In the 1990s Richard B. Alley and his colleagues made headlines with the discovery that the last ice age came to an abrupt end over a period of only three years. In The two-mile time machine, Alley tells the fascinating history of global climate changes as revealed by reading the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland. He explains that humans have experienced an unusually temperate climate compared to the wild fluctuations that characterized most of prehistory. He warns that our comfortable environment could come to an end in a matter of years and tells us what we need to know in order to understand and perhaps overcome climate changes in the future.
Winner of the 2001 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science.
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Peter Novick illuminates the reasons Americans ignored the Holocaust for so long – how dwelling on German crimes interfered with Cold War mobilization; how American Jews not wanting to be thought of as victims, avoided the subject. He explores in detail the decisions that later moved the Holocaust to the center of American life: Jewish leaders invoking its memory to muster support for Israel and to come out on top in a sordid competition over what group had suffered most; politicians using it to score points with Jewish voters. With insight and sensitivity, Novick raises searching questions about these developments. Have American Jews, by making the Holocaust the emblematic Jewish experience, given Hitler a posthumous victory, tacitly endorsing his definition of Jews as despised pariahs? Does the Holocaust really teach useful lessons and sensitize us to atrocities, or, by making the Holocaust the measure, does it make lesser crimes seem not so bad? What are we to make of the fact that while Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars for museums recording a European crime, there is no museum of American slavery?
Winner of the 2000 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
Breaking histories of silence and invisibility, Wall tappings presents an international collection of women’s writings, from prisons around the world and across centuries. “These are the marginal texts in a tradition of marginal texts,” writes Judith A. Scheffler in introducing her groundbreaking anthology of writing by women prisoners. Unique in its geographic and historical ranges, this rich collection gives a voice to women whose stories have been long neglected. Speaking from settings as diverse as a Roman prison cell in 203 AD, the labor camps of Siberia in the 1930s, and a Philippines prison in the 1980s, these writers explore the ways in which actual incarceration rests in the shadow of imprisonment within larger society.
Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff
Stacy Schiff’s Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) brings to shimmering life one of the greatest literary love stories of our time. Vladimir Nabokov—the émigré author of Lolita; Pale fire; and Speak, memory—wrote his books first for himself, second for his wife, Véra, and third for no one at all.
“Without my wife,” he once noted, “I wouldn’t have written a single novel.” Set in prewar Europe and postwar America, spanning much of the century, the story of the Nabokovs’ fifty-two-year marriage reads as vividly as a novel. Véra, both beautiful and brilliant, is its outsized heroine—a woman who loves as deeply and intelligently as did the great romantic heroines of Austen and Tolstoy. Stacy Schiff’s Véra is a triumph of the biographical form.
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography or autobiography.
Filled with humor, warmth, insight and wisdom, Dinner with friends is a modern day masterpiece on the destruction of today’s marriage. Through Margulies’s flawless use of language and his ability to convey the truest of dialogue and characterization, we watch, as the two couples do, our closest friends going through a wrenching breakup. Not only does he create vivid detail of a marriage in decline, he also brilliantly depicts the couple’s closest friends, and how this new mirror to their own marriage sends them through a whirlwind of raw emotion and self-reflection. –amazon.com
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In “A temporary matter,” a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant. She is an important and powerful new voice. –amazon.com
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
In And their children after them, the writer/photographer team Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson return to the land and families captured in James Agee and Walker Evans’s inimitable Let us now praise famous men, extending the project of conscience and chronicling the traumatic decline of King Cotton. With this continuation of Agee and Evans’s project, Maharidge and Williamson not only uncover some surprising historical secrets relating to the families and to Agee himself, but also effectively lay to rest Agee’s fear that his work, from lack of reverence or resilience, would be but another offense to the humanity of its subjects. Williamson’s ninety-part photo essay includes updates alongside Evans’s classic originals. –amazon.com
Winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.
Between 1929 and 1945, two great travails were visited upon the American people: the Great Depression and World War II. In a single volume, the author tells how America endured, and eventually prevailed, in the face of those unprecedented calamities. He demonstrates that the economic crisis of the 1930s was more than a reaction to the excesses of the 1920s. For more than a century before the Crash, America’s unbridled industrial revolution had gyrated through repeated boom and bust cycles, consuming capital and inflicting misery on city and countryside alike. Nor was the alleged prosperity of the 1920s as uniformly shared as legend portrays. Countless Americans eked out threadbare lives on the margins of national life. Roosevelt’s New Deal wrenched opportunity from the trauma of the 1930s and created a lasting legacy of economic and social reform, but it was afflicted with shortcomings and contradictions as well. The author details the New Deal’s problems and defeats, as well as its achievements. Yet, even as the New Deal was coping with the Depression, a new menace was developing abroad. Exploiting Germany’s own economic burdens, Hitler reached out the disaffected, turning their aimless discontent into loyal support for the Nazi Party. In Asia, Japan harbored imperial ambitions of its own. The same generation of Americans who battled the Depression eventually had to shoulder arms in another conflict that wreaked worldwide destruction, ushered in the nuclear age, and forever changed their way of life and their country’s relationship to the rest of the world. In the second installment of the chronicle, the author explains how the nation agonized over its role in the conflict, how it fought the war, and why the U.S. emerged victorious, and why the consequences of victory were sometimes sweet, sometimes ironic. The author analyzes the determinants of American strategy, the painful choices faced by commanders and statesmen, and the agonies inflicted on the millions of ordinary Americans who were compelled to swallow their fears and face battle as best they could.
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for history.
Having proclaimed as a young composer that I would “never write a symphony,” I look with some surprise at the premiere of my second.
My thought then was that there were so many great symphonies in the repertoire that I could satisfy only my ego by writing yet another. Only the death of countless friends from AIDS prompted me to write in our largest orchestral form. Mahler once described writing a symphony as creating a world. My Symphony No. 1 was about world-scale tragedy and, I felt, needed a comparably epic form.
This second symphony has a different genesis. The Boston Symphony contacted my publisher with a request that I write a second symphony to honor the l00th anniversary of their justly famous Symphony Hall. At first I declined, stating my earlier reservations about writing in this form, and offered another kind of orchestral piece, but they were quite insistent.
I started thinking about what I could do that would feel truly symphonic, and my thoughts turned to the String Quartet I composed for the farewell tour of the Cleveland Quartet in 1996.
Two things about the quartet-as-symphony intrigued me. Firstly, the Quartet, like Symphony No. 1, drew from very intense human feelings. The symphony dealt with inadvertent loss: death. The quartet, written as it was as the valedictory piece for the disbanding Cleveland Quartet, dealt with chosen loss: farewell.
Secondly, I knew even as I was composing it that the string writing had acquired a very orchestral quality. Just as Beethoven’s Grossa Fuga stretches quartet playing past its limits, so does my quartet stretch the players’ range, dynamics, emotional energy and technique. And, interestingly, the Beethoven is often played by orchestral strings in the concert hall.
Once I decided that the quartet was indeed ripe for orchestral expansion, I wrestled with how that should best be accomplished. Rescoring it for full orchestra — or even strings and percussion — would certainly expand the piece’s timbrel palette. But wouldn’t that in fact diminish the intensity of the work, even as its dynamic range widened? Part of the intensity of strings derives from their relatively limited (say, compared to brass) dynamic range. Fortissimos must be achieved by intensity, not volume. If even the Grossa Fuga were redone for full orchestra, tension would yield to bombast. So my final choice was to leave the work in the strings, rewriting it when necessary and adding to it when the opportunity arose. And, to come full circle, this also satisfied my reservations about writing another symphony in a repertoire of masterpieces: the string symphony is another animal entirely, and there aren’t many of them.
. . .
The result of this is a work that deals with the string orchestra as a whole body of sound unique in itself, and this transforms the string quartet to symphony and the string section to string orchestra.
Architecturally, the 35-minute work is in five movements that bear a superficial resemblance to the arch-form principles of Bartok’s fourth quartet (movements I and V are related and movements II and IV are related, with III as a central “night music”), but in fact all five movements of the symphony are also united by similar motives and thematic content. Specifically, the symphony is based upon a motto composed of even repetitions of a single tone, and a sequence of disjunct minor thirds. There are also four pitch centers recurring throughout the work: C, C-sharp, G and G-sharp.–John Corigliano
Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for music.
Repair is body work in C. K. Williams’s sensual poems, but it is also an imaginative treatment of the consternations that interrupt life’s easy narrative. National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Williams keeps the self in repair despite love, death, social disorder, and the secrets that separate and join intimates. These forty poems experiment with form but maintain what Alan Williamson has heralded Williams for having so steadily developed from French influences: “the poetry of the sentence.” –amazon.com
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
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