Reading List: May-June 2002


What do faculty and administrators look forward to reading now that summer's here?

Ann Marie Rasmussen, associate professor of Germanic languages and literature, has turned from her "Attending to Literature" close-reading course for the MALS program to attend to her own reading list--kept close at hand on her Palm Pilot for easy reference.

She's looking to Robert Grudin's The Most Amazing Thing, described by its publisher as "a massive adventure story, spanning oceans and continents and bringing forth an abundant cast of characters...a sharp satire of manners and attitudes in the tradition of Gulliver's Travels and Huckleberry Finn," and "the story of a typical American man's search for empowerment and validation, in a world alive with sharply conflicting moral messages."

Rasmussen also lists Jefferson's Pillow, by Pulitzer Prize-winning George Mason University history professor Roger Wilkins, which shines an incisive light on founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Mason. Wilkins' work notes their conflicting attitudes toward race and the philosophical struggles involved in achieving their greatness, however flawed or incomplete.

Having just finished it, she strongly recommends The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina, by David Cecelski. "It's brilliant," she says, "absolutely brilliant" in its depiction of slavery, escape, abolition, and freedom in eastern North Carolina in the years before and during the Civil War.

University Archivist Tim Pyatt '81 describes himself as "a hobby boat builder and avid fisherman, so books related to those interests top my list." He will begin with Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. "I haven't read Moby-Dick since high school, and everyone who rereads it later in life always says they can't believe how much the book improves with age." He says he recently read Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea, the prize-winning book about the whaling accident that inspired the Melville novel. Fishing will be covered by North American Trout Fishing, by John Merwin, and My Story as Told By Water, by David James Duncan, which "contains essays about life, fishing, and rivers."

"I also plan to read several 'hard-boiled' detective novels in the style of James Ellroy and Dashiell Hammet, my favorite 'light' reading genre," he says. "Finally, I'll round things out with a few Duke histories, particularly those by Duke professor Robert Durden."

Religion professor Kalman Bland says he's intrigued by--if not exactly drawn to--Socratic Selling, "a popular seller, apparently, in the business world." He speculates about encountering chapters devoted to "a new junk-bond or fragrance called Sophist," or "the latest-model SUV, Metalphysics." More likely, he'll steep himself in "the stunning poetry of Wislawa Szymborska, in a volume called Miracle Fair. The lament for a dead beetle, 'Seen from Above,' is alone worth the price of admission to this poet's imagination." Because it's poetry, he says, "the words are few, demanding unlimited time to savor and plumb them. Only in summer is there enough time for doing that."

Bland finds there is also enough time for the Nero Wolfe mysteries of Rex Stout. "So gastrophiliac, literate, and shrewd a detective, who frequently allows himself an eloquent 'Phooey,' ought not be missed."

After his first year as vice president for student affairs, Larry Moneta says he has a summer reading list that includes several themes from the workplace, and then lightens up to give him a rest. He's "interested in the notion of privacy versus technology, especially as it applies to the security needs of this campus," so he'll be reading David Brin's The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? Questions of "community and civility" bring him to The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, or "anything else," by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times.

For a class he'll teach in the fall on leadership, Moneta plans to read through The Leadership Challenge, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, and Exploring Leadership for College Students Who Want to Make a Difference, by Susan Komives, Nance Lucas, and Timothy McMahon. Professing his status as "a Ludlum fan," Moneta is saving a spot on his summer shelf for Robert Ludlum's The Prometheus Deception. "I need this one to finish the series."

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