Again, it is a woman at the heart of Elizabeth Dewberry’s fourth novel. That should surprise no one who has followed her oeuvre, which consists of women coming to terms with abuse in such novels as Many Things Have Happened Since He Died (1990), Break the Heart of Me (1994), and Sacrament of Lies (2002). Dewberry 89PhD ties her fourth heroine, Atlantan Ellen Baxter, to a woman whose emotional trials had the most public of faces: Lady Di.
The book’s title, His Lovely Wife, provides the key to understanding Baxter’s ranking on that most unforgiving of instruments, the midlife meter. Baxter—blonde, beautiful, and mistaken by the paparazzi for Diana—feels that she is her scientist-husband Lawrence’s “lovely wife” but no longer a person in her own right.
The novel breaks ground in its form: Ellen—in Paris at the time of Diana’s death—starts channeling Diana’s voice. At first perplexed, Ellen reacts humorously, saying, “I certainly don’t believe that of all the people she could haunt, Princess Diana would choose me. I couldn’t get my own father to haunt me, and I tried.”
Readers’ perplexity may endure past page twenty-five, however, the point at which Ellen’s doubt is resolved and the monologues from Diana continue, becoming more familiar. Readers might ask whether Dewberry has in good faith extricated the Diana who existed below her surfaces, in the process using her story to save Ellen’s life, or whether Dewberry’s technique is just another act of appropriation—the novelistic equivalent of a flash bulb.
In the rendering of Diana on the book’s jacket, we see her hiding under a broad-brimmed, red hat. Perhaps no matter whether the seeker is a hard-charging male photographer or sympathetic female novelist, Diana’s life was no one’s to relate but her own.
The hat obliges, though, telling its own story. Ultimately, what better instrument than Diana’s broad-brimmed hat to validate Frederick the Great’s statement that “a crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in”?
For fans of Dewberry, her next novel, Stalking Stephen Hawking, will tell of a former Bourbon Street stripper who becomes obsessed with Hawking after giving him a lap dance. Says Dewberry of her central character, “A big part of her attraction to Hawking is based on the last line in A Brief History of Time, something to the effect that when we know all that we’re on the verge of knowing, we will know the mind of God. She wants to know the mind that can know the mind of God.”—S.M.C.
Women’s studies unites with Appalachian studies in Beyond Hill and Hollow: Original Readings in Appalachian Women’s Studies (University of Ohio Press, 2005), edited by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt 99PhD. The first book to focus exclusively on studies of Appalachia’s women, Beyond Hill and Hollow examines the hidden lives of urban Appalachian women in the 1800s, rural women in company towns, and an African American Appalachian poet from the 1900s.
Years before Hitler unleashed the “Final Solution” to annihilate European Jews, he began a lesser-known campaign to eradicate the mentally ill, which facilitated the gassing and lethal injection of as many as 270,000 people and set a precedent for the mass murder of civilians. In Confronting the “Good Death” (University Press of Colorado, 2005), Michael S. Bryant 89L 89T, an assistant professor of history and criminal justice at the University of Toledo, analyzes the U.S. government’s and the West German judiciary’s attempt to punish the euthanasia killers after the war.
In Nation and Citizen in the Domincan Republic, 1880-1916 (University of South Carolina Press, 2005), Teresita Martínez-Vergne 77C combines intellectual and social history to explore the processes by which people in the Dominican Republic began to hammer out a sense of purpose and a common modern national identity at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.
Since the hiring of the first Supreme Court law clerk by Associate Justice Horace Gray in the late 1880s, court observers and the general public have demonstrated a consistent fascination with law clerks and the influence—real or imagined—that they wield over judicial decisions.
Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk (Stanford University Press, 2006), by Todd Peppers 03PhD is the first systematic examination of the “clerkship institution”—the web of formal and informal norms and rules surrounding the hiring and utilization of law clerks by the individual justices on the United States Supreme Court.
Peppers provides an unprecedented view into the work lives of and day-to-day relationships between justices and their clerks; relationships that in some cases have extended to daily breakfasts, games of competitive basketball and tennis, and occasional holiday celebrations. Through personal interviews with fifty-three former clerks and correspondence with an additional ninety, Peppers has amassed a body of information that reveals the true inner-workings of the clerkship institution.
In 1830, a revolution overturned one French monarchy, only to replace it with another. Charles Philippon’s caricature of the new monarch, Louis-Philippe, as a pear achieved extraordinary popularity. Sandy Petrey 62C, professor of comparative literature at Stony Brook University, explores the popularity of the pear caricature in his scholarly work, In the Court of the Pear King: French Culture and the Rise of Realism, and goes on to focus on Balzac, Stendhal, and Sand and their concern with society’s power to define and transform the identity of its members during a remarkable series of cultural and political milestones in France.
“With imagination and panache, Sandy Petrey teases out subtle connections between the literature of nineteenth-century French realism and the politics of the July Monarchy,” writes Emily Apter of New York University.
—Compiled by Andrew W. M. Beierle