BOOKS OF NOTE
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Spider-Man Confidential
FROM COMIC ICON TO HOLLYWOOD HERO
Edward Gross
Hyperion, 2002


You can learn everything you’ll ever want to know about the web-slinger from Spider-Man Confidential, a comprehensive narrative history of the Spider-Man phenomenon. Entertainment journalist Edward Gross has interviewed many of the personalities who have brought Spider-Man to life over the years—and he’s uncovered the entire Spider-Man story, from the conception of the popular comic book to the release of the all-new major motion picture directed by Sam Raimi.

In this volume, you will read the detailed story behind the creation of the Spider-Man comic by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962; a Spider-Man comic book checklist; episode guides for the five Spider-Man television series (three animated and two live action) that have aired over the years; an in-depth look at the 16-year development of the Spider-Man movie—through the many directors, versions of the script and young actors who were considered for the plum role of Peter Parker; and Spider-Man’s Rogues’ Gallery—your guide to Spider-Man’s foes and villains.

So get ready, Spider-Man fans, for the big film coming out this summer by boning up on the facts—all of which are found in abundance in Spider-Man Confidential.

 
Soul Babies
BLACK POPULAR CULTURE AND THE POST-SOUL AESTHETIC
Mark Anthony Neal
Routledge, 2002

 

The 1960s brought about huge upheavals and social change in racial equality. Images of black civilians held back by powerful fire hoses or German Shepherds attacking an innocent black man are ingrained in our psyche, recalled when the words "Civil Rights Era" are put before us. But what has become of this reparation of political activism and the current climate of race and culture? How are today’s black Americans, especially those who came of age during the ‘70s and ‘80s, embracing this legacy, if at all?

In Soul Babies, the author examines the complexities and contradictions of black life and culture since the Black Power and Civil Rights Era. Reading political events, musical works, social forms, media representations and literary productions, Neal introduces a strong new concept, that of the "Post-Soul Aesthetic," to black cultural criticism that gives a name to the values and concerns of African Americans since the 1960s.

During the 1960s, the media offered symbolic attempts to satisfy demands for racial equality. Television shows like Julia and I Spy brought black characters into living rooms but failed to do justice to the figures they invented. (Neither black lead had a romantic relationship, for example.) In response, a new generation began to view the sixties and its accomplishments with a surprising irreverence. The seventies brought shows like Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and The Jackson Five Cartoon as part of the introduction to the multicultural and multiethnic world the industry tried to craft for children coming of age in the post-civil rights era.

But how do the children of the civil rights era deal with black identity today? As the first generation born after desegregation, "Generation Hip-Hop" was endowed with a hope that eluded blacks before them. Within this generation, Neal introduces us to black nationalists—with their sudden emphasis on Afro-puffs, dashikis and kente caps—buppies, playas, crossovers and strivers. Despite the internal differences, as being collectively different from previous generations of blacks, "Generation Hip-Hop" is a hybrid of past struggles, with the need for self-determination and a desire to simply succeed on America’s terms. They forge forward, like some vanguard on new black futures, embracing whatever identities allow them to most effectively succeed in the mainstream and survive the margins.

 
The Tsar's Last Armada
THE EPIC VOYAGE TO THE BATTLE OF TSUSHIMA
Constantine Pleshakov
Basic Books, 2002

 

May 14-15, 1905 marked an important turning point in Euro-Asian history. In the pinnacle battle of the Russo-Japanese war, a European power was defeated by an Asian nation for the first time ever. The defeat marked the death of the Eurocentric world; afterwards, Japan became a superpower and the ruler of the East.

On that fateful day in the Tsushima Straits near Japan, an entire Russian fleet was annihilated, its ships sunk, scattered or captured by the Japanese. It was among the top five naval battles in history, equal to those of Lepanto, Trafalgar, Jutland and Midway. The Japanese lost only three destroyers, but the Russians lost twenty-two ships and thousands of men. To this day, Russian ships put wreaths on the waves when passing the Korea Strait.

The Russians had traveled for nine months, only to be devastated in a matter of hours. The Suez Canal was controlled by Japan’s ally, the British, so the Russian fleet was forced to take an extraordinary 18,000-mile detour. Their legendary admiral, dubbed "Mad Dog," led them from the Baltic Sea around Europe, Africa and Asia to the Sea of Japan. In The Tsar’s Last Armada, you will learn about the remarkable perseverance and seamanship of the Russian fleet and their charismatic admiral. Overcoming tremendous political and logistical difficulties, they achieved a level of self-sufficiency that was not attained again by any navy until the Second World War.

With a novelist’s eye and a historian’s authority, Pleshakov tells of the Russian squadron’s long, difficult journey and fast, horrible defeat.


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