A remarkable new collection of short stories by Ron Hansen M.A. ’95, Nancy C. Unger’s historical survey of women and the environment, and much more.
WICKEDNESS, TRUE ROMANCE, AND THAT SPY FOLLOWING YOU
There are stories that, the first time you read them, take your breath away: perhaps because the beauty of the language is sublime, the arc of the tale exhilarating; or the world as rendered hits you like a blow to the gut; or the revelations therein will, you know, haunt for years to come. Certainly that was my experience the first time I read “Wickedness,” the recounting of an epic Nebraska blizzard by Ron Hansen M.A. ’95. That story is the second one served up in She Loves Me Not: New and Selected Stories (Scribner, 2012), a collection in which the pursuit of truths about human existence range from a startling meditation on place (“Nebraska”) to tales of murder and mayhem (“She Loves Me Not,” where a love triangle results in a bungled killing) to encounters with tears-inducing hilarity (“My Kid’s Dog,” in which it’s the founder of the feast vs. Fido).
“Wilde in Omaha” tracks an encounter between a young newspaper reporter and the famed Irish poet and playwright and coiner of epigrams; along the way, the story explores the truths and fictions we make of our lives. “My Communist” is a tale told by a dissident Polish priest who has come to the Bay Area in the waning days of the Cold War; he realizes he’s being followed by a spy—a fellow Pole with whom he shares a common history, a love for Christmas kutia and Wawel Castle and the geography of home that has shaped their destinies.
|Ron Hansen reads from She Loves Me Not
Hansen is the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Professor of arts and humanities at Santa Clara and, I should note by way of full disclosure, the literary editor for this magazine. Earlier this academic year, Hansen gave a reading at the Fess Parker Studio Theatre, offering up a couple gems on display here. It was also a literary first: a joint reading with novelist Bo Caldwell, to whom Hansen is married.
Since She Loves Me Not was published in November, it has garnered glowing reviews from the New York Times to the Washington Post to the San Francisco Chronicle, which presents this book as evidence that “Ron Hansen is easily one of America’s truest and finest living writers.” Well, yes. Steven Boyd Saum
As Nancy C. Unger notes early in Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History (Oxford University Press, 2012)—a brilliant, groundbreaking survey—the term “nature’s housekeepers” was not coined until 1992. But the idea that American women’s role in relationship to the environment was an extension of their duties in the home had been around in various iterations for some time.
At the end of the 19th century, for example, when women were thought by most of the American middle class to be so sentimental, selfless, and nurturing that they should stay in the home “where they could remain immune to the corruptions of urban life,” women “found an outlet for their energies in carrying out environmental activism.” The irony Unger illuminates here is that this culturally defined idea of women’s essential nature, “when taken to its logical conclusion … encouraged the notion of women as uniquely qualified and obligated to lift the environmental burdens shouldered by all but borne disproportionally by marginalized populations and communities.”
Unger is able to see a complex, textured history of women’s relationship to the environment that is characterized by remarkable ebbs and flows. In pioneer days, the hardscrabble struggle to make ends meet meant that women shared outdoor farming chores with men. By the Depression, “even as [men and women] continued to share the burdens of farming, the two sexes increasingly worked apart.”
Unger’s purpose here is not to argue that women are necessarily more environmentally sensitive than men. After all, the popularity among women of extravagantly feathered hats in the 19th century led to the decimation of bird populations. Nor does Unger propose that there is a unitary women’s point of view. In her chapter about America’s westward expansion, for example, she draws vividly on letters and diaries to show vastly different responses to the move West: wives who willingly followed their husbands into the wilderness, mothers who hated to leave behind the settled comforts of home, and daughters who thrilled at the idea of an adventure usually available only to boys.
Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers is an exemplary work of academic scholarship. It draws on and weaves together research strands from environmental history, gender studies, and American studies in revelatory ways. Unger’s prose is clear, thought-provoking, and energetic. Her choices of personalities and organizations to illustrate her points—Lois Gibbs, who raised the alarm about Love Canal pollution, for example, or the Cambridge Plant and Garden Club, which went from the sort of apolitical ladies club regularly derided in New Yorker cartoons to an organization that raised the alarm about nuclear fallout—are fascinating. An interested lay reader will likely find Unger’s book an intellectually exhilarating read. Alden Mudge
JAPAN IS ILLUMINATED
Photography and Japan (Reaktion Books, 2011), by Karen M. Fraser, is one of a handful books in English to cover the entire history of Japanese photography, from the first daguerreotype of a feudal lord in 1857 to the digitally manipulated photos of the 21st century. Fraser is an assistant professor of art history at Santa Clara, where her courses taught have included Contact Zones: Arts East and West. Rather than tackle her subject chronologically, here Fraser uses themes to explore images across the decades. Among them: identity and representation, the city and urban life, and war and its aftermath. The result is a fascinating, lyrical journey through light and time. Holly Hanbury-Brown ’12
PRAISE FOR THE WORLD AROUND US
A Common Glory (Browser Books, 2011), Penelope Duckworth’s first full collection of poems, is bound together by praise and worship for God and divided into four sections: Glory Bound, honoring passed relatives and memories that remind her of God’s omnipresence; Common Ground, poems thankful and in awe of life on Earth; Common Prayer, heavily influenced by Hebrew scripture and the Gospels; and Glory Be, a celebration of the seven sacraments and religious figures that influence modern-day worship. A lecturer in SCU’s Department of Theatre and Dance, Duckworth has published poetry in The American Scholar, Yankee, and Theology Today. She is a playwright and Episcopal priest, and she has been artist in residence at Trinity Cathedral in San Jose. Nick Carrillo ’12
CHAPTER, VERSE, AND DRAMA
First and Second Chronicles (Liturgical Press, 2012) by John C. Endres, S.J., is the 10th volume of the Old Testament series in the New Collegeville Bible Commentary collection, a set of studies by scriptural scholars for preachers, teachers, and general readers. Fr. Endres is a professor of Old Testament studies at SCU’s Jesuit School of Theology, where he has taught for 30 years. DS
A Companion to Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (Brill, 2012), co-edited by Phyllis Brown, brings together scholarly analyses of Hrotsvit, a canoness in a German convent during the 10th century, and the author of poems, stories, plays, and histories of particular interest to those studying medieval Christian poetry and drama, monastic history, and medieval theology. Brown is a professor of English and the associate provost at Santa Clara. Fellow SCU contributors to this volume include Michael Zampelli, S.J., the Paul Locatelli, S.J., Professor of theatre and dance, and Gary Macy, the John S. Nobili, S.J., Professor of theology. SBS
COMPUTERS, MANAGEMENT, AND ENGINEERING
Programming with Java (Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013), by Radhika S. Grover, is a comprehensive introduction to the programming language and is paired with an online code for multimedia learning. Grover teaches in SCU’s computer engineering and electrical engineering departments.
Equipment Management in the Post-Maintenance Era: A New Alternative to Total Productive Maintenance (Productivity Press, 2012), by Kern Peng, is a guide for equipment managers charged with keeping ahead of the curve with advances in manufacturing technology, including robotics. Peng is a lecturer in engineering management and leadership. Sarah Perkins ’13