By Katie Estill '75
St. Martin's Press
"The world is always evolving beneath the surface of things," sheriff's deputy Patti Callahan muses midway through Katie Estill's second novel. Patti might well be talking about the book she anchors along with two other vividly rendered female protagonists. Sand Williams, a former World Health Organization correspondent, has returned to the Ozarks after more than a decade away. She lives in her dead father's cabin, next door to born-again Christian Norah Everston and her family. Against the richly detailed backdrop of a Missouri summer, Norah asks Sand to check in on her son Timothy and stepdaughter Dahlia while the Everstons are in Myrtle Beach. The night of a cataclysmic storm, Sand discovers that Dahlia has been murdered in her own bedroom, stabbed repeatedly, drained, and posed bloodlessly in her bed.
A fine, taut follow-up to Estill's Evening Would Find Me, this novel distinguishes itself most through the subtle way it traces the effects of Dahlia's murder upon Norah, Sand, and Patti. At every turn, Estill shows us how these women's worlds evolve under the plot's surface elements. Norah's relationship with her unreligious husband Lyman crumbles under the strain of the murder investigation. Sand grapples with unresolved emotions toward the father who trained her to photograph horrific scenes fearlessly and left her feeling perpetually unable to please him. As the only female deputy in her county, Patti has revolutionized her police force's treatment of sexual assault cases but, years after a failed marriage, dreams of building a more fulfilling domestic life.
In the end, who killed Dahlia is almost beside the point. This novel's most gripping developments and haunting revelations lie in the complicated terrain of Dahlia's survivors' lives and the rural landscape that shapes and connects them.
For more on Dahlia's Gone, see www.katieestill.com.
--Sarah J. Heidt '97, assistant professor of English
Inconvenient Stories: Portraits and Interviews with Vietnam Veterans
By Jeffrey Wolin '72
What do we expect to see in the faces of men who have survived war, psychological trauma, and a sense of abandonment by the nation they served? This collection of portraits by Jeffrey Wolin, the Ruth N. Halls Professor of Photography at Indiana University, confronts us with that question on every page by offering three distinct views of the persistence of the Vietnam War in the lives of men who served there.
Wolin's photographs show us middle-aged veterans who exhibit few visible scars of their wartime experience, but the brief interviews that accompany these portraits reveal that the real scars left by combat are hidden from the eye. Few have escaped their war without a sense of shame or betrayal, and many suffer from the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Wolin's portraits are made more haunting by the third element: fading Polaroids showing the men as young soldiers, posing with their buddies at jungle firebases or in front of helicopters. Some stand before flags in their dress uniforms, gazing at the camera with the disciplined eyes of men who take pride in their service.
The book is timely: several of its subjects note a growing sense of despair as they watch a new generation of soldiers share their experience. Others speak of their renewed belief in the values of honor, patriotism, and service. But regardless of one's political convictions, the human cost of our nation's military engagements may be seen in these moving portraits of men who have been irrevocably shaped by the experience of war.
--Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, professor of English
Allerton Bywater: a Yorkshire boyhood
By Bruce Haywood
Bruce Haywood taught German at Kenyon from 1954 to 1980, and for the final fourteen years of that career he also served as provost. (Full disclosure here: Haywood hired me to teach at Kenyon.) In 2005 he published The Essential College, recalling his Kenyon career as a way of exploring the nobility of the idea of a liberal education. This new book, despite occasional proleptic glances at his post-World War II life, is what filmdom might call an oblique prequel: a set of reflections on the Yorkshire upbringing that served, in the 1930s, as father to the man who, more than any other figure, shaped Kenyon during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s.
Those who knew Haywood will find much of interest in this book. Did you know that his youthful nickname was "Juice"? That he was an occasional church organist, a sax player, and a javelin thrower? These bits of homey information (and many others) emerge from his detailings of family and village life, of friends and rivals, of ambitions and constraints.
And it is these latter two themes that make the book worthy of a wider audience, for Haywood recovers a world that most present-day Americans can scarcely imagine--the coal-mining town of Allerton Bywater, defined by the dominant polarities of English life in the era: male versus female, church versus chapel, working class versus middle class, stubborn individualism versus proud communalism. He describes a world of clannish loyalties and their fortifying rituals, a world of us-versus-them.
The most important tension in the volume is the one that Haywood himself felt, for this work is above all a study of the shaping of his identity. Now proudly and happily American, he sounds almost Jeffersonian in decrying the blighting of civic life in Britain under the weight of monarchism and class exclusiveness. And yet he loves his native Yorkshire--its topography and climate, its foods and customs, its games and gestures. And above all, its language.
For it was his love of language that allowed Haywood to escape from the confinements of Allerton Bywater. His mother started him reading at a very early age. Always a good student, he had an instinctive love of the spoken word. (He transcribes passages of Yorkshire dialect to illustrate the monosyllabic power of the tongue.) He began his formal study of German in grammar school. And it was this ability to speak the language of the enemy that spared him service with the West Yorkshire Infantry Platoon, a unit that bore an astonishing casualty rate of 90 percent on D-Day.
Allerton Bywater is by turns funny and serious, analytic and nostalgic--a fine read. Those who are curious about the history of Kenyon will come away from this humane volume with a heightened appreciation for the man who kept the Chalmers legacy alive.
--Reed Browning, professor emeritus of history
Write for Life: Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit Through Journal Writing
By Sheppard Kominars '53
Cleveland Clinic Press
Years ago, when Sheppard Kominars found himself held hostage to crippling migraines, he turned to the page for escape. At the suggestion of his family doctor, he began keeping a journal.
At first, Kominars didn't see the point. "In my imagination," he writes, "I saw adolescent girls writing 'Dear Diary' in their notebooks. That's just not me! I thought. I can't do that!" As his writing sessions continued, however, he found that journal writing helped him "launch the day from a better place in myself." At last, he came to a realization that "I was not a migraine; I was merely having a migraine . . . In some mysterious way, journal writing helped me find my way not only through health issues but through [other] obstacles as well."
In Write for Life, Kominars maps out that mysterious way. Journaling, he writes, can be an act of confession, therapy, testimony, and self-discovery. Most remarkably, medical studies have found that keeping a journal can aid people struggling with illness, anxiety, or depression. Writing about trauma leads to improved immune function, lower blood pressure, and a more optimistic outlook.
Write for Life offers a wealth of journaling activities, designed to give readers permission to express themselves and find their way to health, whether physical, mental, or spiritual. "Beginning today," Kominars writes, "you can begin to care about what has already happened--not as a source of
worry, but as a basis for loving your life in a new way."
Readers may learn more about the book online at www.writeforlifeccp.com.
Next to Godliness: Finding the Sacred in Housekeeping
Edited by Alice Peck 1979
Skylight Paths Publishing
What's the real dirt on housekeeping? We all do it, but how many of us consider its entwinement with our inner lives as well as our outer ones?
In Next to Godliness, Alice Peck brings together writings that illuminate the everyday practices of sweeping, washing dishes, and doing laundry. Less an anthology than a "commonplace book," dipping in and out of texts, Next to Godliness excerpts wisdom from such figures as Pablo Neruda, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, the Dalai Lama, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Housekeeping, Peck's selections reveal, can be discipline, meditation, prayer, ritual. It is a way of shoring ourselves against death, and of finding meaning. There are some surprises: journalist Louise Rafkin documents an American's astonishment at Japanese cleanliness, and at its contradictory side, the ability to buy dirty underpants from streetside vending machines. And there are nuggets of gold: Mother Teresa advises, "Take a broom and clean someone's house. That says enough."
The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly
By David Meerman Scott '83
John Wiley & Sons
Technology has changed advertising. Consumers Tivo their commercials, read the Internet instead of newspapers, and get recommendations through social networking websites.
Far from being bad news for marketers, however, the tech revolution can charge up cheap, targeted, and powerful ads. That's the argument David Meerman Scott makes in his latest book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Under the old rules, says Scott, advertising had to appeal to the masses and rely on interrupting people to get their attention. Communication was only one-way. New marketing and PR means creating a conversation with the consumer via blogs, useful website content, and a concentration on niche needs. "Nontargeted, broadcast pitches are spam," Scott writes, whereas focused content "helps buyers see that you and your organization 'get it.' Content drives action."
Full of compelling case studies such as the Mentos/Diet Coke geyser Internet phenomenon and the Sony BMG CD copy protection software fiasco, The New Rules explains the use of tools like podcasting, social media tags, and viral marketing in a clear, humorous style.
The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead
By Scott Kenemore '00
Zombies get a bad rap, but "few people stop to consider how much humans have to learn from zombies," writes Scott Kenemore. "What about all the good things zombies do?"
OK, maybe The Zen of Zombie is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it's brainy fun (ooh, brains). Broken down into two handy parts (ooh, parts), "The 24 Habits of Highly Effective Zombies" and "Your Guide to Complete Zombification in 90 Days," Kenemore's book mocks self-help and motivational tomes while forcing the reader to think about the advice they offer in new and creative ways. Maybe you feel beaten down by routine. Model yourself after the zombie: "Giving things power over it is not something a zombie does." Instead, the zombie takes for granted its power to change its world. Feeling old? Age means nothing to a zombie. Things getting complicated? "Simplicity is key to the freewheeling essence of a zombie. The more things you can eliminate from your routine (like personal hygiene, clothing, and complete sentences) the better."
Me like. Zen of Zombie hilarious, thought-provoking. Turns out, zombies have a taste for the funny bone, too.
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