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In Print

Richard Conniff '73
The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide
W. W. Norton, $26.95

It is an old question: Are the rich different from the rest of us? In the course of his research Richard Conniff was told by a stockbroker, “We’re all the same beast, with or without the Cartier.” But the author suggests that it ain’t necessarily so.

While all human beings belong to the same species, “the dynamic of being rich sets people apart,” and this, says Conniff, “isolates them from the general population, the first step in any evolutionary process, and it inexorably causes them to become different. Thus, from the primordial muck, something new and wondrous emerges: a cultural subspecies, Homo sapiens pecuniosus.

Conniff, a writer specializing in natural history, turns a naturalist’s eye on the wealthy and uses the latest findings from evolutionary biology to document how rich people have come to occupy a dominant part of the economic food chain. The result of his research is by turns funny and revealing as the writer, who has stalked grizzlies, climbs into a rented “bright red Ferrari F355 Spider convertible worth $150,000” and, duly camouflaged, seeks out “a new quarry,” people who were “possibly the most dangerous and elusive animals on Earth.”

The writer survives—so does the car—and emerges with a wealth of observations of the rich as he explores such topics as gift-giving, “the service heart,” risk-taking, “inconspicuous consumption,” and, of course, sex. Conniff also uses discoveries from animal behaviorists to show how the ways of the natural world might play out in the world of the well-to-do.

The experience of hobnobbing with the monied elite enabled the author to create “An Alpha Ape’s Ten Rules for Living Wisely in an Imperfect World.” Following them may not guarantee a fortune, but they could make life easier for wealthy and wannabe alike.


Steven R. Weisman '68
The Great Tax Wars: Lincoln to Wilson—The Fierce Battles Over Money and Power that Transformed the Nation
Simon and Schuster, $27

In 1861 President Abraham Lincoln was confronted with a bleak reality: Fighting a war to preserve the Union would cost a fortune. Where it would come from was uncertain. “Money!” said Lincoln. “I don’t know anything about ‘money.’”

Most of the federal government’s revenue came from tariffs on imported goods, but this source would not cover the expenses of a lengthy conflict. So the president turned to something new.

“On July 1, 1862, Lincoln signed the first federal income tax in United States history,” notes New York Times writer Steven R. Weisman. “It was a momentous piece of legislation . [and] it established what until then was considered a revolutionary principle: the idea of taxing rich people at a higher rate compared to the rate for people less well off.”

While that principle was, with the adoption of the 16th Amendment in 1913, made a lasting part of the U.S. Constitution, the income tax has had a rocky history. And, in the hands of Weisman, a remarkably entertaining one rich with controversy and larger-than-life characters. “From 1860 to 1920, the era of the great tax wars resounded with arguments over two definitions of fairness,” he writes. The first was “that it was fair for society to tax income at graduated rates"; the second “held that it was not only fair but also vital to the spirit of free enterprise to allow citizens to keep the wealth they earned.” Resolving these two seemingly irreconcilable positions remains a challenge.


Frank Clifford '67
The Backbone of the World: A Portrait of a Vanishing Way of Life Along the Continental Divide
Broadway Books, $24.95

The Continental Divide Trail is an as-yet uncompleted 3,100-mile path that more or less follows the crest of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Several years ago, Frank Clifford, an environmental journalist with the Los Angeles Times, “lit out” to sample sections of the trail and see if he could find “traces of that old world of remote ranches . mule packers, gyppos, trappers, prospectors, and range riders.”

Along the way, Clifford discovered many people with strong ties to the land. But the author is no sentimentalist, and the portraits he presents are less about “mythopolis”—the western wilderness in which people go “to reconnect with their dreams”—than a west filled with very different ideas about the best way to use the natural environment.

No one Clifford profiles is out of central casting. For example, a conversation around a fire with a group of Blackfeet Indian elders doesn’t quite go as planned. “I suppose you thought we were going to sit here and tell a bunch of old, old stories about how Napi and them other gods traipsed around these mountains?” one of the elders asks. “Cause I don’t know any of them stories.”

So much for stereotypes, and many of the tales Clifford relates are similar in spirit. This is less “Rocky Mountain High” than an engaging look at characters with conflicts, residents of a Divide, both literal and metaphorical, that is “animated by feuds—between cowboys and conservationists, sheepherders and coyotes, wolves and elk,” Clifford notes. “And it would be a lesser place for the loss of any of the antagonists.”


Tom Stone '58
The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir
Simon and Schuster, $24

“There are places that seem to be waiting for you out there somewhere, like unmet lovers, and when (and if) you come upon them, you know, instantly and unquestioningly, that they are the ones.”

So Tom Stone, author of The Summer of My Greek Taverna, feels about the unspoiled Greek island of Patmos. Thus, when he, his wife (whom he had met on the island), and children had to leave for the unromantic reason of financial hardship, it seemed like the end of the affair.

That is, until one dreary morning in the Cretan city Rethymnon. Tom’s mad rush to his job of teaching English is interrupted by a phone call from his Patmian friend, Theologos, who asks if he would like to rent his café for the summer. It is an offer Tom cannot refuse, believing he can make enough money in one summer to allow him to write and his wife to paint for the rest of the year.

Ignoring warnings to beware of Greeks bearing gifts—especially a Greek whose nickname is O Lados (The Oily One)—Tom packs up the family and heads to Patmos to take charge of “The Beautiful Helen.”

Reminiscent of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, this memoir (which also includes Tom’s favorite recipes) begins with what seems like a stroke of luck, and unfolds as a series of entanglements, not least of which is Tom’s realization that Theologos is cheating him. Misfortunes aside, the book serves as Tom’s love note for the island, its people, and his wife, who stayed by his side as he followed an impossible dream.


Victor Brombert ’48, ’53PhD
Trains of Thought: Memories of a Stateless Youth
W. W. Norton, $25.95

Undergraduates by the score attended the lecture courses of Professor Victor Brombert, head of the prestigious Yale French department in the 1960s and early 1970s. As I can testify from graduate school days—I was a teaching assistant in his course, “The Art of the Novel in France”—he taught more than the French masters. Brombert personified Gallic brilliance (that ability to spot similarities and disparities where least expected) while demonstrating the deepest awe for literary creativity and the life of the mind.

Born in 1923, the debonair scholar enjoyed a pampered youth in the chic 16th Arrondissement of Paris in the 1930s, traveled widely, and grew up speaking French, German, and Russian. The book’s title echoes the recurring theme of travel, for pleasure and sometimes for survival. (He arrived in the U.S. in 1941 as a refugee onboard an “absurdly overcrowded and unhygienic freighter.”) Brombert also presents vivid recollections of the fall of France, life under the Vichy government in the non-occupied zone, and his family’s hair-raising flight to freedom abroad.

Former students will recognize the author’s voice: his fondness for metaphor, etymology, ambiguity, and wide-ranging allusion. However, the young man he describes—unflinchingly—seems more alien. The teen-aged Brombert of Paris days emerges as a vain slacker, obsessed with popular entertainment, clothes, and especially women; he shows no signs of an inclination towards a literary vocation.

But then comes the war and his need to gain a foothold in the new world. At Yale, Brombert modeled himself after French professor Henri Peyre, and in this memoir, written in the tradition of the coming-of-age novels so brilliantly explored in Brombert’s French 58, we observe a resilient young man’s struggle toward awareness and commitment.


Brief Reviews

Elizabeth Grossman '78
Watershed: The Undamming of America
Counterpoint, $27

There are more than 75,000 dams in this country, but in recent years, an increasing number have been removed from the nation’s waterways. Journalist Grossman chronicles the growth of an environmental movement to return rivers and streams to their natural state.


Jessica Francis Kane '93
Bending Heaven
Counterpoint, $23

In 11 gem-like stories, the author invents and explores melancholy worlds in which her characters—a writer, a mother, a mathematician, a lawyer, among them—struggle quietly but heroically to make sense of lives that don’t ever quite work.


Stuart Miller and Geoffrey Moss '62BFA, ’64MFA
The Biker Code: Wisdom for the Ride
Simon and Schuster, $12.95

From “Road Kill,” “Amazing Grace,” and other bikers, Miller and Moss have gleaned photos and aphorisms: “For some there’s therapy. For the rest of us, there’s motorcycles.” Ride on.


Ralph J. Roberts '49PhD
A Passion for Gold: An Autobiography
University of Nevada Press, $29.95

The author’s career with the U.S. Geological Survey and as a private consultant took him around the world, from the mountains of Nevada to what may have been King Solomon’s mines in Saudi Arabia. Roberts tells the story of a man who really struck gold.


Rebecca J. Tannenbaum '96PhD
The Healer’s Calling: Women and Medicine in Early New England
Cornell University Press, $34.95

Doctors in 17th- and 18th-century New England were more likely female than male. Historian Tannenbaum describes the medical practices of these healers.


Harlow Giles Unger '53
John Wiley and Sons, $30

In a compelling biography, Unger brings to life the French nobleman who became a hero of the American Revolution—“the Conqueror of Cornwallis”—and an enemy of the state when he tried to introduce democracy to France.


More Books by Yale Authors

Michele Mckay Aynesworth 1972MA, Translator
Mad Toy, by Roberto Arlt
Duke University Press, $15.95

Carol Baicker-McKee 1980
FussBusters On the Go: Around-the-Clock Strategies and Games for Smoothing the Rough Spots in Your Preschooler’s Day
Peachtree Publishing, $15.95

Joel Bernstein 1967PhD
Polymorphism in Molecular Crystals
Oxford University Press, $125

Jeff Diamant 1994
Heist! The $17 Million Loomis Fargo Theft
John F. Blair, Publisher, $24.95

Peter X Feng 1988
Identities in Motion: Asian American Film and Video
Duke University Press, $19.95

Peter H. Gleick 1978BS, Writer and Editor
The World’s Water 2002-2003: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources
Island Press, $32.50

Paul Edward Gottfried 1967PhD
Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt
University of Missouri Press, $29.95

Gregory Hays 1991, Translator
Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
Modern Library, $19.95

John R. Knott 1959
Imagining Wild America
University of Michigan Press, $55

James Lengel 1971
The Web Wizard’s Guide to Multimedia
Addison-Wesley, $26

Brian Lepard 1989JD
Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention: A Fresh Legal Approach Based on Fundamental Ethical Principles in International Law and World Religions
Penn State Press, $55

Florencia E. Mallon 1980PhD, Editor and Translator
When a Flower Is Reborn: The Life and Times of a Mapuche Feminist, Rosa Isolde Reuque Paillalef
Duke University Press, $59.95

Leonard S. Marcus 1972
Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book
Dutton, $29.99

J. D. McClatchy 1974PhD, Editor
Horace, the Odes: New Translations by Contemporary Poets
Princeton University Press, $24.95

David F. Musto, 1961MA, Professor of the History of Medicine, and Professor of Child Psychiatry, and Pamela Korsmeyer
The Quest for Drug Control: Politics and Federal Policy in a Period of Increasing Substance Abuse, 1960-1980
Yale University Press, $35

Benjamin Nathans 1984
Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia
University of California Press, $54.95

Jim Ostheimer 1955
Blue Yonder
The Grimmet Press, $14.95

Eileen Pollack 1978BS
Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull
University of New Mexico Press, $29.95

Francesca Polletta 1994PhD
Freedom Is An Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements
University of Chicago Press, $35

Elizabeth A. Povinelli 1991PhD
The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism
Duke University Press, $21.95

Martha Sandweiss 1985PhD
Print the Legend: Photography and the American West
Yale University Press, $39.95

Joan Sullivan 1995
An American Voter: My Love Affair with Presidential Politics
Bloomsbury, $23.95

Mark Taylor 1961
Shakespeare’s Imitations
University of Delaware Press, $35

Jessica Warner 1991PhD
Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason
Four Walls Eight Windows, $24.95

Stacy Wolf 1983
A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical
University of Michigan Press, $49.50



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