On The Shelf

The Magazine publishes a selection of general-interest books by alumni authors. For additional alumni books, see “In Their Own Words” at magazine.uchicago.edu/books.

thorntonUnimagined Community: Sex, Networks, and AIDS in Uganda and South Africa, by Robert J. Thornton, AM’74, PhD’78, University of California Press, 2008. In the 1990s the number of HIV cases fell in Uganda and rose in South Africa; meanwhile, Uganda had one of Africa’s highest fertility rates and South Africa the lowest. Thornton makes sense of this seeming contradiction by analyzing sexual networks in both countries. He examines property, mobility, social status, and political authority in each country to create a broader understanding of AIDS transmission and suggests new ways to fight the epidemic.

Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution, by Mark S. Blumberg, AM’87, PhD’88, Oxford University Press, 2008. What can we learn from physical deformities, like conjoined twins or people born without limbs? Blumberg explores biological oddities from an evolutionary perspective. Anomalies are a natural part of evolution, he argues, and what we see as deformities are really only alternative paths for development.

The Paintings of J. Allen St. John, Grand Master of Fantasy, by Stephen D. Korshak, AB’74, and J. David Spurlock, Vanguard, 2008. In the early 20th century, Society of Illustrators hall of fame artist J. Allen St. John drew the first depiction of author Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan. He also illustrated for fantasy authors such as Jack Williamson and Robert E. Howard. An American who studied art with his mother in Paris in the 1880s, he later gained fame in the world of pulp magazines and adventure books. Besides St. John’s artwork, Korshak’s book includes an in-depth biography and essays by science-fiction authors.

Crucible of Conflict: Tamil and Muslim Society on the East Coast of Sri Lanka, by Dennis B. McGilvray, AM’68, PhD’74, Duke University Press, 2008. On Sri Lanka’s eastern coast, three peoples—the Sinhalese Buddhists, the Tamil Hindus, and the Tamil-speaking Muslims—have been deep in conflict since the 1980s, when a guerilla war for an independent Tamil homeland erupted. In the first full-length ethnography of this region, McGilvray draws on 30 years of fieldwork to discuss the Tamil and Muslim inhabitants of an agricultural town in the Ampara District. He compares their practices and institutions and analyzes interethnic conflict on the eastern coast, an area ravaged by the 2004 tsunami.

Comparative Journeys: Essays on Literature and Religion East and West, by Anthony C. Yu, PhD’69, Columbia University Press, 2008. Through close textual reading and an avowed intimacy with both Western and Eastern cultures, Yu, a Chicago professor emeritus in humanities and the Divinity School, explores the overlap between literature and religion in China and the West. He argues for a kinship between these supposedly incongruent cultures. By juxtaposing Eastern and Western texts, Yu highlights how they relate to one another.

The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces, by Frank Wilczek, SB’70, Basic Books, 2008. Wilczek, a Nobel laureate in physics, explores the implications of the discovery that matter is built from almost weightless units, and that the source of all mass is pure energy. In layman’s terms, he explains physicists’ quest for a unification theory of fundamental forces that will explain the structure of physical life.

Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse, edited by Paula Young Lee, AM’89, PhD’99, University of New Hampshire Press, 2008. The centralized municipal slaughterhouse found in 19th-century Europe and the Americas was a modern invention—a political response to the public’s lack of tolerance for “dirty” practices, such as killing animals by hand in a butcher shop’s back room. This interdisciplinary collection of essays (including one by Dorothee Brantz, AM’95, PhD’03) focuses on the effects of establishing slaughterhouses, meat commodification, and hygienic-slaughter practices in France, Germany, Britain, the United States, and Mexico.

Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography, edited by Karen Beckman and Jean Ma, AM’98, PhD’03, Duke University Press, 2008. This collection of essays, including Chicago cinema and media-studies professor Tom Gunning’s look at the practice of faking photographs, examines the changing nature of media, especially cinema and photography, in the digital age.

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