The Curious Map Book - Ashley Baynton-Williams

When maps aren’t simply telling you how to get from here to there, they make political statements, lay out the terrain of history, show you the landscape of the imagination,  play games—and always look beautiful. The Curious Map Book (Chicago, $45) is a showcase of such “cartographic curiosities.” Assembled by Ashley Baynton-Williams, a British antiquarian map dealer, the survey starts with a 1493 world map that’s also a chart of Western humanism, depicting the Earth divided in four parts, one for each of Noah’s sons, with side trips into medieval legend and classical myth. A 1518 rendering of Utopia depicts the island with a death’s head: map as memento mori. In human shape, maps were allegories and caricatures; as animals, they united disparate regions into the body of a fierce lion or warned of grasping imperial ambitions, showing Russia in 1877 as an octopus. Other maps chart the course of love, and many play games. The first board games, circa 1588, were maps, with players throwing dice and racing each other around a hemisphere. Some required gambling, others doubled as Trivial Pursuit, requiring players to recite facts about the regions they landed on. Maps became jigsaw puzzles in the 18th century, and one impressive picture here shows a stunning 1866 globe jigsaw. A tribute to human wit and ingenuity, these selections have an illuminating and unobtrusive guide in Baynton-Williams, whose succinct commentary profiles the mapmakers and explains their methods and materials.

The Curious Map Book By Ashley Baynton-Williams Cover Image
ISBN: 9780226237152
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: University of Chicago Press - October 20th, 2015

Dispatches from Dystopia - Kate Brown

Ever wondered how historians decide what subjects to pursue? Kate Brown narrates both the back- and front- stories of history-making in six vivid Dispatches from Dystopia. Her explanation involves three factors: events occur to individual bodies in specific locations, and their narratives are reconstructed by historians influenced by their own particular biographies. “Objective” history seldom acknowledges these subjective factors, but Brown shows that personal experience is as valuable an archive as any other; without having lived in Ohio’s rust belt, she wouldn’t have compared failed US and Russian cities, or have understood how a nuclear state’s official secrets can be easier to find than the physical effects concealed on the bodies of its citizens, or explored the “accidental time capsule” of a Seattle hotel, where the abandoned possessions of evacuated Japanese-American residents still wait to be reclaimed.

Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten By Kate Brown Cover Image
ISBN: 9780226242798
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: University of Chicago Press - May 1st, 2015

Theater of Cruelty: Art, Film, and the Shadows of War - Ian Buruma

The next best thing to a new history by Ian Buruma, twice named one of Foreign Policy’s top 100 public intellectuals, is a collection of his fine essays. Theater of Cruelty (New York Review Books, $29.95) contains twenty-eight pieces of commentary and criticism Buruma has published over the last two decades. Putting near-equal weight on the two halves of his title, Theater includes a look at the plays of Alan Bennett, Mike Leigh, and the dramatic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary as well as films by Fassbinder, Eastwood, Herzog, and Kurosawa, and considers the “theatrical” with an exhibit of David Bowie’s “outrageously beautiful” costumes. “Theater” here also means “theater of war,” and Buruma tests the cultural icons against humanity’s darker impulses. Admitting his “fearful fascination with power and cruelty,” Buruma is especially eloquent on events and people that tangle the lines of art and violence; was Leni Riefenstahl both a Nazi and an artist? Is such a hybrid possible? Similar questions arise with the Japanese painter Foujita, who joined the French modernists before the war but produced images praising Japanese militarism during it. While Buruma deeply admires art and artists, he understands they are not infallible. At bottom, his work is a warning to all that “cultural sophistication, alas, is no prophylactic against the allure of terrible ideas.”
Theater of Cruelty: Art, Film, and the Shadows of War By Ian Buruma Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590177778
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: New York Review Books - September 16th, 2014