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Mysteries of the Deep
All you need to know about lost continents and sea monsters.
By David Wicinas
By Richard Ellis, C'59.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. 352 pp., $27.50.
THE SEARCH FOR THE GIANT SQUID
By Richard Ellis, C'59.
New York: The Lyons Press, 1998. 368 pp., $35.00..
When I applied to Penn in 1971, the application
form asked me to identify the most influential books in my life. I cited
Jules Verne's Mysterious Island. As a young man, I admired Verne's
penchant for exploring realms beyond the accepted boundaries of civilization.
Those same sorts of literary forays still fascinate
me as a middle-aged man, so I leapt at the chance to review two new books
by author and painter Richard Ellis: Imagining Atlantis and The
Search for the Giant Squid. Lost continents and legendary sea monsters?
Sounded like a plot summary for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
With these painstakingly researched books, Richard
Ellis explores two of the sea's great puzzles. Atlantis has fascinated
western civilization since the fourth century B.C. when Plato wrote the
Timaeus and the Critias and spun his tale of a fabulous
land once shimmering with wealth but now lost beneath the waves. Since
Plato, as many as 10,000 books have attempted to dredge up plausible explanations
Fewer works have focused exclusively on giant squid.
But sea monsters with arms "curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas,"
as Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick, have inspired writers from
Homer to Peter Benchley. And who can fault them? Although the kraken,
as ancients called the giant squid, spends most of its life in the ocean's
icy depths, we know from isolated sightings that it can grow longer than
a tractor trailer, grab victims with two elongated whip-like tentacles,
clutch them inside eight more arms studded with toothed suckers, and see
through unblinking eyes bigger than dinner plates. The giant squid, writes
Ellis, "is the only living animal for which the term sea monster
is truly applicable."
A noted painter of undersea themes, Richard Ellis has
also authored many encyclopedic studies on marine natural history. But
as anyone who has ever sat down to read a World Book knows, encyclopedic
is an adjective that cuts two ways. Imagining Atlantis and The
Search for the Giant Squid deliver oceans of detail, but the sheer
amount of data may daunt all but the most motivated readers.
For example, history records less than 200 encounters
between Homo sapiens and Architeuthis, the Linnean classification
for the genus of giant squid. Yet one chapter in The Search for the
Giant Squid recounts almost 30 such incidents. Few seem to merit the
spotlight. Probably the most sensational occurred in 1873 when a giant
squid wrapped its tentacles around the boat of some Newfoundland fishermen.
Most sightings of the kraken generate far less drama. The squid is usually
about to expire, if not long dead. Only the most ardent admirers of enormous
cephalopods will not find themselves nodding after two dozen decayed carcasses
have washed up on beaches or become entangled in fishing trawler nets.
Imagining Atlantis suffers from a similar overload
of detail. I devoured Ellis's introduction to Plato's Atlantis and the
Egyptian roots of the story. But then Ellis trudges out a comprehensive
examination of Atlantean literature. Regrettably, most writers who theorize
about the lost continent are charlatans, mystics, or "scholars setting
sail in quest of Atlantis with a more or less heavy cargo of erudition,
but without any compass except their imagination," as the French
classicist T. Henri Martin once wrote. Their fantasies place Atlantis
in the Arctic, the Caucasus, the Sahara, the Netherlands, the Bahamas,
you name it. Most make for flat reading.
Ellis's shifting arguments also proved frustrating.
Throughout The Search for the Giant Squid he takes pains to refute
the most sensational qualities attributed to Architeuthis and sticks
to facts like a scientific Joe Friday. No giant squid has ever surpassed
55 feet in length, he asserts, nor do they gather in schools. But in the
last few pages Ellis takes a new tack, writing that "instead of clinging
categorically to the closed system I have worked so hard to establish,
I ought to end this book with an open mind." He unveils two gripping
eyewitness accounts. In one, a U.S. Marine aboard a naval vessel off the
coast of Puerto Rico sights a live squid that appears to measure at least
100 feet. In another, a ship captain describes a school of giant squid
200 strong -- truly a mind-opening prospect.
Imagining Atlantis leads the reader through similarly
abrupt course changes. In his introduction Ellis writes, "I offer
no new or revolutionary explanation." Yet he devotes a hundred fascinating
pages to what may be the most plausible explanation for a real-life Atlantis
-- a massive volcanic eruption and seismic sea waves destroyed part of
the ancient Minoan civilization. After celebrating the accomplishments
of the Minoans, an advanced culture that flourished a thousand years before
Plato but collapsed long before the heyday of classical Greece, Ellis
focuses on Minoan archaeological remains discovered on the island of Thera,
now known as Santorini. Around 1500 B.C. a volcanic explosion, possibly
the second largest in history after Tambora in 1815, obliterated most
of Thera. Ellis scrutinizes the destructive force of volcanoes, delivering
a cavalcade of volcanologic tidbits. (When Krakatau blew, "debris
from the blast, some chunks eight feet around, fell over an area larger
than France.") Finally, Ellis examines tsunamis, which almost surely
inundated the Mediterranean after the Theran eruption and may have conveniently
parted the Red Sea for Moses.
Imagining Atlantis seems to argue persuasively
for the Thera-as-Atlantis hypothesis. But instead Ellis concludes his
book by theorizing that Plato fabricated the tale of Atlantis, synthesizing
Egyptian impressions of the Minoan disaster and contemporary accounts
of an earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the Greek city of Helice.
I finished the book confused and somewhat irritated.
Readers of Imagining Atlantis and The Search
for the Giant Squid who yearn for voyages of discovery should be forewarned
that although thrills await them in these books, so do many long passages
of flat water. Scholars and students, however, should value these volumes
as well-documented overviews of two enduring mysteries of the deep.
David Wicinas, C'75, author of Sagebrush and Cappuccino:
Confessions of an LA Naturalist, writes about natural history in California.
A selection of recent books by alumni and faculty, or otherwise of
interest to the University community. Descriptions are compiled from information
supplied by the authors and publishers.
WHAT EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DIVORCE AND CUSTODY: Judges, Lawyers,
and Therapists Share Winning Strategies on How to Keep the Kids, the Cash,
and Your Sanity
By Gayle Rosenwald Smith, CW'72, and Sally Abrahms.
New York: Perigree, 1998. 340 pp., $14.95.
Here is an insider's guide to divorce and custody issues
with advice from judges, lawyers, therapists, and mothers who have gone
through this challenging legal process. Designed for women at every stage
of divorce, it covers a wide range of legal strategies, as well as financial
and psychological issues, from the pros and cons of various custody arrangements
to what to tell the kids. Smith is a Philadelphia lawyer and Abrahms is
the author of Children in the Crossfire.
OVARIAN CANCER: Controversies in Management
Edited by David M. Gershenson, C'67, and William P. McGuire.
New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998.
463 pp., $75.00.
Believing that a dissection of the important controversies
will help advance ovarian-cancer research, physicians Gershenson and McGuire
assembled the world's leading authorities to address some 20 different
aspects of the field of ovarian-cancer management, including prevention,
early detection, and therapy. In addition to the conventional topics of
surgical, radiotherapeutic, and chemotherapeutic interventions, the editors
included chapters on the current status of screening, prophylactic oophorectomy,
palliative care, quality of life, post-therapy surveillance, and the clinical
relevance of laboratory investigations. Gershenson is the Anderson clinical
faculty chair for cancer treatment and research, as well as the director
of the Sandra G. Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program at the University
of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
THE WORKS OF JONATHAN EDWARDS: Letters and Personal Writings
Edited by George S. Claghorn, Gr'53.
New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998. 896 pp., $80.00.
This volume gathers together for the first time all
known extant letters and major personal writings of Colonial theologian
(and former president of what would become Princeton University) Jonathan
Edwards. For more than three decades, Claghorn, professor of philosophy
at West Chester University, has scoured America and Great Britain for
letters and documents by and about Edwards. The resulting compendium of
235 letters and four autobiographical texts reveals the private man behind
the treatises and sermons. They trace his relations with parents, siblings,
college classmates, friends, and family, as well as with political, religious,
and educational leaders of his day. New documents include Edwards's only
known statement on slavery and letters on the Indian mission in Stockbridge,
Mass., that display his interest in native Americans and his efforts on
POLLUTION MARKETS IN A GREEN COUNTRY TOWN: Urban Environmental Management
By Roger K. Raufer, Gr'84, Faculty.
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998. 288 pp., $59.95.
The brave new world of environmental economics -- complete
with pollution markets, emission brokers, and commodity allowances --
has been developing in the United States for several decades. This book
traces the evolution of such environmental management techniques in industrial
Philadelphia. Initially a "Green Country Towne," the city's
development led to significant pollution concerns, including rivers filled
with sewage, typhoid deaths, and smoky plumes from coal combustion. Technological
pollution controls improved conditions, but blunt regulatory tools eventually
evolved into more refined economic approaches. This book describes that
transition and the economic mechanisms that have emerged in recent decades,
as well as prospective markets for ozone precursors, greenhouse-gas emissions,
and environmental risk. Raufer is an independent consulting engineer and
an adjunct professor of city and regional planning in the Graduate School
of Fine Arts. He is currently assisting the United Nations with pollution
control in four Chinese cities.
JANE AUSTEN IN HOLLYWOOD
Edited by Linda Troost, G'80, Gr'85, & Sayre Greenfield, G'79, Gr'85.
Lexington, Ky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1998. 232 pp., $27.50.
In 1995 and 1996 an unprecedented six film or television
adaptations of Jane Austen's novels were produced, and all were critical
or box-office successes. What accounts for this explosion of interest?
Much of the appeal of these films lies in our nostalgic desire at the
end of the millennium for an age of greater politeness and sexual reticence.
Austen's ridicule of deceit and pretentiousness also appeals to our fin-de-siècle
sensibilities. The novels were changed, however, to enhance their appeal
to a wide popular audience, and the revisions reveal much about our own
culture and its values. These recent productions espouse explicitly 20th-century
feminist notions and reshape the Austenian hero to modern expectations.
Troost, associate professor of English at Washington and Jefferson College
in Washington, Pa., and Greenfield, associate professor of English at
the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, present 14 essays examining
the phenomenon of Austen as cultural icon, providing insights on the films
through a variety of critical approaches.
VAULT REPORTS GUIDE TO STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS: Insider Advice on
Doing It Right
By Jonathan R. Aspatore, C'97, with H.S. Hamadeh, L/WG'97, Samer Hamadeh,
& Mark Oldman.
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. 296 pp., $14.00.
Have you dreamed of owning your own company since you
were a little kid selling five-cent lemonades? This book takes readers
through the challenging yet rewarding process of starting your own business,
divulging the trade secrets of more than a dozen successful entrepreneurs,
offering checklists to consider before taking that first step, and showing
how to attract investors and employees to a new firm. Aspatore, who currently
works for the investment bank Wallace Willmore Cromwell & Co., has founded
two product companies and an entrepreneurial-consulting firm. H.S. Hamadeh
is co-founder and managing director of Vault Reports, an electronic-recruiting
company which also publishes employer profiles and industry guides.
BE PREPARED: The Complete Financial, Legal, and Practical Guide to
Living with a Life-Challenging Condition
By David Landay, W'61.
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. 544 pp., $29.95.
Intended to be a resource to anyone touched by a significant
illness or disability, this book offers advice on such matters as how
to minimize taxes while ill; evaluate and maximize use of health and life
insurance pensions; invest and use assets and government entitlements
to meet life goals; and choose a home- care company, nursing home, or
hospital. Landay, a theatrical attorney, founder of Broadway Cares/Equity
Fights AIDS, and a board member of the National Association of People
with AIDS, was motivated to research and write this book following the
death of his partner due to AIDS in 1992.
INTEREST GROUPS IN AMERICAN CAMPAIGNS: The New Face of Electioneering
By Mark J. Rozell, Faculty, and Clyde Wilcox.
Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1999. 186 pp., $19.95
Interest groups are -- and always have been -- controversial
yet necessary players in the American electoral process. To their detractors,
groups distort the process in favor of the better-organized and better-funded,
subverting true democracy. To their defenders, groups embody the Madisonian
notion of a competitive pluralist system and are the bulwark of our democracy.
In this era of weakened parties and the waning partisan attachments of
American voters, interest groups are playing an increasingly important
role in elections by performing many of the functions traditionally carried
out by the parties, including organizing activists at the grassroots,
training them, and giving them the skills to participate in politics.
Rozell, a political scientist and associate director of the Washington
Semester Program in Penn's political-science department, and Wilcox, professor
of political science at Georgetown University, have drawn upon their own
research and interviews with interest-group leaders, campaign-finance
filings, and election surveys to write this book focusing on the role
of interest groups in federal elections.
COOKING TO BEAT THE CLOCK: Delicious, Inspired Meals in 15 Minutes
By Sam Gugino, C'70.
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.
156 pp., $16.95.
Which sounds more appealing for dinner -- cold pizza
or Provençal mushroom ragout over polenta? A can of soup or pork medallions
with cider and mashed sweet potatoes? James Beard Award-winning food journalist
Sam Gugino demonstrates in his new cookbook that it doesn't take much
time to produce a delicious meal. He has devised a host of secret strategies
for getting organized so cooking dinner is quick and painless. He approaches
the overall kitchen scene with four key principles in mind: flavor, organization,
focus, and creativity. To this he adds time-saving techniques that drastically
cut the preparation time for meal-sized entrees to 15 minutes or less.
Gugino is the "Tastes" columnist for Wine Spectator magazine.
CAPE MAY, QUEEN OF THE SEASIDE RESORTS: Its History and Architecture
By George E. Thomas, Gr'75, Faculty, & Carl E. Doebley, C'74.
Cape May, N.J.: Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, 1998. 254 pp., $40.00.
Cape May is the best-preserved, late-19th-century seaside
resort remaining in America. Somehow its small wooden Victorian buildings
have weathered a century of storms, braved fires, outlasted changes in
taste, and even now remain despite increasing commercial pressures. Within
a few square miles stand literally hundreds of late-19th and early-20th
century cottages, mansions, stables, rooming houses, and commercial establishments.
Thomas, a lecturer in historic preservation and urban studies at Penn
and the head of George E. Thomas Associates, an architectural preservation
firm, has updated with new essays and color photography his 1976 book
detailing the history and architecture of Cape May, tracing its evolution
over a quarter of a century "from a white painted village to a flamboyant
and colorful paint-chart of a town."
CARING FOR YOUR HISTORIC HOUSE
Edited by Hugh C. Miller, Ar'55, and Charles E. Fisher.
New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998. 265 pp., $39.95.
Written for owners of historic houses and managers of
historic-house museums, this illustrated guide contains 22 essays by leading
preservation practitioners with the overriding theme of "caring now
with proper maintenance, not restoring later." The essays offer detailed
information on such tasks as cleaning wallpaper, choosing exterior paint,
and repairing plaster cracks as well as discussions of how to get to know
your house and where to get help. Miller, adjunct professor of preservation
technology at the Goucher College Master of Arts in Historic Preservation
program, shares his experience in historic-building preservation in his
lead essay, "Why Care for Your Historic House." Miller equates
the care of a historic house to the practice of geriatrics. "The
intent is to understand the house's ills and treat them so that the whole
house continues to function."
THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL
By Arnold Blumberg, Ed'47, GEd'48, Gr'52.
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998. 264 pp., $35.00.
This survey takes the non-specialist from ancient Israel
to the modern state, with emphasis on the struggles which the only Jewish
sovereignty in the world has surmounted in the last century. It explores
the nature of Israel's government and the unique character of its society.
It examines everything from its educational system, economic life, military
structure, religion, and changing economic reality to its social system
and even its passion for athletics. The author plunges directly into what
he views as the churning dilemmas posed by the peace process, making it
plain that he mistrusts Yasir Arafat. He offers some suggestions on the
means whereby peace may be achieved someday, but is basically doubtful
of their realization in the near future. However, this book is fundamentally
optimistic about Israel's future success in weathering the storm. Blumberg
is a professor emeritus of history at Towson University in Towson, Md.
MONEY MATTERS MADE EASY: The Q & A Reference for Everything from Asset
Allocation to Zero-Coupon Bonds
By Steven C. Camp, W'63.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: Trunkey Publishing, 1998. 166 pp., $12.95.
Camp, a financial author, lecturer, and consultant,
answers questions about money topics ranging from paying for children's
college education to measuring the risks of overseas investing, to evaluating
the benefits of no-load mutual funds. He is a financial consultant with
a major brokerage firm in Fort Lauderdale who has given seminars across
the country; a frequent guest on radio and TV talk shows; and the author
of another personal-finance book, Money: 127 Answers to Your Most-Asked
LIKE IT IS: A Teen Sex Guide
By E. James Lieberman and Karen Lieberman Troccoli, C'86.
Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998. 216 pp., $25.00.
A tool for young adults coming to terms with their sexuality,
as well as parents and educators, this book describes itself as a "comprehensive,
straightforward" information source about sex, relationships, and
birth control, emphasizing informed consent and mutual respect. It includes
a curriculum guide that provides questions for discussion and background
history on various topics, plus an appendix of resources for additional
information. Troccoli has worked in the public-health policy field for
a decade -- most recently serving as primary editor on reports on maternal
and child health and teen pregnancy at the Southern Regional Project on
Infant Mortality. Lieberman is a psychiatrist in private practice and
clinical professor at George Washington University School of Medicine.
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| January/February Contents | Gazette
1999 The Pennsylvania Gazette
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