan de Ribera. Juan de Ribera, a young reformer appointed to the diocese of Valencia in 1568, arrived at his new post to find a congregation deeply divided between Christians and moriscos. He gradually overcame the distrust of his Christian parishioners by intertwining Tridentine themes such as the Eucharist with local devotions and holy figures. Over time Ribera came to identify closely with the interests of his Christian flock, and his hagiographers subsequently celebrated him as a Valencian saint. Ribera did not engage in a similarly reciprocal exchange with the moriscos; after failing to effect their true conversion through preaching and parish reform, he devised a covert campaign to persuade the king to banish them. His portrayal of the moriscos as traitors and heretics ultimately justified the Expulsion of 1609–1614, which Ribera considered the triumphant culmination of the Reconquest. Ehler's sophisticated yet accessible study of the pluralist diocese of Valencia is a valuable contribution to the study of Catholic reform, moriscos, Christian-Muslim relations in early modern Spain, and early modern Europe.
Marseille and the Early Modern Mediterranean
Between Crown and Commerce examines the relationship between French royal statecraft, mercantilism, and civic republicanism in the context of the globalizing economy of the early modern Mediterranean world. This is the story of how the French Crown and local institutions accommodated one another as they sought to forge acceptable political and commercial relationships with one another for the common goal of economic prosperity. Junko Thérèse Takeda tells this tale through the particular experience of Marseille, a port the monarchy saw as key to commercial expansion in the Mediterranean. At first, Marseille’s commercial and political elites were strongly opposed to the Crown’s encroaching influence. Rather than dismiss their concerns, the monarchy cleverly co-opted their civic traditions, practices, and institutions to convince the city’s elite of their important role in Levantine commerce. Chief among such traditions were local ideas of citizenship and civic virtue. As the city’s stature throughout the Mediterranean grew, however, so too did the dangers of commercial expansion as exemplified by the arrival of the bubonic plague. Marseille’s citizens reevaluated citizenship and merchant virtue during the epidemic, while the French monarchy's use of the crisis as an opportunity to further extend its power reanimated republican vocabulary. Between Crown and Commerce deftly combines a political and intellectual history of state-building, mercantilism, and republicanism with a cultural history of medical crisis. In doing so, the book highlights the conjoined history of broad transnational processes and local political change.
A Comparative Study of Sacrifice
For many Westerners, the term sacrifice is associated with ancient, often primitive ritual practices. It suggests the death—frequently violent, often bloody—of an animal victim, usually with the aim of atoning for human guilt. Sacrifice is a serious ritual, culminating in a dramatic event. The reality of religious sacrificial acts across the globe and throughout history is, however, more expansive and inclusive. In Beyond Sacred Violence, Kathryn McClymond argues that the modern Western world’s reductive understanding of sacrifice simplifies an enormously broad and dynamic cluster of religious activities. Drawing on a comparative study of Vedic and Jewish sacrificial practices, she demonstrates not only that sacrifice has no single, essential, identifying characteristic but also that the elements most frequently attributed to such acts—death and violence—are not universal. McClymond reveals that the world of religious sacrifice varies greatly, including grain-based offerings, precious liquids, and complex interdependent activities. Engagingly argued and written, Beyond Sacred Violence significantly extends our understanding of religious sacrifice and serves as a timely reminder that the field of religious studies is largely framed by Christianity.
Gender, Consumer Culture, and the Politics of Exclusion, 1890s–1920s
Low voter turnout is a serious problem in American politics today, but it is not a new one. Its roots lay in the 1920s when, for the first time in nearly a century, a majority of eligible Americans did not bother to cast ballots in a presidential election. Stunned by this civic failure so soon after a world war to "make the world safe for democracy," reforming women and business men launched massive campaigns to "Get Out the Vote." By 1928, they had enlisted the enthusiastic support of more than a thousand groups in Forty-six states. In The Big Vote, historian Liette Gidlow shows that the Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns—overlooked by historians until now—were in fact part of an important transformation of political culture in the early twentieth century. Weakened political parties, ascendant consumer culture, labor unrest, Jim Crow, widespread anti-immigration sentiment, and the new woman suffrage all raised serious questions about the meanings of good citizenship. Gidlow recasts our understandings of the significance of the woman suffrage amendment and shows that it was important not only because it enfranchised women but because it also ushered in a new era of near-universal suffrage. Faced with the apparent equality of citizens before the ballot box, middle-class and elite whites in the Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns and elsewhere advanced a searing critique of the ways that workers, ethnics, and sometimes women behaved as citizens. Through techniques ranging from civic education to modern advertising, they worked in the realm of culture to undo the equality that constitutional amendments had seemed to achieve. Through their efforts, by the late 1920s, "civic" had become practically synonymous with "middle class" and "white." Richly documented with primary sources from political parties and civic groups, popular and ethnic periodicals, and electoral returns, The Big Vote looks closely at the national Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns and at the internal dynamics of campaigns in the case-study cities of New York, New York, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Birmingham, Alabama. In the end, the Get-Out-the Vote campaigns shed light not only on the problem of voter turnout in the 1920s, but on some of the problems that hamper the practice of full democracy even today.
Combining cognitive and evolutionary research with traditional humanist methods, Nancy Easterlin here demonstrates how a biocultural perspective in theory and criticism opens up new possibilities for literary interpretation. Easterlin maintains that the goal of literary interpretation is still of central intellectual and social value. Taking an open yet judicious approach, she argues, however, that literary interpretation stands to gain dramatically from a fair-minded and creative application of cognitive and evolutionary research. This work does just that, expounding a biocultural method that charts a middle course between overly reductive approaches to literature and traditionalists who see the sciences as a threat to the humanities. Easterlin applies her biocultural method to four major subfields within literary studies: new historicism, ecocriticism, cognitive approaches, and evolutionary approaches. After a thorough review of each subfield, she reconsiders it in light of relevant research in cognitive and evolutionary psychology and provides a textual analysis of literary works from the romantic era to the present, including William Wordsworth’s “Simon Lee” and the Lucy poems, Mary Robinson’s “Old Barnard,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode,” D. H. Lawrence’s The Fox, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, and Raymond Carver’s “I Could See the Smallest Things.” A Biocultural Approach to Literary Theory and Interpretation offers a fresh and reasoned approach to literary studies that at once preserves the central importance that interpretation plays in the humanities and embraces the exciting developments of the cognitive sciences.