Virginia Tech Magazine

Virginia Tech Magazine


Volume 15, Number 4
Summer 1993

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BOOKS

compiled by Stacey Pastor '93

Appalachian Elders:

A Warm Hearth Sampler, edited by Nikki Giovanni, Virginia Tech English professor, and Cathee Dennison, Virginia Tech English instructor (Blacksburg: Pocahontas Press, 1991).

A collection of personal narratives, stories, and poems written by 18 retirees from a local retirement community who attended a writing workshop taught by Giovanni. The book is a smattering of remembrances of historical as well as personal events, from Frances Parker Brown's memories of the restoration of the old Presbyterian Meeting House in Olde Towne Alexandria, to Garret Jaasma's "Wedding Day Luck," in which he describes backing his new Mercedes into an outside water faucet and flooding his neighbor's lawn, to Zeke Moore's recollection of his five-year love affair with a Model "T" Ford he bought for $35. All in all, an engaging selection of Americana.

Civil War! America Becomes One Nation:

An Illustrated History for Young Readers, by James I. Robertson Jr., Virginia Tech C.P. Miles Professor of History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992).

Renowned Civil War scholar Robertson describes in detail every facet of the war, from the events leading up to it to the final battles. An easy-to-read study of the Civil War conflict, written for young and old readers alike.

Comprised of more than 50 major battles and thousands of "minor actions," the Civil War claimed the lives of more than 700,000 Americans-soldiers and civilians-and formed a permanent union between the states, gave increased power to the federal government, and put an end to slavery. Illustrated with numerous maps, drawings and vintage photographs and prints, this book captures the glory and tragedy of the war that affected nearly every family in the nation.

Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, by Henry H. Bauer, Virginia Tech chemistry professor (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1992).

Bauer attempts to dispel the myth that science is always impartial and objective. Scientific disciplines differ in how closely they adhere to the scientific method, he argues.

Textbook science has been cleaned up to look like it has followed the scientific method, from observation to hypothesis to experiment to theory, he says. He warns of the dangers in believing blindly in the infallibility of the scientific method. For instance, if scientists believe the method prohibits "cheating," there is no need to enforce a scientific code of ethics. The scientific method is fine as an ideal, he says, but believing the method is always used is dangerous.

The Monastery:

A Study in Freedom, Love, and Community, by George A. Hillery Jr., Virginia Tech sociology professor (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1992).

In this first-hand study of daily life in a Trappist monastery, Hillery examines how a community can succeed without the family. He concludes that what binds this unusual type of community together is its emphasis on freedom and agape (universal love), and shows members' commitment to disciplined freedom (sacrificing some things in order to have others).

Articulating the Elephant Man:

Joseph Merrick and His Interpreters, by Peter W. Graham and Fritz H. Oehlschlaeger, Virginia Tech English professors (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).

Shedding new light on the story of "the Elephant Man," Graham and Oehlschlaeger argue that Joseph Merrick was not a passive victim of exploitation. In fact, they say, he "bravely endured-and, when he had to, successfully exploited-his outrageous bodily disorder."

Many people have, for various reasons, presented Merrick's story to different audiences. The book examines their interpretations of Merrick's condition. The Victorians, for instance, viewed him as the ideal object of charity. For them, he was a challenge to their basic assumptions about humanity. Today, we view him as the "ultimate outsider." The book focuses on Merrick's humanity, how he faced his own suffering and pain, and how the telling of this tale helps us to see our own humanity in a new light.

A Better Legend:

From the World War II Letters of Jack and Jane Poulton, edited by Jane Weaver Poulton ('52) (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993).

A personal account of a young couple separated for three years by war, the letters offer insight into the couple's developing relationship. As the relationship progresses, Jane becomes an increasingly independent working woman, involving herself in the civil rights movement, and Jack ('36) becomes confident as an engineer and gives some thoughtful observations on the war. As Jane Poulton writes in her preface, "War brings out the best and worst in us, and legends are created not always on the battlefield." The title was taken from an old saying: lovers make better legends than do heroes.


Stacey Pastor '93 was a spring intern at the Virginia Tech magazine.

Virginia Tech Magazine, Volume 15, Number 4, Summer 1993


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