Saturday, October 30, 2010
ISBN 10: 0-8229-4364-6
Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009
Back when I was in grad school, my advisor kept reminding there's "more to history than just one damn thing after another." Someone should have told Frank Uekoetter that. This is a solidly researched book, it's jam-packed with facts, but there comes a point where the reader starts to suffer from information overload and just wants to know what it all means. I'm not sure Uekoetter ever quite gets to that point.
On the other hand, when it comes to tracking the evolution of air pollution and regulation in the U.S. and Germany, this book does lay out a clear time line, from worrying about coal smut back in the 1890s to passage of the Clean Air Act and other legislation in the mid-twentieth century. If a person happened to be a grad student or an environmental historian looking for a topic for further research, Uekoetter provides plenty of tantalizing leads: a few pages about Milwaukee, a few pages about Chicago, a quick mention of St. Louis, and so on.
In short, this is a book packed full of facts, dryer than dust (which counts as an air pollutant, too, but doesn't get quite as much attention as chemical plumes and coal soot), that would be a good addition to the book shelf of any academic specializing in environmental issues, which is why I read it (even though I'm no longer an academic). If I was still teaching science and technology courses, I'd hang on to it simply because it would be a good source for finding specific examples I could weave into lectures about industry, regulation, and pollution. For the general reader, however, it may prove more soporific than enlightening.
Still, if you think it could be useful, The Age of Smoke can be yours for $12.50 plus shipping costs ($3 for media mail, $6 for priority, and $13 for international).
Update: Unbelievable. Somebody actually bought this. Yes, it's solid, scholarly work, but it's also boring as hell.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Cincinnati, OH: Story Press, 1994.
Once upon a time I fantasized about writing fiction. I used to have a shelf full of books with titles similar to this one. Over time, I realized I was not going to grow up to be Margaret Atwood (or even Barbara Cartland). My wordsmithing talents fell in another area, that of not-so-creative nonfiction (i.e., translating scientific jargon into language 7th graders can understand), and I gradually jettisoned the various "how to" manuals dealing with fiction that I had acquired. This is the last one.
The Art and Craft of Novel Writing was first published in 1989. This copy is the trade paperback edition from 1994. I've hung on to it because it's good, lots of useful advice on plotting, dialog, and the various other components of a readable novel illustrated with snippets from works by authors in a variety of genres and time periods. If you're still cherishing the fantasy of being next year's Stephanie Meyers, this book can be yours for $4 plus shipping ($3 for media mail, $6 for priority, $12 for international).