Books That Speak Volumes
Like Dickens, but With Spinach
In his introduction to Popeye: "I Yam What I Yam" (Fantagraphics, $29.95), Bill Blackbeard compares E.C. Segar -- the creator of the one-eyed, spinach-chomping sailor with the bowling-pin forearms -- to Charles Dickens. Another example of pop-culture hyperinflation? Not necessarily. Just as Dickens took advantage of the serial publication of his early novels to introduce new characters and change directions, so also did Segar add, subtract and tinker until he had his comic strip working at its peak -- and a brilliant, witty peak it was.
Then, too, some of Segar's characters are Dickensian by virtue of their id-indulging idiosyncracies and memorable turns of phrase -- especially that rotund, hamburger-craving knave, J. Wellington Wimpy ("I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today"). Elsewhere, Blackbeard -- perhaps our best historian of the comic strip -- has compared Wimpy to the persona of W.C. Fields, and it turns out that Fields played Mr. Micawber in the movie version of David Copperfield. Five more volumes are projected in this series, which will give us The Compleat Segar Popeye.
-- Dennis Drabelle
The eagerly anticipated third edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford Univ., $65) has something most other wine tomes lack: a bit of attitude. The editor, Jancis Robinson, knows her stuff: She's the wine columnist for the Financial Times and "the first person outside the wine trade to have passed the notoriously tough Master of Wine exams." That erudition gleams throughout this gorgeous, massive volume, which adorns its almost 4,000 entries with charts of drinking goblets, maps of world wine regions and handsome photographs, such as a melancholy shot of the frozen Ontario grapes that will make a delicious icewine. But unlike some more pompous wine guides, this encyclopedic volume is laced with welcome sass: Portugal's Bastardo grapes are "serviceable but unexciting"; in Britain, "wine by the glass" often means "the dregs from a badly kept bottle of very ordinary wine served in a pub"; and to some oenophiles, ABC stands for "Anything But Chardonnay." You'll sprain your wrists lifting it, but this is a stunning book.
-- Warren Bass
Taking His Shots
|Double falls at dawn, Glacier National Park, Mont. 1997.( - Galen Rowell: A Retrospective)|
His "Sunset Over Machu Picchu, Peru, 1995" catches a roiling, fire-lit cloud bank that appears to be resting on peaks above and behind the famous high-altitude ruins. As for "Lynx in Alpine Flowers," an anecdote on the facing page tells how Rowell's daughter Nicole overcame a rare case of her dad's inertia. Traveling with her parents in Alaska in 1974, she claimed to have seen a lynx along the highway. Her father scoffed. But when she said she saw another one, he stopped the car and went immediately into action, "reaching with his camera all the way across my mom's lap and out the passenger side window [to capture] this amazing image."
-- Dennis Drabelle
Artistry of the Americas
|San Felipe de Jesus, 17th century, Mexico City( - The Arts in Latin America)|
-- Rachel Hartigan Shea
The World of Work
|A coal miner takes a break, Pul-i-Kumri, Afghanistan, 2002.(Steve McCurry)|