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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of June 8, 2009

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From Fordlandia to Fiction: few and far between…

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
by Greg Grandin

You could call it a case of horse and buggy thinking or square peg-round hole reasoning if the subject at hand wasn’t Henry Ford, automotive genius and master of assembly line production. Does it make sense, then, for the re-creation of small town American simplicity – as constituted in Ford’s bold endeavor in the heart of the Amazon from the 1920s through 1945 — to be championed by such a contradictory industrialist: the pacifist, the internationalist, the virulent anti-Semite, the $5-a-day friend of the workingman, the anti-union crusader, the man who ushered America into the industrial age yet rejected the social changes that followed urbanization? But no matter how commendable his goals in a missionary application of Ford-style capitalism — high wages, humane benefits, moral improvement – in Fordlandia, as his utopian settlement was called, the inventor’s attempt to establish a rubber industry and an attendant "work of civilization" in the rain forests of Brazil were not to last. Not in the face of worker resistance, climbing costs, disease, faltering construction, and government blundering. As indigenous workers, rejecting Ford’s Midwestern Puritanism, turned the plantation into a brutal tropical boomtown, the weekly dances, garden clubs, tennis courts, movies, schools and hospitals, were soon seen to make no economic sense. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City serves as a cautionary tale and reminds us that the ultimate demise of Ford’s plantation paradise foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest. At the same time, Greg Grandin concludes in his enthralling chronicle that "Fordlandia represents in crystalline form the utopianism that powered Fordism – and by extension Americanism." And no bailout!

The Devil's Tickets: A Night of Bridge, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age
by Gary M. Pomerantz

The Roaring '20s inspired devil-may-care nationwide fads – flagpole sitting, marathon dancing, swimming-pool endurance floating. But contract bridge? The Puritans didn’t call playing cards “the Devil’s tickets” for nothing. Indeed, in The Devil's Tickets: A Night of Bridge, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age, Gary M. Pomerantz recounts the 1929 shooting of Jack Bennett, who, over a bridge table, slapped his wife, Myrtle, a few times. She got a gun and shot him, then was acquitted, O.J. Simpson style, in a Kansas City murder trial that featured a frantic press and a curious public. In chronicling this tale, Pomerantz introduces an ensemble of 1920s characters, including Ely Culbertson, who helped popularize bridge from a social pastime into a cultural movement, and a theatrical defense attorney, former U.S. Senator James A. Reed, who defended Myrtle. As promoted by Culbertson, bridge provided a zone of equality between men and women, “a way to defuse the petty inhibitions and tensions of daily married life." And as long as both partners have guns, that zone of equality is maintained, if not perhaps the ideal way to defuse tensions.


In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Sex Scandal
by William G. Hyland Jr.

Weddings of the Times: A Parody
by Dan Klein

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal
by Julie Metz
Doing Philosophy: An Introduction Through Thought Experiments
by Theodore Schick

Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend
by Larry Tye 


The Pretend Wife
by Bridget Asher

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover (Gallagher Girls Series #3)
by Ally Carter

Roadside Crosses (Kathryn Dance Series #2)
by Jeffery Deaver

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
by Katherine Howe

by Dean Koontz

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Deception
by Eric Van Lustbader, Robert Ludlum (Created by)

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